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Learning From the Ground Up

In fall of 2005, we created a course entitled Sustainable Food Systems Practices. It communicates our belief that sustainability is redefining the way chefs interact with the environment and culinary schools are in an ideal position to teach this healthier and more environmentally conscious way of living. It also introduces our students to the politics of the food systems, raising their awareness on issues related to agriculture, fisheries, the dairy industry, meat and poultry production, water and waste, as well as trade, health, and social justice. To our knowledge, we are the first culinary program in the United States to offer a formal course on this subject.

Key to incorporating sustainability into our curriculum is providing our students with opportunities to engage in real life practices. Every year, ten of our students are awarded scholarships to attend Quillisascut Farm School to experience where food comes from. Our partnership with the Harts at La Connor Flats and the Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland (SPF) allow our summer quarter students travel to the Skagit Valley to farm an acre of land and learn all about sustainable farming. This experience includes touring various types of farms to develop our students farmer to chef connections.

Plant Science Lab / Greenhouse

From seed to maturity, Seattle Culinary Academy students learn all about edible gardening in our new Plant Science Lab/greenhouse. Focus is on herb identification and the delicious contribution each makes to the recipes prepared in our kitchens back at the SCA. The commitment to organic growing in the PSL underscores our ongoing education in sustainable practices and the joy of urban farming.

"I picked Seattle Culinary Academy to pursue my culinary career because of the focus on sustainability and food politics. I spent an incredible summer quarter learning about organic farming at La Conner Flats and other farms in the Skagit Valley. However, it was my work at the Plant Science Lab/greenhouse that truly brought the program together for me. The PSL offers a great opportunity to expose culinary students to the plants that produce some of the vegetables and herbs they use and the practices of an urban garden, right on campus. As the SCA program at the greenhouse grows, we hope to soon be the primary provider of a number of the herbs that the SCA kitchen uses, making the trip from "farm to table" exactly one block long. The PSL is also currently composting food scraps from a number of the kitchens, eliminating the need to compost them off-site as well as producing fertilizing compost for furture garden beds on site!

Part of the PSL gardens are outdoors and this offers community exposure and involvement to SCA students, another opportunity created by urban gardening. One afternoon as I was digging in the garden, a man stopped at the gate and told me how he had grown up farming potatoes in the highlands of Peru. His life had taken him away from there to other parts of the world and finally here to Seattle. Something about the garden had brought him in and made him feel comfortable enough to share something of his life with me. The PSL garden helps to root the program in the community and helps the community to be aware of the knowledge, delicious food and talented chefs coming out of the SCA kitchens." –Tamara Guyton, 3rd Quarter Culinary Arts.

The Seattle Culinary Academy is the oldest culinary school west of the Mississippi. Both our Culinary Arts and Specialty Desserts & Breads program are certified by the American Culinary Federation and we proudly pursue our goal to be recognized as the national leader in providing quality culinary education with ecological awareness and stewardship.

Seattle Culinary Academy students farm an acre of land at LaConnor Flats
Seattle Culinary Academy students have a unique connection to their food system
Seattle Culinary Academy recognizes the importance of being able to identify what food looks like growing in the field
"We are focused on where our food comes from, being sustainable..." --Scott Samuel