Shields: Locally Grown

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Commentator’s Brunch Sampler

(HOST) This week we’re featuring a Sampler of some of the essays
recorded live at the Commentator Brunch earlier this year. The theme –
"Picture This" – inspired commentator Jeff Shields to describe – in some
detail – a transition that turned out to be full of surprises.

(SHIELDS) I’m Jeff Shields and I’m going to talk to you today about "Trials of a Locavore."

arriving as Dean at Vermont Law School , I decided it would be terrific
if we could move from processed institutional food to locally grown

Easier said than done.

Changing the approach to
food preparation for a staff who had taken everything either out of the
can or out of the freezer bag is an interesting task.

Early on, I
suggested that fresh fruit for dessert at a lunch for donors would be a
nice step beyond the canned fruit which had been the rule before. The
result – rock-hard cantaloupe, unripened pineapple – fruit, yes, but
hardly local.

A few months later when we had made some progress
on the food to be served, I suggested that we have a list on each table
of the sources of the locally grown produce, so the students could see
we were supporting our local farmers. The list included Luna Blue
potatoes and Long Wind tomatoes; also on the list prepared by our chef
was "Coca Cola, bottled in White River Junction, Vermont ."

was confusion about whether it was sufficient to be local or whether
food had to be both local and taste good. I remember a trustee gathering
at which I stood at the beginning of the dinner to make a toast, and
sipped the wine and almost spit it out. I approached one of the kitchen
staff and said, "Where is this wine from?" And they looked at me,
beaming, saying, "We knew you would be pleased that it’s local." And I
said, "Tell me more." And they said, "It’s local rhubarb wine."

head chefs later, about seventy percent of what we serve is raised or
grown within fifty miles of the Law School . We buy from about thirty
different Vermont farms. Ritz crackers and cheese whiz have been
replaced with locally baked bread and artisanal cheese, resulting in
lots of smiles among our students, faculty, and friends.

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