By CATHERINE TWING of the Rutland Herald
The Rutland Area Farm and Food Link aims to teach local residents how to find, use and enjoy locally sourced produce.
One of RAFFL’s main programs, The Everyday Chef, meets people where they are to teach skills and share the joy of cooking. Grace Davy is RAFFL’s coordinator for Everyday Chef, or EDC, and leads cooking workshops at a variety of organizations in Rutland County.
“They’re educational cooking workshops, trying to empower people to make good food choices which can lead to good choices in life,” Davy said.
EDC has workshops open to the public at the Godnick Adult Center in Rutland, as well as private sessions at nonprofit groups and community organizations such as the Serenity House in Wallingford.
“ I try to keep things under an hour,” Davy said. “We always chop vegetables; first thing we do is knife skills. Being able to chop with a knife is a wonderful empowering thing to do.”
More than 50 percent of 2016 participants say they cut more vegetables now that they’ve learned how to do so properly, she said.
Davy will teach two series for the public in the coming months at the Godnick Center — Cooking for One and The Family that Cooks. Each workshop costs $5 or $10 to attend, and participants are required to sign up in advance on the RAFFL website. The Cooking for One series teaches the pleasures of cooking for one, and ways to stretch ingredients that might spoil.
The Family that Cooks series will be about familyfriendly meals like pizza, grilling, spring rolls or pretzels. The pretzel workshop scheduled for May 6 is already full and the others are filling up fast.
“ I can show families (cooking) is just as enjoyable as watching TV; making spring rolls together or pretzels,” she said.
Davy loves using vegetables in every meal, including those where vegetables are not usually found. “You can bet we’ll be putting vegetables in those pretzels,” she said. “It’s a RAFFL thing. Tomatoes pureed, and kneaded into the dough with some spinach. A beet in a brownie doesn’t make it healthier, but it kicks it up a notch.”
She focuses on making things nutritious rather than healthy.
“ Healthyiskindof loaded,” she said. “ You just never know. It’s very ambiguous to me. Nutritious means that you get the biggest bang out of your buck, and it’s good for you.”
Davy asks the host location to provide the ingredients and space, and she does the rest. April Cioffi at the Rutland City Recreation and Parks Department said she’s enthusiastic about the opportunities the workshops bring the community. The Rec Department runs the Godnick Adult Center.
“It’s a nice opportunity for families,” Cioffi said, adding that she was excited about the session for children coming up.
She hopes to plan more workshops with RAFFL for the fall and winter and find ways to attract more older community members.
“It benefits the community members whether kids or adults, and shows it is not that challenging to be able to cook healthy meals with simple local ingredients,” she said.
In addition to workshops, Davy has a PEG-TV show, “Local Farmer, Everyday Chef,” in which local farmers talk about how to cook with local products.
Davy gets many of her ingredients through RAFFL’s Farm Fresh Connect, an online marketplace which allows residents, organizations and businesses to order food from local farms. Trucks deliver to pick-up locations throughout Rutland County.
Farm Fresh Connect offers produce, eggs, meat, dairy and prepared foods, as well as items like locally made dog treats or honey, making it possible for people to get local products from a variety of farms without having to travel.
RAFFL also arranges for organizations to receive surplus produce from local farmers. Davy likes to do workshops at locations that receive gleaned produce to show what they can do with what they receive.
“Farms have lots of stuff growing and they want to get things harvested,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll have people come out and help them harvest everything, and then those people can take home a certain percentage.”