This blog has been neglected for about 3 months, but I promise you I have good excuses. One excuse I am most excited to tell you about is that I submitted a grant proposal to implement seed libraries at all of our El Paso Public Library locations. During the process of writing the grant I came across a workshop offered during EPISD’s spring break. The Edible Education Spring Break Institute was a four day workshop organized by La Semilla Food Center. It was targeted towards teachers on how to incorporate gardening and cooking in the classroom, but they allowed me to register since we offer youth programs at the library. Plus, it totally aligned with the grant I was writing.
La Semilla is a nonprofit group in Anthony, New Mexico that is doing great things for our community, while growing delicious food. They are dedicated to fostering a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of Southern New Mexico and El Paso, TX. They teach cooking and garden skills in classrooms, afterschool clubs, and have cooking nights for families. They are currently accepting applications for their really cool summer day camps for K-6. So, if you’ve got $45 and a bored kiddo, sign them up! Visit www.lasemillafoodcenter.org for more details. They operate on a 14 acre demonstration farm, which produces some delicious fruits and vegetables. You can buy their produce on Saturdays at the Downtown Artist & Farmers Market from 9 am-1 pm.
The institute took place at Bowie High School, which was the perfect setting since they have a student garden that is about a year old. Activities at Bowie Jardines are incorporated into the science, business, and culinary school programs. Throughout the institute, we visited the garden to learn about concepts and apply activities. If this institute is ever offered again and you’re an educator, you NEED to sign up. I know that our Texas school system lives and breathes STAAR testing, but I think it is possible to incorporate some of these activities and concepts into the classroom with little effort. I’m going to implement it into our library youth programs, as we have much more flexibility. Our challenge is that we sometimes lack an audience. Here’s a quick little recap of what we learned and did in photos: Day 1, March 9:
For lunch on this day, we broke up into teams and made different massaged kale salads that were all yummy.
Day 2, March 10:
For lunch on this day, we had a cooking demonstration from Eduardo Bouche, who teaches cooking classes at Creative Kids and at Proper Printshop. He made vegan ceviche where the seafood was replaced with boiled cauliflower. It was refreshing and delicious! You can attend his free vegan cooking classes on the 1st & 3rd Sundays of the month at 5 pm at Proper Printshop on 800 Montana. Visit epvegan.com for more info.
Day 3, March 11:
For lunch on this day, we had a super flavorful dish taught by Jacqueline Cordova of The Green Ingredient. We used a spiralizer to make raw zucchini noodles that were tossed in a marinara sauce made from tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and other ingredients. Even though the dish was raw, the “noodles” had a nice toothsome texture that went great with the marinara sauce that could rival a slow-simmered sauce.
The day ended with a field trip to Academy West where Travis Duckworth is doing some really interesting and amazing things to teach and encourage sustainability in our region. El Paso Academy is a 9-12th grade charter school located in both east and west El Paso, but the west location has a huge community garden project going on in their own 1.25-acre backyard. A maze of trenches, composting, an amphitheater, chicken coop, and more all being built by students and the community. Anyone can volunteer to help out during their garden work days that occur every month. To learn more, read this article that appeared in the El Paso Times.
Day 4, March 12: So, on this day I happened to have an interview for a promotion scheduled following the workshop. I was a ball of nerves the whole morning, but this was my favorite day. We got to plant our own herb gardens and keep them, which totally relaxed me. I even hauled my herb garden with me to the interview at the Main Library. We also learned about traditional foods of the southwest, like nopal, chia, and amaranth. For lunch, Chef Norbert Portillo of Tabla demonstrated how to make a salad. As a food blogger and fan of Chef Norbert’s work, you know this was super exciting for me. I learned some new techniques and then ate a salad made with greens that had been harvested from their farm that morning. Talk about fresh!