October 22, 2010


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By Julia Ferrante

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Students in Jan Knoedler and Nancy White's "Mindful Consumption" class, UNIV 269, wanted to do something to spread the word about the benefits of local, sustainable agriculture.

The class last spring discussed the benefits of consuming food produced close to home. So when it came time to develop a class project, they decided to put together a list of local, organic farms.

"In our modern world, we lose track of time and get caught up in the fast-paced lifestyle. We never allow ourselves to be fully present in the moment," said Jenna Zauk, a junior sociology major from Franklin Lakes, N.J. "In the course, we discussed how our consumption of food in an industrialized society is not mindful. Inspired by our class discussions, we decided to take it a step further and spread the word about the environmental, economic and health benefits of eating a local diet."

The list, available online, is aimed to help students, faculty, staff and local residents find farms and farm markets that exercise sustainable practices, Knoedler said. To be included, businesses also had to meet these criteria:

  • The business and/or market must be based within 30 miles of Bucknell University.
  • The proprietor of the business and/or market must be physically involved in the day-to-day activities of their enterprise.
  • The business and/or market must encompass organic, sustainable and/or environmentally responsible practices, and a majority of revenue must be derived from using these practices.
  • The business and/or market must have one main location of operation with no additional subsidiaries or enterprises.
  • The business and/or market must be willing to be a part of the network.

In the class, White and Knoedler, both professors of economics, addressed various aspects of consumption of food, electronics, shopping and education. The students also were asked to come up with a final project to build on their class discussions, which in part addressed the demands on fossil fuels to transport food from far away compared with closer to home, White said.

The project objectives included establishing the environmental, economic and health benefits of switching to a more local, responsible diet; building a comprehensive inventory of local farms, community-supported agriculture or CSAs, and other businesses that incorporate environmentally sound and sustainable practices; and conveying the information to target audiences in an understandable and engaging way. The idea was to advocate a "L.E.S.S. is More" lifestyle - or Local, Edible, Sustainable and Smart way to consume food and to promote the local economy.

"The paper was a way the students thought they could make a difference," White said. "We examined the philosophical, ethical, environmental and religious perspectives of food consumption. We took a broad view not only of what we eat but how our food choices feed both nutritional and emotional needs. When you are mindful, you are aware of what and why you are eating and more clear about the consequences of your food choices."

It was important to the students to identify food-related markets where the owner was directly connected with the growing and distribution of the food and "intentionally aware of what is going on" with the business, White said.

"It was a good exercise for the students," Knoedler said. "There are a lot of students, faculty and staff who are interested in sustainable agriculture, and there were a lot of producers on the list I did not know about."

Christopher Main, a sophomore computer science major, said the class inspired him to choose locally grown foods offered at the Bucknell cafeteria and to participate in weekly meditation on campus. In addition, when he returned to Pittsburgh for the summer, his family joined a local CSA for the first time.

"I definitely started to eat differently after we did the project. I also went back this year to a weekly meditation that Nancy White holds," Main said. "This is my favorite class I've taken so far."

Zauk said the course made her more aware of consumption and her food choices. In fact, when she returned to New Jersey for the summer, she conducted a similar search of sustainable farms near her hometown.

"This class differs from most classes because it brings awareness to our local surroundings and offers alternative practices that support a positive, healthy lifestyle," Zauk said. "It just provided me with a new way of thinking, not just about food consumption but in everyday life."

Contact: Division of Communications

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