What I Learned at Farm Camp
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
I’ve always loved the sights and even the smells of being on a farm and this past week I was able to join 10 other dietitians in an immersive Farm Camp at a rural location on Catoctin Mountain in Maryland. This 3-night all-inclusive educational retreat provided the opportunity to strengthen our culinary skills and farming knowledge. The curriculum was all hands-on practical learning where we went beyond the labels to turn the science of ingredients into simple recipes, delicious meals, and even beauty products. Imagine enjoying your morning beverage with breathtaking mountain views from the farmhouse before spending the day gathered in the garden, at the farm and in the kitchen. If you share my passion for food, farming, gardening and cooking, attending a Farm Camp may be for you. Here are some of my key learnings:
- Farm experiences will help you cultivate a deeper connection to food. Our traditional nutrition education may not include the opportunity to be on a farm, learn about animal husbandry, and develop an appreciation for how many of our foods are grown and raised. For retail dietitians, who often field consumer questions about how food is produced, these experiences can be especially valuable as you’ll be able to share some true farm-to-table facts.
- Developing relationships with local farmers and understanding the care and work they put into growing and raising high quality products creates trust, loyalty and gratitude for the foods in our stores and on our tables.
- Sharing our diverse work and educational backgrounds made for some good discussion amongst the attendees. GMOs, organic produce, and other topics were part of our conversations. Each person shared their perspective and educational experiences around these topics and we had many great discussions that were respectful and provided value to all.
- Learning some back-to-basics kitchen skills increases culinary confidence. While many of the everyday products we use come from our store shelves, I had forgotten the basics techniques that go into making some of these items. For example, we made a simple homemade mayonnaise from avocado oil, baked our own sour dough bread from a starter, created simple recipes from garden fresh produce, worked together to bake an apple pie from scratch, and were delighted to use a few simple ingredients to create our own fresh mozzarella balls.
I left farm camp feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and excited to get into the kitchen. My sourdough starter is being fed, my homemade mayonnaise is in the refrigerator and I have many new delicious farm fresh recipes that will be shared with my family and friends.