The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Where does your garden grow?

Scott bought a lamb that a friend then raised – and she witnessed the slaughtering process. Eighty-five percent of our meat comes from four companies’ slaughterhouses, she says. She wanted a slaughtering process that was less industrialized – and she felt it only right that she be a part of the process from beginning to end.

Last year, she went to a Slow Food “Terra Madre” gathering in Italy, where 6,000 people from 135 countries assembled. She sampled real foods from local cultures throughout the world. She ate donkey sausage and savored vanilla from Madagasar. Bringing back some items to prepare, “My house smelled like an Italian villa kitchen.”

She cites a reason French women tend to stay slim. They enjoy incredible food in small quantities, with richness and density. With food that good, meal after meal, there’s no reason to overeat. You’re satisfied.

Milk fat is good for us, she argues. Without it, your body knows it’s missing something – so you reach for Oreos.

Anne-Marie Scott with one of her chickens. Anne-Marie Scott with one of her chickens.

She eats pasture-fed meats. And butter. And whole-fat dairy products, like brie, “God’s gift to the cheese world.”

She has a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) agreement with a local farm. She pays $340 a year for a weekly bag of produce for 20 weeks starting May 9. A variety of vegetables and fruits are in each bag – “whatever has come up that week in the previous 48 hours.”

Grapes are in the grocery store in January. Some fruits are held up to a year in storage. “We torture them and then serve them 365 days a year.”

In her classroom, she sees a rise in interest – the students are hooked into ecology and sustainability. She thinks the movie “Food Inc.,” in theaters this summer, will spur more interest.

Instead of jogging or working out, she cooks. “I chop, cut, move around.” And she doesn’t worry that every dish may not turn out perfectly. As she tells her students, you must be willing to fail. Many of today’s younger generation aren’t used to failure. And many have never cooked – or seen others cook. When told to butter the bottom of a pan, she has seen students butter literally the underside of it. They’ve missed out on skills. Yet, “they cook incredible things in my lab.” Though maybe not the first time they try.

As she says, “I almost killed two ex-fiancees” [in early attempts at cooking]. The trick to successful dishes is keeping at it.


Under the Tuscans’ sun

Want the freshest food? Go straight to the source.

Charlie Headington, lecturer in religious studies, had a growing interest in small farms.

He and his wife Debbie Seabrooke, a lecturer in the College, began volunteering on farms in Italy around 2001, learning about their foods and culture. Meanwhile, the Slow Food movement, originating in Italy, was gaining momentum internationally.

The Slow Food movement has several elements, including: celebrating regional food traditions, supporting farmers’ markets, teaching young people and loving the earth. Headington helped found the local chapter: Slow Food Piedmont Triad. He attended two “Terra Madre” international Slow Food gatherings, in Italy in 2006 and 2008, further inspiring him. In his teaching and his lifestyle and his home and his meals, he lives it.

The couple’s backyard features six terraces of plantings beyond their clothesline. “I’ve discovered permaculture,” he says. It’s a type of ecological design that tries to mimic nature as much as possible.

Spring plantings of squash, spinach and mizuna are mixed in with broccoli, beets and beans. “I don’t till the soil, I let the worms do it for me,” he says. And bees, giving them 50-100 pounds of honey of year, help with pollination. “I’ve fallen in love with bees.”

In addition to his undergraduate course on campus, “Religious Traditions and Care of the Earth,” he teaches several Master of Arts in Liberal Studies courses. In one, students combine online coursework with time at a Tuscan farm noted for its Slow Food advocacy. “Sustainability on a Tuscan Farm” teaches lots about farm work and rural culture and the processes on a traditional Italian farm – from water systems to prosciutto making, from honey to olive oil.

Each evening, the students enjoy a long dinner – at least 1½ hours – with time to savor the farm’s produce and to talk at length with the farm’s workers. From sun-up to sundown, the course is a good introduction to a different way of life, he says.

Garden Fresh slideshow
click to see flash slideshow

Garden fresh
Young students at the Greensboro Montessori School reap – and eat – what they sow.

Headington also leads garden programs at area schools. He has led ones at Kiser Middle School, Elon Homes for Children and Greensboro Day School, and currently leads the program at Greensboro Montessori School. He advises other schools’ as well.

“I love to cook too,” he adds. He had a job as a cook, years ago, at the University of Chicago.

From seed to harvest to preparation to enjoyable meal.

He offers some good first steps to moving to a Slow Food mentality: Buy seasonal food. Buy local meat – and local eggs, with golden yokes, not pale ones. Go to the farmers’ market more, instead of the supermarket. “You’ll see for yourself.”

He enjoys sharing his knowledge with the younger generations. Food should be a very significant part of the curriculum, he says. “The cafeteria could be a classroom.”

With his leadership – and the assistance of UNCG students – some school gardens already are.


Eating it up

What do fourth graders call freshly harvested onions, fava beans, pansy flowers, cilantro and lettuce leaves?

The makings of a nice afternoon snack.

At Greensboro’s Montessori School, Spanish and gardening teacher Walter Moore ’05 joins Headington to guide students in harvesting plants. They all gather in a circle to confer, before they break up for tasks. One group pulls up onions and picks fava beans for a late lunch. Another picks lettuce leaves and cilantro and digs up overgrown lemon balm and radishes so new crops can be planted. Where the onions had been, the earth is being mounded in preparation for sweet potatoes.

It’s all a model of efficiency – like clock-work. Ask a student what they’re doing, they’ll explain it in full. As some are preparing the meal of wraps and salad, other students are planting seedlings. Others water plants. Time management and planning is obviously a big part of this – so is learning from peers and from nature.

A student asks Moore what’s basil in Spanish? “Albahaca.” Another student holding freshly pulled onions says, “Oh, that smells good.”

The gardening teacher for the schools’ youngest students also is a UNCG alumna, Jenny Kimmel ’07. Five of the six interns this year are UNCG students. The two here today helping the students, Aubrey Cupit and Christian Durango, hope to somehow farm, someday. It’s tricky to contemplate, thinking of the finances. But maybe it could work out. For now, they enjoy helping the kids learn. Durango says, “They eat it up … literally.”

Moore contemplates a life that involves farming, as well. As he says, these days small farmers work their day job, then farm till sunset. He loves teaching. But he can see his life someday taking that turn. “It’s my passion. To pay bills, I’d work 9 to 5.”

He is an advocate for permaculture, explaining that he wants to grow food “in a way that works with nature and the environment.” He works sometimes with a local farmer who hand-cultivates, without a tractor, learning how he might make a go of it.

But today, there is a table of fourth graders relishing their crops. They planted them. They weeded them. They harvested them. They prepared them. Now, they’re eating them.

The wraps, using boiled chard and cabbage leaves, are a big hit.

Cupit has some salad. “Hey, you guys grew this for me.”

Headington asks what they’ve learned today. One volunteers that you can’t water the leaves of squash on a sunny day, because it burns them. Another adds you know you can eat a plum when it’s plump and squishy.

There’s just one more question. “Who wants seconds?”

There’s plenty of takers.

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The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
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Last updated: Tuesday, 04 October 2011
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