Photos courtesy of Chatham University

Chatham’s Farm to Fork Dinner Series Part of a Sustainability Journey

by Rebecca L. Lucore


June 3, 2024

A visit to a farm is synonymous with summer. I had a friend growing up whose grandparents lived on a small farm and as soon as the last day of school arrived, we began planning for a weekend trip there. They had horses, endless fresh air, outdoor adventures around every corner, and lots and lots of vegetables. I really believe that’s where my connection to food, specifically produce began — the colors, the shapes, the textures, and diverse tastes and uses. We picked, we canned, we cooked, and we ate. 

That was a long time ago, but today people are still visiting farms and summer markets trying to forge their connection to local food sources and to be more sustainable. We are especially fortunate in the Pittsburgh region where there is an abundance of agriculture and opportunity for such things like the Farm to Fork dinner series at Chatham University’s Eden Hall campus. Last month I attended one of their dinners where I not only experienced delicious food and tea with items grown and prepared there, but also great conversation and camaraderie in a laid-back, serene setting.  

I caught up with executive chef of Parkhurst Dining at Chatham University Ryan Gregorius and asked him how they select the menu for each week’s dinner. “Menus are designed around each week’s harvest from our farm team at Chatham’s Eden Hall campus. We aim to incorporate available produce from Chatham’s farm and use other local vendors to acquire local meats, cheeses, breads, and other specialty items,” said Gregorius. 

When asked what he is most excited about making this summer, Gregorius said “Everything. We’re taking our guests around the globe and have been planning menus from various cuisines and cultures along with some down-home American classics.”

Food at the dinner series is a la carte and also includes a whole meal option with dessert and drink, along with a vegetarian option. Each week they offer a drink that pairs with the featured cuisine that could include infused water or cold tea using herbs and flowers from Eden Hall. As the summer season goes on, they will be able to incorporate new and more abundant farm-grown items into the meals. One of my favorite things about the dinner were the chefs who were helpful in pointing out which items in my meal were from Eden Hall like the maple dipping sauce for my vegetarian egg roll.  

Host of Farm to Fork, Chatham’s Eden Hall is not your usual college campus. It’s a literal rural working farm and hub for sustainability, food entrepreneurs, soil health research, and a celebrated Food Studies program, just to name a few. Some of the things you’ll find there are a residence hall for its sustainability, environmental science, and food studies students, fruit orchards, greenhouses, and an amazing dining hall that not only feeds their faculty and students but is also open to the public. There is a kitchen lab and teaching and events spaces with a large two-story living wall. Their Farm to Fork series is just one example of their partnerships and strategies to connect their campus to the broader community and serve it in an impactful way. Dean of the Falk School of Sustainability and Environment Lou Leonard likes to describe Eden Hall as “a place for learning, experimentation, and community connection.”

“Food has become such an important part of the overall sustainability discussion, explains Leonard. “There was a time when studying food meant training to be a line cook, or a restaurant manager, or even a farmer. These traditional careers remain important, but today truly understanding food requires a deep knowledge of systems and sustainability – product development, business plans, supply chains and how social and environmental challenges are impacting it all. I love that food can make these complex topics accessible to folks. It just makes sense that local, regional food is often healthier and yields less emissions.”

The Falk School’s work on food and agriculture reaches beyond Eden Hall. For example, faculty member Christopher Murakami facilitates a network of eleven urban farms and related organizations serving historically marginalized communities in the Pittsburgh region. The network cultivates a community of practitioners and research projects in pursuit of more sustainable and socially just food systems, including work in urban soil health, infrastructure development, farmer-centered skill-building and communication strategies.

Chatham’s Farm to Fork dinner series happens every Thursday through August (except June 6 and July 4) from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the large barn and tent on campus. You can see their weekly menus posted at


Rebecca L. Lucore is a regular contributor to The Green Voice.