By Natalie Roadarmel
After a packed week of tests, papers and classes, ZenaFest was a time for students and their families to wind down and spend a few hours with nature. It gave visitors the chance to connect with the Zena Forest — a property Willamette purchased in 2008 — and to learn about the steps being taken to restore and protect it.
As guests arrived, they were greeted with squash soup and fresh salad prepared from vegetables harvested at Zena, giving students and their families the chance to taste the local, organic produce that is grown on the property. In suit, ZenaFest and was a zero waste event; all the cups, bowls, plates and utensils they used to serve were compostable.
Apple cider pressing was a popular event at the event. The Farm Club hosted this by using apples picked from a local orchard to demonstrate how to press apple cider. Guests were encouraged to try the cider and ask any questions they had about the process. Families were also free to pick fruits and vegetables from the surrounding area on their own, including juicy figs and sweet tomatoes.
“My favorite part of ZenaFest was harvesting the fresh fruit and veggies and sampling them. I think ZenaFest is an awesome way for students and parents to learn about the club and get involved,” commented first year Siena Ginsburg. “I love how all the produce is sourced locally and organically and how tasty it is”.
Hikes around Zena were also offered. These hikes were lead by science professors and gave an array of information about Zena with a variety of focuses, including restoration efforts and local wildlife. During the hikes, visitors also got the chance to taste crisp apples that grew scattered around the area of the hike.
The purpose of these hikes was to encourage students and their families to learn about restoration efforts happening on the property. There are mass undertakings going on to restore and maintain habitat types at Zena. The main habitat types on the property are prairies and forest, with prairies in Oregon currently being heavily threatened. Besides restoration, actions are being taken to protect Zena from future destruction from causes such as climate change.
This event was a great way for Willamette students and their families to spend time together while learning about a part of the school that is not seen in student’s daily lives. Biology professor David Craig expressed his gratitude for ZenaFest.
“ZenaFest is fantastic outreach on parent weekend, sharing this extraordinary classroom we have that is unlike anything we have on campus. I like to think of Zena as our ‘Zena campus’ versus our ‘State Street campus’, and that this is one of the best places were we can learn a whole bunch of things about the world.”
Craig was one of three professors who helped lead hikes throughout the day. He highlighted Zena as an indispensable value to Willamette and the students that come work here.
The event was a great success, with about 150 guests attending. It acted as a cance for students and their families to get together and see first hand all the things happening at Zena and the impact it has on Willamette as a whole.