Food Studies

Dickinson College Food Studies Certificate Program

Month: November 2016

Cider Yeasts: An Exploration of Micro-environmental Terroir at Three Springs Fruit Farm

This Friday, students from Dickinson College’s Biology Department presented their semester research during a public poster symposium. As a part of my independent study for the Food Studies Certificate as well as my independent research with biology professor Dr. Dana J. Wohlbach, I designed and executed an analysis of naturally occurring yeast strains in Three Spring Fruit Farm‘s hard cider. At the conclusion of my study, I will provide the orchard with yeast population information in an effort to inform their cider production. My aim is to contribute to  Ben Wenk’s, owner and operator of Three Springs, aspiration to turn Adams County, PA into a cider destination and to perpetuate appreciation for local food and the concept of terroir or the taste of place.

Below is the poster I presented at Friday’s event. Please feel free to contact me with any inquiries or comments, my contact information is available in Dickinson College’s student directory. Additionally, I encourage you to read through the amazing research other students are conducting on campus and at partner institutions.

A Response to James McWilliams: Bringing Animal Welfare to 21st Century Agriculture

On October 1st, Dickinson College hosted Professor James McWilliams from Texas State University. Professor McWilliams critiqued conventional and alternative forms of livestock farming and offered his own solutions to the problems of animal welfare in contemporary agriculture. Below is a response written by one of the students in attendance, Keriann Pfleger ’17. Keriann is a Biology Major and student farmer, we hope you enjoy her commentary below…

By Keriann Pfleger

The most recent Clarke Forum in this years “Food” series was, “Bringing Animal Welfare to 21st Century Agriculture”. This was a talk led by James McWilliams, a professor of history at Texas State University. Being a student farmer and also an animal lover I was particularly excited for this talk. I had hoped it would discuss how to offer some of the best care possible for livestock but I was surprised at how different it was.

McWilliams began by discussing that he was, in fact, not vegan but constantly thinking and processing the morals, the deeper philosophical questions, behind meat. He mentioned that no matter how much we care for livestock we are still raising them for slaughter and how we give these animals some moral consideration but then kill them. At this point I felt I could relate to these statements, I recently became vegetarian and, though environmental reasons were a big part of my choice, these were things I considered. He touched briefly on the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, passing it off as old news. Then he began his seven narratives of animal agriculture.

At this point, I realized there really would not be a discussion of animal welfare techniques or management but I was open to hear what he had to say. His narratives were: slaughter, grass fed beef, DIY slaughter, pastured chicken and eggs, free range pigs, welfare labels, and welfare organizations. For each one he discussed the good and the bad, what it did well for animal welfare and what it could potentially do wrong. I thought this was an interesting way to look at these issues. I’m all for learning new, credible, information and using that to help myself make better choices. However, most of McWilliams’s research in support of his arguments was vague and superficial.

Many of his arguments involved the words “could” and “potentially” which seemed like a way to put something that isn’t really accurate on paper. He pulled a lot of statements from websites where people discussed caring for chickens on their farms or in their backyards.  The quotes he used to demonstrate that raising your own chicken doesn’t mean you are killing it humanely were from people who were slaughtering birds for the first time. At first this was very thought provoking because it was paired with graphic quotes about botched butchering. But in the question and answer session, a student brought up to him that many of the quotes he pulled were from people slaughtering for the first time and he agreed it’s possible that people could do better with education.

McWilliams also made comments about chickens being subject to predation, a big issue in poultry production. Here he argued that chickens on farms without outdoor access would hypothetically be safer. I thought that was a strange statement to make. He then suggested that humans would not be able improve, learn from failed attempts to raise birds. For example, they would keep letting foxes predate their livestock and not think to make an adjustment to the pen or raisers would keep botching their chicken slaughters and fail to learn from their mistakes. I don’t agree with his argument, it puts very little faith in human’s intelligence.

As he wrapped up his talk, McWilliams spoke about the future of meat. He suggested turning to meat alternatives like, bugs, oyster farms, lab meat, roadkill. I was not satisfied with his conclusionI did enjoy hearing the various sides of narratives I often see as one sided, but the information shown to me seemed fitting for a Facebook argument, not a college lecture. I felt unsure of how to share the information I took away from the evening and even unsure if I should. I was happy I attended this event;it did get me thinking and made me more interested in doing my own research to better understand the consequences that what I eat has on animals and the environment alike.

Homecoming Weekend and Clarke Forum

Last week was a busy one here on campus! Over the Halloween weekend, parents and alumni visited the Dickinson College Farm as part of Homecoming and Parents’ Weekend events. The following Tuesday, Dickinson’s Clarke Forum welcomed Professor McWilliams as he lead a discussion about animal welfare in modern agriculture.

Homecoming Weekend (PC: Wesley Lickus)

James McWilliams’ Lecture

Alumna Wins Christine Wilson Award

By Cindy Baur

In my senior honors Anthropology thesis I critically analyze the local food movement in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and the surrounding area. My interest in the topic began during my sophomore year after taking a course called Nutritional Anthropology. My understanding of the local food movement developed further as I worked as a student farm worker at the Dickinson Farm during my sophomore year and continued while I participated in a food studies program in Perugia, Italy during my junior year.

I use my own ethnographic work, such as interviews with farmers, observations of Farmers on the Square board meetings, and participant observation at the farmers’ market, to understand the motivations of participating producers and consumers in Central Pennsylvania. I argue that the local food movement is a response to a global, industrialized neoliberal food system. Consumers seek out a more personal alternative to anonymous industrially produced food by responding to a call to “vote” with their dollars. However, they are unsuccessful because they are acting within their individual capitalist identities. In addition, not all consumers have an equal opportunity to “vote” and the rhetoric often ignores certain components of food production, such as labor, adding to the elitism of the movement.

After graduation I submitted a shortened version of my thesis to be considered for the Christine Wilson Award, offered by the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. My thesis won the undergraduate prize for outstanding undergraduate research on nutrition, food studies and anthropology. In November I will attend the American Anthropological Association annual conference in Minneapolis, MN to accept the award in person.

Below is the introduction to Cindy’s thesis paper. If you would like to read more or discuss Cindy’s research, please contact

Every Wednesday all summer long the cement square in front of the First Presbyterian Church, located at the center of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, transforms into a bustling marketplace called Farmers on the Square (FOTS). The square becomes full of tents, shoppers, children, and dogs. Each unique tent houses colorful vegetables, fruits, flowers, and coolers full of chilled chicken, sausages, and other meat. The air smells of roasting garlic and burning wood, thanks to the Dickinson Farm’s pizza oven. Children run around on the lawn in front of the church, while their parents, who are often treated much more like friends, ask questions about the recent bout of rain they know flooded their farmers’ fields. Families return home, overstuffed market totes in hand, anxiously awaiting the bounty of the next week’s market. As a loyal supporter of FOTS, I delved into the market trying to understand first-hand how the local food movement plays out in a familiar context.

In this paper I will engage with existing literature about the local food movement in order to analyze how this alternative food movement functions within the context of Central Pennsylvania. First, I will describe the history of FOTS and other farmers’ markets that have existed in the area to provide historical context to the local food movement. Then, I will discuss the agrarian ideals we hold in the US and how those ideals influence Central Pennsylvania. I then interrogate the many interpretations of “local” including anthropologists’ use of terroir within the local food movement. In a similar vein, I apply the concept of terroir to this specific geographic region. Next, I describe the global, industrial food system, the local food movement, and neoliberalism. I argue that the local food movement is a response to a neoliberal economic system in which consumers demand an alternative market that is socially embedded, environmentally sound, and socially just. However, I believe that the local food movement is not

successful at meeting these goals because it simultaneously recreates and works within the neoliberal structures to which it is reacting. Like neoliberal policies, alternative food movements rely on individual actors to create change through their capitalist identities, such as “voting” with their dollars. However, this exacerbates inequalities and perpetuates and aura of exclusivity since not all consumers have equal opportunities to “vote.” Finally, I conclude that while the local food movement may not be successful at provoking change on its own, it is still an important and valuable tool for making change.

Food Studies 201: Tour of Dickinson Dining Services

A class discussion of food labor brought the Food Studies 201 Seminar to the back kitchens of Dickinson Dining Hall. There, they learned from the Director of Dining Services, Errol Huffman, what exactly it takes to feed over 2,000 hungry Red Devils every day.

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