Organizing the Organic Revolution

For students who enjoy meals comprised of mass-produced
ground beef or greasy Chinese food, Price Center offers a smorgasbord of quick
and tasty options that may not provide nourishment but definitely leave
students feeling full. But where can those students find something more
nutritious, healthy and even fresh? Fortunately, UCSD has an expanding amount
of options for students searching for organic foods; it just takes a little
invested interest to find them.

Fresh fruit sold at the Food Co-op comes from local farmers who practice eco-friendly farming methods and avoid using chemicals for growing or weeding purposes. (Photos by Eric Rounds/Guardian)

Students who shop at Groundwork Books or find themselves
lost between John Muir and Revelle Colleges might have found the student-run
Food Co-op in Student Center, which provides vegan and vegetarian snacks, along
with fresh produce and an organic salad bar. Though it is tucked away in a part
of campus that is home to more construction than students, the co-op promotes
making educated choices about food, not only for personal health, but also for
the world.

“The main thing
[about organics] is connecting yourself with the communities that provide you food,
not having it appear in a Styrofoam box,” Muir College senior and Co-op member
Adam Calo said. “People don’t understand how their individual choice is

By cutting out the use of pesticides, distributing locally
and using manual labor in place of machinery, organic growers greatly decrease
the environmental impact of their food production. Choices as simple as picking
up an organic apple or salad influence the way farmlands and farm workers are
treated; the effect goes beyond a singular choice.

“I can use my ability as a consumer to choose products,
choose practices I support morally and ethically, and not have food be
separate,” Calo said. “The world is so dependent on agriculture and how it’s
done, so to separate your meals from what it’s actually doing in the world is a
big error.”

If Student Center is too remote for students only familiar
with the campus’ main paths, organic options can also be found in Price
Center’s Sunshine Store. Bonnie Harmon, the store’s manager and developer,
surveyed eco-friendly chains such as Whole Foods and Sprouts this summer, and
has contacted other major organic vendors to give the campus convenience store
a healthier variety of foods in preparation for the Price Center expansion

“The [UCSD] community has a responsibility to the students
on campus to provide them with an environment where they are able to make
choices that are healthy for themselves,” Harmon said. “… I feel responsible
for making sure [healthy] options are there.”

Though the current selection of organic products is limited,
the Sunshine Store will be expanding in February 2008 to become the Sunshine
Market, which will not only include not only an organic section, but an
international section also. Though the store is growing and will be providing
more options, Harmon wants to remain appealing to budget-minded students.

“One thing I want the students to know they can count on at
the Sunshine Store is good value,” Harmon said.

Harmon also spearheads the farmer’s market, another
convenient organic option located on Library Walk and Lyman Lane near the
Chancellor’s Complex, every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I have seen a
revolution brewing … students are very knowledgeable about what they want to
eat, what they want to put into their bodies and what they expect that food to
provide for their bodies,” Harmon said. “That’s why we brought the farmer’s
market on campus.”

The market is currently in its fourth season of operation
and has a wide variety of healthy, fresh and organic foods. Vendors
representing certified organic growers such as Budwood Farms and Smit Orchards
frequent the campus market and also participate in other markets throughout San
Diego County.

“[UCSD] is a great place to be selling organic food because
fruit isn’t something that needs to be prepared,” Smit Orchards vendor and UCSD
alumnus Matthew Smit said. “You can eat it right away or put it in your fridge
… so [for] students, it’s a fantastic thing.”

Like most certified organic vendors, the price of Smit
produce tends to be more expensive than their nonorganic counterparts. However,
the increase in price not only accounts for the food quality, but also
environmental benefits and labor consciousness.

“[Organic farmers] are growing the products and taking the
extra steps to make a really healthy and tasty product; we’re not trying to
just make as much as possible, grow as much as possible and sell as much as
possible,” Smit said. “So, because of that, organic farmers tend to be a little
more conscious about [their workers.] … [Organic food] is coming straight from
the farm to the customer.”

Along with Smit, returning vendor Larry Nedeu of Budwood
Farms can be found among the vegetable and fruit-laden tables at the farmer’s
market, selling organic produce to UCSD students. Both Smit and Nedeu are
certified organic vendors and have dealt with copious amounts of paperwork and
high expenses to continue sustainable farming. Nedeu has been farming
organically for 12 years, working manually without the assistance of tractors
or any heavy machinery. Weeding proves to be especially tough for organic
farmers that either deal with the problem themselves or have to hire
assistants. However, the extra work goes a long way on a grander scale: The
food is more nutritious and the land isn’t left ravaged by pesticides or heavy

“It’s all about
improving the land, not just taking from it like conventional farming,” Nedeu

These environmentally friendly techniques are evident in the
food’s appearance.

“We have some really great-looking produce and that just
comes from putting in the effort to do it right,” Smit said.

For students dedicated to the standard meal-point system,
Housing and Dining Services has also introduced organic food to its cuisine.
With dining halls such as Foodworx, Sierra Summit and Cafe Ventanas offering
organic teas, coffees, yogurts and soups, students can also make healthier
choices while still being able to rely on the money allotted to their
meal-point plans.

Steve Casad, the director of Dining, Retail and Conference
Services, has made a conscious effort to provide organic options, especially
for students who live in apartments.

“There is an increasing organic line at Earl’s Place,” Casad
said. “We want to make sure there is an array of organic choices for students
to take back to their rooms to prepare.”

At on-campus dining halls, organic foods have become
ingredients in many of the entrees that dining halls produce, due to the recent
addition of a culinary director and dietitian to the staff. The culinary
director and dietitian work together to formulate recipes that appear in all of
the campus dining halls, and focus on attaining a uniform standard of high
quality taste and nutrition.

“It is our responsibility to take care of the students and
offer healthy and nutritious meals,” Casad said.

While the staff at Housing and Dining Services and other
on-campus eateries is looking to expand the selection of organic food, at the
end of the day, the choices and students’ desires will determine whether
organic options are expanded.

“[What we serve] is
based on the masses,” Casad said. “The organic, health conscious,
environmentally and labor friendly options are out there, and have the potential
to expand — the choice is up to you.”

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal