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Bona’s Farm to Table program focuses on sustaining and serving nutritious food

Nov 06, 2020

A group of St. Bonaventure University students pushed up their sleeves and sank their hands into the rich soil of Canticle Farm in Allegany this past summer, volunteering for the Farm to Table program.

Farm to Table interns Lindsey Lytle, Nate Parish, Valentina Cossio, Hiryu Mike Waseda, and William McDonough.The service experience is an outreach ministry of Bona’s Franciscan Center for Social Concern (FCSC) in association with Canticle Farm, a 15-acre Community Supported Agriculture farm sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany.

The program runs every June through August and allows students to learn the progression of food, from planting to serving.

Four to five days per week, participants work at the farm in the mornings, helping to sow and harvest 45 types of vegetables. In the afternoons, they create and serve a nutritious meal for local people in need at the Warming House, Bona’s student-run soup kitchen in downtown Olean.

Sr. Melissa Scholl, president of Canticle Farm, said there is a lasting impact on the students who participate in the program. “They learn what hard work is and how very exhausting farming is as a profession — and how rewarding,” she said.

They also come to have a greater appreciation for organically grown foods and the variety of meals that can be prepared and shared with others, she noted.

“The connection with what they grow and then serve — knowing they grew it and valuing it because they grew it — and then providing it in meals to others, is an amazing cycle,” Sr. Scholl said.

For Nate Parish, a junior business management major from Rochester, New York, the Farm to Table program offered hands-on experience in food preparation and menu planning, as well as an opportunity to reflect on the issues of hunger in the local community.

“You learn the stories of the guests who come to the Warming House for a hot meal,” he said. “You also gain important life skills inside the kitchen such as learning how to cook, working with co-workers, and building leadership skills.”

Nate Parish at the Warming House

Parish noted one particular challenge that was a good one to have: deciding what to create for dinner based on all the healthy food being delivered.

“I learned how to work with the shares of food we received from the farm each week, utilizing them on the menus,” Parish said. “I had never made squash bake before or zucchini, which were constantly on the menus. We also used fresh lettuce for salads with tomatoes as well as a ton of coleslaw from the cabbage grown at the farm.”

Valentina Cossio, a sophomore accounting major originally from La Paz, Bolivia, enjoyed the calm that came in working with the earth and also the discussions about our planet’s food and agricultural systems.

“I really enjoyed volunteering and seeing the fruits of my labor,” Cossio said. “One of the best things about the program is the director, Alice Miller Nation. We would have weekly meetings where we would talk about the challenges we faced and the good that came out of our labors. She would tie it all back to Franciscan values. She really made this program invaluable to me.”

To help raise money and awareness for the Farm to Table program and other outreach ministries, the FCSC will host #GivingTuesdayatBonas, a one-day fundraising event on December 1. Community members are invited to learn more at

When asked about the importance of donations for the program, Cossio said, “Oftentimes we don’t realize how impactful our gifts can be. People might think, ‘Oh, I can only give a few cans of food to the Warming House, which won’t be enough to help feed 40 to 60 people.’ But those cans, when we add other foods to them and transform them, do feed people for a day. Same with Canticle Farm. Planting one seed may not seem like much, but when you have eight to 10 beds full of seeds, it does make a difference.”


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. In 2020, St. Bonaventure was named the #2 regional university value in New York and #3 in the North by U.S. News and World Report.