As Pig Island Prepares for Saturday’s Fest, a Public School Garden Scores a Whole Porker

Thanks to Pig Island, a heritage breed hog is headed to the AutoGarden, the urban gardening and food program run by Jenny Kessler at Automotive High School, a public school in Brooklyn. (And tickets are still available, as the 20 participating chefs gather to get their locally and sustainably raised pigs in Union Square from upstate farmers.)

Farmer Tim Hawes from Autumn’s Harvest Farms in the Finger Lakes unloads one of 80 porkers delivered to chefs in Union Square destined for Pig Island/

Yesterday, as Pig Island prepared for a weekend of porky wonder–the outdoor food fest takes place at Governor’s Island from 11:30 a.m.

till 5 p.m. on Saturday, tickets are still available–the 20 participating chefs gathered to get their locally and sustainably raised pigs in Union Square from upstate farmers.

But one of those animals is headed not to the Island this weekend, but to the AutoGarden, the urban gardening and food program run by Jenny Kessler at Automotive High School, a public school in Brooklyn that provides graduates with both a diploma and a National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation certification.

The pig is being kept in a freezer for the school at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market (read our feature on the owner right here) until September 22, when Kessler and the chef Alex Sorenson, formerly of Colonie in Brooklyn Heights, will break the beast down for the school’s Fresh Chefs Cooking Club meeting.

The up-close-and-in-person instruction comes courtesy Matt Betteil, our winner of the Pig Island Whole Pig contest we ran over the weekend. He decided to donate his winnings to the school, and hopefully they’ll invite him to the club meeting.

Kessler reports that her plan is to break down the heritage breed pig (raised by the family farmers at Autumn’s Harvest Farms in the Finger Lakes) for her class, touching on both the art of butchering, using the whole animal and sustainable agriculture. She also says she hopes to make sausage from scratch, and then the chef will take a few parts back to his kitchens to cook, bringing in samples Kessler will give out in the school cafeteria to show off how cool the food program is to other students.
“Then,” she says, “we’d give the ribs and probably one of the shoulders or butts to the football coach, who will use it at our homecoming bbq.”
Probably one of the only times we wish we could go back to high school.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.