New Maine Initiative to Build Ag Literacy Through Immersive CTE Culinary Arts Programs

A new University of Maine initiative to build agricultural literacy through an immersive culinary experience for career and technical education (CTE) culinary arts instructors is one of 21 projects funded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

NIFA has invested $6.2 million in the Professional Development and Secondary School Teacher grants to increase the number of K–14 teachers and educational professionals trained in the food and agricultural sciences. The grants to prepare more educators in food and ag science, and support best teaching practices that enhance student learning outcomes, are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

UMaine’s Building Agriculture Literacy Through an Immersive Culinary Experience project, which received a $300,000, four-year grant, is led by Kathy Savoie, University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator and professor; Willie Grenier, executive director of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom; and Rob Dumas, UMaine food science pilot plant manager. CTE culinary arts instructors will receive professional development experiences to increase their agricultural literacy, and enhance the connectedness between agriculture and food service in their culinary arts curricula.

A goal of the project is to help create a skilled, educated workforce that will increase the use of Maine grown, processed and produced foods in their programs and careers by changing the way students — tomorrow’s food professionals — think about the importance and value of local food, according to the researchers.

“Providing professional development experiences for CTE instructors will help to shift culinary arts programs toward local food system education with the end goal to create a workforce that is proficient in Maine agriculture, and that will be poised to meet today’s consumer needs and ultimately boost our state agriculture” says Savoie, the principal investigator on the initiative.

The project provides a holistic approach to uniting community partners to identify the best practices for agriculture literacy education at CTE culinary arts programs in Maine. UMaine Cooperative Extension and Maine Agriculture in the Classroom will collaborate to provide experiential learning opportunities for CTE culinary arts instructors through a week-long Immersive Culinary Arts Summer Institute. Project activities will include hands-on experience in local food procurement practices, demonstrations of food system lessons, educational field trips, financial support for experiential activities through their existing school restaurants, participation in a UMaine Local Foods Competition and coaching during the school year.

The CTE instructors also will experience the educational power of job shadowing, flipped classrooms and working relationships with employers that could help students make career connections. Participating instructors will be eligible to receive mini-grants to support nontraditional learning experiences — on-site learning opportunities with farmers, food processors and butchers, for example, and at food hubs, food incubator labs, aquaculture facilities, food pantries and restaurants — to increase students’ understanding of local food systems. In addition, the UMaine Food Pilot Plant will host local food competitions for CTE culinary arts students, challenging them to use Maine foods in creative and innovative ways to meet the demands of today’s consumers.

Reminder: Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) Summer Workshops

Instead of a week-long event this summer, Maine Agriculture In The Classroom (MAITC) will be holding three single day, in-person events focusing on Dairy, Aquaculture, and Wild Blueberries.

Each professional development event for PK – Grade 12 educators will offer 7 contact hours or .7 CEU’s (Total possible = 21 contact hours or 2.1 CEU’s)

Each event will start at 8:30 AM and finish at 4:00 PM. A lite breakfast, snack, and lunch will be provided at each training.

Dairy – Thursday, August 12
8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

A full day of resources, lessons, and programs surrounding dairy will be provided by MAITC and the Maine Dairy Nutrition Council. In the afternoon participants will visit dairy farms, including the Flood Farm in Clinton, and experience a day in the life of a dairy farmer! Learn about silage, see a milking parlor, and learn much more about our local dairy farms!

A Day of Aquaculture – Thursday, August 19
8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Join MAITC for a day of exploring aquaculture at the picturesque Downeast Institute on Beals Island. We will spend the day exploring aquaculture with hands-on activities, hosted by Dr. Anne Langston Noll. In the morning, topics include aquaculture through history, online resources for production, ocean temperatures, salinity, etc. and an introduction to aquaculture globally, in the U.S. and Maine. Later we will tour the Institute’s working shellfish hatchery, and research facilities, including spawning shellfish and (if successful!) observing fertilization and cell division, and data collection for a real-life research project piloting the farming of sea scallops in ME lobster pounds. Last but not least we will explore resources available for teachers through MAITC and our colleagues at 4H and have the opportunity to try out activities included in the 4H teacher “toolkits”. Please bring your own computer or iPad if you are able. WIFI will be available. Venue: Downeast Institute – 39 Wildflower Lane, Beals, ME 04611

Wild Blueberry Emersion – Friday, August 20
8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Our day will begin at the Bluebird Ranch Family Restaurant, 78 Main Street in Machias. After a lite breakfast we will join teacher Eric Brooks for exploration of MAITC Wild Blueberry resources and curricula. Representatives from the Wild Blueberry Commission will host an afternoon tour of local farms and barrens to view harvest, culture, and production of Maine’s official berry! Do you know that Maine produces more wild blueberries than anywhere else in the world? Do not miss this opportunity!

Registration Fees & Information

  • 1 Training – $35
  • 2-Trainings – $60
  • All 3 Trainings – $75

Download registration form to mail a check

Online registration

Limited space – register early! Pre-Registration only – Deadline August 6, 2021. For more detailed information, including options for accommodations please visit: https://me.agclassroom.org/programs/summer/

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) is a grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture, and housed at the Maine Department of Agriculture. Our goal is to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in the economy and society so that they will become citizens who support wise agricultural policies and local agriculture endeavors.

For more information visit https://me.agclassroom.org/ or contact MAITC at (207) 287-5522 or maitca@maine.gov

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) Summer Workshops

Instead of a week-long event this summer, Maine Agriculture In The Classroom (MAITC) will be holding three single day, in-person events focusing on Dairy, Aquaculture, and Wild Blueberries.

Each professional development event for PK – Grade 12 educators will offer 7 contact hours or .7 CEU’s (Total possible = 21 contact hours or 2.1 CEU’s)

Each event will start at 8:30 AM and finish at 4:00 PM. A lite breakfast, snack, and lunch will be provided at each training.

Dairy – Thursday, August 12
8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

A full day of resources, lessons, and programs surrounding dairy will be provided by MAITC and the Maine Dairy Nutrition Council. In the afternoon participants will visit dairy farms, including the Flood Farm in Clinton, and experience a day in the life of a dairy farmer! Learn about silage, see a milking parlor, and learn much more about our local dairy farms!

A Day of Aquaculture – Thursday, August 19
8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Join MAITC for a day of exploring aquaculture at the picturesque Downeast Institute on Beals Island. We will spend the day exploring aquaculture with hands-on activities, hosted by Dr. Anne Langston Noll. In the morning, topics include aquaculture through history, online resources for production, ocean temperatures, salinity, etc. and an introduction to aquaculture globally, in the U.S. and Maine. Later we will tour the Institute’s working shellfish hatchery, and research facilities, including spawning shellfish and (if successful!) observing fertilization and cell division, and data collection for a real-life research project piloting the farming of sea scallops in ME lobster pounds. Last but not least we will explore resources available for teachers through MAITC and our colleagues at 4H and have the opportunity to try out activities included in the 4H teacher “toolkits”. Please bring your own computer or iPad if you are able. WIFI will be available. Venue: Downeast Institute – 39 Wildflower Lane, Beals, ME 04611

Wild Blueberry Emersion – Friday, August 20
8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Our day will begin at the Bluebird Ranch Family Restaurant, 78 Main Street in Machias. After a lite breakfast we will join teacher Eric Brooks for exploration of MAITC Wild Blueberry resources and curricula. Representatives from the Wild Blueberry Commission will host an afternoon tour of local farms and barrens to view harvest, culture, and production of Maine’s official berry! Do you know that Maine produces more wild blueberries than anywhere else in the world? Do not miss this opportunity!

Registration Fees & Information

  • 1 Training – $35
  • 2-Trainings – $60
  • All 3 Trainings – $75

Download registration form to mail a check

Online registration

Limited space – register early! Pre-Registration only – Deadline August 6, 2021. For more detailed information, including options for accommodations please visit: https://me.agclassroom.org/programs/summer/

Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC) is a grassroots program coordinated by the United States Department of Agriculture, and housed at the Maine Department of Agriculture. Our goal is to help students gain a greater awareness of the role of agriculture in the economy and society so that they will become citizens who support wise agricultural policies and local agriculture endeavors.

For more information visit https://me.agclassroom.org/ or contact MAITC at (207) 287-5522 or maitca@maine.gov

St. George School Second Grade Students Create Poster Campaign for Local Community

Second-grade students at St. George School in Tenants Harbor spent the spring working on a collaborative research project examining the process of pollination and the need for pollinators to create a healthy environment. The six-week-long project, led by their teacher Alison Babb, 2020 Knox County Teacher of the Year and 2021 Teacher of the Year Finalist, culminated in scientific drawings about various pollinators they had spent time learning about.

Before starting on the drawings, the students practiced their research, reading, and writing skills to create the strongest final product. The students collaborated on reading intricate scientific texts and gathered information on the various plants they were studying. After conducting thorough research on pollinators, the students began creating scientific drawings of the plants. Throughout the drawing process, the students were consistently giving and receiving feedback, enabling them to create the strongest final project possible.

Once completed, the students were not yet satisfied- they wanted to create a poster that would go beyond their classroom for their local communities to both showcase their pollinator drawings and to display some public service messaging regarding pollinators. The second-grade students demonstrated strong collaboration skills and thorough knowledge, and passion for their environments throughout this project.

Readers are encouraged to go to the Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor and the Camden Public Library to view the posters in person. Knox Village Soup will also be featuring the poster in their late June to early July edition.

Information for this article was provided by St. George School. The article was written by Maine Department of Education Intern Clio Bersani as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Maine FFA Association Completes Project on Homelessness and Food Insecurity

Maine FFA Association, representing nearly 400 students grades 7-12 enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources, recently completed a valuable statewide community project addressing issues of homelessness and food insecurity in Maine. Four target areas, associated with nearby FFA chapters, were identified: Bangor (partnering with the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter), Waterville (partnering with the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter), Cherryfield (partnering with Maine Seacoast Mission Food Pantry), and Presque Isle (partnering with the Aroostook County Action Program, the Sister Mary O’Donnell Homeless Shelter, Dahlgren Skidgel Farm of Hope in Caribou, Perham Food Cupboard and Washburn Food Pantry).

The goals of the project included purchasing materials to support the shelters and food pantry, sorting, packaging and distributing materials as well as learning more about the challenges and resources available to address homelessness and food insecurity. Highlights of the educational component of the project included FFA members at Narraguagus High School learning more about the services and volunteer needs of the food pantry in Cherryfield, the Aroostoock County Action Program (ACAP) preparing a YouTube video on homelessness and hosting a live Zoom panel on homelessness that included a question and answer session with FFA students.

The project was originally planned and funded in 2020, slated for implementation in March, which coincided with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, many priority items, including some food staples and cleaning products were no longer available. Once items returned to store shelves, completion of the project became possible this spring, with items purchased, donated, sorted, packed and delivered to appreciative recipients. Project work was overseen by local FFA chapter advisors and students. As a result of the project, FFA student members came to a better understanding of social issues in their communities and outreach organizations gained many much-needed food, paper products, cleaning supplies and other staples for their facilities as well as clothing, toiletries, linens and other essentials to distribute directly to their clients.

We would like to thank the primary sponsor of this project, the National FFA Organization’s “State Day of Service” with their $8,000 contribution. We would also like to thank Wal-Mart Community Grants for their $3,000 in support with $2,000 coming from Wal-Mart Supercenter in Presque Isle and $1,000 coming from Wal-Mart Supercenter in Waterville. We would like to thank Willie Sawyer Grenier of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom for handling all shelter purchases in the Waterville area and for delivering items with her son, Jared.  Maine FFA Chapters of Ashland, Bangor, Caribou, Harrington, Mars Hill, Presque Isle and Washburn were particularly involved in the project and are all to be commended. There were also several additional local businesses and individuals in each community that contributed to this very rewarding project: thank you to all of them as well!

For more information on starting an FFA chapter in your community, please contact: Doug Robertson, State FFA Advisor, Maine Department of Education, doug.robertson@maine.gov, 207-62406744.