The Culinary Arts program provides hands-on experience for young adults with unique abilities in the Transition and Postgraduate programs at North Florida School of Special Education. It is designed to give both hands-on experiences for independent living and the training necessary for future employment in a culinary field. Through partnerships with various local restaurants and food-related businesses, and opportunities through the Berry Good Farms On the Go Food Truck, Berry Good Farms Cafe, and catering, students gain valuable skills in real-life settings.
Culinary Arts students learn to incorporate the seasonal produce from Berry Good Farms into Healthy! Beautiful! Delicious! menu items for lunches and value-added offerings like fresh pesto, hummus and herb mixes and dips. The Farm team and the Culinary Arts team work hand-in-hand to showcase and utilize the fresh produce, herbs and fruits grown on our campus. Culinary Arts students are educated in proper food handling, knife skills, ingredient measurement, the creation of shopping lists, adherence to recipes, food preparation and cooking, and customer service.
An important component of the Culinary Arts Program is the emphasis that our team puts on the importance of healthy and fresh food choices. As our Culinary Arts students hone their skills and pursue compensated employment, they gain a greater sense of independence and are equipped with the tools necessary to make positive lifestyle choices.
The Berry Good Farms On The Go is a “farm-to-truck” vocational training program for young adults with intellectual and developmental differences in the transition and post-graduate programs of North Florida School of Special Education. Berry Good Farms On The Go showcases a healthy and fresh-from-the-farm menu created by our Food Truck Manager, chef Peter Reynolds, in conjunction with students in the Culinary Arts Program.
Berry Good Farms On The Go provides young adults with intellectual differences the opportunity to receive job training on the food truck after they have successfully completed the Culinary Arts Program at North Florida School of Special Education. 100% of the Berry Good Farms On The Go proceeds are reinvested back into the food truck program to continue benefiting our Transition Students and Post-Graduates as they seek life skills and meaningful employment.
Students are holistically involved in the success of the food truck, as they are trained in shopping for ingredients, various cooking methods, small appliance operation, safe food handling, seasonal produce selection from the farm, measuring ingredients, knife cutting skills, basic food preparation, the proper cleaning and sterilization of equipment and menu planning.
Once Berry Good Farms On The Go hits the road, our student employees have the opportunity to effectively communicate with customers, help to prepare food and represent themselves and the school in a positive manner.
Berry Good Farms On The Go partners with businesses, corporations, festivals, other non-profits, schools and private events in the community to maximize exposure and training opportunities for our employees.
In 2014, North Florida School of Special Education’s Berry Good Farms submitted our “farm-to-truck” idea to One Spark, a unique crowdfunding festival held in Jacksonville, Florida. What began as a mere concept to provide a vocational training program for our students while marketing our Berry Good Farms produce and other offerings to the local community gained tremendous traction at One Spark.
At the close of 2014 One Spark, Berry Good Farms On The Go clinched second place in the innovation category and third place overall, netting an award worth over $2,300. Initially, the prize money was going to be used towards securing a truck to fit out. Instead, through a connection made at the festival, BGF On The Go was gifted a food truck by a generous donor who believed in our goal to employ students with IDDs while serving up fresh and local organic fare to the community.
In 2015, Berry Good Farms On The Go returned to the festival in a different capacity; as one of 32 featured food vendors in One Spark’s Food Village. Our students assisted in dishing up wraps, soups, salads and smoothies featuring produce from the garden.
Berry Good Farms On The Go is the only food truck in the community offering meaningful vocational training and employment to young adults with unique abilities. One Spark was the catalyst for turning our Berry Good Farms On The Go dream into reality, but there are plenty of partners around the community who have rallied around our farm-to-truck venture.
Thanks to The Darr Family, The Dubow Family Foundation, General Truck Equipment and Trailer Sales, Inc., Kim Kawasaki, Nona J. Rawls and H. Taylor Jones Foundation, Southeastern Stainless Fabricators, Inc., Atlantic Beach Urban Farms, and Robbins Nest Fund for your generous support and belief in our vision.
In January 2020, the Berry Good Farms Cafe opened for business in the 32,000 sq. foot Christy and Lee Smith Lower School Campus selling Java & Special-Teas. Proudly serving locally produced Martin Coffee Co. beans and teas grown and processed on Berry Good Farms, the Cafe is staffed by Transition and Postgraduate students.