Farm to Table Class teaches cooking skills and food sustainability to youth, using produce from local farms. The class was inspired by my work launching and managing a small farmers market in my neighborhood. It became evident that a lot of our customers didn’t know what to do with the leaves, roots, and shoots in the farm stalls. As much as I loved all our vendors, it was often heartbreaking to see long lines at the food trucks, the farmstalls bypassed for a cheap, quick bite. Yet our cooking demos were well-attended. The hunger for knowledge was there, but teachers few and far between.
Why should we care? As Michael Pollan says,
“Cooking is a political act, with large consequences not only for ourselves but for the environment and agriculture as well.”
He and others have has established the case that the agriculture reform is not only about regulation and transparency. It depends on rebuilding a culture of routine home cooking.
In our classes, we don’t just cook, we explore the story of food through the lens of history, culture, community, environment, and our everyday lives. Students learn the difference between whole and processed foods, how to read recipes, perform basic prep and cooking techniques, and balance flavors. Nutrition is discussed, but is not the focus. “Eating the rainbow” is our easy-to-digest principle for optimizing both taste and nutrition through diversity. In addition to kitchen skills, students practice leadership, generosity, mindfulness, and gratitude as they work together.
The pilot course was launched in 2013 at McClure Middle School on Queen Anne, facilitated by the OST/CLC (Out of School Time and Community Learning Centers) program, under the auspices of the Seattle Parks Department. Many thanks to OST program coordinator Doug Berndt for his support and to neighbors, friends, and fellow parents who stepped up to make it a success, especially Mary Chapman and Christina Stein. Huge thanks to Jubilee Biodynamic Farm and Metropolitan Market for generous donations of produce and groceries.
If you would like to bring a Farm to Table class your school or community, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.