Emsi Case Study (Full Archive)
“The future of food is not in a box. It’s in the dirt. It’s in a real kitchen with real people. And it tastes incredible.”
That’s the message of Farm to Bistro, a new program at Tompkins Cortland Community College. It’s a program designed to help culinary sustainable farming, and wine marketing students understand the full breadth of the food system—from seed to plate. And it’s a program that exists, in part, because TC3 was able to use data gathered from Emsi’s Analyst tool to win over $2 million of grant money from the state of New York.
An Education Connected to Its Location
Dryden, New York, is a small, rural town near Ithaca, in the south central part of the state. It’s also the home of Tompkins Cortland Community College—TC3, as it’s fondly known by students and faculty. A fixture in Dryden since the 1960s, TC3 now offers more than 45 academic programs to over 3,700 students. With a service area that includes Tompkins, Cortland and surrounding counties, TC3 serves a local economy with a significant rural and agricultural component.
Carl Haynes, TC3’s president, said that the college has noticed something interesting about that agriculture economy: “We’re seeing a lot of small, entrepreneurial farming—cheeses, fruits, produce, niche farms. People gather in places like farmer’s markets a couple times a week and people go through and buy their produce. People are wanting to live off the land and to do things that have high-quality food associated with them.”
About two years ago, the college began to realize that Tompkins County’s farm culture was something that needed to be integrated into the educational experience. As Haynes tells it, “We were running a course at a local organic farm, and at the end of the course I was asked to come make some remarks, and to learn what they were doing. Part of my remarks was that, when I got there, I immediately thought, ‘Why couldn’t we develop this into a program?'”
At the same time, staff at TC3 became aware of Kirkwood Community College, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “I visited Kirkwood Community College, where they built their own hotel,” Haynes said. “In that hotel they developed their own restaurant and culinary lab to serve the community and the guests of the hotel. They did a lot of work with the community to make sure they didn’t steal business, etc. And so our ideas began to evolve.” The college also sits in the midst of a vibrant beverage industry, including more than 300 wineries and breweries, and boasts a popular wine marketing program, a perfect complement to the potential new programs.
Over the next two years, TC3 continued to develop the ideas for curricula that would integrate the entire food and beverage production and culinary processes. It would lead to the creation of a student farm, where students would get their hands dirty learning about sustainable practices and understand where the food they work with came from. It would include classes that covered the relationship between farming, local sourcing, the food delivery system, and how quality food and beverage can be used to create exceptional hospitality experiences for consumers. And it would culminate with the opening of Coltivare, a gourmet restaurant and tasting room in downtown Ithaca, to bring the farm’s produce and the students’ skills to the public. But plans require funding, and that funding was the next step in TC3’s agenda.
Using Labor Market Data to Gather Funding
As he began to think about implementing Farm to Bistro, Haynes quickly realized that the college was going to need access to hard data on the current labor market. After all, even the best program can’t be brought into being without the funding necessary to implement it. In Farm to Bistro’s case, some of that funding needed to come from New York’s Regional Economic Development Council; to make a convincing presentation to the council, TC3 would need to be able to show that the program could find an economically viable place in the market.
“The state governor has divided the state into 10 economic development regions, each supported by a local council,” Haynes explained. “$125 million in grants were made available, but only five of the regions get $25 million, depending on the quality of their plans and proposals. And the other five have to share the other $25 million. You can imagine the competition.” To help TC3 write a grant proposal that could effectively present Farm to Bistro’s potential, Haynes turned to Khaki Wunderlich, TC3’s Dean of Organizational Success and Learning.
As Wunderlich reports it, one of the important ways she was able to present a compelling case for TC3 to receive funding was by including extensive data on the program’s potential positive impact—data she was able to glean easily from Analyst, Emsi’s labor market data tool. “The data that I got from Analyst strengthened the grant—I knew I had to be hitting certain points and the data allowed me to do that. Having real numbers that came from real data had a significant impact. We had to show that we were creating jobs and supporting economic development, and using Analyst certainly made a stronger argument than just talking around it, saying ‘We hear that the restaurant industry needs more people!'”
Haynes concurred about the important role Analyst data played in the program’s successful application. “Making our case with Analyst helped us to receive a grant for a million more dollars than we had originally hoped for. Analyst made our project stand out and be strong. We had good, solid numbers on the jobs we were creating, and on the need for those jobs in the industries that the programs were preparing people for.” In the end TC3 received $2.3 million in state grants, which was immediately followed by a $2 million cash gift, covering about $4.3 million of what is projected as a $7 million project. It was the extra grant money obtained with the help of Analyst data that gave Haynes the leverage to go to the school’s foundation board and finalize their commitment to the Farm to Bistro program.
Bringing the Program Into Reality
With more than $4 million in primary funding, TC3 has begun reaching out for community investors, a move that not only makes financial sense but also furthers Farm to Bistro’s position as a program integrated with as much of the local community as possible. While the primary purpose of both the farm and the culinary center facilities is to support academic programs, they will also be used to provide customized local workforce training in farming, jobs throughout the food distribution network, and hospitality and culinary positions in restaurants and other venues.
The Farm to Bistro program includes several different degree tracks: new degree programs in culinary arts and sustainable farming & food systems, as well as existing degrees in wine marketing, hotel restaurant management, environmental studies, and entrepreneurship. In TC3’s words, Farm to Bistro will offer students in those programs “strong understanding of the interrelationship of farming, food delivery systems, and use of food.”
TC3 is in the process of implementing Farm To Bistro and planning for its first semester. Construction is underway for Coltivare, the downtown Ithaca culinary center where students will hone and showcase their skills. And the college is developing the farm where that program will be based, renovating a barn into classrooms and laying out the actual farmland for greenhouses, an on-site home for the farm manager, and plots for the orchard, berry patch, and, maybe, hop vines. The academic portions of the infrastructure will be in place by the time school resumes in the fall, with Coltivare’s restaurant and event center set to open later in the fall. In the meantime, TC3 is focusing on raising awareness and recruiting students with an aggressive marketing campaign that includes videos highlighting Farm to Bistro (see below).
In the end, what makes Farm to Bistro attractive to investors and students is what makes it unique—its connection to the real world. “None of the state’s colleges except TC3 has a farming and food systems degree program that’s curricularly connected with the culinary program,” explained Haynes. “That link between an organic, working, operating, producing farm on our campus, our curriculum, and what our students will experience in the culinary arts program is unique to the Farm to Bistro concept and programs.”
Tompkins Cortland Community College is a member of the State University of New York system and offers more than 45 academic programs in business, culinary arts, nursing, liberal arts, criminal justice, human services, broadcast production, computer forensics, new media, sport management, hotel and restaurant management, wine marketing, and sustainable farming and food systems.
The College attracts a diverse student body from most counties in New York state, several other U.S. states, and nearly 70 countries. The learning environment is enriched by students of all ages and backgrounds. About half of the college’s graduates transfer as juniors to bachelor’s degree programs at a wide variety of colleges and universities around the world, including Cornell University and Ithaca College. TC3 students study both full-time and part-time, and the college is a leader in online education. The College also operates extension centers in the nearby cities of Ithaca and Cortland.
As a learning-centered college, TC3 is strongly committed to building on strengths to achieve student success. More information on the Farm to Bistro programs can be found at http://www.tc3.edu/catalog/ap_farm_to_bistro.asp.
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