Food a common denominator across many types of businesses

I was listening to a story on the radio about a bagel shop that was closing down temporarily because they couldn’t find anyone to work the counter. Not the most glamorous of jobs, but a job nonetheless. The owner said that things have been changing for a few years and that the usual university student applicants would apply after exams rather than before. She said that the students would also want time off in the summer before going back to school in the fall.

My first real job was as a busboy at Mulvaney’s restaurant on Granville Island. I ended up working in the retardant business full time while attending university and spent many years in various roles in the business. I really learned a lot in those years and still have a broad appreciation of the various aspects of the hospitality industry and its role in the food economy.

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I talk about these experiences with youth in the Delta school district in the hopes that the students understand how food is a common denominator across many types of businesses.

In June, Darren Gates, the owner of the popular Mario’s and Gracie's restaurants in Tsawwassen came to speak to the Farm Roots students to attach dollar figures to food requirements in the hospitality industry. He also talked about his upbringing in a farm family in Saskatchewan and his transition to the restaurant business here in B.C.

We also chatted about careers in the hospitality business and what types of incomes could be generated in various positions.

You could see the lightbulbs turning on as the students grasped the possibilities of supplying food to restaurants and the economic benefits for growers.

This is the last week of the summer programming at Farm Roots and the third year will begin in a few short weeks. The kids have been harvesting crops for the two restaurants who will be working with the students.

Chefs Daniel Hofing of Mario’s, and Miguel Curiel of Gracie’s came down to the farm recently to survey the crops on the go and to provide a wish list for current seeding for a fall harvest. Farm interns Jasmine Bal and Shamus Harder have prepped several rows on the farm and the summer contingent will be seeding this week. A fresh sheet will be supplied to the restaurants weekly listing what is available and in what quantity.

The summer program sees the kids spending time earning credits in the classroom and earning money in the fields. This unique approach provides a stipend to the participants and for many this will be remembered as a first job.

Revenues from farm markets, the farm stand at the Boundary Bay site, and from sales to Mario’s and Gracie's and other sources, will go back in to the programming but more importantly, the students will gain an insight in to the inner workings of the economics of  farming.

From an educational and learning perspective, these relationships will ultimately benefit all of us if young people become engaged with food and farming activities at an early age.

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