Unit 3: Why Organic?

Unit 3 takes students on a journey to the source of their food: nature. The readings and lectures get down to the soil-level of agricultural production and the differences between farming practices. In addition, lectures draw out the harmful effects of persistent pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and hormones not only for the environment but also for adolescent health. “Why Organic?” will help students make reasoned, healthy decisions about their well-being and the well-being of the planet.

THE LECTURES aim to equip students with the necessary knowledge to make healthy food choices. An introduction to the cuts of meat is followed by an outline of agricultural practices and labels. Students will learn the differences between “Conventional”, “Organic”, “Sustainable”, “Natural” and several others. Rounding out the lectures is a focused outline of adolescent nutrition, which addresses the particular needs of growing young adults. These lectures challenge students not only to think about what they eat, but also where their food comes from. Discussions and Activities are placed throughout the lectures to aid the teacher in making lectures more engaging.

View a chart of agricultural practices.

THE READINGS are from the book that jump-started the modern environmental movement: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.  Carson shows the effect pesticides and herbicides have on our environment. Students learn how chemicals can concentrate as they move up the food chain and how residues can last many years and travel through aquifers. This book is a resounding statement in favor of organically grown foods because organic farms do not have the chemical impact of conventional agriculture.

STUDY QUESTIONS guide students through the text, and can be used to facilitate class discussions.

THE RECIPES in Unit 3 increase in complexity of flavor and preparation, as students build on the basic skills acquired in Units 1 & 2. Many of the dishes are rich and seasonally appropriate to winter, while other recipes are ethnic and expand the students’ palette. We strongly recommend sourcing foods from organic and local farms or from food co-ops that do. Be sure to read through the “Teaching Kitchen Guide” and the recipes before starting the class!

Pear Pecan Bread or Pumpkin Bread
Gingerbread Cake
Meat Turnovers – Beef or Vegetable Pasties
Soto Ayam (Asian flavored chicken soup)
Salmon Quiche
East Indian Recipes – Dahl and Rhaita
Cream Puffs
Homemade Pasta with Alfredo Sauce and Vegetables
Caesar Salad
Stuffed Delicata Squash, Cooked Cranberry Relish
Pumpkin Pie and Easy to Work Pie Crust
Baklava – Greek
Stir Fry with various sauces – Asian
Thai – Spring rolls
Parker House Rolls

ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS to accompany this course are a field trip to a local butcher to discuss meat cuts and pricing and, a perennial favorite (especially for parents!), preparation of a FAMILY MEAL, an assignment in which students make dinner for their family and document the experience.