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Legislators laud Ferrum's 'green' efforts
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Courtesy Photo: Ferrum College President Dr. Jennifer Braaten greets Senator Mark Warner upon his arrival.

Friday, April 9, 2010

U.S. Senator Mark Warner and Representative Tom Perriello visited Ferrum College on Tuesday and applauded the school for its sustainability efforts.

Warner and Perriello made a joint appearance before a standing-room-only audience of students, faculty and staff, as well as local farmers and business people.

"Ferrum is to be commended for being a leading edge institution when it comes to sustainability," Warner said.

He compared Ferrum's "green" initiatives to those of Ivy League schools like Yale and Harvard.

"What you are doing with energy conservation and local foods represents true leadership," said Perriello.

Prior to their comments and discussion with the audience, the legislators received a briefing from Dr. Glen Stevens, assistant professor of environmental science and one of the leaders of the sustainability effort on campus. Stevens demonstrated how the campus is partnering with the Roanoke firm of Breakell Inc. to monitor energy use with a technique known as submetering.

"We already found and fixed a large energy leak in one of the dorms," Stevens told the visitors, referring to a stuck hot water valve, which had gone previously undetected. "This is just the beginning of what we can do as a college and what students can learn about being good stewards of energy and other resources."

In addition to energy measures, the legislators also learned that the college is expanding efforts to engage local farmers in the Farm-to-Cafeteria program. Ferrum uses local sources for about 30 percent of the food served to students.

John Paul Hueston, owner of Sweet Providence Farms in Floyd County, offered evidence of the program's success, saying he had hired 16 people recently in part to keep pace with the needs of the college. Dining Services Director Mike Martin said the college bought 4,500 pounds of Hueston's free-range chickens last year.

"It helps sustain local business, local farmers and provide fresh, healthy food for the students. Local is just better," added Chef Bo Bernard.

College President Dr. Jennifer Braaten praised the legislators for taking the time to visit Ferrum College, and to learn more about the school. She reminded them that students are also learning from the programs through experiential learning methods, such as assisting with energy monitoring or planting and harvesting at the Titmus Agricultural Center about a half mile from campus.

Braaten said the school hopes to soon receive grant money to fund a biomass boiler, which would generate electricity for the entire campus by burning waste products from the logging industry, and one day, switchgrass grown by local farmers. Another grant would pay for a massive composting effort that would take college waste back to the farm to complete the sustainability cycle. College officials hope to begin work on those projects during 2010.

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