PAOLA — It’s only been a year since the culinary program was brought back to Paola High School, but students are already getting real-world opportunities to learn about agriculture and possible careers in the cooking industry.

A group of nearly 40 students in Kathy Wulfkuhle’s Culinary 1 class took a field trip Wednesday, Sept. 25, to explore the Overland Park Farmers Market, visit The Tasteful Olive and learn about the sustainable agriculture and culinary programs at Johnson County Community College.

Mike Hursey, who owns Casa Somerset Bed and Breakfast in Miami County, worked with Wulfkuhle to help set up and organize the field trip. Hursey has been a strong proponent of educating youths and the public at large about the importance of supporting locally grown food products.

Hursey recently established the Casa Somerset Sustainable Learning Center, with the mission of creating a community of people who work together to teach and practice regenerative and sustainable growing and farming.

He also helps teach a local food class at Johnson County Community College.

Hursey brought a few volunteers with him on the field trip to help guide the students. Andrea Hodges, who is in Hursey’s local food class, and Debbie Mize of Whispering Elm Farm were two of those volunteers.

At the farmers market, the students visited different booths, talked with vendors and sampled a variety of fresh produce and other products.

“They talked to farmers to see if their products were organic or not,” Hursey said. “It brought into their mind what’s out there.”

Nearby at The Tasteful Olive, they sampled different flavors of olive oil and explored the store.

After eating lunch at the farmers market, the students traveled to Johnson County Community College, where Stu Shafer led them on a tour of the six-acre farm.

They then walked through the culinary center with chef Edward Adel and watched meals being prepared.

Finally, they grabbed a seat in the auditorium for the local food class, during which they listened to William Gormley, the Food & Nutrition Programs Vista for the Olathe Family YMCA, talk about the importance of getting healthy food in the schools.

“It opened their eyes up,” Hursey said. “Some of the kids really got into it.”

Hursey wrapped up the week on Friday, Sept. 27, when he visited Paola High School to teach the culinary students how to make ratatouille.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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