A drizzly day didn’t keep away students and faculty from getting their fill of pies, pumpkins and produce. Sustainability was the theme of UW-Milwaukee’s Harvestfest last week to celebrate UWM’s 60th anniversary according to Kate Nelson, chief sustainability officer at UWM.
“The special part of the event is that we are doing all composting,” Nelson said. “So every material here we’ve asked to be compostable, so we’re diverting most of our waste from the event.”
Composting is only one of the ways to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Buying locally grown products is a great way to support local farmers and get some delicious, fresh produce. Nelson is proud of UWM, the Milwaukee community and Wisconsin for their fresh eating efforts.
“The good thing about Wisconsin is we have one the highest per capita of farmer’s markets in the country. The problem is that not everyone, even in Milwaukee, has access to those markets and so this really compliments the urban agriculture we do on campus,” Nelson said.
“We actually have places where people grow their own food, even at UWM, and so this is kind of an extension of that work; and there’s a lot of faculty and staff and students and the community who have been really, really engaged in local food and the community, and this kind of brings those two things together,” said Nelson.
For college students, it is hard to make time to eat healthy. As a senior with a job, internship, classes and social life I’m lucky if I get time to eat three meals a day, let alone make sure they are keeping me healthy. Having healthy options right on campus makes it easier for students to build a foundation for a healthier lifestyle.
“We wanted to make Homecoming more inclusive, to see where everyone fit in,” Nelson said.
Students especially enjoyed the farmers market and benefitted from the fresh options. Molly Halverson, a junior at UW-Milwaukee, bought sweet onions and a red pepper to support her school and community.
“I try to go to as many events as I can between classes and I think its really cool,” said Halverson. “I don’t know if the other schools do it as often so I think it’s cool to keep it local and support everybody else.”
Homecoming is a recent addition to the activities on the UMW campus, its first year was in 2015. Having a celebration for students, faculty and alumni is only one of the many goals for the Harvestfest.
“I think the most important thing is being together and sharing our panther pride, and sustainability just happens to be part of that for me, and that’s why I wanted to work with others on the event,” Nelson said. “But overall it’s just having a good time with students and staff together and alumni who are stopping by as well, and sharing in the fun of homecoming.”
At the end of the day the pumpkins were all carved, the pies eaten and the produce sold leaving that attendees and organizers with smiles of their faces.
“We’ve already been asked to repeat it,” Nelson laughs. “So the pumpkin carving is going over really well and the pie sale too so students don’t always have access to get out to the farm or farmers markets and we’re bringing it to them and really just having a good time despite the weather.”