‘Field-to-fork’ goes global

(Top row, left to right) Durham College President Don Lovisa, Alcides Malpica, Luis Alore. (Sitting, left to right) International Project Specialist Katie Boone, Monica Rubinos and Patricia Gonzales

The Centre for Food at Durham College’s Whitby Campus is blossoming as an industry leader in experimental education and Bistro ’67 is the centre-piece. Opened in 2013, Bistro ’67 is home to the college’s culinary arts and event management programs.

Last year, the college began to hold multi-course dinners hosted by local celebrity chef, Jamie Kennedy. Designed to promote the restaurant to local residents, these dinners are also a way for the college to showcase the concept of “field-to-fork”, an idea that the restaurant industry can both incorporate and thrive on the locally grown and sourced ingredients.

In 2013, Durham International and the Centre for Food were awarded a contract to share the college’s experience and expertise in culinary arts and gastronomy with the Experimental Centre for Vocational Training, or CEFOP, a technical and vocational college in Trujillo, Peru. The goal is to help update and develop the curriculum at CEFOP and to enhance Durham’s exposure to diverse cultures and communities. In October, a delegation from Peru toured Durham’s Whitby and Oshawa campuses, meeting with faculty and sharing ideas on programs and services.

For the college, “field-to-fork” is an idea on the cutting edge of education and development. While still very much an experiment, both faculty and administration are keen to develop the concept further as a way to benefit not only students, but the local economy in Durham Region as well.

Dave Hawey, Chair of the CFF, explains that the concept integrates nearly every program offered at Durham, “From food and farming, horticulture, pharmaceuticals, food processing all the way through culinary, baking, and events and hospitality,” he says. “We ingrain the whole idea and concept and principals of field-to-fork and culinary tourism and everything that we can offer to build a local and sustainable environment, right here in the CFF.”

With the guidance of Chef Kennedy, an established leader in the “field-to-fork” concept, the Centre for Food integrated every step of the food production process into their culinary arts and event management programs with Bistro ’67 as its centre-piece.

But why “field-to-fork”, you might ask. Durham College is an established technical college that has been training horticulturalists and event managers for almost 50 years.

According to its Mission and Values Statement, Durham College is built on the idea of providing a dynamic and supportive learning environment by offering new opportunities to learn advanced skills in new technologies and capitalizing on the experiences and expertise of the staff and faculty.

How does Durham accomplish this as an institution? Through partnership. Durham College partners with many different businesses, schools and organizations from across Durham Region every year. In 2015, Durham has expanded its partnerships across continents and oceans.

Over the past two years, Durham College has been working together with Colleges and Institutions Canada, CICAN, an association of colleges that works to facilitate and secure funding for its member colleges and technical schools in Canada to find and develop partnerships with institutions from around the globe.

It is through Durham’s relationship with CICan and funding from Global Affairs Canada, formerly the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), that the College can work with CEFOP and develop relationships with other institutions and programs from around the world.

Like Durham, CEFOP is a publicly funded institution designed to train and educate the next generation of the workforce and create opportunities that benefit both students and communities. Administrators and faculty from both are keen share practices and ideas with like-minded and established institutions.

Don Lovisa, President of Durham College, believes that international partnerships, like the one with CEFOP, are important because of the global nature of the world in 2015. Opportunities to bring the world to Durham students and faculty, and the send them out into the world, creates an opportunity to share best practices and to learn from each other and enhance the experience at all institutions.

For CEFOP, the partnership with Durham College is an opportunity to build a program that engages the community and develops the local culinary and hospitality industry.

That’s where Durham’s Centre For Food can help. Opened in 2013, the CFF is founded on the concept of “field-to-fork”, an idea that local food and agriculture can feed local mouths.

“We’ve set strong goals around sustainability and sustainable agricultural practices,” says Lovisa. “It’s about getting food closer to home. It’s about nutrition and health programs. It’s very core to what we believe in.”

Monica Rubinos, Vice-President of Academics with CEFOP, chose to partner with Durham because of the CFF and its reputation as a leader in the “field-to-fork” concept. CEFOP hopes to mirror the structure of Durham and the CFF as they grow their culinary and hospitality program. The idea of incorporating agriculture, to the point of production and post-production for their new culinary program and existing horticulture program can be a game-changer for a traditionally rural country like Peru with a predominantly agricultural economy.

The “field-to-fork” concept is part of Durham’s vision for the future and central to the college’s commitment to sustainability. Food security and food safety are important issues for Durham Region and Canadian communities today, and Durham is leading the way to securing them.

The match between Durham College and CEFOP is more than one of convenience, by sharing ideas and practices around concepts such as sustainability and education, communities in both Peru and Canada can grow into a more secure and nutritional future.