From the Ground Up: Urban Farming at Eden Hall

by Melissa Harding

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As part of the Museums Connect program, made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums, Phipps is partnering with the Gidan Makama Museums in Kano, Nigeria to provide an immersive experience for 15 local high school students in each city. Participating students will learn about nutrition, cooking and cultural food traditions by following local food from farm to table and will be communicating with students at their partner institutions. This project will last from September to June, resulting in the creation of a community cookbook that will be designed and created by participating students. Students will also meet each month for a Saturday workshop involving activities designed to get them thinking critically about their food system and food culture. Calling themselves the Global Chefs, this group of students is excited to learn more about what food means in their lives.

Last weekend, the Global Chefs took a field trip to Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus, where they experienced what it’s like to work on an urban farm and how their experiences relate to those of their Nigerian partners. This all day workshop was jam-packed with activities and, with the weather cooperating on their side this month, the students had a great time both indoors and out.

To begin, they stepped into the kitchen with Chef Jamie Moore, Director of Sourcing and Sustainability for the Eat ‘n Park group, a local chain of family restaurants. Joining him were Nancy Hanst of Slow Food Pittsburgh and Kathy Brinjack. Together, they helped the Global Chefs cook an Asian-inspired meal based on the students’ own recipes. They cooked chicken fried rice and vegetable stir fry; they also marinated chicken, skirt steak and tofu to add to the stir fry. Finally, they made baked onion rings with panko bread crumbs, a healthier take on one of the student’s favorite recipes. While cooking, some of the students harvested lettuce and tatsoi for the stir fry, while others had ample opportunity to practice their knife and sautéing skills. When finished, this healthy meal was a delicious look into the food culture of some of the Global Chefs.

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After lunch, the students toured the Eden Hall campus, getting a closer look at the hoop houses and farm. This 388-acre campus was the perfect place for the students to better understand urban farming and the variety of plants and animals that can be grown in the middle of the city. With the tour under their belts, the students were then tasked with some team-teaching exercises to help them learn more about their Nigerian partners. They each taught the group five facts that they had learned about Nigerian culture, especially surrounding food. The students learned that Nigeria has a huge film industry, called Nollywood, and that it is the most populous country in all of Africa and is an important country for trade.

Finally, the students worked on their cookbook. This was no easy task, as trying to come up with a way to approach such a project can be daunting to say the least. They decided to include all the recipes that they cooked, as well as to include one recipe from each student’s family. Each student also decided to create an original page about their families and individual food cultures. The students ended the day with an assignment to go home and work on their pages. Next month’s meeting will be back in Pittsburgh and focus on planting in the Edible Garden.

To see more images from the day, check out the slideshow below!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The above photos were taken by Kate Borger.

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