This post was written by special guest bloggers Samantha Stotland, senior and FFA member at Wamago Agricultural Science and Technology Center in Connecticut, and Jamie Fischer, culinary instructor at Wamago.
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Have you ever gone to McDonald’s and ordered french fries just as they came out of the fryer hot, golden brown, salted just right? Then you open the ketchup packet, squeezing just the right amount onto the fried potato bliss. That my friend is a perfect partnership!
As the union between a french fry and ketchup is the perfect partnership, so does the combining of Agriculture and Culinary based classes. This marriage is the cornerstone of how the world’s food supply is brought to the dinner table. Here at Wamogo, this union is showcased by the students who participate in these programs.
“Working in close connections with the Agriculture Department creates opportunities for Wamogo’s Culinary Arts program that normal schools that have Culinary Arts without an Agriculture Department would never realize. Opportunities for my Culinary kids to work with the Tilapia farms, working with livestock, having the greenhouse, and maple sugar house will offer opportunities for students to collaborate and to work for a similar goal,” says Wamogo Culinary Arts instructor, Jamie Fischer.
A recent example of this bond began in the spring of 2012 when lambs were born in our school and raised by our agricultural students. These lambs were cared for, fed, and sheltered by the students of the Agriculture program throughout the spring and summer, with the intent to raise the lamb for meat production. At the beginning of this school year the lambs were brought to slaughter and given to the culinary department for inclusion in their studies of different cuts of meat. The lambs were also used collaboratively with the Ag education food science class and the meat evaluation CDE team. Ultimately, the cuts of meat were used for meals prepared by the culinary department. This partnership enabled both programs to benefit from the livestock, enriching the learning experience of multiple students who benefited from the study of the entire life cycle of farm animals.
As stated by dual program Wamogo student Alicia Audet, “At my old school, the Agriculture Program didn’t really work with the Culinary Program. For example, when we cut up meat, culinary was not involved; it was a portion of the animal science program, more specifically Agriculture Production.”
This example demonstrates how two different fields of studies, may actually be combined to produce a better educated, enriched student, who understands where their food comes from, so that they will not take for granted what mother Earth has given them.
Throughout the course of the year there are numerous opportunities for our students to experience solid models illustrating the different departments working together. The idea of “from farm to table” and “from seed to plate” naturally helps to encourage collaboration. Recently, agriculture students that were also culinary arts students, planned, prepared and served the food for a State Agriculture Education Advisory meeting and luncheon. The students utilized herbs grown in the school greenhouse, potatoes that were grown from a student’s SAE garden and maple syrup that was harvested from trees on the school’s grounds and processed in the school’s evaporator by agriculture and culinary arts students. The main entree of smoked pork came from a local farm that has close ties to Wamogo and where agriculture students have conducted their SAE placements. The meal was planned and prepared by the Culinary Arts and served by the students that are dually enrolled in both the culinary and agriculture programs.
Wamogo has developed a special needs culinary arts program that simply would not be as successful if we did not have the resources made possible through the collaboration with the agriculture program. The Culinary Arts Life Skill and Alternative Education programs have been providing opportunities for students with severe needs through hands on interactive learning lessons. Students working in the school’s greenhouse utilize hydroponics to grow herbs and tomatoes. They tend to chickens and collect eggs that are used by all of the culinary arts classes. These special needs students are proud of their accomplishments and excited to have the opportunity to interact with the Agriculture Education students. These life skill students benefit by being able to observe and be part of the work Agriculture Education students are doing in the greenhouse, with the farm animals and in the aquaculture labs.
“When asked to develop a Culinary Arts Program a few years ago, the first thing I realized was that without having a strong relationship with the Agriculture Education Department I would not, and could not, be successful in my task. Working in close contact to the Agriculture Education Department helped me cultivate the very important concept of ‘from seed to plate’ already being emphasized in the curriculum for the Agriculture Education food science class,” said Jamie Fischer.
The collaboration between the Culinary Arts Program and the Agricultural Education Program, has earned dividends for the entire school. Director of the Wamogo’s Agriculture Department, Mr. Charles Rowland stated, “Partnering with the Culinary Program, with shared knowledge and facilities, is a very positive development for the Agriculture Program. Students get the full benefit of the farm to table experience, and culinary instructor, Jamie Fischer, has worked to embed the agriculture science standards into the coursework.”
The partnership between Wamogo’s Agriculture Program and the Culinary Arts Program continues to grow stronger through collaboration providing learning and life skill opportunities to all of our students. The Agriculture Education Program has an added recruitment benefit for students interested in the vocation of Culinary Arts to get that introduction through their agriculture education enrollment. The truth is that the entire school district benefits from this relationship.