GHS EARTH Turns Focus to Farm to Table Culinary Effort

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Iowa State EARTH interns Macy Mears, Maia van Holsteijn, Jessica Abiwijaya and Shane Brewer with director Dr. Dave Minner.

The Gifft Hill School’s Education and Resiliency Through Horticulture program recently welcomed its biggest group of interns yet, and EARTH director Dr. Dave Minner looks forward to using the interns’ diverse abilities to work directly with newly hired GHS chef and culinary arts teacher La’Shanda Francis in developing the school’s lunch program.

New Interns Welcomed
Four Iowa State interns — landscape architecture senior Jessica Abiwijaya, culinary science/hospitality management junior Shane Brewer, dietetic sophomore Macy Mears, and landscape design senior Maia van Holsteijn — will combine their talents to bring GHS’s goal of a farm to table-style lunch program to fruition.

“This program gives me a chance to come down here and develop a menu for the school,” said Brewer. “I also work in food service at Iowa State, so this is where I’m comfortable being.”

“I thought I could help with menu development and making sure we eat a lot of healthy produce here,” added Mears.

In addition to developing the school’s lunch menu, the gardens at the Gifft Hill home where the interns are residing will be designed, a project that van Holsteijn said she’s looking forward to.

When the students aren’t working on the lunch menu or their home’s gardens, they spend time with students in grades K/1, and 4-12 teaching them to develop a love of, and appreciation for, the art of horticulture.

“As the younger children are exposed to this program, we’re going to see the fruits of this as they get older, because they’re being brought up learning how to grow and harvest their own food,” said GHS Interim Head of School Beth Knight. “Personally, I think it’s a very unique program and I don’t believe there’s any other school in the territory that offers a program like this.”

The benefits of EARTH, which is now in its fourth year at GHS, are already being observed. Even students as young as kindergartners are enjoying their part in growing fresh foods, Knight explained.

“The kindergartners have a purple garden — they wanted everything to be purple, and they lovingly care for it,” she said. “It’s really interesting to hear young kids who are excited about bok choy. When you hear little five-year-olds saying, ‘I can’t wait to eat the bok choy,’ or ‘Let me eat some kale,’ it’s refreshing to hear.”

The program, which also benefits Iowa State students by giving them hands-on experience for a full semester, is growing in interest at the midwest university. This is the first year that Minner was able to be more selective about choosing interns for the program, even turning some away, he explained.

“This is the first time we’ve had four interns,” he said. “Their talents are getting more diverse. Now that we’re getting into the culinary side of things, I’m happy to have an architect, a designer, a chef, and a human nutritionist — that’s a pretty diverse group.”

The four interns have enjoyed themselves so far in their first few weeks on island, they explained.

“I’ve worked them hard,” said Minner. “They’re responding very well, bringing their own talents to the program.”