Over 70 students from Sullivan University’s Culinary Arts, Baking & Pastry Arts programs were in town last month, and were fortunate to spend a half-day touring South Phoenix’s historical Farm at South Mountain. The Kentucky based University students got to talk with the property’s business owners about the impact of sustainability in an urban community.
When Pat Christofolo, owner of Santa Barbara Catering Company, and operator of The Farm at South Mountain, learned the students were visiting the area, she saw the opportunity to help them discover more about urban agriculture, what it takes to manage a small family farm, and how chefs support farm-to-table locally produced products.
The sunny afternoon began with The Farm’s owner, Wayne Smith, sharing the story of how The Farm at South Mountain, 32nd Street and Southern, Phoenix, was originally developed. The students learned that the 12-acre organic, sustainable oasis sitting in the heart of Phoenix was first conceived by Dwight Heard, benefactor of the famous Heard Museum, in the 1920’s. Smith shared that Heard, a real estate investor, had the vision to subdivide the property into two-acre parcels which he sold for $1,150 each. With each purchase, the new owners received a cow and fifty chickens to provide sustenance and continual food sources. Smith continues to preserve the rural tranquility and vision of sustainability by offering independently owned small businesses the ability to contribute to the cultural, educational, restorative and economic environment of this historic property.
A buffet lunch, created by The Farm Kitchen (owned by Santa Barbara Catering Company), was served on the patio of Morning Glory Café. Delicious local, seasonal fare was featured on the menu.
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
The students were delighted to hear from Chef Greg LaPrad, Executive Chef at Quiessence Restaurant. Chef Greg is well recognized for his culinary philosophy dedicated to serving the best food products that Arizona has to offer. He uses traditional culinary techniques in his cuisine, such as creating handmade charcuterie, and focusing on daily menu creations inspired by the season’s best products. His menu includes items from his favorite suppliers of Arizona wines, olives, pork, beef and produce. He talked about the challenges involved with committing to this practice while operating his successful restaurant.
Phoenix’s Most Famous Farmer, Maya Dailey, took the students on a tour of her beautiful gardens and discussed the steps she takes to develop specialty produce products to meet the desires of local Phoenix chefs, who now support her unique garden varietals on their menus.
The students wrapped up the afternoon by touring the Farm’s other small businesses including Square Food Academy, The Artists Studio, The Retreat and the Cactus Greenhouse.
Summing up the afternoon to a fellow attendee, we overheard one of the culinary student’s share his take on the day’s activities. “What a great session! I have a much better understanding of the connection to what I create in the kitchen to the links between farming, food, health and the local economy.”
The Farm at South Mountain was delighted to offer this unique experience to help educate tomorrow’s future chefs and culinary leaders about the importance of sustainability practices.