Beginning June 20, Western Washington University students, faculty and staff can pay to have locally grown organic fruits and vegetables through the Viking Supported Agriculture Program.
The program is Western’s community service agriculture program and supports locally grown products from Whatcom and Skagit County producers. By signing up and paying a fee, boxes full of selected produce items will be delivered to Carver Gym weekly over the summer. Options are available for the next 9, 20 or 25 weeks and available for pick up Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Carver Gym, according to the Western Sustainability website.
The program is a joint collaboration between Western’s Office of Sustainability, the AS club Students for Sustainable Foods and Growing Washington, said Clayton Burrows, director of Growing Washington, in an email.
“The students at [Western] have always been the most vocal supporters of getting local food on campus,” Burrows said.
Viking Supported Agriculture was piloted three years ago, after Growing Washington convinced Sodexo, the former food provider for Western, to start purchasing produce directly from Growing Washington and other local farms, Burrows said.
Growing Washington and the Office of Sustainability received a grant from the Whatcom Community Foundation to pay a student employee to organize and run the program, said Simon Davis-Cohen, former coordinator for the program.
“[Western] quickly became our single biggest customer,” Burrows said. “This led us to start growing food specifically [for the university] and leasing some land and [naming] it ‘Viking Field.’”
The beginnings of the program were coordinated by Davis-Cohen, who did a great job engaging the student body and staff, Burrows said.
Now a graduate and editor for readthedirt.org, David-Cohen said it was interesting to see how the demand to support local agriculture was already present on campus.
“We didn’t need to convince anybody this was a good idea,” he said. “We just had to provide an outlet.”
Davis-Cohen’s most memorable experience working with the program was the excitement of the participants, while delivering an average of 80 boxes a week during fall quarter, he said.
“The most gratifying thing for me was how happy everybody was with the program,” Davis-Cohen said.
Working with the Office of Sustainability on campus, Students for Sustainable Food and the student population has been a rewarding experience, Burrows said.
“We make a great team,” he said. “We are amazed at how popular the program has become and love [providing] access to affordable, local and healthy food.”