At their request as a consulting local food ‘expert’ [makes me cringe to refer to myself as such], I’ve headed up a couple food adventures lately with some of NAIT‘s culinary arts students. Last week was foraging for highbush cranberry – still have to write about that one. Yesterday though was a farm experience I hooked them up with out at Sundog Organic Farm. We got a tour from Jenny who explained crop rotation, their seeding schedule, infrastructure needs, etc and then hit the field to help them get some of their fall root veg put up for the winter. After a few hours in the field, we prepped and cooked lunch harvested straight from the field in one of the coolest kitchens I’ve experinced: their greenhouse. The students were left to check out the field, put together a menu, and execute it. Folks even got to go home with bags of reject carrots – broken, too small to store, but still tasty. Good times.
This seems like an obvious connect to me: people who are passionate about preparing food hanging out with people who are passionate about growing it. That’s why I’m willing to make time away from my work and family to go assist in connecting that gap where I can. The way I see it, the talented young folks who are about to go out and become the cooks and chefs in our community have a crack at changing the culture around seasonality and locality. Perhaps that’s naive of me, but I’ve been learning that it doesn’t necessarily take many to make a difference in their community. Some of them will design menus. Some of them will make decisions that impact local agricultural producers whether they are aware of it or not. And some of them just might go on to advocate for local, seasonal eating as well.
At the end of the day, the farmer got some extra and energetic hands to help get a bunch of vegetables stored for winter sale while connecting with the industry talent that will shape part of their future. It’s worth mentioning that getting veg out of the ground doesn’t always get done, the farms often struggling with well timed and sufficient labor – so if you’re interested in checking out your local veg farm, don’t be shy to offer yourself up for an afternoon, day, or weekend during harvest. They need a hand. Rescue some food, help the farm, and I guarantee it will be worth your time. The students in this case got to get outside and connect with where their food [should] come from, get excited about great local ingredients, hang out with some nice folks, and feel helpful. All around, all positives. Win-win-win-win-win-win.