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Field to Fork: Promoting local food

Jill Kerr, Anya Gatin local food Field to Fork

L-R: Culinary Arts student, Jill Kerr, Horticulture student, Anya Gatin, Assiniboine Community College

There was a time when it was easy to put locally grown food on the table every day.

Many Canadians lived on farms (the 1931 census reported one in three) so producing and harvesting their own food was a way of life.

In urban areas, planting a vegetable garden in the backyard was commonplace, and farmers markets sold locally produced food to the public.

The 1950s saw the introduction of processed ‘convenience’ foods.

In the following decades, prepared and fast food became a mealtime staple, and locally grown food took a back seat.

But today, there is a renewed interest in consuming locally produced food.


According to the Conference Board of Canada, “The growth in local food systems in Canada has been driven in part by concerns about food quality, health and nutrition, food safety, local economies and farmers, and the environment.”

In this province, Food Matters Manitoba says, “the local food economy is growing. Consumers are seeking out local food – whether at a farmers market, their grocery store, or while eating out.”

The Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association identified locally produced food and sustainable food as top trends in Canadian cooking.

Assiniboine Community College recently introduced Field to Fork, a collection of initiatives designed to strengthen the local food chain.

“As Manitoba’s Agricultural college, we are keenly interested in providing educational, outreach and research opportunities for the purpose of increasing food security, which is a pre-condition for strong communities,” says Derrick Turner, Dean of the School of Business, Agriculture & Environment.

The Horticultural Production program looks after the ‘field’ while the Culinary Arts and Hotel and Restaurant Management programs concentrate on the ‘fork.’

“Culinary Arts students use the food grown by horticultural production students in our greenhouse and onsite gardens,” says Dave Perkins, chairperson of Business Programs and the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts (MICA).

“They also harvest fruit from our orchards.”

The bounty includes over 450 kilos of fresh picked crab apples prepared for use at MICA’s high profile community outreach events such as the Grey Owl restaurant, and Harvest on the Hill.

“Our instructors encourage creativity and the students love being able to experiment and develop something of their own,” Dave says.

“Students also learn how to source quality Manitoba produced food.”

The Field to Fork initiative has sparked an expansion of ACC’s horticultural offerings.

The advanced certificate in Sustainable Food Systems, launched in 2014, focuses on innovation in food production, food security and post-harvest management.

“This program illustrates our college’s Field to Fork approach,” says Keith Williams, former chairperson of Agriculture and Environment.

“Field to Fork encourages better consumer access to safe, high quality, healthy foods while supporting the local producer community.”

Horticulture students are involved in an innovative research project designed to help northern Manitoba communities access fresh produce.

The project compares the production efficiency of three different types of greenhouse.

Energy use is also tracked. The research will help northern communities build sustainable greenhouses that will suit their needs.

With solid grounding in all aspects of growing, accessing, and serving local foods, ACC’s future horticulture and culinary professionals will be well qualified to support and sustain community food systems.

Reprinted from Brandon Now magazine



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