September 02, 2008

City kids to get a taste of farm life at SIUC

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Milk a cow, snare a hog, pick some grapes, watch the corn grow. It’s classic “city kids visit the farm,” but with some twists.

The visiting city kids are chefs in training at Chicago’s Kendall College, where industry professionals rate the culinary arts program among the nation’s top five. And most of their farm-related activities will take place at the various facilities run by the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Media Advisory

Reporters are welcome to accompany the students on any tour activities, set for Sept. 7-12. Make arrangements with Sylvia Smith by calling her at 618/453-5193 or through e-mail at

Growing emphasis in the culinary world on the “sustainable table” and the importance of offering locally grown food led Kendall officials to approach the college about a “farm to table” tour for some of their senior students.

“It wasn’t difficult to find places they could go,” said Sylvia F. Smith, an assistant professor in food and nutrition who worked out the details. “The difficult part was cutting down the list -- there just wasn’t enough time to include all the stops we’d like to make. We’re hoping to make this an annual thing, though, so maybe next year….”

The students arrive Sunday, Sept. 7, and after a brief, drive-by tour of the University Farms, it will be time for -- what else? -- dinner.

“We’ll be cooking burgers made from Lick Creek grass-fed beef, bisonburgers and that all-American standby, hamburgers made from grain-fed beef with 75 percent meat and 25 percent fat — and then having a taste test,” Smith said with a laugh.

Over the next four days, the students will see how milk is produced, visit some soybean and corn fields, learn about the ways in which cattle that eat grass differ from those that eat grain and witness what’s involved in the slaughter of cows and hogs. They’ll also get an up-close view of livestock artificial insemination, find out what’s growing in today’s farm ponds, observe how vegetables do with less bug and weed killer and smaller amounts of fertilizer, taste some of the region’s unique grape varieties and, while they’re at the vineyard, help out with harvest.

“They want as much hands-on experience as they can get, so the students will be picking grapes,” Smith said.

The visit will end Thursday, Sept. 11, with a wine dinner for 50, cooked and plated by the Kendall students. The menu will feature striped bass over cabbage slaw and tomatillo salsa verde; farm greens with roasted bell peppers, grape tomatoes, goat cheese and shallot vinaigrette; watermelon granita; grilled pork loin with onion and mustard seed marmalade, roasted herb potatoes and creamed corn, finished off with caramelized apple shortcake topped with ginger caramel sauce and crème Chantilly.

“Almost all the food will be locally obtained,” Smith said.

“We see this as a great opportunity to promote some of Southern Illinois’ food products, especially as many of these students will go on to work in restaurants in Chicago. After this introduction, we hope they will be wanting to use some of the products they’ve learned about here.”