School students in Canada are cultivating red fife wheat, a heritage cereal and Slow Food presidium, as part of a project taking place in Stratford, Ontario. ‘Mud to mouth’ is a scheme where elementary schools in the area use small plots of land to cultivate food in an effort to teach students the path from field to plate.
Red Fife Wheat was first grown in the Otonabee region of what is now central Ontario in the 1840s. Hardy and resistant to the diseases of the time, it also boasts exceptional flavor and baking properties but fell out of favour with farmers seeking new, high-yield varieties. In 2003 it was added to the Canadian ark of Taste and is Canada’s first presidium, created to ensure ongoing quality, promotion and the use of Red Fife across all of Canada.
Last year innovative Stratford teacher Paul Finkelstein was lent six acres of farmland so his students could cultivate the Canadian heritage wheat while bringing Canadian agricultural history to life. "Our hope is to get these kids more connected to where their food comes from, and to start from a younger age," he explains.
The red fife project is the latest of Finkelstein’s projects, which have included a school garden and café for students to prepare meals. About 200 students are in his culinary class and wheat can also be harvested by volunteer farmers, facilitating urban-rural connections. Soon about 8,000 pounds of the flour will be dispersed into the community. "Plant, weed, harvest, cook – it's a long process but you get a great sense of accomplishment," Finkelstein said, "This is work toward financing the future."