Austin Klepper is the Farm to Campus intern for the Office of Sustainability at the University of Georgia. The environmental health science major oversees a farmer’s market in the Tate Student Center plaza that is one of the office’s many sustainability programs. Comments trimmed for length and clarity.
Q: Do you interact with local farms and other produce providers not just involved with UGA?
Yeah, so last semester, all of our produce wasn’t from the UGArden (a campus community farm that teaches students how to grow organic food). It was from a local Athens farm called Hickory Hill. This semester, it’s still all from UGArden though. But some of our stuff is from local Athens producers, like our flowers are from R&R Secret Farm. So some of it is local Athens and some of it is UGA.
Q: What do you think is the most common misconception that students have about sustainably sourced food on campus?
A lot of people do come by and they don’t understand the difference in buying it here from these sources versus just going to Kroger, because some of it, they might be able to find cheaper elsewhere. They don’t understand where it’s coming from and the benefits of it. For example, where we get it at UGArden, it’s all organic. There’s no harsh chemicals or pesticides. I think a lot of people don’t realize I went to the garden this morning and picked all this stuff up and they prepared it for me yesterday. So I think the misconceptions come when they see the produce in front of them but they don’t know what it took to get it.
Q: What do you think are people’s misconceptions about sustainability in general on campus?
I think people think that sustainability is really unattainable, and I guess I do know a lot of people don’t see it as important. It is a community effort and there are a lot of resources that people don’t realize. In the Office of Sustainability, we have campus compost interns who ensure that compost is available. And a lot of students don’t know they have access to recycling in every building. So I think a lot of students don’t realize how easy sustainability really can be on this campus.
Q: How would you like to see your work at the Office of Sustainability translated into changes not just in UGA, but in Athens as a whole?
There’s a huge gap between UGA and a lot of local Athens populations in terms of access to food and access to resources. I think that if we could, as a UGA populus, spread the love and share the love with the Athens community, we could kind of make the gap not so large.
Ashtin Barker is a third year majoring in journalism.
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