The Door is Open

So, it has been a busy couple of weeks! Wedding season has begun, school groups are in full force, multiple private functions are onsite, and with the completion of our 49th Annual Open House there has been a lot of learning going on!

Open House is an annual event here at Cheakamus Centre. It is a chance for students, past, present and future, to visit the site with family and friends. The idea is for people to see what goes on the property and tie the stories they have heard to the actual physical property. Over the years the event has grown to include the public and many local businesses represent. It is a day filled with activities, food and fun. It has also become a great fundraising opportunity for the North Vancouver Outdoor School Alumni Society, where proceeds go to the Outdoor School for Kids Bursary Fund.

For me, this was the best year yet!

Not because of the head count (which was average), or the weather, (which was fabulous), or the crowds of people in a great mood. For me, it was the tie in of two to three years of work on my part to take the kitchen into a new direction.

I was thrilled about the participation of the students from the Carson Graham VCC Culinary Arts Working in Trades program headed by Chef Scarlet Gaffney for the Vancouver Community College. These high school students go to class every Tuesday through Friday evenings, after school, hold down weekend jobs and cook an amazing dinner for the public every Wednesday and Thursday night at Carson Graham. Bye the Bye this is a great deal, and raises funds, and well worth a trip to the neighbourhood. These seven-young people also happen to be North Vancouver School District students. All of them had been to the Outdoor School Program and two of them were even counsellors. To have these specific kids, volunteer their time to come up, bringing with them some homemade falafel, (donated by Chef Gaffney) and rock out a couple hundred wraps was simply amazing.

One of my strategic goals is to begin programs where culinary students come up and spend two to three days to learn a bit about field to table and farm to table initiatives, and to study what sustainability means.

My idea is that they would not just come once, but spread three of four visits over the time of their course so they can see the progression in the plants and animals as they are started, nurtured and then harvested. Curing and canning would be an integral part of this as would the drying of the herbs and tea ingredients. I am admittedly a long way from achieving this goal but this is a step, and one that I hope will show our intent to those who may be in a position to lend support in the future.

At our Open House, we had a recycling/composting display where I provided data on how we use our food waste – how much to the soil, how much to the chickens and what the pigs ate in slops. Andrew, one of the Alumni volunteers, used the data to make graphs depicting where the food waste went and how much pork we got back for it. Our pigs ate 3,556kg of food scraps diverted from waste, plus 65kg of pig feed, yielding 65 kg of cooked pulled pork. This can be presented as a duel edge teaching tool. We can on the one hand caution about the overconsumption of animal protein using the data to illustrate that in takes 55kg of edible food to produce 1kg of edible protein. That does not even consider the water usage to grow the food and the pigs.

On the other hand, we celebrate that we diverted 3,556kg of waste from the landfill and used it to feed hundreds of people to raise funds for a worthy cause!

Alas, it was not all dry stats and facts, the Alumni volunteers were also wheeling on the apple press and handing out samples of fresh pressed apple juice. Apple pressing is one of the Recreational activities I have worked out with the aid and advice of our programing staff for the three-night Outdoor School (ODS) programs. Come summer, we will be saving our apples from our many apple trees, and the children will press them for juice come fall. Using store bought apples this year, we managed over three one-hour activity periods, which was enough juice pressed for the entire group to have some for breakfast on their departure day.

That would be 20lt in addition to the sampling that goes on!

We also showed how many eggs we are collecting in a year, with the kitchen using 60% of the production at over 800 eggs, and with staff purchasing the remainder, minus the broken and incubated eggs. I also had data and information on the maple tapping with samples of maple sap tea with licorice and sumac grown on our property.

There was also, Mountain Squeeze providing a cold pressed juice bar, ice cream vendors, balloon artists, face painting and a silent auction. I would also extend a huge thank you to the Bearfoot Bistro for the gorgeous desserts, and the Forage/Timber team from Vancouver for providing a pizza station.

There was a lot of activity, a lot of great food and warm sunshine, but for me it was the first glimmering ray of light on my path to emphasizing the learning going on site.

Executive Chef, Wade Rowland
Cheakamus Centre
nature is in session

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