Cultivating Green Thumbs
April 24, 2012
Filed under Features
Striving to ignite passion for food cultivation and preparation in students, Holly Cunningham, director of campus cuisine by HollyBerry, is starting a garden club where students can actively participate in the growing and preparation of excellent food.
The Westminster Garden club will start next fall and meet once every other week, working with the garden and learning preparation methods for food in the kitchen. Volunteers are currently growing tabletop type herbs, including sage, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, basil, and chives.
The WCA Community Garden teaches students where food comes from, how it is grown, and how the foods and herbs may be used in preparation of outstanding meals. Students will receive help and guidance from the professional campus cuisine staff, all of whom are certified chefs from L’Ecole Culinaire.
“The goal of the garden is to help educate the students from a seed to table type concept. All of the things that you see on the Food Network, we are going to be doing in the kitchen,” said Cunningham.
The garden will be a hands-on learning experience for all involved, and corresponds with Jim Marsh’s, Head of School, vision for health and wellness: not just about the food in the café or the fitness programs, but encompassing beyond the school into the community as a whole.
“Coming in, I knew I wanted to be much more than just a food partner. The garden is a real community effort, but the students are going to be able to be directly involved,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham contacted various parents and faculty members to see if anyone was interested in helping with the garden. The garden now consists of an eight-person committee, including Katie Mohler, wife of Jacob Mohler, upper school math teacher. The garden is in partnership with Seven Gables Farm located in a small town near Washington, Missouri. The owner, Mechelle Ortmann, teaches and mentors students involved in the club and donates some of her own foods for the club to cultivate. Deborah Davis, owner of D. Davis Designs, is also on the committee and designed the layout of the garden.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the garden was on March 17th at 10 a.m. Volunteers and future members gathered to enjoy refreshments and to start planting the herbs. Cunningham gave a speech and Ortmann directed students in the planting process.
“We are excited to report that all produce planted, despite the storms that same day, are doing great. A big thank you to the students and volunteers who came out to support and help,” said Cunningham.
The freshly grown produce from the garden cannot be served in the school café, so the harvested foods will be utilized in the WCA summer camp and donated to WCA’s neighbors, such as Delmar Gardens.
On April 19th and May 10th, famous chefs from St. Louis, including Mike Damico, Executive chef at LÉcole Culinaire, and Jim Fiala, chef and founder of fialafood.com (which consists of four restaurants in the St. Louis area), will come to Westminster. The entire Westminster community is invited to these free but limited events, so those who hold interest must RSVP to the email invite. The garden will be featured in these events, followed by tasting and demonstrations.
Students who are interested in joining the culinary club next fall or volunteering to maintain the garden this spring and summer should contact Holly Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org.