Give the food lover on your list new skills

Locavore holiday giving guide: 2012 edition
Instructor Minde Herbert

Perhaps there is a special person on your gift list who loves food — good food, local food, organic food. But this person can’t afford to eat out every night in the city’s finest restaurants. So he or she has been trying to buy better-quality food on a budget and figure out how to cook it at home.

You know what might make this person really happy? A cooking class. Even better, a cooking class that centers on preparing local food. Or a class that centers on producing your own food.

You’ve got several choices. At Cooks Warehouse stores around Atlanta, you can sign up for all kinds of cooking classes—including some local-themed ones. On Jan. 19 at the Decatur store, my former AJC colleague Meridith Ford will show how to make butter, sour cream and fresh cheeses from locally available raw milk and local pasteurized milk. Once a month beginning Jan. 26 at the Midtown store, Laurie and Will Moore of Alabama-based Moore Farms and Friends CSA will teach a class on a different group of farm ingredients, starting with dairy (in February, they’ll cook with local meats, and in March, they’ll turn to spring vegetables). On Feb. 20 at the East Cobb, Elizabeth Weaver will teach a Southern cooking class, and on Feb. 27 in the same store, M.J. Conboy will show how to make a wintertime vegan meal.

Both the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Wylde Center (formerly Oakhurst Community Garden) have upcoming classes in beekeeping and edible gardening. In addition, Atlanta Botanical Garden is offering a class in jam making, while the Wylde Center has classes in growing mushrooms and raising chickens. These one-time classes range in price from about $15 to $50.

For a lot of would-be locavores, I’m betting that my friend Minde Herbert’s Affordably Organic class is going to be a big draw. When the Herbert family business took a financial hit in 2008, Herbert realized that to continue to feed her family high-quality, chemical-free food, she was going to have to get creative with her budget and her cooking. In a five-week Emory Continuing Education program, she’ll share her methods for cutting food costs while maintaining excellent quality—including developing relationships with local farmers, finding the best deals, gardening in small spaces, preserving foods at peak season (when they cost the least), and spending your organic dollars wisely. “For me, buying local isn’t about reducing our carbon footprint,” she says. “It’s about being in control of our food supply. It’s about supporting a local farm, and another local family. It’s about creating relationships so you can buy good food at a price that makes sense for your family.” The class is priced to make sense, too: $150 for five 1 1/2-hour sessions.

Any of these classes would make an excellent gift for a food lover, but don’t feel obligated to give away all the seats. You can sign up yourself for one of them, too.

Know of any other metro-area classes with a local food theme? Feel free to share them to the comment field below.