CHESTERTOWN — Interim Provost and Dean of Washington College Michael Harvey has announced several departures in Academic Affairs including Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Eastern Shore Food Lab Bill Schindler.
Schindler is leaving WC, but will continue his “research at ESFL and will offer hands-on, immersive classes on a range of topics including cheese making, sourdough bread, nose-to-tail butchering and cooking, fermenting and foraging,” a news release issued June 24 states.
He taught at Washington for almost 14 years and founded the Eastern Shore Food Lab in 2017. The food lab officially opened its doors at 236 Cannon St. in October 2018.
“To realize the true potential of the food lab and everything we wanted to do together as a family to make an impact, we realized that [my leaving the college] was a necessary step,” Schindler said of his departure from the college in an interview on Tuesday, July 13.
“Bill is such a dynamic individual and he has such tremendous energy and he’s one of the greatest teachers that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” said Shane Brill, the interim director of sustainability and regenerative living at Washington College. “I’m excited to see him take that energy into a new creative direction and see where it leads. I have always expected great things from him and I have never been disappointed.”
Bill Schindler and his wife, CEO of Modern Stone Age Kitchen Christina Schindler, each said “the food lab is alive and well, same message and mission” and will continue programming.
The home of the food lab, 236 Cannon St., will now also house Rise — a line of homemade sourdough started by their daughter Brianna Schindler during the COVID-19 pandemic — and Modern Stone Age Kitchen — a larger umbrella for all of the other food production.
The building on 236 Cannon St. is owned by Larry and Wendy Culp, who are “incredible supporters of the college and the community here ... they’ve supported the food lab since the very beginning and they’re continuing to support it now,” Bill Schindler said. “They see the value for what it can do in the community.”
Christina Schindler said they are actively working toward making the Eastern Shore Food Lab a nonprofit.
Through the nonprofit, they will be able to donate some of the money made from selling products back to the communities that taught them those food practices.
“Our intent is to nourish and empower people around the world,” Bill Schindler said.”We want to impact the local community and we also want to impact as wide as we can. We want to replace the foods that people are eating with the most nourishing forms possible and we want to augment or add to the ... food scene in Chestertown is pretty cool and it’s getting better and better and better and we just want to be a part of that.”
They are also working toward getting approval from various groups including the health department to be expand their food offerings using these more natural processes.
“We have a whole plan for a lot of food, but it takes time to get those things out,” Christina Schindler said.
Both Bill and Christina Schindler have backgrounds in education — Christina Schindler having worked as a supervisor of special education in Caroline County before beginning the food lab’s transition — which they bring with them to the new classes they will be offering through the food lab.
All of the food opportunities at the lab will have an educational component, whether participants take part in a class, get takeout or attend a themed dinner.
Classes should be available in September.
“Our hope is, with the nonprofit side of things, that we will be able to have funding streams that would be able to help support so that we can offer these things free to not just the local community but the larger community,” Christina Schindler said.
The food lab is currently selling products at the Kent Island farmers market and in their store during limited hours. They will have events on First Friday and are working to expand their hours.
“It’s not weird food, it’s familiar food, but it’s a completely different food from what people are used to,” Bill Schindler said.
Many of the recipes and techniques they will be teaching at the food lab are included in Bill Schindler’s forthcoming book “Eat Like a Human: Nourishing Foods and Ancient Ways of Cooking to Revolutionize Your Health,” out in November.
There will also be trips to countries like Italy and Ireland for participants to learn food practices directly from traditional and indigenous people, Bill Schindler said.
“What we’re really working hard to do is replace the foods that people are eating every day with the most nourishing forms possible,” he said. “We want to make an impact by using these approaches to transform meals that people are familiar with to incredibly nourishing forms.”
The Eastern Shore Food Lab also will be partnering with Kent County Public Schools to do work-based learning opportunities.
While Washington College no longer has the food lab, it will continue its food programming under the title “Food Initiative.”
“We will continue to maintain the funding stream that supported Eastern Shore Food Lab and with that will be exploring other programs in food sciences and studies, as it is an area that fits well with our mission and is critical to human health and the environment,” Kelley Wallace said in an email on behalf of the college on Wednesday, June 30.
Taking charge of programming under the new Food Initiative is Brill.
In an interview on Friday, July 2, Brill said that “working at the food lab positioned me to work at a higher level now with that type of programming here on campus.”
Brill said that a lot of Washington College’s food programming moving forward will be centered around the campus garden and composting.
A lot of food programming will be student-driven to make the campus “authentically theirs,” Brill said.
“Even though it’s sad we’re losing the food lab, I think it opens up a lot more opportunities for us to more uniquely tailor it ... and focus on what we want to focus on,” Emma Cease, a rising senior at the college, said. “I mean it’s exciting because we’re kind of building this foundation that’s going to carry on throughout the rest of the program.”
Under the Food Initiative, Cease said there are plans to expand green spaces across campus to include additional garden and recreational spaces.
There are also plans to expand composting across campus both in the dining hall and in dorms.
The Food Initiative also hopes to hold workshops and open education sessions for students that will be similar to those that had been held in the food lab.
Brill said that in the fall he could see there being a First Friday foraging walk for students and community members that will connect participants to the place they live.
“I think this way we’re going to be able to show students actually what is out there and have it so it’s more easily accessible to them,” Cease said of having food programming move primarily on campus.
Brill also hopes to empower the groups on campus that are already interested in the environment and food processes — like the garden club, Student Environmental Alliance and environmental science honor society Kappa Alpha Omicron — to work on a higher level.
“I think we have so much to offer just the whole community — students, faculty, staff,” Brill said. “In the past, the food lab had a kind of divided attention between Chestertown and the campus. Right now since I am just a one-person show, I am going to be focused on campus.”
“By bringing [food programming] back on campus, I think it’s going to recenter us with the students at the core of it,” Cease said.
In February, the Eastern Shore Food Lab received a Maryland Humanities grant with Adkins Arboretum to develop an Indigenous Peoples Perspective program. Brill said that grant and program will remain with Washington College.
Brill also anticipates continuing their former Eastern Shore Food Lab partnerships, including the one with the Sassafras Environmental Alliance, through the Office of Sustainability and Regenerative Living.
“We have so much potential to expand and replicate this type of programming and just build upon it,” Brill said of the humanities grant.
“Just because the actual food lab is dividing from Washington College, that’s not the end of the ideals and the initiatives that we’re trying to continue on with. It’s just the beginning. We’re going to build on what we had and make it better,” Cease said.