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St. Bonaventure University

Bona’s Farm to Table program yields community

Nov 19, 2021
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By Cassidey Kavathas, '24

Have you ever planted and harvested 45 types of vegetables — and then served them in nutritious meals for your neighbors in need?

A group of St. Bonaventure University students did exactly that this past summer during the Farm to Table program. 

The service experience is an outreach ministry of St. Bonaventure’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.

Participants work at the farm in the mornings, helping to sow and harvest 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. Pictured_Bona students prepare to serve meals at the Warming House

The program offers hands-on experience in food preparation and menu planning, as well as an opportunity to reflect on the progression of food — from planting to serving — and on issues of hunger in the local community. 

“I’ve learned so many useful skills and have made connections that I’ll probably keep for the rest of my life,” said Adam Burlingham, a senior environmental studies major from Newbury, Ohio. “It has been extremely beneficial in making me a better person.”

Alice Miller Nation, director of the FCSC, sees the program as a great opportunity for self-growth and community awareness through experiences that can’t be found anywhere else.

“It allows our students to learn about and reflect on the faces of hunger in our communities and how each of us can help,” said Miller Nation. “We want our students to have a Franciscan heart and to be a light for the world.”

Burlingham, who had never worked on a farm or in a soup kitchen, found the experience to be transformative.

“It feels great watching a healthy plant grow or serving an amazing-tasting meal,” he said. “You learn so much about the world, our community and yourself just by communicating with guests at the Warming House. It is some of the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.”

The program costs about $10,000 to operate and is primarily funded through donations made during the yearly #GivingTuesdayatBonas fundraising initiative, Miller Nation said. 

This year, the one-day fundraising event will be held Tuesday, Nov. 30. 

Across the United States, the Giving Tuesday movement is intended to be a way to encourage people to support their favorite nonprofit causes as part of their holiday giving.

The community is invited to visit now through Nov. 30 to learn more and to make a contribution.