Farm to the table: First Harvest Dinner is a success

Jenny Rohl/The News
Mary Jo Payton, a staff worker at Winslow Dining Hall happily helped to serve  peach-galzed bison meatloaf and sweet potato gratin at the Harvest Dinner.Jenny Rohl/The News Mary Jo Payton, a staff worker at Winslow Dining Hall happily helped to serve peach-galzed bison meatloaf and sweet potato gratin at the Harvest Dinner.

Story by Courtney Scoby, Staff writer

Jenny Rohl/The News Mary Jo Payton, a staff worker at Winslow Dining Hall happily helped to serve  peach-galzed bison meatloaf and sweet potato gratin at the Harvest Dinner.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Mary Jo Payton, a staff worker at Winslow Dining Hall happily helped to serve peach-galzed bison meatloaf and sweet potato gratin at the Harvest Dinner.

Winslow Dining Hall held its first Harvest Dinner this past Wednesday.  All of the food was sourced from within 150 miles of Murray, with as many items as possible coming from local Kentucky farmers. 

Farms in Kentucky and Tennessee provided most of the food for the meal. 

The menu featured bison from Benton Bottoms Bison in Benton, Kentucky, chicken from Crum Farms in Cottage Grove, Tennessee, and cheese from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese in Austin, Kentucky.

The idea for the dinner came from similar events held by other universities. Paula Amols, director of Dining Services and Hospitality, expressed enthusiasm for the event.

“I especially wanted to do it here because it has proven to be such a challenge sourcing local foods and Kentucky Proud for regular, everyday use that I wanted to do something to showcase what the region has to offer,” she said.

Although the farms providing the food are fairly close to Murray, there were other issues with attaining the food for the dinner.

“Some of the stuff was relatively easy, like the bison, but the time of year presented some challenges in getting certain items, as did the quantity we needed,” Amols said.

This is part of the reason more locally sourced food is not on the regular menu at Winslow.

Jenny Rohl/The News Wonsu Kim, graduate student from South Korea, and Deric Hyman, junior from Shelbyville, Kentucky, enjoyed the Harvest Dinner at Winslow Dining Hall Wednesday night.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Wonsu Kim, graduate student from South Korea, and Deric Hyman, junior from Shelbyville, Kentucky, enjoyed the Harvest Dinner at Winslow Dining Hall Wednesday night.

“We’ve tried to get some Kentucky Proud products when we could find them at the right time of year (as in when school is in session) and at a price not too much higher than what we’d otherwise pay, but every time we think we’ve found something, whoever the distributor is won’t come this far west,” Amols said.

However, not all farmers had trouble getting their goods to Murray. 

In fact, a Murray State student, Jay Green, senior from Kirksey, Kentucky, provided the pumpkins and gourds used as decorations for the meal.

Green, an agriculture science major with a focus in agronomy, said he was glad to be able to contribute to the dinner.

“The dinner is a wonderful idea,” he said.  “It makes local farmers such as me proud that the University we attend is willing to use produce grown right here in the local counties for a dinner. This gives local farmers attention and lets us know we are appreciated for what we do.”

Students who participated in the meal seemed to enjoy the change of menu.

“The bison is wonderful.  I didn’t expect it to taste that good with the peach glaze, but it’s super delicious,” Erynn Church,  freshman from Murray, said.

Jenny Rohl/The News Raj Kumar, graduate student from India, helped serve the Harvest Dinner Wednesday night.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Raj Kumar, graduate student from India, helped serve the Harvest Dinner Wednesday night.

Hossain Mohammad Yaseen, freshman from Bangladesh, agreed, saying that the food was “absolutely, 100 percent” better than the food normally served at Winslow. “I wish it was cooked like this every day,” he said.

One of the things students appreciated most about the change in menu was the freshness of the food.

“I loved how everything was very natural. You could tell how natural and fresh everything is,” Mary Mac Pitts, freshman from Erin, Tennessee said.

The improved taste of the food was not the only thing that students enjoyed about the meal, however.

“It really does support local business and the community,” Pitts said.

Students expressed an interest in having locally sourced meals on a more regular basis.

“I would be down for this all the time,” Church said.

While consistently providing students with more locally sourced meals all the time can be challenging because of constraints on season and price, students expressed interest in the idea of events similar to the Harvest Dinner on a more regular basis.

Pitts said that she would enjoy having “fresh, tasty, local food” as much as possible. “Once a month even,” she said.

Fortunately for students, Amols said she hopes that the Harvest Dinner will become an annual event at Winslow.