Farm to Table Comes to Princeton Seminary

Integrating fresh food from local farms into meals on campus
Meta Farm To Table

With the reopening of the Mackay Campus Center Dining Hall this fall, the concept of “Farm to Table” has taken on new life at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Think of it as Farminary to Table: fresh food from the 21-acre farm owned and operated by Princeton Seminary will be featured on the plate of meals for students and staff.

It’s the realization of a dream for Farminary Program Director Nate Stucky, who first learned about the farm in 2014, as he was completing his doctorate in practical theology at the Seminary.

“From day one, there was this question of what would it look like for the farm to grow food that would be taken to dining and served,” Stucky, PhD ’15, MDiv ’10, recalls. “But at day one that was like, no time soon, right? There’s too much other stuff to do,” Stucky says.

Fast forward to post-2020 pandemic.

“In some ways the pandemic has accelerated this idea and made it more possible,” Stucky says. For years, the Seminary employed an external company to run its dining services. When the pandemic resulted in a year of having no food service on campus, the opportunity to integrate the Farminary was a natural progression.

“Because this dream was already in process,” Stucky says, “it was like, there's not going to be an easier time to give this a try. So here we go.”

Since September, everything grown at the farm has gone to Mackay. What can’t be gotten from the farm will be sourced as much as possible from farms within a 120-mile radius of Princeton Seminary.

“We know we'll never supply a hundred percent of what the school needs — there will be no coffee grown at the farm, among other things. And I don't think we're going without coffee anytime soon,” Stucky says with a grin. “We may want to do some canning to preserve the bounty of summer when we don't have class in session, putting up tomato sauce or pickles, so that when we get to December, January, February, we can still provide something,” he adds.

Meta Farminary To Table
Nate Stucky and new students touring the Farminary

The dining services team at Princeton Seminary provides meals for community members on campus. Offerings include a daily soup, salad, sandwich, grain station, hot meals with sides, and dessert. In addition to seasoned staff members, the new dining services team also includes student workers.

Integrating the Farminary into dining services is just one more step forward in the continuation of the master planning process that began a few years ago, says Denis Castanon, associate vice president of operations, who has been working with Stucky on this project. Additional improvements at Princeton Seminary also are being examined.

“We are in the process of doing a rationalization study that will help us identify areas within the seminary that we could improve,” Castanon says. “Everyone is extremely excited about this concept. We have already something that has started, which is great. We have the land. We have the chickens and we might potentially grow to bring some other livestock in the space,” he adds.

Stucky is thrilled that plans for the Farminary are moving along far sooner than he imagined.

“We started the Farminary because of its potential within the broader mission of education and formation at Princeton Seminary, for the ways that it could shape our students, and for the ways it could shape us as a community,” Stucky says. “It’s gratifying and humbling to see it come to fruition.”

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