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Catering Students to Prepare Local Foods at Growers Market

Students enrolled in a catering class at Pennsylvania College of Technology will combine their talents with fresh, local food when they prepare dishes for the public at the Williamsport Growers Market on Sept. 9.

As guest chefs, the students will offer demonstrations and samples, preparing dishes made from the products available at the market.

“The students are really excited because it’s their first event as a class,” said Chef Mike J. Ditchfield, instructor of hospitality management/culinary arts. “They get to showcase their skills. They get to work with the freshest available products. They get to prepare some fun food and get immediate response from the folks at the market.”

The catering class has cooked at the growers market for several years, and Ditchfield noted its growth, both in attendance it’s estimated that students have served more than 2,500 plates during recent events and in sellers.

“There are more vendors,” he said. “When we first started doing food preparation and demos at the market, there were no proteins.”

Now, he said, vendors offer elk, free-range chicken, beef and pork, as well as breads, pastries, and Fair Trade coffee.

“We have such a bounty and abundance of farm-fresh products in this area,” he said. “We have a diverse selection of foods at the market. I want the students to work with these farm-fresh ingredients. I want them to taste the difference.”

Ditchfield has been working with Anne Nordell, of Beech Grove Farm and a member of the Williamsport Outdoor Growers Association, for many years to use foods raised by local producers.

“We have been working together to get good food on our dinner plates,” he said. “By ‘good,’ I mean food that is healthy and nutritious, raised in a low-impact, environmentally safe manner.”

The event this year is part of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign that will be celebrated Sept. 1-9 in Lycoming County. Ditchfield said with increasing transportation costs adding to the price of food, such initiatives are practical.

“It just makes sense to do business this way,” he said. “We are supporting and strengthening our local economy.”

More important for the students, though, Ditchfield said: “The grower’s market allows me to provide great instructional value and is a great learning experience. As an instructor, I can achieve what I need to achieve, and we are part of this community event.”

Student managers for the event are Michael L. Clinger, Northampton; Steven C. Pont, Portland, Conn.; and Steven G. Smith, Sayre.

Other students who will participate are David L. Davis, Kingston; Nicoya L. Frey, Montoursville; Alyssa J. Giedroc, Howard; Lynzi K. Green, Port Matilda; Christopher R. Grove, Linden; Amy E. Harris, South Waverly; Adam J. Krasley, Spring City; and Yolanda T. Rauwendaal, Auburn, Calif. All 11 students will take the lead as a student manager during an event this semester.

The students will prepare food at the market from 8 a.m. to noon. The growers market is held at municipal parking lot G, bounded by Fifth, Hepburn and Pine streets and Little League Boulevard. Ingredients for the student demonstrations and samples are donated by Williamsport Growers Market vendors.

The Williamsport Growers Market is held each Saturday, mid-June through the end of October, at the downtown location.

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