Taliesin—The Future of Food

Photo by Taliesin Preservation

Taliesin is the 800-acre home, studio, and estate of Frank Lloyd Wright. Education has a long history here, and today it continues to serve life-long learners in a variety of ways. Wright created a learning laboratory in the 1930s with the creation of the Fellowship, his apprenticeship program. Taliesin Preservation takes that model of apprenticeship and brings it forward to something that is essential to all of us: food.

2020 marked our third year of the Food Artisan Immersion Program (FAIP). In the past three years, we’ve served 18 students in a seven-month-long program. FAIP is an introductory culinary course exploring cultivation, craft, and community in regionally reliant foodways of Wisconsin’s greater sustainable agriculture community: the Driftless hills and valleys. During the program, students live on the Taliesin estate and become stewards of this unique UNESCO world heritage site. Their work consists of creating and sharing community meals, creating and maintaining the kitchen garden, and paid part-time employment in our Riverview Terrace Cafe. Their coursework is comprised of rigorous curriculum, hands-on learning labs, and immersive field trips to local artisanal food producers.

Photograph provided by Taliesin Preservation

“While life at Taliesin is always beautiful, it has been such a unique experience this year, given the chaotic and ever-changing times we are in. Connecting with our regional alliances has really shown me how powerful a community can be in the best and worst of times.”
— Delaney, 2020 FAIP Student

There are a few founding experience-design principals that are essential to the course.

Well-Being through mindfulness and physical (unplugged) activity and healthy eating practices.

Environmental Stewardship through land stewardship and education as students participate as guides of the Driftless Tour at Taliesin, sharing the legacy and practices of the land with our visiting community.

Healthy Community through local community advocacy around food, hospitality best practices, community gatherings, empathy, and storytelling.

Integrated Learning with real-time learning at the Riverview Terrace Cafe, serving our guests and local community.

Regenerative Foodways with instruction designed to build skills and confidence in the basics of sustainable food service, gardening, and regenerative agriculture practices.

Photograph provided by Taliesin Preservation

“Coming from living in the city all my life (London suburb, UK), it’s now apparent how much of a disconnect there is between food sources and the food that ends up on our plates. Supporting the journey a plant makes before we eat it has been a rollercoaster of learning, joy, and hard work.”
— Emily, 2020 FAIP Student

Looking to the future of food and FAIP, we know that if we can undertake this paramount obligation to engage students in a discussion around foodways during a global pandemic, anything is possible. This season, we were still able to implement our experience-design principles during the course despite having to shut down the food service at the Riverview Terrace Cafe in August. The students connected to the natural world and best land stewardship practices as they visited artisan farms and producers in the region in a variety of field trips and through volunteer opportunities. They broadened their understanding of the food system through a variety of guest speakers with a range of backgrounds, from soil experts, plant breeders, and farmers to agricultural education, land conservancy chefs, and community advocates.

Living on the Taliesin estate allowed the students to be fully immersed in the sheer beauty of Taliesin and experience the integrated principles of organic design firsthand. They had experimental kitchen labs, and individual sessions with founding program Chef Odessa Piper allowed for a safe space for learning as students tested and prototyped their own new ideas, asked questions, and received excellent virtual instruction. In addition, their involvement with local farms and great contributions of home-grown food to the local food pantries also made this program visible in the local community. This year, the students grew over 600 pounds of fresh organic produce for our local food pantries and provided recipes based on the harvested food of the week.

Photograph provided by Taliesin Preservation

“Through my time in the Food Artisan Immersion Program, I’ve come to learn that anyone can be an active member in the food system. You don’t need to own land; you don’t need 20 years of restaurant experience; you don’t need to shop at farmers’ markets or Willy Street Co-op. What you need is a respect for food—an acknowledgement that eating is a sacred act.”
— Dylan, 2020 FAIP Student

Moving forward, our goal is to increase the awareness of the FAIP program by adding opportunities for the public to participate along with us during course. When it’s safe again, we’ll invite you to join us in discussion and in asking relevant questions for our guest speaker sessions and community discussions.

Together with our teaching and learning laboratory at Taliesin and through experimentation, we will seek creative solutions reframing how we might craft a better way of life for future generations. Through gathering a diverse and global community of mentors and learners, we will continue in-person as well as distance learning programs by asking shared questions, addressing challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Caroline Hamblen is the director of programs at Taliesin Preservation and has a master’s in education from the Berlin University of the Arts, Germany. Caroline has lived at Taliesin for over 20 years with her husband, Floyd, who is a Taliesin Fellowship member and practicing architect.

Photograph by J. Anderson Photography

Aron Meudt-Thering is the communication manager at Taliesin Preservation and a Spring Green native who was drawn back to this place after college. She has a BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, where she studied photography and graphic design.

Photograph by J. Anderson Photography

Are you our next FAIP student?

We’re now accepting 2021 applications at taliesinpreservation.org . It’s truly designed for life-long learners and folks who don’t mind doing the hard work of exploring how we can make foodways better for all of our communities.