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modern-day home ec school agrarian collective teaches the 'hows of the home'

Kelli Hanley Potts has lived in Denver and Albuquerque, where she got involved in the slow food movement, replaced her front lawn with a vegetable garden, and worked for some of those cities' top chefs. When she got the urge to move back home to Cleveland, she knew she wanted to do something food-related.

That's when she stumbled upon a business idea. Despite the rise of the local food movement, most people had no idea how to cook kale, make jam or preserve food. She asked 18 female friends if they knew how to make a pie from scratch, and only two said yes.

Additionally, many people in the local farming movement have trouble explaining and marketing their products to customers, who are largely unfamiliar with them, she explains.

There are no cooking schools in Cleveland that did what she wanted to do -- connect people back to the land and back to their grandmothers' kitchens by teaching them the age-old skills of home economics -- so she decided to create one.

"I didn't want to watch a chef in front of me and drink wine," says Hanley Potts. "I wanted to learn something. I wanted to reconnect people to the lineage of the table, help them build their own table culture."

She recently launched the Agrarian Collective, an earth-to-table lifestyle school. Her mobile cooking school is offering classes this fall that cover topics like roasting your own coffee, fermented and cultured foods, and discovering local apples, among others. She'll be teaching students how to make the perfect pesto at this weekend's Cleveland Flea.

She was aided by a $5,000 low-interest loan from Bad Girl Ventures, which enabled her to purchase supplies and begin reaching out to chefs and farmers as partners.

"This is like home ec, but not quite as official and nerdy," she says. "It's about reconnecting people. All these things we once learned and were taught, they're missing. We're teaching people the 'how' of home."

Source: Kelli Hanley Potts
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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