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Old Ways, New Faces (9)

 

The Scattergood farm staffs a booth at the West Liberty farmers’ market and wholesales with the New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City, but its primary function is to serve the school.

In addition to raising chemical-free produce and meats for school meals, the farm serves as a living laboratory and outside classroom, where students gain hands-on experience with livestock and all stages of the growing cycle.

The lunch menu today features polenta, so Mark is in pursuit of sauce ingredients and salad greens.

By late September the heirlooms have nearly been wiped out by late blight, but he salvages a flat of Amish Paste tomatoes for the sauce base, quickly filling another basket with lettuce and arugula.

The sweet peppers require more care; Mark hunches along a row of red Carmen peppers, cradling each in his palm to examine it for freshness.

After he gathers a few bunches of mustard greens, the morning’s haul is complete, and Mark delivers the bounty to the school kitchen, where Dana Foster is preparing the midday meal.

A Scattergood faculty member since 1993 with a Swarthmore degree in biology, Dana teaches health while managing the farm’s livestock and sharing cooking duties with other faculty and students.

She keeps up a steady patter while bustling about Scattergood’s commercial-size kitchen, replete with stainless-steel sinks and countertops.

The polenta sauce bubbles in a massive skillet, a mélange of pork and vegetables grown on the farm: onions, garlic, broad beans, peppers, tomatoes, mustard greens.

A second skillet holds the vegetarian option, substituting black-eyed peas for the meat. Dana tosses the fresh lettuce and arugula with roasted almonds, oranges, and a vinaigrette made from the farm’s own raspberries.

As morning classes wind down, other teachers pitch in, ferrying salad bowls and family-style dishes to the cafeteria tables.

Then the students and teachers join hands around the room to share a few moments of silence before the meal.

Students all join work teams immediately after lunch to wash dishes or sweep; rotating chores keeps morale high.

When students leave for the summer, Mark and Dana occasionally find themselves shorthanded, but this year they enjoyed some welcome support.

A scheduled Gang of Four work day resulted in the efficient construction of curing tables for onions and garlic and a strawberry harvest to boot.

(Read more Old Ways, New Faces)

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