Berea College-Local Foods Leader

I’m not sure if many people have heard of Berea College.  Maybe you passed the exit off I-75 so it sounds familiar.  For me, it has been a model of sustainability for years, a school that I placed on a pedestal for their sustainability initiatives and work in local food sourcing but I’ve never visited campus until recently.   

Berea College raised pork locally processed into sausage that is served in the campus dining halls.

So I hopped in the car for the four-hour trip listening to my Spanish lessons along the way.  I hope to learn at least a little Spanish (a commitment I made to myself) before I go to the Dominican Republic for the Sustainable Food Lab Conference.  My goal in visiting Berea was to launch a huge waste reduction initiative that I am very proud of.  But I’m going to save that story for another time.  This time I want to tell you about the other campus sustainability initiatives happening on campus. 

First you should understand that Berea is not your common college.  They are one of only seven colleges that are federally recognized as Work Colleges in the United States.  At a work college, students offset the cost of tuition by working on campus.  Student workers might serve food in the dining hall, maintain campus grounds, haul compost or participate in other forms of labor that varies from college to college but students gain valuable life lessons while reducing college debt.  Students take note!

Student workers loading compost containers from the dining hall and taking them back to the farm where the food waste will be composted. (I'll introduce you to the "friend" I met at the compost piles in due time.)

Caitlin (Cait) McClanahan is one of my heroes.  She is the Sustainability Coordinator for Berea Dining (Sodexo) and makes all of these sustainability initiatives happen.  She is also a lifelong friend of Mary Berry Smith, the daughter of Wendell Berry. Both have done outstanding work in support of sustainable agriculture.  Cait introduced me to Mary a few months ago at a Farm to College Conference hosted by Louisville Farm to Table.  I totally went geeked-out-goofy right there.  I’m pretty sure I embarrassed myself a little.  Sorry Cait.  Sorry Mary.  Consider this my public apology.  But I digress….

My hero and sustainability super star, Cait.


“…. this is such a unique and fortunate opportunity we have here – to be able to source food for students, grown by students, literally steps from our doors. Working in partnership with the Berea College Farm we have a goal of increasing our percentage of farm purchases to 25% by 2015.”






Berea Dining purchases a large amount of their local foods from Berea College Farm but they also purchase from other Kentucky farmers and ranchers.  The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has a great program supporting local purchases called the Kentucky Proud Program along with Restaurant Rewards.  The Restaurant Rewards program reimburses restaurants for Kentucky Proud Purchases up to $12,000.00 per year.  Berea College is currently the only college dining program in the state participating in this program and they received the full $12,000 last year.  Would you like $12,000?  Yes.  Who wouldn’t?  Sign up for the program.  Get rewarded for doing it.  Reinvest those funds right back into the community.  Just do it.

Local ground beef patties with Kentucky Proud certification.

I had a great time on campus.  The team members at Berea College were amazing.  Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I had a great time getting to know them all.  I’m sure I will be back to check on the waste reduction program and to visit just because.  I will leave you with some great pictures from my visit so you can see how great they are with your own eyes.   

My favorite moment of the day.... That black fuzzy thing to the left of this picture is a skunk. The skunk had backed its bottom up towards us and took aim just in case. I took this picture not realizing the skunk was there. It would have been a long and stinking ride back home. Oh. And these are compost piles in case you needed explanation.


Bee boxes that pollinate the farm and gardens while providing great honey to the Berea College students in the dining hall.


The Mushroom House. Yes, a house for mushrooms.


Plants started in the greenhouse that will be planted in the garden beds soon.
Thanks for the hospitality Berea College!

Any inaccuracies or misinterpretations in this post was not intentional and were made by me in error.   I’m pretty sure it’s the skunks fault. 

The opinions expressed by My Sustainable Adventures and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Sodexo, Inc., its parent corporation, subsidiaries, or affiliates (collectively referred to as “Sodexo”), or any employee thereof. Sodexo is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Christy Cook on this Web site.


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