Food, Farm, and Field 2013!

By Kelsey Sheridan, Food Farm and Field Coordinator, May 30, 2013

As warmth finally settles into the Pittsburgh area, we get ready for another summer season of fresh vegetables, radiant flower blooms, icy cold drinks and a new round of Food, Farm and Field! This year, we are excited to offer this fun and fascinating course to high school students entering 11th and 12th grade. The high school program will take place July 7-20 at the Eden Hall Campus, and college/masters level program will be July 28-August 10 at Eden Hall. Students in all programs will receive 3 college or masters-level credits from Chatham University.

We are still accepting applications, and if you apply by June 14th, we will offer you a 25% discount on tuition!

Click here for the High School Application.

Click here for College/Masters Level Application.

Our professors, staff (and farm cat Puma) are excited for this year’s Food, Farm, and Field!


Puma at Eden Hall. Photo by Landon DePaulo, Food Studies Student, 2012

A Food, Farm & Field Farewell

July 20th, 2012, by Mim Seidel, FFF Academic Coordinator

While some might say that “all good things must come to an end,” the end of the first Food, Farm and Field is just the beginning.  After spending two weeks together at the Eden Hall Campus of Chatham University, exploring a myriad of topics that reflected and described our food system, seven students and three staff sadly parted ways.  Everyone felt changed.

Our speakers, our field trips and our experiences made it clear that “mother nature” really knows what she is doing.  From micro-organisms, to plants, to insects, to animals, nature long ago determined how to integrate these systems in ways that most people don’t appreciate. We all received a better understanding of how things can and should be within this naturally occurring sustainable system – and what havoc our current agri-business practices is playing on the environment and the humans (and animals, plants and bugs!) of the world.    

A recurring theme identified by the FFF students was that of “community,” or the progressively disappearing community – a situation that they argue challenges the re-creation and maintenance of a sustainable food system. 

As FFF student, Pete Thomson noted in a quote from Transition Centre 2012, “It can be said the loss of community is the biggest crisis that we face not the economy or the environment but the loss of community.”  Pete juxtaposed older Pittsburgh ethnic communities whose residents supported each other with new “communities” where a person wouldn’t be comfortable borrowing a cup a sugar from his or her next door neighbor.   While students focused their thoughts on different aspects of the food system, the need for people to connect in a real or virtual community was apparent.

Vincentia Agbah described Grow NYC’s Green Market program and the nutrition education done there to help communities of low income residents improve their diets and subsequently their health.

Sheila Applegate described the Edible Schoolyard concept and its ability to re-connect students to whole and healthy food while concurrently providing teachers of all disciplines common ground to effectively teach students.

Caitlyn Lundquist noted that Walmart, the largest supermarket in this country, is dipping its corporate toe into regional and “sustainable” food.  Caitlyn notes that by its sheer size, Walmart has the ability to greatly influence the actions of its suppliers, producers and the communities it serves… hopefully in a truly sustainable way.

Julia Pope addressed the community of viewers of the Food Network. As the leader in food television, Julia decried “the lack of sustainability messages and food system education on the Food Network’s many programs [as] an egregious waste of a powerful social media source. “ While noting chef Alton Brown’s efforts to discuss the fish market’s sustainability flaws as a beginning, she notes that with “some education and tips [from other celebrity chefs] a sustainable attitude toward regional, national and global food systems could be achieved” in this large community of Food Network fans. 

Dora Walmsley addresses the community of the Food Bank – both the clients it serves and the people (employees and volunteers) who provide the service. Food Bank supporters are a tight community. Dora urges, however, that “as we work to build community, we must also work to include individuals that may or may not be supportive of the work of the Food Bank.” In reflecting on concepts learned during FFF, Dora discusses how visual and other tangible representation of the work of the Food Bank – through story-telling, pictures, meeting the people behind a food product or “observing a small army of volunteers rescuing swiss chard that was about to be plowed under” may influence non-supporters of the Food Bank and build a broader community base. 

Karina Carangi was impressed with the “intricate workings of nature to create plant and animal systems that can sustain each other and humankind.” Reflecting on the many people we met during our two weeks of FFF who were working to bring sustainable practices to their lives and the people they touch through work or volunteerism, Karina suggested that “we could create permaculture influenced societies by mimicking natural relationships. Taking this philosophy and applying it to our relationships helps us to recognize that every person provides an important perspective and role within the fabric of their community.” 

As I stand in my backyard watching with new awareness as bees hover around a many-flowered Rose of Sharon bush, I look forward to the future contributions of our first Food, Farm and Field group, and to interacting with many more sustainability-minded students in the years to come.

From left to right: Julia Pope (student), Sheila Applegate (student), Teresa Yoder (FFF Assistant Coordinator), Karina Carangi (student), Amanda West (FFF Resident Assistant), Dora Walmsley (student), Peter Thomson (student), Vincentia Agbah (student), Caitlin Lundquist (student), and Mim Seidel (FFF Academic Coordinator).

From Farm to Flora

July 19th, 2012, by Teresa Yoder, FFF Assistant Coordinator

As this intensive 2-week Food, Farm & Field (FFF) course draws to a close, I am amazed that we have experienced so much in so little time. With lectures, discussions, field trips, and experiential adventures, FFF has provided this group with an immersion into what “sustainability” looks like for diverse groups including farmers, farm laborers, consumers, scientists, and small business owners. Some of us are tired, some are energized, but all have experienced a new perspective on sustainability and what this sometimes nebulous word means to them in their own lives.

Today’s adventures included a visit to Churchview Farms in the morning and Phipps Conservatory in the afternoon. Our original plan to visit several businesses in the Strip District was altered due to a power outage, but this provided our group with a fantastic opportunity to visit the renown Phipps Conservatory.

Tara Rockacy, owner of Churchview Farm, and her girlfriend/business partner, Kate Romane, chef/owner of E2 restaurant in Highland Park, gave our group a tour of the quaint farmette located in the South Hills. We were greeted by the rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-do” as we exited the minivans. Chickens wandered freely about the property as farm staff washed cauliflower and green beans in preparation for the farm’s CSA. As Tara shared with us her struggles and successes over the past 4 years as owner of Churchview Farms, it was evident that her love for farming and her passion for providing her community with quality food is what keeps her motivated through the ups and downs. Farming sustainably isn’t just something she does, it’s a journey that she’s on…and she wants to share that journey with others. Churchview Farm not only has a CSA program and sells its produce to restaurants, such as E2, but Tara and Kate are also committed to providing education to their community. They’ve hosted honey harvest events, farm-to-table dinners, and even girl scout groups at Churchview Farm and E2. They want to provide quality food and education to encourage others towards a more sustainable path.

After a lovely visit at Churchview, we boarded the vans and headed into Oakland to visit Phipps Conservatory. After a rejuvenating lunch in Phipps’ Rain Cafe, our group headed into the gardens. FFF student Pete Thomson served as our group’s docent as we explored the beautiful greenhouses and outdoor garden spaces. We were even provided with a special tour of the green roof on Phipps’ brand new Center for Sustainable Landscapes building which is not yet open to the public. When complete, this building will not only be certified LEED platinum, but will also meet the Living Building Challenge standards.

From small farmettes to brand new green building technology, there is an exciting shift taking place in Pittsburgh as small farmers and large businesses work towards a more sustainable future. It has been an absolute pleasure being a part of the FFF journey with these seven incredibly inspiring students. I have no doubt that when we leave Eden Hall and go our separate ways, this community we’ve formed will live on.

Kate Romane & Tara Rockacy share with FFF students while a chicken looks on.

FFF students with Tara Rockacy, owner of Churchview Farm, and Mim Seidel, FFF Academic Coordinator.

FFF students Julia Pope, Sheila Applegate, Dora Walmsley, and Karina Carangi relax and cool off at Phipps’ outdoor discovery garden.

FFF student Dora Walmsley enjoying Phipps Conservatory

Green roof at Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes

American Elm bonsai at Phipps Conservatory

Delicious grilled peppers and kabobs for dinner thanks for FFF student Pete Thomson

Food, Food & More Food

July 18th, 2012, by Vincentia Agbah, FFF student

Today we get to reap the fruits of our labor for the past week and a half.  Our day started with a visit to the town of Butler where we met our tour guide Jodi Barnhart in Cummings Coffee Shop the oldest existing business in Butler since 1905. After a short briefing, we went to Miller’s Meat, a Family owned and USDA Certified, which serve private as well as wholesale customers. The owner Denny gave us complete tour of his operation including the retail, cutting sealing and packaging, making of sausages, and meat sticks. The owner expressed his most pressing challenge to be health care and Workers Compensation cost for his employees.  After tasting his bologna we went “When Pigs Fly 1” a one man Barbecue place, in a quaint brick building by the roadside.  He has been in business for a year. We tasted his delicious smoked pulled pork barbecue sandwich served with homemade sauce, coleslaw, baked beans, collard greens and cornbread.

To satisfy our sweet teeth, we headed to Peter’s Chocolate Shoppe, a local business since 1938 that still uses original equipment in their operation.  Of course, we couldn’t leave without tasting those mouthwatering chocolates. -  My colleagues’ comfort food.  Final on the list of our culinary tour took us to Element Café, an organic café for lunch. 

Our tour today comprised of diverse businesses, old and new, each working towards a common goal of building their community.

In our afternoon discussion session, Cory stated that “Culinary Tourism is a social salad with different elements, it is the stories behind each one that binds the salad.”  I totally agreed with this thought. 

Our day of “food” ended with a delicious dinner prepared by Chef Sarah Daigneault with ingredients we picked from a local farm- Harvest Valley. She prepared for us baked chicken with green beans, mashed sweet potatoes and vegetarian whole wheat pasta with roasted tomatoes in olive and truffle oil, parsnip and thyme, cubed cheddar and dill, for dessert- she made blueberry and blackberry crepe.

As you continue your culinary journey, and try new foods, visit new places, and explore new cultures, remember all the faces that make your meal complete. Don’t let this be your last culinary tour.

Cummings Candy & Coffee Shop on Butler’s main street

Our food tour group, FFF students (left to right) Karina Caringi, Sheila Applegate, Vincentia Agbah, SSE Assistant Dean Jessica Mooney, FFF students Peter Thomson, Caitlin Lundquist, Dora Walmsley, and Julia Pope, and Food Studies student & tour guide Jodi Barnhart.

When Pigs Fly I

Peter’s Chocolate Shoppe

A copper kettle used for mixing caramel at Peter’s Chocolate Shoppe

Chatham student Chef Sarah Daigneault demonstrates how to make crepes

Finding Eden: The Humble Homestead of Ron Gargasz

July 17th, 2012, by Sheila M. Applegate, FFF student

Check out today’s post over at Sheila’s personal blog: 

Bee Day!

July 16th, 2012, by Karina Carangi, FFF student

This day was one that we were all really looking forward to. BEE DAY! We joined Professor Sherie Edenborn for her class entitled Apiaries, Bees and Ecosystems, where we learned about what make bees so important to the health of an ecosystem. Also, we became aware of specific traits we can observe that help to distinguish bees from wasps and flies. Lastly, we got to know a lot about the different roles bees can have within a hive and finished off with the basics of bee keeping.

Did you know that there are approximately 400 to 450 species of bees in the state of Pennsylvania? Our class found five different species just in the garden. They included: Honey Bees, Squash Bees, Bumble Bees, Cuckoo Bees and Sweat Bees. We were very proud of ourselves!

When we came back in from the garden, we all sat down to do some honey tasting. Not knowing any of the types of honey we were eating, we evaluated each sample based on: terroir, color, aroma, initial impressions, and predominant flavors. We could also pair them with various fruits and cheeses. The two that most surprised me were the buckwheat and goldenrod honeys. They were very dark in color and both had much stronger flavors than any other honey I have had in the past.

Finally, we were given the opportunity to go out and visit the campus beehives. We all slipped on some bee net hats and excitedly made our way to the “little bee homes.” There we were able to observe Carniolan and Italian honey bees. They were absolutely amazing, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a perfect July afternoon than surrounded by good company and eating fresh honey right from the comb.

FFF students Caitlin Lundquist and Dora Walmsley search for bees in the Eden Hall organic garden

Bee in flight; photo credit: Julia Pope

FFF students prepare to visit the Eden Hall beehives along with Food Studies student Katie O’Neill and Dr. Sherie Edenborn.

Native beehives; photo credit: Julia Pope

Eden Hall bees

Sweet honeycomb

Time to Relax

July 15th, 2012, by Caitlin Lundquist, FFF student

Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! It’s hard to believe we’re already going into our second week of the Food, Farm, and Field class.  After this week’s busy schedule full of exciting learning experiences, it was nice to have some time to relax.  This morning, most of us took the opportunity to sleep in after a late night of movies and hanging out.  Some students ventured off campus to a local corn roasting event where they took a hayride, picked blueberries, got their faces painted, and visited a petting zoo.  Others preferred to stick around and explore Eden Hall’s beautiful grounds.  The pine plantation sparked particular interest and was described as being similar to the forest of Hogwarts.  As the sun came and went, a number of us cooled off by the pool. 

Later in the afternoon, we convened in the kitchen for a workshop on food preservation lead by Jeanne Sutter, a Master Food Preserver.  She taught us the basics on canning, freezing, dehydrating, and pickling, as well as the importance of food safety in preserving food.  Then, we got to make our own blueberry jam and pickled red onions, yum!  Near the end of the workshop, Dave Hassenzahl, PhD, Dean of the School of Sustainability and the Environment, stopped by to meet and chat with us.  We then headed back into the kitchen where we collectively prepared a delicious dinner of spring rolls and stir-fry.  Now that we are well rested, (and of course, well fed) we can’t wait to get back into the swing of things and are anxiously anticipating what the coming week has in store!

Jeanne Sutter, Food Studies student, leads a workshop on food preservation.

FFF students Peter Thomson & Caitlin Lundquist fill jars with picked red onion during the food preservation workshop lead by Jeanne Sutter

Salad Throwdown

July 14th, 2012, by Julia Pope, FFF student

As we’ve wrapped up our first week here on the Eden Hall Campus, everyone seems to be in high spirits and enjoying themselves. So much so, in fact, that an uncontrollable giggle fit infiltrated the dinner table last night, barring any hope of successfully discussing plans for upcoming field trips. But we pulled ourselves together, and today’s field trip went off without a hitch.

Being from Maine and never having visited the Pittsburgh area, I’ve had a few surprises over the past week. For example, that “pop” in fact is that fizzy liquid packaged in aluminum cans - somehow I missed the memo and grew up calling it SODA. I stand corrected. So heading to the Strip District was no exception.

The Strip was truly a wonderful experience. Especially as I was given a tour by two patient natives of the group (thanks guys)! It was a little rainy but that kept the crowds at bay ,and it was nice to watch the cars pass while enjoying a cup of coffee at a street-side restaurant.

Today’s assignment was about comparing the affects that different economic situations have on preparing a meal. To do this we went to a farmer’s market and Walmart to collect ingredients for a salad (the farmer’s market group had no budget, while the Walmart crew was told to keep spending as low as possible). 

Farmers @ the Firehouse farmers’ market in the Strip was very cool. About 20 farmers were selling their beautiful vegetables, breads, and cheeses—all grown locally (at the most 150 miles outside Pittsburgh). Thanks to a lot of hard work and organization, this market was recently certified to accept SNAP benefits, and today was the pilot run. Congratulations to those who made it happen!

We then continued on to Walmart, and then back to Eden Hall to prepare our salads. Group 1 utilizing products from the market (amounting to $37) and Group 2 using ingredients from Walmart (total about $12). Each meal was delicious, but over dinner we discussed the factors that affected each dish, and what this may illustrate for real-life situations in the United States.

It’s been a long day but very interesting and exciting. Looking forward to another week!

Group 1’s Pea Shoot Salad sourced from Farmers @ Firehouse.

The Male Perspective

July 13th, 2012, by Peter Thomson, FFF student

So here is what everyone reading this has been waiting for—the male perspective on staying at Eden Hall and taking the Food, Farm, and Field class.  So once you get past the initial shock that the entire place is made for women and there is no men’s room and the beds are a little too short, it is a very relaxing place to be.  The first week is coming to a close now, and I can honestly say that I have learned way more than I ever would have thought, and there is still a week to go.  I also have made a lot of new friends and connected with my female classmates and hopefully have offered a little bit to them from the male perspective.

Today we had a speaker come and talk to us about organic orcharding, which was great because for the first time in a week I got to converse with some other males! In all seriousness though, it was a very interesting take on how we actually don’t ever need to use the pesticides and herbicides that we rely on so heavily. If we just give the fruit trees what they need from the start, they will be able to fight most things off on their own.  Working at a Landscape Center & Nursery, I also found it very informative that there is a safe and organic alternative to the chemicals that we sell to cure any ailments that fruit trees might have.  The speaker himself was very knowledgeable, insightful, and managed to keep my attention for the entire 6 hours, but I can’t speak for everyone else ;).

So to sum up the male perspective on staying at Eden Hall and taking this course—weird at first, but great once you get used to it all. The class is totally worth taking, and I would recommend it to any males that are on the fence in the future.  I can’t wait to learn even more in the next week and see what other crazy things my new group of girlfriends and I can get into…haha…so maybe being in a girls place with all girls is getting to me!!

Michael Phillips discusses pest identification as part of the holistic orchard workshop

Taking it all in

July 12th, 2012, by Dora Walmsley, FFF student

A core part of what I’ve taken away from these past 4 days is the power of observation. It sounds somewhat obvious but I find myself getting wrapped up in the dirty little details of any given day. Never do I sit, observe and document my surroundings. This is exactly what we did today. Day 2 with Molly Mehling and Patty DeMarco, I found myself sitting on a stump listening, seeing and smelling all around me. The task assigned to us was to identify various “plots” (i.e. garden, woods, fields, etc) and document precisely what was occurring 1 meter around us; as Dr. Mehling put it, “hyper-observation.” The ultimate goal was to observe how many different plants and insects made up this little plot or ecosystem. With the understanding that these ecosystems are dramatically changed any time the slightest variable changes, I set off and recorded 4 areas around Eden Hall. Starting in the organic garden, I positioned myself towards the back end where there’s nothing but buckwheat growing. While there was buzzing and chirping all around me, I made note that there wasn’t as much activity down there as I’d previously seen where the vegetables are growing. The reason I suspect has a little something to do with healthy soil and the fact that what I was sitting in was dirt. Moving on, I made my way into the woods where, among other things, I discovered 3 tall flowers poking out of the leaf litter that blanketed the ground and wondered what impact these seemingly out of place flowers had on their surroundings. Leaving the woods, I sought out a large landscaped area that almost meets you as you enter the campus. With the idea of sustainable lawns, I wanted to see how this area differed from the woods. The first creature I spotted was a hummingbird and then it all unfolded from there. Ants crawled up my legs, flies buzzed around my ear and I could literally smell the flowers. The plants and animals seemed to be thriving here and, while the opportunity for the ecosystem that was created had human intervention, it was apparent this was their world. With this new knowledge, I’d have to object if Chatham were to ever want to expand the driveway. To advance my thinking on sustainable lawns, my last observation was done at a small koi pond in the back of the lodge. While here, I observed some variety of insects but not as many as in the woods or in the landscaped plot. What I also saw was the power chord to run the “waterfall” and the potted plants that didn’t seem to be attracting much attention from any bug callers. The pond was once a serene place for me, but with this new way of seeing things, I no longer see it in the same light.

With my observations reported and mapped, I’m left with a better sense of how I fit into all these ecosystems and how my choices affect them. As the next week and a half progresses, I’m looking forward to further growing my awareness.

Hollowed out stump

Rocks build up the “waterfall”


A variety of flowers dot this landscaped patch. I liked the cascading order of these.

Growing inconspicuously in the woods, I would not have noticed them had I not been intentionally looking.