Tuesday morning marked a groundbreaking achievement at Broadmoor Technical Center — literally. The school’s restaurant program is debuting a new urban farm to grow thousands of pounds of its own produce.
Chef Bob Brassard’s original plan was for the program to get a fancier and costlier garden with features such as a vertical herb garden and a hydroponic living wall. But recent plans to move the culinary students from 6701 W. 83rd St. in Overland Park to a new location at the site of the former Antioch Middle School have shelved those ideas for the moment.
Turning Antioch into an administrative center with the Broadmoor culinary center is still in the design stages and has yet to go through the bidding process, said Ed Streich, chief academic officer of the Shawnee Mission School District.
If all goes to plan, he hopes Broadmoor’s culinary program would move to the new site, located at 8200 W. 71st St., for the 2016-2017 school year.
Broadmoor would then temporarily house an elementary school while the district implements improvement plans in existing schools as part of a capital outlay program.
The urban farm — a 100-foot square garden — is a compromise that allows students to get the experience of growing their own produce for the years leading up to the move while featuring a simpler, less expensive structure.
Brassard developed the original plans for the garden before Streich came to the district, and the district is trying to make the Antioch plan and the garden plan both work, Streich said.
“(The Broadmoor) plan had taken seed before this (Antioch) plan. It’s a scaled down version of what their original concept was,” Streich said.
When the move happens, the district plans to transfer any hardware, such as tools and a shed, to the new site and hopes to implement something closer to the original garden design. All the specialized kitchen equipment will also move to the new site at that time.
In the meantime, Brassard and his students at the Broadmoor site are busy planting: potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli rabe, broccoli, various herbs and more.
They’ll have 20 rows of plants, each 100 feet long.
Some of the students will volunteer part of their summer vacation to help maintain the garden, and the program is also looking for volunteers from the community to help with the gardening this summer.
A number of community partners have been helping. Planning help came from Cultivate Kansas City and landscape architect Joann Schwarberg. Brassard said they also got help from Missouri Organic, Kansas State University, Johnson County Community College, Home Depot, Liberty Fruit and US Foods.
Brassard and his students raised $20,000 for the project through donations and dinners featuring guest chefs. He said community investors are interested in the project, and they are applying for grants.
Brassard wants his students to think about sustainability.
“Regardless of whether they’re in hospitality, they’ll understand where their food comes from. People want things that are fresh, wholesome that they know where it comes from,” Brassard said.
He likes the opportunity for “sensory learning applications” that the urban farm provides, but it’s not their first foray into growing.
“We’ve been composting for two years, and we’ve been doing micro-greens here for five years,” Brassard said.
Brassard calls the urban farm “a great opportunity for the district.”
Barring weather problems, he expects to harvest 6,000 to 8,000 pounds of food from the farm in its first year.
Students will use some of the food in the classroom and in their student-run restaurant. They’ll sell other products at the Overland Park Farmers Market.
Students from the baking program are already selling breads and other baked goods at the market until the end of the school year.
“The students will be interacting at the Overland Park Farmers Market. These are key life skills for them that they can take with them,” Brassard said.
The customer feedback the students receive helps them develop their skills as well.
“The customer’s coming back to let them know how (the product) is,” he said. “ … I can tell them they’re doing a great job, but the third-party unsolicited feedback, that’s a great way for our students to learn what to do better and what they do well.”
Working in the kitchen and the garden is different from sitting in classes — but it’s still valuable to the students.
“Education takes different forms. It’s not just books or electronic delivery of information,” Brassard said. “Our education is hands-on, and we look at the ability to have cross-curricular education.”