Farm to Fork Showcase puts a spotlight on high school students

Farm to Fork Showcase puts a spotlight on high school students
Students harvest mixed baby greens from the Agriculture Department garden. Photo by Sara Benner

VISTA — The annual Farm to Fork Showcase on Feb. 23 drew about 100 guests to taste dishes that ranged from lamb burgers with feta cheese and caramelized onions to sausage and parsley stuffed mushrooms, and raspberry crepes — all raised, grown and prepared by Vista High School students.

Guests mingled between taste tables and live cooking stations, and talked to Future Farmers of America (FFA) and culinary arts students, who shared their knowledge of farming and cooking.

The yearly showcase generates a lot of student pride.

FFA students attend accredited science and elective classes, which are part of a career education program, taught by Sara Benner.

The high school campus boasts a three-quarter acre farm, which includes greenhouses, a garden and livestock area. Students plant and grow fruits and vegetables, and buy, raise and sell livestock, which includes cattle, goats, sheep, turkeys, chickens and rabbits.

Farmed food is used for the annual showcase, and for twice monthly campus lunches served at the Panther Cafe.

FAA students also learn leadership, fundraising, budgeting and public speaking skills, and perform community service.

Culinary arts studies teach students basic knife cuts; fruit, vegetable, pasta, gain and stock dishes; and customer service the first year. In the second year, it’s all about meat and protein dishes, deserts, baking, and food costing.

“They all know their way around a kitchen,” Chef Kim Plunkett, Vista High School culinary arts teacher, said.

Culinary arts classes are accredited electives. Students also earn Food Handler Cards and ServSafe Certification needed for restaurant employment.

Lessons are taught in an industrial kitchen, which familiarizes students with a future workplace, and prepares them for food service and chef positions.

The week of the showcase all culinary arts students participate in preparing food for the event.

“Every class that comes in is working on a recipe or partial recipe, it’s neat to see kids all working on something different,” Plunkett said.

During the showcase culinary arts students also present foods, ensure dishes remain at the correct temperatures, and cook on site.

“The showcase brings together everything we do in the kitchen and classroom, and makes it a real project, it takes it to the next level,” Plunkett said. “Students faces light up, and it builds big time self-confidence.”

District staff, community members, farmers, chefs and restaurant owners annually attend the showcase. Donations are suggested to cover the costs of putting on the event. All monies go back into FFA and culinary arts programs.

The showcase is also an opportunity to sponsor livestock for FAA students. Sponsors buy and own the livestock, and pay a student for their work to raise it.

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