Students learn about food systems at Mad Farmer Food Fest

Photo+courtesy+calvin.edu

Photo courtesy calvin.edu

Last Saturday, sustainability coordinators, members of the Environmental Stewardship Coalition (ESC) and the Social Justice Coalition, and various residents of the Grand Rapids area gathered at the KE fountain patio to take part in the 7th annual Mad Farmer Food Fest (MFFF).

A crowd of about 100 attended the event, which celebrated and explored different topics relating to the food system.

The event kicked off at 10 a.m. with live music from the band LAMP! – a Calvin student group with a unique combination of trombone, trumpet, guitar, keyboard, bass and drums –  and devotions by Richard France-Coe, the resident director of Beets-Veenstra.

Four breakout sessions followed, led by a variety of justice-focused members from around the Grand Rapids community.

The breakout sessions dug into not only complex issues, like the sometimes unethical treatment of farmworkers across America and refugee resettlement farming programs in Grand Rapids, but also into simple, practical topics like do-it-yourself coffee roasting and how to dumpster dive.

“It’s been my fourth year attending the festival,” said Audrey Hughey, a recent graduate of Calvin who works at Real Food Farms. “Every year there’s something new.”  Topics in past MFFFs have been diverse, touching on anything from canning applesauce to the science of soil.

Steven Bouma-Prediger, professor of religion and the head of the environmental studies program at Hope College, offered the keynote presentation near the end of the event.

“The present fact of creation is sobering. Creation is not doing well,” said Bouma-Prediger when discussing global climate change and other environmental issues.

“But it doesn’t end there. God’s vision is not of giving up, but of renewal by making all things new.”

The Mad Farmer Food Fest gets its unique name from the poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” written by Wendell Berry, the patron saint of the environmental movement.

In the poem, Berry emphasizes deconstructing the consumerist mindset, slowing down and practicing resurrection in our daily lives.

The theme of the poem echoed in the presentations and community-style lunch hour, where attendees spread picnic blankets and ate together.

Included in God’s plan of renewal, Bouma-Prediger emphasized, is food. “How we eat,” said Bouma-Prediger, “testifies how we value the creatures we live with.”

In line with that vision, the MFFF had a lunch provided by local and organic food companies Marie Catrib’s and Brick Road Pizza in Grand Rapids.

“Lunch is always delicious, and it’s very affordable,” said Hughey. This year, tickets were $5 for students who pre-ordered, $7 at the door and $10 for non-Calvin attendees. The consistent crowds are a testament to the value of the event.

“The focus on food justice is a key element of the MFFF and is something that makes it unique,” said Hughey.

“Food justice isn’t talked about often enough in the local farm and back to the earth movement, so MFFF offers a great opportunity to open up the discussion of food and food justice,” she said. “[MFFF] goes beyond the statement of ‘eat local food’ to address questions like what kind of food we should eat, and who’s growing the food.”

The MFFF is an annual event and will be held again next spring.