Dirt Made My Lunch
The Ecology and Geography of Local Food and the Science in Food Prep
Dates: June 3rd-14th
Have you ever wondered where the apple in your lunchbox came from? Have you wondered why we can’t grow bananas in Fairbanks? In this module, we’ll explore where the food that we eat comes from and how the local climate in Fairbanks limits the local production. We’ll visit local farms to learn about varying farming techniques and practices. We’ll explore the different techniques farmers use to maximize yield during our short growing season and keep pests away. Students will study agro-ecological concepts with hands on lessons and on-farm experiences. They’ll see where farmer’s market food comes from and understand the steps to how it is produced. Additionally, students will use Google Earth to map the distance their meals travel to get to Fairbanks. Final projects include: 1) student designed and planted garden and 2) individual maps tracking the distribution of Fairbanks grown products after leaving the farm.
Everyone needs food to live, but you have to prepare that food correctly so people don’t get sick! Lots of wild foods grow in Alaska—but which ones can you safely eat?This module will focus on the biology and chemistry of food preparation. Students will collect and identify wild foods, such as berries, then learn ways to prepare them and even preserve them to eat later in the year.Did you know that you can cook with acid as well as heat?That even though some bacteria can make you sick, others can be used to make cheese and yogurt?Students will learn how to use yeast to bake bread and to make easy, tasty carbonated soft drinks. Finally, students will learn the difference between a fruit and a vegetable, understand how bees make honey, and explain which taste buds are responsible for those foods that they love (or don’t love). Students will learn how to preserve meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit safely, and try out some traditional foods from other countries, as well.They’ll even make some yummy snacks to take home and share with their family!
Mel Durrett is Ph.D. student, ecologist, and summer instructor at UAF.She grew up in Mississippi and earned her B.S. at the University of Wyoming in 2003.Mel researches the relationship between plants and soil: in Rocky Mountain forests, on New Zealand seabird islands, and most recently in Alaskan wetlands.When she’s not writing or teaching about plants, she’s probably collecting all the delicious wild foods Alaska has to offer—fishing, hunting, gardening, picking berries and mushrooms, and preserving them all to enjoy year-round! Mel taught the ASRA Plant Genetics module last year and she's looking forward to another summer of fun science!
Nicole Swenson is a Masters student in the school of Natural Resources Management and Agricultural Sciences at UAF. She has lived in Alaska for nearly 20 years and has studied and worked in many different ecosystems throughout her education. From Bering glacier, to Bristol Bay, Glacier National Park, to her family’s garden she has been fascinated with studying the natural world and how humans interact with it. While obtaining her degree in Biology in Montana, she discovered a perfect place to study the natural world in a human context: the farm! Our food system is a fascinating world of biology, physics, climatology, chemistry, economics and sociology. Nicole loves to explore all aspects of the food system and talk at great lengths about all sides of issues related to food, ecology, and science! In her free time she loves to canoe, sail, ski, hike, bike, grow food, and play music. If you join her on a journey through Fairbank’s food system, you can expect to learn, be outside, eat good food, play music, and have fun!
Alyse is currently a Master's student in the Biology and Wildlife Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is studying the effects of shrub expansion on decomposition and nitrogen cycling in the Arctic. She is particularly interested in how changing plant communities, due to climate change, can change the way an ecosystem works. Alyse first became interested in the effects of climate change on plant communities growing up in New Hampshire, where warmer temperatures could mean fewer maple trees, less maple syrup, and unhappy pancake Sundays. When not working on her research she can be found hiking, mountain biking, or curled up with a good book.
Sally Kieper has a BA in Elementary Education and Environmental Education. She also has a BS in Natural Resources: Environmental Education and Interpretations with a minor in Camp and Youth Agency Administration and Programming. In addition to her education, Sally has extensive experience as a teacher and is currently a teacher for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Aside from her teaching experience in a classroom, Sally was also the Program Head of Hidden Villa Summer Camp and an instructor for Upham Woods 4-H Environmental Education Center where she taught ecology lessons and led outdoor activities for youth grades K-12.