The University of Alabama organization, Homegrown Alabama, made its formal introduction into the Tuscaloosa community by hosting “Dinner From Our Own Backyard” on Nov. 16 at the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house with a central theme: buy fresh, buy local. As part of their efforts to convey their message, the full-course meal was prepared using only Alabama-grown food.The newly formed organization was founded last semester when UA law student Joshua Segall made it his mission to move the community to buy local produce and support local farming. He started Homegrown Alabama with the help of students and professors to try and get Alabama-grown foods to be served on campus.Wanting to expose the university and the Tuscaloosa community to Homegrown Alabama’s belief that buying local supports the farmer and is fresher, healthier and better tasting, Homegrown Alabama began developing a plan of action to incorporate local food into campus dining.That action was consummated recently with the help of nutrition major Camille Caprio, president and house manager of Alpha Gamma Delta. Caprio, the lead organizer for the dinner, said that by entering the Greek community, the group hoped to create a buzz and to convince sororities to buy some of their food directly from farmers.The first of several more events to come, which will include a farmer’s market at the Ferguson Center in the spring, Homegrown Alabama invited members of the Alpha Gamma sorority along with members and house mothers from other sororities to their kickoff initiative.The menu, created with the help of Marcia Lehman, Alpha Gamma’s house director, and Professor Mildred Switzer of the UA Nutrition Department, started with fresh salad greens from Snow’s Bend Farm with hydroponic tomatoes from John Bruce’s Tuscaloosa farm and a goat cheese dressing made from Bulgar Creek Farm’s goat cheese.
The second course featured beef tips from Tommy Green’s farm in Fort Payne, sweet potato casserole made from sweet potatoes grown by Nick Peturis of Loxley, and turnip greens and turnip roots bought at the Burris Farm Market. Dessert was Blue Bell ice cream with peanut brittle from Seven Winds Kitchen in Logan. Bags of peanuts from Fidler Farms in Silverhill and satsumas from Art Sessions’ farm in Grand Bay were given out as party favors.Several members of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and guests said they were pleased to be eating freshly prepared food and glad to be supporting local farmers.Accounting major Laura Marshall, 18, said, “It’s nice to eat fresh and know where your food came from.”Morgan Welch, a 19-year-old journalism major, said of the food, “I come from a small town where they always had fresh tomatoes, and it was really neat to have fresh tomatoes again. You don’t feel as heavy when you finish eating.”Don Wambles, director of the Alabama Farmers Market Authority and featured speaker at the dinner, challenged the Greek system to be a leader in bringing local food to campus. He said that he felt that the dinner was the beginning of great things to come and encouraged guests to continue to request local food on campus and at area restaurants.”Here at the university, you’re a part of the Tuscaloosa community as well,” Wambles said. “If we can incorporate local produce here, we can incorporate it at every college in this state, and then we will have changed the face of agriculture in Alabama.”Ashley Boyd is a journalism major. She is the editor of Epiphany Magazine and writes for Dateline Alabama. Homegrown Alabama member Edward Miller contributed to this story. For more information, e-mail Homegrown Alabama President Max Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.