Reserve Your Space in the 2014 Morven Summer Institute Today!

 

MSI 2014 poster v4

We’re so excited to be gearing up for MSI 2014!  Stay tuned for more information about upcoming info sessions and details about our new courses in Environmental Science, Politics, Engineering and Public Health!

Learn more about UVA summer classes on the Summer Session website.

Day 11: Congratulations MSI Block B Students — You Did It!

After three days of pretty much continuous rain here at Morven, the skies are finally clearing up and the sun it poking it’s head out of the clouds! And what better timing than for our final day at the 2013 Morven Summer Institute!

MSI Block B Students, Staff, and Faculty.

MSI Block B Students, Staff, and Faculty.

Today we are treated to 12 final presentations from the students of Block B of MSI. Student presentations from the Food and Nutrition class will cover a wide variety of topics ranging from the American obesity epidemic to genetic modification of crops to food deserts. The students of the Farmers Market Research class will be presenting on a number of Farmers Markets throughout Virginia.

The line-up for presentations is…

Chris Cempre´ – The Link of Wheat to Obesity: Fact or Fiction?

Bethany Gordon – The South of the James Farmer’s Market Mobility Research Initiative

Emily Caccamo – A Proposal for how America can Simultaneously Cut CO2 Emissions and National Average BMI

Cameron Langille – Yorktown Market Days

Allison Rhea – Dangers of Overuse of Pesticides on Large-Scale Farms: Can current efficiency lead to future sustainability?

Carli Goldberg – SEED

Charlie Garcia – Food Production and the One Child Policy

Adam Rosen – Charlottesville City Market: Discovering Physical Market Preferences

Kelly Mill – Location, Location, Location: Targeting Food Deserts to Halt the Obesity Epidemic

Hannah Morgan – The Economic Impact of the Charlottesville City Market: A Research Proposal

Food and Nutrition In a Changing World Joint Class Presentation – How to Sell at a Farmers Market

It has been such a pleasure getting to know you all and your many intellectual strengths! I hope everyone enjoyed the Morven Summer Institute, I certainly did!

Day 10: A Good Day for Galoshes

Rain trickling off the rooftop of the meeting barn.

Rain trickling off the rooftop of the meeting barn.

Phewie, it’s raining cats and dogs in Charlottesville today! It’s actually quite a lovely day to be inside, listening to the rain on the rooftop of the meeting barn. Luckily we have planned a full morning of great (indoor) presentations on sustainable food systems and accessibility to healthy, local foods.

Today, both classes will listen to four special presentations by women and men involved in the local food movement around the greater DC/VA/MD areas.

Today's MSI speakers: (from left to right) James Wallace,

Today’s MSI speakers: (from left to right) James Wallace, Karen Atkinson, Kathi Colen Peck, and Leanne Du Bois.

First up is James Wallace, who will be speaking on food desserts, access to healthy food, and community health in Richmond, Virginia.

Next, we are joined by Leanne Du Bois, who works for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). VDACS strives to promote the economic viability of agriculture and farming in Virginia. Leanne works in promotions and marketing for, among other organizations, farmers markets and the seafood industry in Virginia. Leanne is also the Virginia Farm-to-School Program Coordinator.

Third to speak is Kathi Colen Peck, from the Farmers Market Managers Association.

Finally, we will hear from Karen Atkinson, founder and director of FeedRVA and GrowRVA in Richmond.

Day 9: A Plug for the Morven Kitchen Garden

Hi friends!

Fresh-cut flowers from the Morven Kitchen Garden.

Fresh-cut flowers from the Morven Kitchen Garden.

We are enjoying a nice fresh, rainy summer day out here at Morven. As the plants are outside soaking up the deluge of water, our students are inside soaking up tons of knowledge as we wrap up the last few days of classes.

Since it’s sort of a slower day here, I’d like to take this opportunity to fill everyone in on the history and current status of the Morven Kitchen Garden (MKG), since after all, it ties in very well to what students are learning about here at MSI.

The Morven Kitchen Garden.

The Morven Kitchen Garden.

The one-acre cultivated plot that is the Morven Kitchen Garden was established by UVA students three years ago. Students reclaimed a plot that had been organically cultivated for John Kluge from 1989-1999, but laid fallow for more than ten years during which time it was taken over by various trees and wild plants. As you may know, the Morven property was originally purchased by Thomas Jefferson in the late 18th century. Jefferson used the property, known then as “Indian Camp,” as a grounds for tenant-farm labor agricultural experimentation. With the same goals of agricultural experimentation and innovation, UVA students today use the MKG as a “natural space for agricultural learning.”

(See MKG “State of the Garden Report” at http://www.uvafoundation.com/uploads/pages/images/state_of_the_garden_final2.pdf)

Lettuces from the MKG.

Lettuces from the MKG.

This Summer, the MKG is in its third growing season, and let me tell you, things are growing strong! The garden has seen a few major transitions over the past year, as three of the original student founders of the garden, Michelle Rehme, Marie Schacht, and Rowan Sprague, have begun (or are in the process of beginning) new life ventures that take them away from the MKG. But with an every blossoming new crop of garden managers and volunteers, the garden continues to flourish! Just next week, managers of the garden will be starting this season’s CSA program for local community members. If you are interested in signing up for that, contact Isabel Greenberg at ifg2ac@virginia.edu.

Two MKG leaders -- Rowan Sprague (right) and Isabel Greenberg (left) -- just finished with harvesting 101 radishes!

Two MKG leaders — Rowan Sprague (right) and Isabel Greenberg (left) — just finished with harvesting 101 radishes!

New this year in the MKG is a joint UVA faculty-graduate-undergraduate research project on sunflowers! This project will be researching and experimenting with sunflower genes, in the hopes of discovering the genetic basis for why sunflowers are heliotropic (germinating sunflower buds actually follow the sun across the sky throughout the day and then reset again at night to repeat the movement the next day!)

One of the experimental sunflower seedlings.

One of the experimental sunflower seedlings.

The research group has grown the sunflower seedlings in a greenhouse lab, planted them in a quadrant in the MKG, and will be tracking their daily movement in the garden with over 20 different cameras placed alongside the flowers (see below).

Those aren't a bunch of three-legged aliens in our garden -- they're the tripod cameras used by the UVA sunflower research team to track sunflower heliotropism!

Those aren’t a bunch of three-legged aliens in our garden — they’re the tripod cameras used by the UVA sunflower research team to track sunflower heliotropism!

Day 8: Recap of Last Night’s BBQ + Japanese Garden!

Sunny skies, cool breeze, picnic blankets, watermelon, ice tea, lemonade, mac n’ cheese, BBQ, good company, a frisbee and awesome ‘slaw!…we couldn’t have had a more wonderful time at the MSI Barbecue last night!

Mingling at the MSI Barbecue.

Mingling at the MSI Barbecue.

It was all smiles and full mouths (but luckily not simultaneously) at the barbecue yesterday! With plenty of good food to eat and interesting people to talk to, last night was a hoot (even for the vegetarians, like myself!)

Looking down the table...

Looking down the table…something must have been pretty funny!

This morning we had another special activity, taking a trip down to the Japanese Garden at Morven! That garden never ceases to amaze. With its imported trees and woods from Japan and it’s large boulders taken out of the mountains of the Blue Ridge– you feel as though you’ve stepped out of Charlottesville and onto the cool, peaceful, mountainous terrain of Japan!

Meg leading MSI students around the Japanese Garden.

Meg leading MSI students around the Japanese Garden.

Once again, Japanese Garden Curator, Meg Faison, led us on an inspiring and informative tour around the garden.

Japanese Maples straight from the source! (Thanks Mr. Kluge!)

Japanese Maples straight from the source! (Thanks to Mr. Kluge!)

Lastly, I had to include this one since it’s filling the air with such a lovely smell…

The magnolias are starting to bloom!

The magnolias are starting to bloom!

 

Day 7: Choose Your Herbs Wisely!

Yum.

Palettes for today's cooking demonstration. Featuring bread from Albemarle Baking Co., in-season strawberries from Whole Foods, unsalted organic butter, and herbs (chives, basil, thyme, and mint) from the Morven Kitchen Garden.

Palettes for today’s cooking demonstration. Featuring bread from Albemarle Baking Company, in-season strawberries from Whole Foods, unsalted organic butter, and herbs (chives, basil, thyme, and mint) from the Morven Kitchen Garden.

We welcomed back Martha Stafford of the Charlottesville Cooking School to the Morven Summer Institute today to give a cooking demonstration for the students of Block B. What an exquisite (and tasty) time!

Martha Stafford, founder of the Charlottesville Cooking School.

Martha Stafford, founder of the Charlottesville Cooking School.

Martha started us off with a taste-bud exploration that took us on a journey of many flavors! We tasted how a small pinch of salt can drastically enhance the flavor of relatively simple dishes. We found out that simply toasting your bread can make all the difference when you’re making a dish such as bruschetta. We learned how to make a “compound butter” using herbs, salt, and butter. Who knew that adding basil, thyme, or mint to strawberries was so delicious?

After our small herbal cooking demonstration, Martha led us into the industrial kitchen at Morven, where she showed us the best way to wash, prepare, and dress delicate mixed salad greens…all gathered from the Morven Kitchen Garden, I might add!

Tips:

  • Use a salad spinner!
  • Fill the bottom part of the salad spinner with water (see picture below) and let the lettuce float in it so that the dirt sinks to the bottom. Next, pull out the lettuce and put it into the other half (strainer part) of the the salad spinner and then dump out the water (containing dirt and grit) from the bottom half of the spinner. DO NOT dump the water over your washed lettuce or else the grit will be in your salad! Then use the salad spinning mechanism to spin the lettuce greens SLOWLY.
  • This point above is crucial, lettuces are delicate and must be handled with care throughout the washing and drying process, otherwise they might wilt when you add dressing!
  • Lastly, add dressing in 3 parts oil to 1 part acid (such as lemon or vinegar).

    Washing lettuces!

    Washing lettuces!

Making a salad dressing using olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and tamari sauce.

Making a salad dressing using olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and tamari sauce.

Thank you, Martha, for all of the great cooking tips! And for sharing your joy about food and cooking!

Day 6: Be Mindful

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Marga Odahowski leading students of the Morven Summer Institute in a “mindful eating” activity.

Today students of Block B of the Summer Institute were treated to an introduction to Mindfulness, led by UVA professor and Director of Studies at the IRC, Marga Odahowski.

Mindfulness is a valuable tool for anyone, but can be particularly helpful in an academic setting. Being present, aware, and mindful in class and in one’s academic study can lead to increased learning and retention of information. Being mindful of who or what we are studying can make us more compassionate and holistic thinkers and actors.

Marga made an important point during the mindfulness class today, that unlike some other forms of meditation practices, mindfulness does not only help us to reflect inwardly about the inner-workings of our own minds and bodies but also outwardly about our surroundings and interactions with others. The cultivation of compassion and awareness towards others is a valuable component of mindfulness.

I’d like to take a moment to encourage us all to be mindful of the “others” that we may encounter here or on the way out to Morven, especially those others who may not belong to our own species. These beautiful hills and valleys that surround Morven are home to many a small critter and furry friend.

On any given day out at Morven or on the way here, one might see (or hear) deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, butterflies, cicadas, songbirds, geese, and, most recently, a number of box turtles crossing the road. Be mindful on your drive out here. Pay attention to who may be trying to cross or fly alongside of the road and, most importantly, slow down. Slowing down, and really taking in these sights will not only help these small critters, it will also enhance your own experience of this beautiful and wild place we call Albemarle county.

Day 5: Trip to the Charlottesville Farmers Market

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PLAC 5500: Farmers Markets and Applied Food Systems Research class (& friends) at the Charlottesville Farmers Market last Saturday.
Photo Credit: Kathy Kildea

Last Saturday, both classes from the Morven Summer Institute ventured out early (some at 6am!) to the Charlottesville Farmers Market to collect data that will aid in their research projects in their classes this week at Morven.

Students from the Food and Nutrition course collected data about the factors that go into the pricing and advertisement of different vendors at the market. They looked at such factors as presentation, variety, “localness” around the greater Albemarle area, and farmer-customer interactions. They focused on four in-season crops at the market: onions, radishes, strawberries, and snap peas.

Meanwhile, students from the Farmers’ Market Research class went around the market conducting a survey of vendors and customers, to collect information about areas in which the Farmers Market could be improved.

Pretty neat stuff going on out here at the Summer Institute!

Day 4: Getting Fancy in the Main House

Salutations, friends!

Yes today we’re saying “salutations” instead of “hello,” because — in the words of a friendly spider from Charlotte’s Web — “Salutations is my fancy way of saying hello.” 🙂

Today the Farmers Market course met in the main house at Morven and, let me tell you, that place is snazzy! We put on our best duds and sharpest thinking caps to have class this historic and beautiful house this afternoon.

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The Main House at Morven.

Bernadine (Bernie) Prince, VP of the Board of Directors for the Farmers Market Coalition, came to talk to the Farmers Market class today about her work with FRESHFARM markets and organizing markets around the wider Washington D.C./MD/VA area.FRESHFARM markets works to promote markets for local food in the Chesapeake Bay region.

“Heaven and Earth never agreed better to frame a place for Man’s habitation.” — John Smith on the Chesapeake Bay, circa 1612

Bernie also joined us in having lunch outside on the lovely porch at the main house (see below).

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The Farmers Market class enjoying an outdoor lunch on the porch of the main house.

Since there hasn’t really been a good place to point them out in this blog yet…I’d like to take a moment to introduce you (though pictures) to a few Morven and MSI folks that have been around for these last few weeks (and some for the past 2 or so decades)…

From left to right: Emily Sydnor, Paul Freedman, and (me) Samantha Taggart.

From left to right: Emily Sydnor (MSI coordinator), Paul Freedman (MSI professor), and Samantha Taggart (i.e. me – MSI intern).

Andy Wyland (Landscape/Property Supervisor at Morven) and me.

Andy Wyland (Landscape/Property Supervisor at Morven) and me.

They call him yellow cat... :)

People call him “yellow cat”… 🙂

Many more introductions to come in the next few blogposts!

Day 2: Heat Wave!

Phewie, we’re feeling the beginning of the oncoming heat wave out here at Morven but, luckily, we have some very pleasant (and air-conditioned) facilities to enjoy classes in! The Farmers’ Market course meets in the meeting barn, which was the old carriage house, when there were still derby-winning race horses out here at Morven. The Food and Nutrition course meets in the stone house, which was built in the 1920s.

Carla Jones laughing with MSI professor, Tanya Denckla Cobb.

Carla Jones laughing with MSI professor, Tanya Denckla Cobb.

Today the Farmers’ Market class had special guest, Carla Jones, come and speak about her work in the areas of food systems, food justice, and farmers’ market research. Carla works as a program associate for the Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) Cities & Towns Campaign at the Institute for Public Health Innovation.

At lunch, a few of us (including Professor Freedman and MSI coordinator, Emily Sydnor) decided to soak up some Vitamin D while playing a little Ultimate Frisbee outside in the hot sun…

Professor Freedman and Emily Sydnor playing frisbee!

Professor Freedman and Emily Sydnor playing frisbee!