Chef Chris connects food and farming lessons for Farm to School Academy

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Chef Chris Williams brings 30 years’ worth of cooking, gardening and teaching expertise to the Farm to School Academy’s mix of culinary training for school cooks and “Tasting Local” events for students.

Her wedding catering business, Precious Petals, has also been certified Carrot Gold, and her grandson Kaiden was named runner up in our recipe contest this spring.

But her connection to KC Healthy Kids was formed several years ago, when she worked with Rachael McGinnis Milsap, our Farm to School Academy director at The University of Missouri Extension.

“When the program funding ran out, Chris kept doing the work on her own because it was so important to her,” McGinnis Milsap said.

Williams’ personal mission—to teach families how to eat well, to do it on a dollar, and save time AND make it fun—is right in step with the goals of the Farm to School Academy, says McGinnis Milsap.

“I’m constantly impressed with the way she can work with all kinds of learners within different school settings. I’ve seen her go into a school with 600 kids and get them excited about spinach. She’s equally effective in small groups of adults,” McGinnis Milsap said.

Williams has served as market manager for Blue Springs Farmers Market and also taught University of Missouri Extension’s Eating From the Garden curriculum. She especially loved her time with the extension’s Cooking Core program, when she travelled to nine different farmers markets throughout Kansas City to demonstrate cooking techniques.

“I really enjoy that position because it took my love of cooking & teaching and combined it into one job where I was teaching adults,” Williams says. “Not only was I showing market customers how to use fresh nutritious vegetables in their daily lives but I was able to teach the young college volunteers many new skills in the kitchen.”

In 2014, Williams bought an acre of land in the heart of Independence, Missouri and created Pepper Berries Urban Farm.

“We grow a lot of produce with nontraditional methods that would fit in an urban landscape,” Williams says.

The urban farm is a place where she teaches others to do the same. People can come to learn how to grow their own food whether they have a windowsill, a patio, a small yard or an acre. Once they’ve grown their own food, Williams will teach them how to cook and preserve it in the house she’s renovating to serve as a teaching kitchen.

Look for Pepper Berries Urban Farm’s produce, jams and jellies (all made from local produce with in a 50 mile radius of Independence) at Independence Farmers Market, Ivanhoe Farmers Market and Raytown Farmers Market.

Photo: Chef Chris’ grandson Kaiden was a runner up in our Ultimate Eat Local Recipe Contest

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