Monday, June 22, 2015

Sprouting Garden Education at the CIA

You would think that culinary school students should be running around a hot kitchen to learn about food. The only fresh food they encounter is the storeroom order they pick up and wheel into the dungeon elevator. But the Applied Food Studies students and faculty have been thinking outside of the swinging doors of the kitchens and are creating outdoor classrooms from the ground up.



Garden land grants in universities have been growing since the 19th century. Schools not only in the Hudson Valley, but nationwide have decided to understand food through the soil beneath them. As culinary students, it's simply not enough to know the methods and ratios anymore. We have to think deeper. We have to question where our food comes from, and the best way to start is with a packet of seeds.

On campus, Dr. Deirdre Murphy and other AFS faculty have brought their students to begin planting in the new garden near the Egg. What started as a patch of grass has quickly sprouted into a hands-on learning experience. For some, this is the first time caking their hands with dirt in a garden. Each AFS class has their own designated box. Many of the crops to be harvested are not only edible, but also relate to what the classes are discussing. Even the History & Cultures of the Americas classes have taken part, as the three sister crops are being strategically planted just as they were by the Native Americans centuries ago. It's important that students not only take pride in the end products, but also the ingredients within them. "I think that this garden is a classroom. I don't care that it's outside, it's a classroom," says Dr. Deirdre Murphy. If you walked out into that garden during the first few weeks of planting, you would know what she's talking about. All around me, were other students commenting on how this is what they've been waiting for: the implemented practices of food studies.


Concurrently, my Project in Applied Food Studies class and Dr. Costura have been working off-campus, planning out the restoration of the Roosevelt Victory Garden. Victory gardens were originally created during the WWII era in efforts to relieve pressure from the public food supply. The Roosevelts were huge supporters of this idea. Having a victory garden was also considered to be a morale booster for gardeners who could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by harvests. This garden was covered long ago by a parking lot, and now it is but a field of grass. We're changing that.


Each student is focusing on his or her own individual project: some are structuring an apiary to hold bees, while others are researching soil composition techniques or developing lesson plans and activities for future field trips visiting the completed garden. Four students are planning out and executing a picnic lunch (Eleanor Roosevelt held a lot of picnics) to get the local community and businesses involved. I personally am getting the word out through my writing. Despite what project students partake in, each has its own significance. “What I want,” says Dr. Costura, “is for people to feel that their work has meaning and it lasts after the semester.”

This is the first year that the Applied Food Studies major is running. In six months, the degree has flourished into an plot for CIA students to dig for their own forward-thinking ideas with food. Dr. Costura says, “I want people to look at their work to see that this type of learning isn’t theoretical; it just needs to be applied.”

















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