Students brainstorm vision for Miami's Institute for Food during an intensive weekend charrette.
Students brainstorm vision for Miami's Institute for Food during an intensive weekend charrette. Photo: Angelo Gelfuso

Miamians envision a better food future with new institute

Students joined faculty and staff to envision 35-acre university farm.

Students joined faculty and staff to envision 35-acre university farm. (Photo by Angelo Gelfuso)

by Jeanne Harmeyer, College of Creative Arts

With the goal to envision the development of Miami University’s Institute for Food, 60 plus students, faculty and staff gathered for a weekend charrette.

At the charrette, an intense planning session, attendees developed visions for the institute, which received a seed grant from the Miami University Provost Innovation and Interdisciplinary Fund.

The weekend event Jan. 29-30 launched the new Institute for Food (IF) Design Studio, bringing together students from the disciplines of architecture, interior design and graphic design to build awareness for the new Institute for Food.

“We are working to build an interdisciplinary curriculum, a 35-acre organic university farm, a community garden, and an experiential education center to promote greater awareness of food systems that support individual health, resilient communities, and agricultural sustainability,” said Alfredo Huerta and Peggy Shaffer, IF co-directors.

An art display showcased brainstorming session for institute.

An art display showcased brainstorming weekend for the institute. (Photo by Angelo Gelfuso)

Weekend events lead to pop-up exhibition

The first day of the two-day charrette began with introductory remarks by Mary Rogero, department of architecture and interior design interim chair, Shaffer and Huerta.
Presentations, intended to provide a platform for the development and mission of the Institute for Food, touched on a range of themes including sustainability, environment, history, culture and community.

Student presenters from the food studies workshop asked participants involved in the charrette to complete the phrase, "We believe . . . the Institute for Food . . ."
By Saturday morning, the students had assembled these collected statements into a pop-up exhibition in the Cage Gallery in Alumni Hall, which included an aerial view of the historic Austin-Magie Farm, the proposed site for the organic farm.

The pop-up exhibition then served as a point of reference as 10 teams of nearly 60 students talked, designed, dreamed, drew and rendered all day on Saturday to produce visions for the future Institute for Food farm.

Creative competition to take vision to reality

An upcoming spring semester competition includes eight teams of six or seven students vying to create the winning landscape, physical infrastructure and graphic designs and branding for the institute.

A generous three-year gift from the Gross-Hutton Family Foundation furthers the goals for developing the farm with the vision of promoting local foods, sustainable agriculture, and healthy communities.

Prior to the weekend, student participants visited the Austin-Magie Farm, located near the intersection of Morning Sun and Somerville Roads just outside of Oxford. Eight acres of the 35-acre farm are dedicated to the Institute for Food to begin farming for the project this spring.

The visiting group collected seven bags of trash they incorporated as part of the Cage Gallery exhibition.

“It was their way to mark the beginning of transformation from waste and degradation to growth and sustenance,” said Ben Jacks, associate professor of architecture and interior design and creator of the IF Design Studio.