Q&A with Adam Galbraith ’09, Ella Braco ’09, and Tara Clancy ’08 about the Terra Café.
What They Do:
Provide campus with organic meals made from locally-grown ingredients.
Adam Galbraith ‘09
Major: Information Technology
Hometown: Greenwich, NY
Has been involved with the club since it’s inception.
Ella Braco ‘09
Major: Design, Innovation, and Society
Hometown: Binghamton, NY
Club Founder. Proposed the café’s business plan for a class project. Then Rensselaer Food Services got involved, and the rest is history.
Tara Clancy ‘08
Major: Environmental Engineering
Hometown: Evergreen, CO
Has been involved with the club since it’s inception.
Who joins your club?
Most of our members are active in local Troy efforts, and share a general concern about environmental issues, And we all like really good food too! Adam
Many of the people involved are socially and environmentally conscious, but some people just join for the free food and the fun atmosphere. Ella
We have also had musicians that volunteer their time to help create an enjoyable atmosphere at the Cafe. Tara
Describe a typical get-together or activity.
Every week we help serve a freshly prepared meal made from local or organic foods. In order to keep the Cafe open we volunteer our time, setting tables, seating customers, waiting on the customers, preparing plates, busing tables, and cleaning after everything is done. At the end we enjoy a meal with all the volunteers who helped out that day. At the end of the semester we also had a fancy get together to celebrate the success of the Terra Cafe. The group always has a good time, even when it gets really busy, everyone helps each other out. There is an overall good feeling because we know we are helping to promote something that is really important. Tara
We usually have a weekly meeting to discuss future ideas for meals or events to accompany the café. The people that are able to come week-to-week vary but we always keep ideas open through e-mail. Because the Terra Café is an active event on campus, meaning we offer a service weekly to the public, everyone helps during mealtime on Wednesday's. Whether it's serving, preparing food or just helping one another with any other tasks, everyone knows everyone else and we all see each other. At the end of each semester we try to have a get together to relax and come up with reflections to improve upon or ideas for the upcoming semester. Adam
What sets your club apart from the rest?
Our club directly addresses a growing social problem related to food security and sustainability, but it does so in a way that is friendly, inviting, and optimistic. We are also a club that offers such consistent and well-attended service. Terra Café has only been opened one semester and already has established customers and widespread demand. Ella
The Terra Café is a great club to be involved with even if you have a little time to offer. It is easy to stop in for two hours and contribute to such a great project. The benefits you get are great as well, delicious food and being able to be a part of a student organized effort to shift the focus of dinning to something more sustainable. Tara
Our group is constantly active. We interact with faculty, students, local farmers, friends and families. There are very few groups who are doing something for the Rensselaer community every week, and always express their values and purpose to those that visit. We receive so much support from so many different places and people on campus that there is no way we could be successful without that. Our club is supported not only by our ability provide good food from local farmers, but to actually achieve something positive in the RPI community. Adam
Does your club give you a chance to be involved in a greater community (outside from RPI)?
Because the food comes from the local area you always have the chance to be involved with the greater community. Local food groups have also come into the Terra Cafe with samples and information, which has been a really neat way to learn more about the local foods and organic options in Troy. Tara
Of course. Our club utilizes outside sources, such as the farmers market, every week. All of the ingredients we use are local or organic purchased from local businesses. Our customer base doesn't only come from campus, we have people that aren't faculty or students come to Terra Café and give us a chance to involve people from all over the area. One of our most important factors, bringing an already existing resource of the farmers market and organic food to campus is the primary purpose of our club. Adam
I personally have been opened up to a much larger community outside of RPI with the PR and research that I have done, but I don't know if everyone in the club has had the same experience. I am now on the Board of Directors for Regional Farm and Food Project, so I am able to connect with many other people from the area concerned with food politics. A couple of us went to the Sanctuary for Independent Media last week to see the documentary, King Corn. One thing that I push on all the volunteers is trips to the farmers market. Many RPI students don't know that there is a farmers market within walking distance open all year round. When you go you often see professors, other students from RPI and Sage, and you get to talk directly with the farmers from the area! Ella
Are you gaining skills that will help you when you leave RPI?
The café teaches you how to work under pressure, how to problem solve in real time, and all about local and organic foods. After working in the cafe I have a better understanding of problems and solutions to our food consumption. I am more educated about the impact that my food choices have on the planet and more dedicated to making a difference. Tara
The personal skills you gain when talking to people at the Terra Café are tremendously valuable. Communicating with people of many different passions and involvement gives us experiences you wouldn't be able to simulate. The ability to learn and communicate with customers about why we believe in what we are doing at the Terra Café is just as important as the tastiness of the food we offer. Adam
I am definitely establishing more connections on campus. Professors come to Terra Café and invite the staff to sit down and discuss what we’re all about, and how it fits in with what they’ve been doing. Along with networking I have developed my leadership and organizational skills. Ella