Creative and Sustainable Learning Opportunities for Students

A view of Tanya’s property.

Much of what we do at UGSRP is done by our students from the University of Guelph’s School of Hospitality, Food, and Tourism Management. Each year we bring on an intern to help manage our symposium and create content for our platform.  This past year we were blessed to have Elaine Li join us who wrote a wonderful case study on Planet Bean Coffee as well as helping run our very successful 9th annual UGSRP Symposium. 

For the 20/21 school year our intern will be 2nd year student Lily Wilson who is very passionate about the environment and beer-making!  Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we will not be hosting a Symposium this year but instead will look to Lily to help create digital content so we can continue to highlight companies that are making progress in the area of sustainable food-service.

In addition to our intern position we supervise students on what are known as independent study courses.  Students choose a topic of sustainable study and work with their supervisor to craft the learning objectives, course content, and assessment tools.  Over the years we have supervised over 20 of these courses including topics ranging from restaurant management retention to social enterprises in food-service.

This year we have confirmed one study to date. Tanya Broschinski, a third-year student will be completing a course entitled Introduction to Organic and Biodynamic Agriculture. In this course Tanya will compare conventional and organic farming and learn about an alternative called biodynamic farming which views the farm as an ecosystem through biomimicry.

Here is what Tanya said when we asked her to explain the motivation for taking the course and what the design process to create it looked like.

“One of my favourite childhood memories was sitting down at the dinner table and figuring how much of the food on our plate was from our garden or locally sourced. My mother often went on permaculture retreats and spoke at local rotary club meetings about the importance of eating local foods that promote local economy and good health. Our household motto was always ‘one thing we will never skimp on is good healthy food’. This mindset came from my Opa who had to live on rations during World War II. We were not financially well off and most of our money went to putting good food on the table. Opa always said while it may be more expensive now, investing in your health will always pay off in the future. I never realized how fortunate I was to grow up on a farm, in a small community with a butcher down the road until my first-year Foodservice class with Professor McAdams. We had numerous successful industry experts come in to talk about their sustainable endeavors and their search for great tasting food through the organic farm-to-table movement. Farm-to-table was all I ever really knew.

The food you buy is important because it tells the market what to continue producing. If there is no longer a market for local organic foods they will slowly disappear from our grocery stores and from our production. What happens when a pandemic hits and food can no longer be transported in the same way? During my coop with Coast Hotels I got to experience the big city. I was living in Vancouver during the outbreak of COVID-19. After seeing rows of empty shelves at our local grocery store it dawned on me that cities could face a huge food crisis if the supply chain can no longer transport food to the city. People living in cities rely heavily on long distance transportation of food. Reducing the distance of the supply chain and returning to local sourcing can be part of the solution to the empty store shelves. For this to happen farms would need to move from monoculture farming to regenerative biodiverse farming to offer the same variety of foods at a shorter distance. I truly believe that farms like Apricot Lane Farms featured in the Netflix film ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ will be the farms of the future. Not only do these farms produce great tasting food but they are better for the environment because of their focus on diversity and their ability to work with nature rather than seeing nature as a threat.

COVID eventually moved me back home to the farm. These events reignited my passion for sustainably sourced local foods and my mind raced with ideas of converting our little homestead into a biodynamic farm. While my passion was admirable, I still needed a direction. That’s when I remembered my first-year Foodservice class and decided my next step was to reach out to Professor McAdams. He was instantly able to provide me with incredible sources of information from books and websites to connecting with actual farmers pursuing a more sustainable farming method. We decided that setting up and independent study course was the best route for me to explore this new topic with some professional guidance. I was sent the rough draft of a course outline template which I was able to edit and fill in according to how I envisioned the course. It’s personalized to my learning style and very flexible to my timetable. It’s great to know that I’m not alone on this journey, to have the support from UGSRP and to have someone to guide my passions in a productive direction. Here starts my journey in memory of my Opa to ensure that no one has to skimp on good healthy food.”

Keep an eye on our website as a part of Tanya’s course work will be to produce several articles for our project.  Not that you need it Tanya, but good luck in your studies!

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