Paying for College with ProducePosted by admin on 11/16/12 • Categorized as Fall/Winter 2012
If you picked up a tomato in the campus dining room this semester, there is a good chance Valerie Dautermann’13 grew it. The senior biochemistry major has been supplying Bon Appetit (the new food management company) with eggplants, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Her tomatoes are so tasty, in fact, that her friends are able to differentiate which are hers and which are not.
Dautermann spends every Saturday morning between June and October at the Beloit Farmers Market, running one of the two Willow Creek Acres stands her family operates at the market.
“I’ve been gardening since I was five,” says Dautermann, who grew up in rural Beloit and attended the college as a Porter Scholar. “Three years ago, I started selling down here, when I was a sophomore in college. This is what I do to help pay for school.” Staying close to home for college has also allowed her to stay close to her garden.
Several years ago Dautermann supplied produce to Beloit College Food Services, but in recent years her yield hasn’t been as plentiful. This year, however, “We planted a lot of stuff, and everything came up really quickly,” she says. Peter Kraemer, the college’s board operations manager, suggested she connect with Bon Appetit.
For Bon Appetit, it was a win-win. “We love to source local produce simply because it tastes better, but also because it enables us to support people in our community who are making a living growing food in sustainable ways,” says former Executive Chef Jonna Froelich. “With Valerie, we have the added bonus of supplying Beloit College students with delicious, responsibly grown food from one of their fellow students while helping Valerie fund her college education. It doesn’t get any cooler than that.”
Dautermann has started to make a name for herself; many members of the campus community seek out her stand at the farmers market.
“A lot of professors are really supportive, they come down all the time and buy from me. I really appreciate that,” she says.
Even on non-market days, you can see Dautermann’s green thumb at work in the city: one of her many occupations is watering the plantings and hanging baskets that spruce up downtown Beloit, which are installed and maintained by the Downtown Beloit Association.