Interactive Experiences and Conversations on Food Excite Attendees at RIT Dining’s Hydroponic Farm Launch Event
Interactive Experiences and Conversations on Food Excite Attendees at RIT Dining’s Hydroponic Farm Launch Event The events gave attendees a deeper understanding of hydroponic farming and its benefits Imagine a kale plant wired to a computer that is used to answer quiz questions by tapping that plant. Or tying string to pegs to submit your answer to questions about hydroponic farming. These were just two of the interactive experiences attendees participated in at RIT Dining’s Hydroponic Farm Launch event on October 23, 2019. The day featured two events that provided opportunities for guests to learn about hydroponic farming through experiences – seeing, feeling, discussing, and of course, tasting the produce. The overarching purpose being to bring awareness to the RIT community of the features and benefits of having a hydroponic farm on campus. The first event for the day invited peers in the fields of culinary, sustainability, farming, engineering, purchasing, hospitality, menu planning, marketing, and nutrition for a discussion about food and its future for the city of Rochester, NY. Local restauranteurs, local food bank executives, food writers, RIT faculty and staff, and Wegman’s culinary leaders convened in the Reading Room on the RIT campus to connect over a locally sourced, farm to table meal provided by RIT Catering. The group of twenty discussed a variety of topics – from food insecurity to media’s role in shaping food trends to sourcing food – all with a focus on understanding the different perspectives of each person. The group took the first steps towards thinking about how Rochester can become a more sustainable, culinary forward, and resourceful city. “The impact of this event on attendees and the RIT Dining team was profound,” said Kory Samuels, Executive Director of RIT Dining. “Not only were we able to foster connections between change makers and important issues, but their thoughtful discussions set the stage for change and how we can impact food concerns in our region.” Following Table Talk, hundreds gathered in the Fireside Lounge to taste the hydroponic farm’s produce and test their knowledge on hydroponic farming. Guests participated in a quiz about food safety that used a small circuit board to turn kale plants into buttons. Questions included does produce from the hydroponic farm need to be washed like conventional produce; and are hydroponic plants less vulnerable to food borne illness? Another activity invited guests to answer questions about hydroponic farming using string. Guests started by choosing a color of string based on their affiliation to RIT. They then would tie their string to the pins that represented their answer to each question. At the end of the activity, guests checked their answers on the hydroponic farm webpage to see the correct answers. The final survey presented a public, colorful installation and an analysis on how much the RIT community currently knew about hydroponic farming. Throughout the event guests naturally mingled, explored, spoke with the hydroponic farm team, and enjoyed samples of the hydroponic farm’s salad mix and microgreens topped with beets, fennel, apples and an apple cider vinaigrette, created by RIT Catering. The event was unique, to say the least. “We strive to incorporate memorable and innovative experiences into our marketing efforts,” said Denishea Ortiz, Director of Strategic Marketing and Retail Product Management for RIT Auxiliary Services. “Our community receives dozens of event invitations daily. We prioritize creating experiences that are valuable and impactful. Our hydroponic farm launch created a deeper understanding of hydroponic farming that guests will not forget.” RIT Dining plans to continue education about the hydroponic farm. The RIT community can look forward to more events of this type in the spring of 2020. For more information on the hydroponic farm, including features and benefits, visit bit.ly/RITDiningFarm or to schedule a farm tour, sign up at bit.ly/hydroponicfarmtours.