‘Sustainable’ food programs grow on campus

Thar’s gold in them thar greens. The food sustainability movement — and the growing demand for locally grown produce — has inspired community colleges to create new agriculture and culinary arts programs, reports Community College Times. 

Food is generally considered to be “sustainable,” according to Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming, if it is produced, processed and traded in a way that contributes to thriving local economies, protects the diversity of plants and animals, avoids damaging natural resources, and provides safe and healthy products.

At Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska, horticulture and culinary arts are in the same department. Culinary students work in the campus garden, using carrot and onion peelings to create compost.

MCC has an aquaponics system creating a food loop, with nutrient-rich water from a fish tank full of tilapia circulating to fertilize salad greens and herbs, then flowing back into the tank.

Culinary students learn how to cook the tilapia, as well as produce and herbs grown by horticulture students, in a student-run bistro and catering service. Horticulture students raise crops in a “hoop house,” a garden that can be closed up in the winter, creating a 10-month growing season. A patio herb garden showcases “edible landscaping.”

Some students are working on degrees in small-market farming with plans to specialize in such areas as orchard production, viticulture or small animal husbandry, (culinary coordinator Jen) Valandra said. Others want to start their own business producing specialty meats and sausages; cheese; honey; or raising small animals, such as ducks, squab or rabbits.

Students visit different kinds of farms, from a Cargill plant that processes 350 cattle an hour to a small farm that raises lambs.

Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn grows tomatoes, peppers, herbs, kale and lettuce in raised beds on its urban campus. Culinary students compost kitchen waste to help the garden grow, then cook the produce in class. Whatever’s not used in culinary classes goes to the college’s food bank to help needy students and local residents.

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[...] in them thar greens. Community colleges are creating culinary and agriculture programs that stress food sustainability to prepare students for restaurant and food marketing [...]

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