Student Authors Organic Guidebook

Natalie Gaugh

Over the last decade, the organic food movement has gained momentum on college campuses nationwide. Senior Nina Merrill has recently contributed to this progression, authoring the nation’s first guide that aims to help students bring organic dining to their schools.

Titled “Taste the Change: How to Go Organic on Campus” and published by the Organic Agriculture and Products Education Institute, the guide clarifies the meaning and importance of “organic,” and provides information about resources and methods of advertising the cause.

“Taste the Change” explains all the key steps in making a campus “organic,” with sections discussing how to start from square one or how to speak with a food provider. It also contains student “spotlights” – one of which shares the story of Katy Anderson from Princeton, who started one of the first successful farmers’ markets at a college after three years of effort.

Merrill got the idea for this project over the summer of 2008, while working for the Organic Trade Association. She was advised to look at blogging on organic foods, and by her second day of observation she noticed that although there were organic movements on college campuses, there was very little discussion of it online.

This sparked the creation of Merrill’s blog, “Organic on the Green” (, where she hoped to create a space “for students to talk to each other and throw ideas back and forth.” Youths from across the country became involved, posting questions each week and turning the blog into a successful discussion forum.

Toward the end of her internship, Merrill decided to collect the ideas presented in the blog and thus created the first draft of “Taste the Change.” After working for many months with a graphic designer, the guide is now complete and ready to be distributed.

“It’s gotten an amazing feedback,” Merrill said.

In fact, she was swamped with calls the first day the guide was made available, and it has been of high interest to both national newspapers and other websites.

Merrill noted that Colgate is also embracing the organic food movement.

“I’ve seen tremendous changes at Colgate since freshman year,” Merrill said, referring to the increase of sustainable foods and healthier dining options. “[Colgate] may not be one of the first schools to be addressing the issue, but they are certainly making a respectable effort to catch up.”

In a similar vein, Merrill is on the board of directors for Sodexho (the food provider for Curtiss E. Frank Dining Hall), which consists of 20 or so students from around the country. From her behind-the-scenes involvement, she seeks to debunk the perception that Sodexo is behind the times, instead declaring that they’re actually making impressive attempts to better their organic involvement.

Moreover, Merrill feels that her present position and interests are a direct result of her involvement at Colgate.

“I feel as though all of this came to pass because of my experience at Colgate,” Merrill said. “I desire to go into this direction because of my effort with dining hall services… [and the] opportunity Colgate has given me to work with Sodexho.”

As for “Taste the Change,” Merrill’s main hope for the guide is that it will help groups “wake up to see that they all want the same thing.” She would like to see the guide act as a “bridge” between school organizations that focus on fair trade, organic, and local endeavors at both Colgate and other campuses.

“If we can get all together, things can happen quicker,” Merrill said.