If one thing distinguishes the Westport Farmers’ Market from many other markets, it is its sense of, and dedication to, the Westport and surrounding communities. On Friday, February 15, 2019, the WFM will join forces with another steward of a healthy community – teachers – for a Professional Development Day like no other.
For many years, the WFM has spearheaded a program with Staples High School Culinary Arts Program called Farm-to-School-to-Community whereby students in the culinary arts program provide a meal once per month for guests at the Gillespie Center, a non-denominational program serving people in need. On the second Thursday during the month (Saturdays during the winter), students from the culinary program shop for provisions from farmers and others at the Westport market to create food for people at Gillespie.
According to Cecily Gans, Chef Instructor of the Staples program, Owner of The Main Course Catering, and member of the WFM board, “Nearly 90% of all ingredients for our meals at Gillespie come from local farmers at the WFM. Students learn to prepare seasonal dishes and serve their fellow community members using fresh, healthful ingredients.”
This February, however, the WFM, Gans, and fellow Staples Chef Instructor and owner of AMG Catering and Events Alison Milwe-Grace thought why not introduce teachers to the successful Gillespie program at their annual Professional Development Day? Teachers, under the guidance of Gans, Milwe-Grace, a third Chef Instructor Laura Wendt, and students, will shop for ingredients at the WFM, create, and serve a meal for a community that often goes unnoticed in Westport. Milwe-Grace’s company, AMG Catering and Events, will be paying for all ingredients.
“This event will give the educators in our school district an overview of the Culinary program's relationship with the community (especially those in need), the Westport Farmers’ Market, the farmers that provide the raw product for the meals we create, and the challenges the students face as they put the meals together from raw product to finished meal,” said Milwe-Grace. “It’s the kind of program that I am very passionate about.”
Building relationships around local food and connecting farmers to the recipients of the food they grow, catch, or raise, is fundamental to WFM’s mission. Gans is excited to share her student’s experiences with the Farm-to-School-to-Community program with teachers who, she says, similarly want to be of service. She also noted that it also strengthens relationships between students and instructors.
“Getting teachers involved in production has strong impact. It demonstrates how challenging a task it can be to orchestrate the meals we do throughout the school year. I am incredibly proud of the Farm-to-School-to-Community program and the participation of our students in its success. We and the students look forward to sharing that hands-on experience with Westport teachers next week at the Gillespie Center for Professional Development Day."