Bluefield High Hosts AG for Life Dinner

Nurturing community through celebrating food and career exploration

Rows of bench tables filled the Bluefield High School cafeteria. Each individual place setting was distinguished by a menu of the evening’s fare and carefully arranged tableware. Burlap wrapped mason jars holding small, glowing tealight candles spanned the tables. Conversation hummed at booths around the perimeter of the room. Here education, industry, community, and food intersected.

Bluefield High School Ag for Life Dinner was created to connect students to farming and spark a discussion about agriculture on PEI. Agri-science teacher, Jason Campbell, originally had the idea years ago as an interesting way to bring together students and the agricultural community. A program called genAG was developed in 2016 and is now being used in schools across Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, and PEI as a way to promote agricultural career exploration in high schools. The genAg program has been part of Agriculture in the Classroom, a program headed up by the PEI Agriculture Sector Council. When Campbell caught wind of the genAg seed money available to high school initiatives that explore agricultural careers, he asked culinary teacher Terry Nabuurs and hospitality teacher Emily Perry, if they would be interested in integrating an agricultural evening into their curriculum.

75 students from these three Bluefield classes busied themselves over two months and one finely-executed evening to provide over 200 individuals with a pre-dinner tradeshow, oyster bar, three-course meal, and a diverse lineup of speakers telling their unique agricultural stories.

It was a nearly a full house at the dinner. Submitted photo

Various representatives from the agricultural community including (but not limited to), Heartbeet Organics, Farm and Food Care PEI, Cooper Institute, Environmental and Applied Science Holland College, PEI Federation of Agriculture, ADL, Dalhousie University, PEI Food Security Network, and PEI Certified Organic Producers Co-Operative, all had representatives and information booths at the tradeshow. The room was filled with parents, teachers, students, farmers, media, and individuals from the community interested in agriculture. The meal prepared by the culinary students, Nabuurs, and guest chef Jesse MacDonald, consisted of a roasted butternut squash soup appetizer, oven roasted beef, pork, and chicken with roasted parsnip and potato mash and seasonal vegetables as a main course. The meal was finished off with blueberry crumble, vanilla ice cream, and crème anglaise for dessert.

If you were fortunate enough to find yourself next to the Heartbeet Organics’ ladies throughout the evening, you may have even quenched your thirst with a generous pour of HO kombucha.

An appetizing meal was presented to all who attended. Submitted photo

Breakout sessions hosted by various local farmers, industry representatives, and agricultural ambassadors engaged students and community members in focused dialogue preceding the meal. Keynote speakers presented throughout the duration of the dinner and included comedic storyteller Dennis “Denny” King on farming as central to PEI culture, Food Exchange PEI committee member Darcie Lanthier on food security in PEI, as well as PEI Food Security Network member Ann Wheatley on food sovereignty.

With no expectations for ticket sales or what would come of the event, the students and three teachers were very pleased with the outcome of the evening. “The goal was really just to have a discussion about agriculture,” Campbell said. He is unsure what the group will do with any profits that are potentially made from the ticket sales. “We will probably do something to celebrate completing tonight, but other than that, I’m not sure.” The organizers of the event are unsure if this will occur again next year, however, according to Campbell, they would consider applying for the genAg funding again in the future.

About Hanna Hameline

Hanna is a graduate of UPEI with a B.A. in Sociology. She has completed trainings in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Shambhala Meditation, and Maritime Yoga College 200-HR Yoga teacher training program. Hanna currently works as the communications coordinator for the PEI Certified Organic Producers Co-operative and has volunteered with PEI Food Security Network, ECO PEI, The Voluntary Resource Centre, and Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. She warmly invites you to contact her with any food lovin’ stories or ideas you would like written about.

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