Hyde Chefs Present at Maine Farm to School Conference

Chefs Donna Leonard, Mike Flynn, and Lily Chaless
Chefs Donna Leonard and Mike Flynn with Food Corps Member Lily Chaless

On Friday, October 16, Hyde School Chef Mike Flynn and Sous Chef Donna Leonard traveled north to the Kennebec Valley Community College Alfond Campus at GoodWill-Hinkley to present at the 4th annual Maine Farm to School Conference.

The conference brought together the leaders in the farm to school movement, including the Maine School Garden Network, the Maine Farm to School Network, FoodCorps Maine/UMaine Extension, and Maine Agriculture in the Classroom. These programs are working to weave agricultural knowledge and experience into Maine classrooms. The three goals of the movement are to: 1) get Maine foods into Maine schools; 2) start school gardens; and 3) educate students about Maine agriculture and healthy food.

Chef Flynn demonstrates how to cut a pepper with the least amount of food waste
Chef Flynn demonstrates how to cut a pepper with the least amount of food waste

The conference featured an inspiring keynote address by Bath, Maine native Erin McGuire, who is the Policy Director for the National Farm to School Network out of Washington, DC. McGuire’s father still sells produce from his farm, Shamrock Green Farms, on Centre Street in Bath. Previously Erin worked for Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for five years as her Legislative Assistant and Director of Outreach, covering school nutrition and agricultural issues.

Following the keynote address there were small group panel discussions, workshops, and tours of the beautiful new KVCC Hinckley campus that includes a 120-acre farm and productive greenhouse.

Chefs Flynn and Leonard, along with help from Food Corps member Lily Chaless, who is currently serving at Cultivating Community in Portland, presented a workshop entitled, “Hone Your Knife Skills: Techniques for Practical Preparation” in the new 16,500 square-foot classroom and laboratory building, named the KVCC Center for Science and Agriculture. This building was designed with the goal of achieving net zero energy status and uses geothermal and other renewable energy technologies to supply electricity and energy for heating and cooling. They were honored to be able to teach the first class in a brand new food laboratory. Throughout the lesson, many of the people touring campus would pop in to see the lab in use for the first time.

Chef Flynn after demonstrating different types of cuts and how to de-liquify a tomato
Chef Flynn after demonstrating different types of cuts and how to de-liquify a tomato

The workshop was not only for demonstration purposes, Chefs Flynn and Leonard and participants were tasked with preparing the garden salad for the conference lunch. After some instruction on the different types of knives and different cutting techniques, including a demonstration of an ingenious way to clean a knife sharpener by running it through an expired lemon so the little metal chards would not end up on your hands or the ground, the workshop picked up the pace and all participants practiced what they had just learned to get the salad prepared on time. Another trick? Cut your tomatoes in half, and then gently squeeze out the juice and seeds before cutting so your salad does not end up watery.

All of the produce for the garden salad was grown in the school’s greenhouse and freshly picked. The class prepared lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and peppers, and Chef Flynn arranged it into an artful display, ready for the lunch buffet.

Chefs Flynn and Leonard’s next tasks? Hyde School is hosting its annual Fall Family Weekend, October 23-25, and then hosting its annual Maine Youth Leadership Conference on Friday, November 6, where 1,000 Maine students are slated to attend, and all will be hungry for lunch!