MEVO, Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization, Inc., along with a panel of experts, presented students with a seminar on sustainable living and how local food, farms and higher education promote healthy living in the Pavilion on Monday night.
Eric J. Fuchs-Stengel, executive director of MEVO, founded the organization in 2008 while attending Mahwah High School, and has been working with volunteers to help change the community using his not-for-profit organization.
"We do a wide variety of projects focused on creating sustainable communities," said Fuchs-Stengel.
The MEVO director went on to talk about the Farm to Live project and the Bergen County Educational Farm project. Fuchs-Stengel and his organization have been recently turning grassy lawns of private citizens in the Bergen County area into miniature farms and education centers in their Farm to Live project in order to make the land more sustainable.
"We're taking space that hadn't been used for anything, growing food, teaching people and helping with therapy," said Fuchs-Stengel.
One of the newer and most exciting projects that Fuchs-Stengel discussed was the Bergen County Educational Farm project, which is set to be complete around July.
The project, in accordance with the Bergen County Parks Department, involves MEVO taking control of slightly more than an acre of grassy lawn in Saddle River Park and turning it into a farming and educational area for sustainable living.
"For us, this is a huge step," said Fuchs-Stengel. "If we can grow food here, we can reach so many more people."
The Bergen County Educational Farm would be used for much more than farming. It would be used for water-cultural therapy, internship programs, farming education and even feature handicap accessible farming areas.
For MEVO, educating the public is an important part of creating a more sustainable world.
"Schools in the Bergen County area can come out and learn about farming seven days a week," Fuchs-Stengel said.
Ron Binaghi Jr., owner of Stokes Farms in Old Tappan, N.J., was also a keynote speaker at the event. Binaghi, a fifth generation farmer on land that his been in his family since 1873, talked to the audience about the importance and scarcity of local farmers, especially in northern New Jersey.
"We are an aging population, we are an aging profession," Binaghi said.
Binaghi's talk focused on the lack of new farmers coming into the profession. He admitted that unless it runs in the family, farming itself is a difficult and expensive occupation to get into on your own.
"Farming is not a job, it's a lifestyle," said Binaghi.
The panel of experts also included Permaculture Designer Andrew Faust, Associate Professor of Food Studies at New York University Carolyn Dimitri, and Christina Ciambrello, a food studies student at New York University.
Many audience members enjoyed the informational presentations and debate by the experts on the panel and took a real interest in sustainable living.
"I like how this ties into our alternative spring break to New Mexico," said Donna Elazar, a junior. "We are working on a community garden and are going to help get ready for the upcoming season."
Elazar will be attending an alternative spring break trip to Albuquerque, N.M. and other rural parts of the state to promote sustainability.
"I focus on nutrition and community health at Ramapo; this event helped me see the bigger picture on food and health," said Elazar.