The Harvest Dinner Project

Hartwick Students, Restaurant Team Up for Project to Benefit Hungry Neighbors in Oneonta

Hartwick College students and Oneonta’s Red Caboose Restaurant and Bar joined forces to raise awareness of food insecurities in our community. This two-night farm-to-table dinner and charity auction event benefited The Lord’s Table Soup Kitchen, and was the culmination of a semester of collaborative, hands-on, service-based learning.

The seven-course meal served on December 1 and 2, 2015 in the Main Street Oneonta restaurant was the pinnacle of a semester’s hard work, and raised nearly $3,000 for The Lord’s Table. Students in Associate Professor of Art Stephanie Rozene’s Dinnerware class worked with Red Caboose Owner Tim Masterjohn and Executive Chef Sam Ohman throughout the fall semester to design and create all the dishware for the event

“I’m so proud of our students,” Rozene reflected. “Their dedication to this project meant that it was a great success, and an important benefit for the hungry in our community. This partnership with the Red Caboose is the kind of community-centered experiential learning that is at the core of Hartwick’s mission.”

Throughout the semester, students met with Masterjohn and Ohman to discuss their dinnerware designs. They worked together to create beautiful, functional pieces to display the chef’s special menu, which included a smoke-cured salmon course, seafood chowder, a beef and rice bowl, and brandy-preserved peaches.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us at The Red Caboose, the Hartwick ceramics students, and the diners at this event to take a new perspective on what we eat and how we eat it,” Masterjohn said.

For the students, working with Masterjohn and Ohman exposed them to concepts and realities well beyond the classroom.

“I love that we as a class are working together to make the pieces and then later bringing in the community for a dinner with many different layers,” said Alyssa Jefferds ’16.

Though Jefferds is a studio art major, many of her classmates were not. This diversity of backgrounds and experiences only added to the essential liberal arts quality of the project, Rozene noted.

The class was not limited to an exploration of the forms and functions of dinnerware, however. Students learned about the farm-to-table food revolution (agriculture, economics), the stark realities of food insecurity in modern America (social justice), and what it takes to put on a successful benefit event in a thriving restaurant (marketing, business administration) – among many other lessons.

“For me it’s about thinking about food, and thinking about it hard and from every angle; taste, color, appearance, availability, texture and most important, how will it look on my plate?” reflected Ericka Condon-Ericson ’16. “How will what I am making work with the food to culminate in a beautiful presentation? We are crafting items with our hands and we’re going to feed people with them.”

In November, Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown opened an exhibit of the students’ work, and on December 1 scores of festive diners descended on the Red Caboose for the first night of the event. They were treated to a sumptuous, locally-sourced menu served with beautiful dinnerware by enthusiastic students.

Event sponsors like Brewery Ommegang, Stone and Sawyer, Dietz & Wall Wines, 221 Bakery, Mulligan Creek Acres, and others supplied items for a silent auction that helped add to the fundraising efforts.

All diners took home a student-made dessert plate to commemorate their experience. Rozene plans to host The Harvest Dinner Project every other year, alternating with her other popular benefit, Empty Bowls.

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