Collards Cooking Class in Butler College

Chef Christeen Griffiths, Campus Dining. Photo by Barron Bixler from his ongoing documentary project about The Seed Farm at Princeton

Collards Cooking Class in Butler College

Alison Hersch, Class of 2023   •  October 14, 2022

The Princeton Food Project (PFP) collaborated with the Effron Center for the Study of America and the Department of Sociology to host the class in conjunction with the visit of a guest speaker, Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr., associate professor of sociology and the Vann Professor of Racial Justice at Davidson College. The day before, Ewoodzie gave a talk on his new book, Getting Something to Eat in Jackson: Race, Class, and Food in the American South, about his year-long experience following socioeconomically diverse Black Jacksonians in Mississippi. His lecture confronted how and why soul food is changing from the staple it once was.

Collards Cooking Class
Griffiths led a cooking class on cooking a pot of collard greens. The collard greens were grown at The Seed Farm at Princeton and are part of the ultracross variety developed and stewarded by the Heirloom Collard Project. Photo by Barron Bixler

At lunchtime on October 12, 2022, Butler College dining room filled with the aroma of simmering, seasoned heirloom collard greens. Overseeing the stoves were fifteen members of the Princeton community, including faculty, staff, undergraduates, and graduate students — all in Campus Dining caps and aprons — with varying culinary expertise.

The collards were grown at Princeton’s Seed Farm as part of a national effort through The Heirloom Collards Project to highlight collards’ rich history, diversity, and beauty. Several class participants were student volunteers at the Seed Farm who helped plant, grow, and harvest the collards, while for others the class was their first time working with collards. Chef Christeen Griffiths led the class in slicing, cleaning, boiling, and seasoning the collards; chef Jared Gierisch and the entire Butler College dining staff assisted in making the event a success.

Chef Griffiths demonstrates technique
Griffiths discusses technique with senior Liam Seely. Photo by Barron Bixler

This enriching experience ended in a fabulous Southern-style lunch prepared by Griffiths and the Campus Dining team. Attendees left with new skills and full stomachs, satisfied from conversation, camaraderie, and cuisine. That evening, the collards cooked in the lunchtime class were served for dinner at Butler College — seeds saved by the Heirloom Collards Project, collards grown at the Princeton Seed Farm, cooked on campus, and eaten by Princetonians.

PFP extends a special thanks to the Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance, and Dining Services’ Nadeem Siddiqui, Bernadette Penick, and Donna Pilenza. Event organizer and PFP steering committee member Tessa Lowinske Desmond, associate research scholar in the Effron Center for the Study of America, looks forward to future collaborations.

NJ Secretary of Agriculture Visits Princeton’s Seed Farm

Chief Vincent Mann and Nathan Kleinman inspect the seeds of a Ukrainian sunflower. Photo by Barron Bixler

NJ Secretary of Agriculture Visits Princeton’s Seed Farm

Tessa Lowinske Desmond  •  September 16, 2022

The New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture, Doug Fisher, visited The Seed Farm at Princeton’s Stony Ford Research Station on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Sunflowers were what precipitated the secretary’s visit. Ukrainian sunflowers to be exact. One of the farm partners at The Seed Farm, the Experimental Farm Network led by Nate Kleinman, has long been committed to growing seeds from areas of the world experiencing conflict and wars. When Russia invaded Ukraine this past February, Kleinman did what he often does and culled the USDA GRIN database — the national seed bank — for seeds of Ukrainian origin. Kleinman was worried that farmers in Ukraine could lose a significant amount of their agricultural biodiversity in the face of war, and hopes that his seed experiments might create a bulwark and also inspire other seed farmers to do the same.

Nagisa Manabe, Nathan Kleinman, Secretary Douglas Fisher, Associate Research Scholar Tessa Lowinske Desmond, Michaeline Picaro, Chief Vincent Mann, Tomia MacQueen. Photo by Barron Bixler

Secretary Fisher got wind of Kleinman’s work and asked to see it firsthand. Kleinman works with a number of other farmers, many of whom are also involved in The Seed Farm at Princeton project, including Chief Vincent Mann and Michealine Picaro of the Ramapough Lenape Turtle Clan, Tomia MacQueen of Wildflower Farm, and Nagisa Manabe of River Stoan Farm. This group of farmers, along with Princeton students and faculty, gathered at The Seed Farm for Kleinman’s tour. He showcased melons from Iran, eggplant from Syria, hibiscus from North Korea, gourds from Palestine, and, of course, the Ukrainian sunflowers, among other seed crops. Together the group harvested giant sunflowers heavy with seeds, some of them weighing as much as five pounds. Chief Mann shared with the secretary his dreams for having a certified label for Native American-farmed produce in the state. MacQueen and Manabe talked about challenges facing organic farmers, urban farmers, and farmers of color.

Kleinman harvests a Ukrainian sunflower. Photo by Barron Bixler

The Seed Farm project aims to bring together seed keepers and farmers to think about questions of repair and mutualism, embodied for us in the three-sisters planting practices of Native Americans in which corn, bean, and squash work together to create an environment of mutualism and reciprocity. This fall members will harvest the first fruits of the project, which began with planting this spring. In the coming weeks, The Seed Farm will launch a website and share opportunities to participate in an open house, workdays, and a harvest festival. In the meantime, follow The Seed Farm on Instagram and check out information about the organizations with whom the farm works via their websites and social media platforms:

Experimental Farm Network

Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm

Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance