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Culinary garden offers homegrown produce for Clark College’s kitchens

The Columbian
Published: September 30, 2023, 5:26am

CENTRAL PARK — The kitchen garden that wraps around three sides of the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute at Clark College is reaping a bountiful, colorful harvest for students to use in their recipes.

Students and instructors from both the Cuisine Management program and the Professional Baking and Pastry Arts program have been harvesting herbs, vegetables and fruit throughout the summer. This is the second year the garden has produced an abundant harvest.

Chef James “Sonny” Demartini, a cuisine instructor, spearheaded the kitchen garden project with Fay Shorten, a stockroom attendant in the college’s food services department.

Clark College renovated its culinary space in 2017, thanks to a grant from the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Foundation. The blueprints included plans for culinary gardens around all three sides of the building, but there was no funding for a garden.

Demartini and Shorten did not let the lack of funding become a barrier to creating a kitchen garden for their students. They cleared otherwise unused space outside the building and created gardens including fruit trees, berries, herbs and vegetables.

Demartini is a Midwesterner who grew up immersed in gardening. Many people helped with the garden.

Demartini credits the college’s hardworking grounds crew that has provided much labor, including revamping an irrigation system. Demartini and Shorten found ways to get products at no cost. This includes getting deliveries of bark chips from pear trees removed from the nearby campus of Washington State School for the Blind. Demartini also pointed to a stack of pear logs that students will use to cure and smoke meats.

Not everything was free. About $8,000 in grant money was used to purchase some items, including the chipper and galvanized stock tanks they have repurposed as raised beds. Although some plants and seeds were donated, they also purchased others.