The local food movement has taken the country – and the state of New York – by storm. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, local food sales in the U.S. increased from $4.8 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. It’s clear that more and more Americans want to know where their food comes from, as well as enjoy the many benefits of locally-grown produce. Not only is local food often better tasting and better for you, but buying local both strengthens local economies as well as brings communities together – and nowhere is this truer than right here in New York. In addition to the local food trend, sustainable farming practices are steadily increasing with a greater focus being placed on farming techniques that protect the environment.
As part of Tompkins Cortland Community College’s Farm to Bistro concept, students are gaining hands-on, real-world experience in every aspect of the food production system, including planning, growing, marketing, distributing, preparing, and presenting. The program is comprised of two key components: the TC3 Organic Farm and the Coltivare Culinary Center. Located adjacent to the college’s Dryden campus, the TC3 farm supplies fresh, certified organic produce to the college’s culinary center Coltivare, a restaurant/bistro in downtown Ithaca. Together, the farm and bistro are providing students with the opportunity to learn the skills they need to be competitive in today’s marketplace.
Functioning as a dynamic field lab and classroom, the TC3 farm provides the ideal opportunity for students to experience food production at a human-scaled, local level. Sustainability is the focus of the farm, as students experience cultivating the land and working in hoop houses on a farm run free of the commercial energy grid through the use of wind, solar, and geothermal technology. “The ultimate goal is to have the farm have as much renewable energy as possible,” says Todd McClane, the TC3 Farm Director. This will be achieved by the use of windmills, solar panels, and other methods of generating renewable energy.
Located in downtown Ithaca, the Coltivare Culinary Center includes a full-service restaurant, culinary labs, an amphitheater, a wine cellar, and a special event space. The bistro’s seasonal restaurant menu features fresh ingredients from the TC3 Farm and other local sources combined with global flavors for a true “Farm to Bistro” experience. The 17,000 square-foot culinary center also functions as a dynamic teaching lab and classroom where TC3 students can take classes and gain experience on the tail end of the food production system. This includes learning to prepare fresh, hand-crafted foods as well as learning all aspects of a team-driven restaurant enterprise – meal planning and preparation, professional service techniques, and food and wine pairing expertise.
With the Farm to Bistro concept, TC3 is offering education for industries that no other community college is currently providing. SUNY’s work with our local communities and agriculture is playing an important role in providing quality education, economic growth, and a future in food.
Serah was a social media intern in the SUNY Office of New Media, having graduated from the University at Albany with Business Administration degree with concentrations in marketing and finance and minors in economics and communications.