The Final Week of Class! (July 22-25)

This week the students learned about our Modern Food System (which, of course, ties in  industrialized foods, too), but they also learned about migrant workers in Vermont, and how many of them suffer worker injustice on dairy farms. They also learned about efforts to return to a more sustainable, local food system.

Thursday was the final day of class. The students spent the first two hours preparing their family recipes, and then family and friends joined us for the feast and for the students’ final presentations.

IMG_5570 The layout: homemade herbed ricotta cheese (made from the stash of leftover breakfast school milks), Ena’s Bosnian Pita, Susma’s Momo Dumplings, Molly’s Frikadellen (German meat patties), Anthony’s Vietnamese Egg Rolls, Andrew’s Shepherd’s Pie, Kevin’s Buffalo Chicken, Laura’s chocolate pudding, and Elizabeth’s chocolate chip cookies. Drinks featured Jessie’s Mexican Drinking Chocolate, Hibiscus Tea, and Fermented Blueberry Fizzy.

It was the perfect way to end the class by sharing the diverse array of cuisines with family and friends and listening to the students present their personal food histories and how they will make changes based on the knowledge they have gained from the class. Susma, for example, stated that she will try cooking with vegetables more often as she likes them more now. Ena said that she has already written to Vermont state legislators asking them to pass the bill that will enforce labeling of GMOs in Vermont. She encouraged everyone to visit vpirg.org, the Vermont Right to Know GMOs site.

We are proud of you all. Thank you, students, for braving the elements, for trying new foods, and for having open minds!

And thank you again to all of our guest speakers and to Partnership for Change for making this class possible.

Class 15 July 18, 2013: Food, Inc. and TV Dinners

Our Industrialized Food Systems week culminated with a viewing of the film Food, Inc. while we ate the TV dinners we made earlier in the week. This was the first time all of the students had watched the film. Andrew, a BHS freshman, said: “I speak for all of us when I say that I was surprised at how many of our lawmakers have connections with these large food corporations” after he learned from the movie that many of our current politicians once worked for the “Big Ag” food companies that dominate our food system. Shocking, indeed.

The film sparked an interesting discussion between the students. Molly commented that she doesn’t understand “how food service is making more of an effort to make the foods healthier, and yet the vending machines are right there in the cafeteria selling junk food, like Pop-Tarts,” to which Ena replied, “Oh, I used to eat those Pop-Tarts! Never again!” Powerful food for thought!

Class 14 July 17, 2013: Trip to UVM CREAM

Today, the class visited the University of Vermont’s CREAM (Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management) to view the works of dairy farming on a larger scale compared to our field trip last week at Blue Heron Farm. CREAM is a student-run dairy operation that participates in the Cabot cooperative.

Elizabeth, BHS freshman, was documentarian of the day and stated  “I thought that the cows didn’t have a lot of space to move over, but I think the farm is a lot cleaner than most of them I have seen. I really liked going there today because it was different and fun all at the same time.”

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The babies! Photo by Elizabeth.

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A Jersey calf. Photo by Elizabeth.

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Farm slippers. Photo by Elizabeth.

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Cows at CREAM. Photo by Morgan.

Class 12 July 15, 2013: Making TV dinners

To commence our week-long study on industrial food, we prepared TV dinners to freeze for our meal on Thursday. We also watched a few YouTube clips and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of industrialized food.

We learned about the different jobs the industry created, the mass migration of people to cities, and how women started working more, which all led to the rise of easily accessible convenience foods. Kevin, BHS freshman and documentarian of the day, commented that fast-food chains, like McDonald’s, as well as “TV dinners started to come into the picture to make things easier, which is why we made our own TV dinners using meatloaf, frozen veggies, instant potatoes, and butterscotch pudding.” Each student prepared their own tray and then we carried them down to the school kitchen to be sealed and frozen.

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Preparing the instant mashed potatoes. Photo by Kevin.

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Completed TV dinners. Photo by Kevin.

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Sealing the trays. Photo by Kevin.

 

Class 11 July 11, 2013 Class Meal

“Today we made a nice meal similar to what [homesteaders] would have when they were settled here. Some of the things we did today included making our own ricotta cheese, butter, and blueberry jam. We also had fresh farm eggs from Blue Heron Farm and bread with flour from Nitty Gritty. Learning how to make butter and cheese was very cool. We also fermented foods which were very delicious. It added more flavor to the food which made them tastier. I learned that the fermented food introduces good bacteria which helps our digestive system.” - Susma, BHS freshman

Today our meal included homemade ricotta (one herbed and one plain) with the milk we bought from Blue Heron Farm, fresh farm egg (also from Blue Heron) frittata with vegetables and herbs from the BHS gardens and our ricotta, bread with wheat flour from Nitty Gritty Co., raw honey, homemade butter with cream from our fresh milk, as well as our wide variety of fermented vegetables from Monday and blueberry and gooseberry fermented drinks! A great way to conclude our week on homesteading.

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Churning butter. Photo by Susma.

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Prepping vegetables for the frittata. Photo by Susma.

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Making ricotta cheese. Photo by Susma.

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Our feast. Photo by Susma.

Class 10 July 10, 2013 Visit to Blue Heron Farm

By Molly, BHS Junior

Today our class took a fieldtrip to Blue Heron Farm (in Grand Isle, VT) in order to learn a bit about raising livestock for meat, dairy, and other animal products.  Blue Heron is a picturesque certified organic farm, and the people working there were quite friendly and helpful.  We were given a tour in which everyone got to meet the sheep, ducks, chickens, and cows, as well as learn about the care that each kind required.  There were also a fair amount of vegetables being grown there in a large greenhouse.  All in all the experience was great, and it tied in perfectly to this week’s homesteading unit.

Thanks so much to Christine, Adam, Sadie, Delia, and Sophie!

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Feeding the sheep. Photo by Molly.

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Chickens by the trailer chicken coop. Photo by Molly.

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Blue Heron Veggie Greenhouse. Photo by Molly.

Class 8 July 8, 2013: Lacto-fermented vegetables and drinks

“Today, Caroline Homan, from City Market, introduced our class to the process of fermentation. The substances we used for our fermentation were our fresh and healthy garden vegetables!” -Ena, BHS sophomore

As we learned from Caroline, preserving food through fermentation is the process of converting lactose found in raw foods into lactic acid, which creates nutrients, beneficial microorganisms, and more flavor. Today’s lesson commenced our week studying the 1800s and homesteading in Champlain Valley!

Captions and pictures by Ena.

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To start with our thrilling activity, we got hands on with some diverse garden vegetables by cutting them up into ideal pieces to put in our fermenting jar. Some of the delicious vegetables we used were carrots, garlic, beets, peas, and cabbage! 

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Meanwhile, students were invited to beat some cabbage to make it juicy for fermenting (sauerkraut). Students were intrigued by the large, wooden cabbage beater, as it was a new technique for them. As you can see, Molly is hard on the job while having fun! 

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Towards the end of our intriguing day, Caroline provided us with a quick and easy demonstration on how to make lacto-fermented soda using two different methods: the whey culture, done by straining yogurt, and the ginger bug culture, done by adding chopped ginger into a clean mason jar with water and sugar.

Class 7 July 3, 2013: Field trip to Nitty Gritty Grain Company

“Today we went to visit a farm that which contains the machines that harvested wheat.  We saw a wheat farm as well. But the constant rainfall is hurting wheat production very badly. Most farmers need their crops to dry up or they’ll lose profit.” -Anthony, BHS freshman

As Anthony said, it has been a wet season here in Vermont and, if it continues without much sun, the surplus of rain may have detrimental consequences for our farmers. Some of those farmers include the owners of Nitty Gritty Grain Company, a grain farm that we visited today. They remain hopeful for their organic wheat and corn crops, and so do we!

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Heavy duty grain equipment. Photo by Morgan.

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The class in front of the machine. Photo by Morgan.

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More machinery. Photo by Anthony.

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During our tour of Nitty Gritty Grain Co. Photo by Anthony.

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The corn being stored to dry. Photo by Anthony.

Class 6 July 2, 2013: Soapmaking

 Today, BHS science teacher Richard Meyers taught us how to make our own soap. We used olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable shortening, and lye, but learned that back in colonial times they would have used animal lard and wood ash. Who would’ve thought that combination makes for a good cleansing…

After 20 minutes of stirring our soaps, we really appreciated the convenient soaps we have access to today. However, we also realized how easy it is to make our own soap!

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Photos by Sarah.