MSI 2015 Wrap-Up


Overall, this year’s program was a great success! In short, we had:

  • Four flash seminars (man, this was a long time ago)
  • Three classes: Farmer’s Markets, Food Politics and Research Methods; Agro-Ecology; and Sustainability and Human Needs
  • 40 students (15 in Block A, 25 in Block B)
  • Three times the amount of scholarship funds (Yay, local sponsors!!)
  • Three scholarship winners
  • Two photo contests with over 60 entries!
  • One feature by a local news station, NBC29
  • Two cooking demonstrations
  • Two mindfulness sessions
  • Two Fed Up Screenings
  • Too much rain and hot weather
  • Lots of reading, learning, exploring, eating and fun

We look forward to another great program next year. Until then…


I’d personally like to thank Maria Rincon, Paul Freedman, Manuel Lerdau, Garrick Louis, Whitney Farmer, Rebecca Deeds, Neal Halvorson-Taylor, Emily Salle, Tom Jackson and Rachel Miller for all of their help putting on this year’s MSI! You are all such hardworking and inspiring people.

Signing off,

Students? Or Budding Photographers?

Hi everyone,

Since we last spoke with you, we took a field trip to the Charlottesville City Market, had a cooking demonstration with Martha Stafford of the Charlottesville Cooking School and most recently, watched Fed Up and had a BBQ provided by A Taste of Home Southern Cuisine. It’s been a busy few days… And on top of all of that, the students are busy forming their research projects on farmers markets across Virginia. They’ll be presenting their findings tomorrow. We’re excited to share some here.

Most remarkably, we’ve had some outstanding participation in our photo contest. The winner, like last time, receives a Morven care package including: Morven honey, Morven Kitchen Garden produce, flowers from the formal gardens, a Whole Foods gift card AND a free meal at Chipotle. Take a look at the entries we’ve received so far and you’ll understand why we’re having such a hard time choosing a winner. Plus, the students still have until midnight today to send us their photos.

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Block B Has Begun!

There has been a lot of activity going on in the past few days. This block, we have one class entitled “Farmers Markets, Food Politics and Research Methods,” which is taught by Professor Paul Freeman (pictured below) of the Department of Politics. There are 26 students in this class alone! This isn’t altogether surprising to us though, considering Professor Freedman’s engaging teaching style and remarkable reputation at UVa and beyond.

Block B started out with a bang when Governor McAuliffe stopped by the Meeting Barn to check out the class and say hello to the students. He reminded the students of the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and advocated for farmers markets as a way to support the industry directly. He also reminded us to vote in the primary election this coming Tuesday and even took home a pair of stylish Morven sunglasses. Looking good, Governor McAuliffe!

Yesterday, we got the opportunity to participate in a demonstration on mindfulness, especially as it relates to food consumption. Marga Odahowski is a local mindfulness consultant and former UVa professor AND she just wrote a book entitled The Way of the Hammock. She shared with the students tips on eating mindfully, even if it’s something as small as a raisin (pictured here). Here are a few of her tips:

  • Savor and space memories, music, or snacks
  • Focus on a word that has deep value to you
  • Practice positive power poses
  • Keep your practice: small, slow, and simple.

To thank Marga, and all of our guest speakers, for their time, we’re gifting bouquets of Morven flowers picked from the beautiful gardens on grounds.

Today, the students are continuing to practice mindfulness on their own to gain a better focus for the remainder of MSI. This will come in handy as they begin to shape their research projects. Only 7 more days! Stay tuned for more exciting events happening in the next week.

Sustainably yours,

Maria and Cassidy

Block A Wrap-up

The first block of MSI 2015 has officially come to an end. We’re sad to see these great students go, but we’re excited that Block B begins tomorrow! Before then, I’d like to fill you all in on the rest of the first block starting with the Japanese Garden tour.

Meg and Rebecca, two members of the Morven staff, led the tour of the Japanese Garden. In this picture, they are explaining the significance of crossing the threshold into the garden. Some say that crossing over the low beam is meant to signify crossing from the earthly realm to another calmer, more peaceful one. It also serves as a nice reminder to be aware of your surroundings… Don’t trip!IMG_0950

IMG_0954Here’s a picture of student Max Owens looking rather zen. This was one of the submissions for the photo contest. The students made it so hard for me to choose, but I’ll highlight the winning picture on our Facebook page. That reminds me, please go like us:

10268417_10155618735580352_4077380232240500585_n (1)Group shot in front of the quaint tea house in the garden, which is modeled after a Japanese summer home. Thanks to Professor Louis’ class for inviting me to join the picture.

The next day, we had an end-of-MSI BBQ at the Main House. A Taste of Home Southern Cuisine created a delicious spread. We had squash casserole, southern green beans, mac and cheese cups, cornbread and of course, BBQ chicken! Not pictured: the most delightful pound cake I’ve ever tasted.

Mr. Kluge had a back porch with a view! It was quite fun to make ourselves at home here. So glad we were able to use this space for our BBQ dinner.
IMG_0982On the last day of class, I gave the students their t-shirts and reusable grocery bags. Here’s a few of the students that agreed to pose for a picture in the new shirts! (Thanks to Emily Salle for her brilliant t-shirt design.)IMG_0987IMG_0989One more thing… We were interviewed by NBC29! They wanted to highlight our students and Nickels for Nonprofit, the Whole Foods program that is funding academic scholarships for a few of our students. They met us in the Kitchen Garden, interviewed a few of us and followed some of the experiments the students are doing out there. This was an awesome surprise, and we’re so happy to have such strong local relationships that give our students these opportunities. The more people that know about Morven and MSI, the better! Here’s a link to the full piece:

For more minute-to-minute updates from MSI, you should follow us on Instagram: morven_summerinstitute

Thanks to all of the Morven staff and UVa faculty members for their help in this first session. I’m so lucky to work with such smart and talented people. Now on to the next one!

Block A Mid Point

It is officially mid-term season for the first batch of MSI students!

Well, kind of. Because MSI is a 10-day semester, there isn’t really time for mid-terms per say, but by this point, all of the students have started working on their final projects. Here are a few pictures of Professor Lerdau’s class working on their experiments in the Kitchen Garden before the holiday weekend:


I also know that Professor Louis’s students have a few presentations later this week. I’ll include some of those pictures later.

Also before the holiday weekend, we had a screening of the documentary Fed Up in the movie theater at the Meeting Barn. What a great film! However, I’ve made a mental note that this is not the most uplifting film to show before a weekend notorious for barbecues and cook-outs.IMG_0934IMG_0938

The snacks were specifically chosen to be ironic… It was strange to be eating M&Ms, Oreos, Twizzlers and very buttery popcorn while learning all about what sugar does not only to our individual bodies but also to our country’s health as a whole. For me, it actually helped make the message of the film resonate even more since I could feel my sugar levels spike as Katie Couric, the film’s narrator, discussed the way our bodies digest such sugars. It made the experience multi-sensory.

The film also talked about the way that unhealthy processed foods are cleverly incorporated into every moment of our lives. TV ads, celebrity endorsements, vending machines, toys, clothes, convenience stores, school lunches… At this point, we can never escape the marketing of food corporations. And we become targets at a very young age. I thought this provoked an interesting question about the morality of marketing to children. In fact, one of the most memorable lines of the film came from McDonald’s Corp representative Shelley Rosen who defended her brand saying, “Ronald McDonald never sells to children. He informs and inspires through magic and fun.” I’ll let you decide that one for yourself…

Anyway, today we had a tour of the Japanese Garden. I’ll make that a separate post, but here are a few previews from the walk-thru Rebecca, Maria and I did before students arrived. We love the tranquility of this place!IMG_0854IMG_0855

Talk to you soon,


MSI Block A: Day 1

The 2015 Morven Summer Institute has begun!DSC_0071

We arrived at Morven pretty early this morning to prepare for the students’ arrival. We moved furniture, set up tables and laid out the famous Morven sunglasses at each seat.

Then, at 10:00 a.m. the students finally arrived!DSC_0044After introductions, we jumped straight into a tour of the grounds. It was quite hot outside, but students got to see the various gardens and landmarks (and literally smell the roses).

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After the tour, we had a delicious lunch catered by Chipotle before splitting off into the two separate classes, Sustainability and Human Needs taught by Professor Garrick Louis and Agro-Ecology taught by Professor Manuel Lerdau. From what I could hear, the students in Professor Lerdau’s class are already planning their individual research projects in the Morven Kitchen Garden. We’ll check in with them, as well as the students of Professor Louis’ class, as the first week continues. Overall, it was a wonderful first day. We’re so excited to hang out with this group of students!

Thanks to Whitney for snapping the tour photos while we ran to Chipotle. And thanks to the Morven Summer Institute support team for their hard work so far. We wouldn’t be able to do this without you!

-Cassidy and Maria

MSI Coordinators 2015