On May 3, McCully’s Hill Farm, just a few kilometers outside of Stratford in the Canadian province of Ontario, was the place to be for a group of high school students interested in the food they eat and where it comes from, who came together for the 2011 Slow Food Canadian Youth Terra Madre.
This first national Slow Food youth event was inspired by the culinary project and student-run Screaming Avocado Café at Stratford Northwestern Secondary School, whose past students have participated in the youth delegation of the global Terra Madre meetings.
Organized by Paul Finkelstein – Stratford Culinary Arts Instructor and Youth Chair of Slow Food Canada – together with members of Slow Food Perth County, the event focused on food production rather than cooking and on learning through hand’s-on experience. Despite the rain, students from four schools in Ontario and a group of students all the way from British Columbia got a lot out of the fun experiences planned, led by guest chefs and farmers from the region.
One group of students visited two nearby farms: Erbcroft family farm which raises chickens, ducks, lambs and llamas; and Perth Pork Products where heritage breed pigs such as Berkshires and Tamworths are raised in pastures alongside wild boar. This was an amazing experience for the students, in particular those from the West where the farming community is mostly composed of beef cattle farms.
Chef Jeremy Taft from Slow Food Northumberland-Kawarthas in Ontario wowed the kids with his workshop “Makin’ Bacon”. For many of the participants it was their first time to see the whole process – from the curing and smoking to slicing – that takes place before they can enjoy bacon and eggs.
Chef Joshna Maharaj from The Brickworks in Toronto engaged the youth with her warm personality and fun attitude; working in the farm’s greenhouse, the students prepared spring rolls under her guidance. Master forager Peter Blush took groups of students out to the McCully’s maple bush, where they foraged for wild leeks as well as marsh marigolds.
Finally, everyone came together for an incredible lunch prepared by the committed volunteers from Slow Food Perth County: tasty pulled-pork sliders from local meat along with a local root vegetable potato salad.
Ontario student Aleksandar Djermanovic summarized his experience after the event:
On Tuesday May 3, we gathered outside of Stratford to learn something from Slow Food. We got to tour around a couple of farms, one with pigs and wild boar, the other with ducks and sheep. We learned a bit about how farmers keep livestock for the culinary industry. We then went back to the McCully’s Hill Farm market where I got to do three different workshops: picking wild leeks, making spring rolls and best of all we made bacon! We met students from different schools and hads an awesome lunch. It was a great day for me, learning about where our food comes from and how to keep it natural.
Photo by Aleksandar Djermanovic