By: Helena Stallings, Culinary Arts Student
The Farm to Table Experience is one of the main aspects of the culinary curriculum that brings students to Escoffier. Not only does Escoffier participate in several CSA’s with local farms to provide fresh produce for their students to use, but in the last 6 weeks of the program before leaving for externship the students are brought out to these farms and given an opportunity to learn directly from the farmer. Last Monday my culinary class spent the morning at Carrie’s Clucks and several of my classmates, myself included, left the farm with a completely new perspective on poultry farming. Karen Bowie, owner and operator, has had an incredibly colorful career as an Air Force Food Inspector, Quiznos owner, Food Consultant and Purchaser for nursing homes and the list goes on, but she has found her niche in poultry.
Mrs. Bowie has close to 150 chickens, turkeys, guineas, geese and ducks, as well as a complete vegetable and fruit garden. Compared to CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), Mrs. Bowie is operating on a very small piece of land, but her birds are the truest form of free range and frankly some of the most friendly turkeys I have ever met. While my class toured the farm there was a constant parade of turkeys following us and occasionally they would brush up against your legs when you weren’t looking. However the most shocking part of the morning was when Mrs. Bowie informed us that in a short amount of time she has almost completely rid her chickens of the salmonella bacteria. By allowing her birds to live the life and eat the food intended for them, with a supplement of sage everyday beginning at hatching, her chickens are the happiest and healthiest birds possible. Not to mention you know you are receiving a product that was harvested in a very clean way, when you purchase it from an ex-food inspector.
In the Culinary Industry it is our responsibility to not just feed our customers, but to give them the nutrients their bodies need. Restaurants are businesses that are concerned with their bottom line, but by buying meats and veggies that are raised and treated in unethical and unsustainable ways will only perpetuate the problem. While at the same time we are serving foods to our cliental that are packed in hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Yes there is a drastic price increase when purchasing organic, local food, but only because the supply does not meet the demand. When the Culinary Industry and the surrounding community join together to support local farms the supply will begin to meet the demand, and we can reclaim control over our foods without paying a premium. Mrs. Bowie is constantly selling out of her birds, eggs and vegetables because of support from her community. If Escoffier’s Farm to Table Experience has taught me anything, it is that if change is going to come about in the food world, it will be the Culinary Industry who leads the way and with the knowledge I’ve gained at Escoffier, I know I’m ready to help in that change.