Eastern Shore Food Lab

Eastern Shore Food Lab

Promoting nourishing food for humans.

We revisit ancient food wisdom in the context of our modern environment. We're excited for you to discover the benefits of eating like a human!

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We Make Food


We make food safe to eat through fermentation, sprouting, and ancient processing methods.

Nutrient Dense

We honor animal life with a nose-to-tail eating approach that maximizes our nourishment. We seek plants grown in nutrient-rich soil using regenerative practices.


We unlock essential vitamins with simple techniques that can be replicated in home kitchens.

Our Mission

Promoting nourishing food for humans.

Our Vision

The Eastern Shore Food Lab optimizes personal and community health by drawing upon the dietary past that built us as a species. We research, reimagine, and share strategies that meet and exceed our biological and cultural needs. We transition culture by strengthening the ties between environment, society, family, and ourselves through food as we address issues of sustainability, food access, and dietary and social health. We provide a model that institutions within any region can emulate, achieving zero waste by conscientious design and a commitment to revitalize human and ecological communities with every action. Learn more in our brochure, Connect with Your Food (PDF).

In accordance with our mission and vision, we'll know we're making progress as we:

I. Create a movement

  1. Empower people to practice and share our skills, knowledge, and ethos.
  2. Promote the benefits of nutrient density, bioavailability, and food variety.
  3. Build a culture that reinforces core values.
  4. Mobilize community to solve problems of food security.
  5. Position our approach as a model for communities around the world.

II. Preserve prehistoric and fading foodways for future generations

  1. Conduct ethnographic research important to our dietary future.
  2. Share our research to reach the largest audiences possible.
  3. Provide context for the continued relevance of ancestral technologies.
  4. Advocate appropriate food even when it leads in unfamiliar directions.
  5. Host an annual food summit with partner institutions.

III. Make the healthiest and most sustainable food the most affordable

  1. Demonstrate authority in the food safety and policymaking processes.
  2. Create new ways to access food supporting social and ecological justice.
  3. Share the products of our work across economic barriers.
  4. Create policy solutions that win lasting economic and social support.
  5. Promote alternatives to harmful food products and production methods.
  6. Meet the needs of our community today.

IV. Champion zero waste ethics

  1. Work toward net-zero energy use and a carbon neutral footprint.
  2. Promote community composting and zero waste cooking education.
  3. Implement a procurement policy to lead toward self-sufficiency.
  4. Promote safe, durable goods in the home kitchen / food service industry.
  5. Work with local businesses and institutions to avoid food waste.

V. Research and promote ethical methods of food production

  1. Promote edible landscaping guided by permaculture design processes.
  2. Ignite ecotourism in the region celebrating food security.
  3. Become known for the diverse and influential nature of our work.

VI. Pioneer a powerful paradigm of food education

  1. Create a completely new culture of eating.
  2. Educate students poised to become the next generation of leaders.
  3. Create space within traditional institutions from which to reshape them.
  4. Address bioregional food security through education.
  5. Serve as an aspirational model for educational institutions.
Download our full strategic plan with tactics (PDF)

Our Practices

We follow regenerative rhythms that nourish life processes. Our activities include fermentation, baking in our wood-fired oven, researching and using wild foods, hosting classes and workshops, sharing expertise in public events, experimenting with modern approaches to ancient foods, and building soil to rejuvenate our efforts.

Our Culture

We live our work, focus on hands-on learning, and create stories to promote nourishing food for humans.

Fingerprint used to create the product mark for the Eastern Shore Food Lab.In developing an icon that represents our efforts, we looked to our hands for inspiration. In Dr. Schindler’s thumbprint we found a beautiful swirl.

Thumbprint detail used to create product mark.Dr. Schindler's thumbprint evokes everything we want to convey: continuity and evolution, and the natural energy movements of flames, wind, and water.


Product mark of the Eastern Shore Food Lab at Washington College.Pamela Cowart-Rickman created a symbol for us as the basis for our graphic identity — an icon to appear on loaves of bread, food products, displays, and brochures.

Our logo connects the Eastern Shore Food Lab with Washington College. We are proud to be a signature center that promotes nourishing food for humans.

Humans and Technology

From our earliest emergence as a species, we have used technology to gather and make nourishing food. From stones to access bone marrow, spears and projectiles to gain first access to organ meats, and fire and fermentation to cook, detoxify, and preserve plants — our ancestors thrived for hundreds of thousands of years through the simple processing of local and seasonal ingredients.

A Strong Foundation

Our three pillars of research, teaching, and production connect and reinforce each other.

Pillars of the Eastern Shore Food Lab

Ancient and historic foodways • Classes • Classroom visits • Communicating modern relevance • Community gardens • Community traditions and events • Community-supported kitchen • Creating culture • Demonstrations • Documenting and sharing traditions • Earth care ethic • Empowering people • Ethnography • Experimental archaeology • Food access • Food acquisition technologies • Food security • Food transformation • Foraging • Forest gardening • Global education • Hosting world experts • International collaborations • Interns and apprentices • Modern culinary application • News and publications • Safe / nutrient dense / bioavailable food • Planting and harvesting • Production • Research • Safe food  • School lunch programs • Seed saving • Soil enhancement • Sourcing food ethically • Strengthening local economy • Supporting ecosystem services • Supporting public health • Sustainable business model • Training and workshops • Video and social media • Wild foods • Zero waste ethic 


Our Values

From our research, teaching, and production space in downtown Chestertown, we share our values to address issues of food, diet, health, sustainability, and human and environmental relationships  

Adaptability Anchored in place-based learning, our processes accommodate diverse environments.

Ancestral Context We enable people to make eating decisions appropriate for themselves, without prescribing dietary advice.

Appropriate Technology We use ancient processes to increase bioavailability of nutrients with modern culinary tools.

Embeddedness We celebrate terroir, demonstrating methods for participating with our local landscape to improve the health of the land and waterways.

Education We connect people with their food, health, environment, and community in unique and powerful ways with hands-on, immersive, teaching and learning opportunities.

Production We produce ethically sourced food with a focus on optimizing nutrient density within a meaningful, delicious, attractive, and sustainable context.

Research We document technologies used to transform raw ingredients into nutritious food while meeting modern expectations of taste, texture, smell, and convenience.

Scalability From home kitchens to culinary teaching facilities, our techniques stay accessible and replicable in any region, to individuals of all ages.

Social Justice We believe access to nutritious food is our birthright, and we seek to foster public health with foods and technologies that have a long tradition of human use.

Tradition We seek to shape culture through the creation of new stories based on seasonal patterns of gathering, cooking, and eating with community in the context of place.

Zero Waste We believe humans can restore the environment by living in accord with the natural world, which wastes nothing. We seek the highest use of every material.

Our Impact

Interns in the Eastern Shore Food Lab develop our strategic plan to promote nourishing food for humans.

Program Leader: Analiese Bush

Living with a fast-food, ready-to-eat mentality, Americans have lost the fulfilling interactions with food on its journey from field to plate.

The necessity to reunite the consumer with the consumed is increasingly important as hectic lifestyles proliferate. To revolutionize our view of food, the Eastern Shore Food Lab aims to reveal the simplicity of home and community gardening using the Campus Garden at Washington College as a model to demonstrate the extent to which these practices can be taken.


A bonafide food forest will take root in the soils of the garden previously amended by biodiverse compost. Prominent signage will educate passersby about the plants, the gardening methods, and the permaculture principles at play. Monthly workshops will teach community members about gardening practices that can be adopted on an individual scale. Pocket gardens will emerge and create a campus better integrated with the food it is eating. Fragmented ecosystems will be rejoined by increased edible landscaping and habitat.

Long Term Goals

  • Make the garden a more centralized part of college campus
  • Spread gardening throughout campus in pop-up and pocket gardens
  • Transform the way that we think about the possession of food by creating accessible, public food sources
  • Dispel misconceptions about home-gardening, home-cooking, and composting
  • Give consumers the power to dictate what they will grow and subsequently eat; foster food independence
  • Contribute some of what is grown to Dining Services
  • Expand the potentials of the garden through experimenting at the River and Field Campus

First Steps

  • Evaluate what students, faculty, and staff want to see in the campus garden
  • Make a usable batch of aerated static pile compost to amend garden soils and build biodiversity
  • Augment the intake of the community compost bins
  • Improve aesthetics and accessibility of garden
  • Create signs and structured flow around the garden to better educate students, etc. about the benefits and uses of the plants and gardening methods

Impact Goals

  • Encourage healthy lifestyles and informed food choices
  • Make food access a matter of conscience and action
  • Promote scalable food production from homes to communities
  • Showcase and promote the ethical use of wild plants in a diverse diet
  • Promote edible landscaping guided by permaculture design process
  • Create a completely new culture of eating

Project Leader: Nicole Hatfield ’21

Creating more spaces on campus that embody the mission of the ESFL and campus garden. 


Whether expanding the campus garden and hosting service days at the garden for clubs, or creating new spaces on campus that illustrate the permaculture design system, I would like the garden and ESFL to have an expressive presence on campus. I imagine other groups on campus getting involved in the garden and transforming the garden into a creative and collaborative space.

Long Term Goals

  • Create mini gardens or permaculture guilds on campus—specifically on the green
  • Capture graywater on campus
  • Complete an aesthetic and functional permaculture plan for the art house
  • Paint a mural on the cement compost bins in the garden
  • Paint a mural outside Toll Science Center
  • Grow a living wall on campus (vines, etc.)
  • Create a journal (fall and spring semester) with simple recipes, environmental art, and ESFL research (like the Collegian)

First Steps

  • Brainstorm campus-wide service and art projects
  • Research the connection between environmental education and the humanities
  • Research how the ESFL mission connects to different areas of study
  • Sketch art ideas (and plan to use environmentally safe materials)

 Impact Goals

  • Build a culture that reinforces core values.
  • Promote edible landscaping guided by permaculture design processes.
  • Create an inclusive community that celebrates diversity and education.
  • Challenge the environmental movement and push for policy change
  • Make the ESFL mission accessible to everyone.
  • Find inspiration in nature.
  • Portray the environment in unconventional ways—subverting the expectation that nature must be romantic.
  • Create awareness about environmental injustice through art projects and research; to critique the modern environmental movement and analyze its drawbacks

Project Leader: Julia Portmann

 Impact Goals

  • Share the products of our work across economic barriers.
  • Work toward net-zero energy use and a carbon neutral footprint.
  • Implement a procurement policy to lead toward self-sufficiency.
  • Promote edible landscaping guided by permaculture design processes.
  • Address bioregional food security through education.

Humans eating a Western diet face the unique challenge of being both overweight and undernourished.

Not only do government-subsidized crops increase the affordability and convenience of nutrient-deficient, processed foods, but deteriorating soil health and increased agrochemical usage reduce the nutrition offered by fresh produce and whole foods. To address these issues, the Eastern Shore Food Lab intends to demonstrate how communities can provide economical, convenient options for nutritious food through the creation of a community garden and associated educational programs.

Long-term Goals

  • Offer summer camps for local children to work in the garden and bring home fresh food
  • Host workshops on preserving food to enhance nutrition and seasonal access
  • Encourage community members to try gardening at home, even just a few plants
  • Develop a straightforward guide made freely available and provide start-up supplies
  • Partner with the community kitchen based out of the Methodist Church to serve healthy food and provide nutritious take-home items
  • Host school field trips to the ESFL; bring ESFL programs to schools about the importance of eating whole, nutritious foods
  • Add a high tunnel greenhouse to increase year-round food production and access
  • Promote seed saving
  • Expand into the realm of aquaponics, aquaculture, and algae

First Steps

  • Identify a location for a community garden: easily accessible, sufficient room to grow
  • Obtain permission from the town to establish garden
  • Break ground on a small plot and construct a shed/produce stand
  • Begin outreach to local elementary and middle schools

Project Leader: Max Moore '22

Most food eaten in the Western diet is transported, assembled, and frozen in a system that not only reduces nutrients, but also contributes to pollution and climate change.

The ESFL intends to promote a paradigm of seasonal food production and consumption encapsulated in a food mandala, an educational tool that can inspire a cultural shift toward nutrient dense and healthy food.


The ESFL will create a food mandala for the Eastern Shore bioregion, drawing inspiration from Masanobu Fukuoka’s food mandala for Japan. Like Fukuoka’s, our mandala will be composed of sustainable, local and healthy food options that will optimize human and environmental health. The mandala will help us to identify niches in which ancient and unconventional foods might take important roles in a sustainable diet. We will use the mandala as the basis for creating recipes appropriate for the modern palate and advocating for diversified food production to address bioregional food security.

Long-term Goals

  • Transition the Eastern Shore’s agriculture to be more sustainable
  • Find ways to maximize the potential of invasive and underutilized species
  • Introduce the foods and recipes to the local community and WC campus
  • Transition Washington College’s dining offerings to be based on the mandala
  • Update and refine the mandala with continued research and feedback
  • Contribute positively to the health of the Eastern Shore and its residents

First Steps

  • Research regional prehistoric and historic cuisine and the ingredients and approaches used
  • Investigate the current challenges to food security across the Eastern Shore
  • Find the seasons of food staples representative of a complete human diet
  • Create the first version of the mandala

 Impact Goals

  • Empower people to practice and share our skills, knowledge, and ethos.
  • Promote the benefits of nutrient density, bioavailability, and food variety.
  • Conduct ethnographic research important to our dietary future.
  • Advocate appropriate food even when it leads in unfamiliar directions.
  • Create a completely new culture of eating.
  • Address bioregional food security through education.

Project Leader: Melissa DeFrancesco ’22

Human ignorance regarding our place in the natural world prevents us from living life to the fullest.

The earth offers us beautifully nutrient dense, bio-available fare, and we have willfully chosen the path of highly processed, dead food. It is what we accept as standard, what we teach our children. There is a distinct divide between our knowledge and what we should deeply understand about food and our environment. What I wish to accomplish can be summed up by the adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” While education is not by any means a panacea, knowledge is the first, most crucial step in affecting true change. My mission is to open the eyes of our community to possibilities that lie just beyond our doorstep, and communicate facts and skills that will nudge us in the right direction. In the battle to restore our relationship with the earth, I believe knowledge is one of the most powerful tools we could possibly equip ourselves with.


Channel the resources of the Eastern Shore Food Lab into opportunities for community members to connect to their surroundings and reevaluate the role that food plays in their lives. Educate individuals of all ages in various food preparation techniques, buying healthy food on a budget, and implementing simple environmental practices into their daily lives. Redefine the relationships between people, food, and their environment.

Long-term Goals

  • Make nutrient-dense food the new normal
  • Foster strong relationships between locals and farmers
  • Improve quality of life for local and regional residents
  • Work with local schools to implement healthier lunch programs
  • Encourage children to adopt outdoor-oriented hobbies
  • Participate with Food Service Advisory Boards

First Steps

  • Implement an interactive skills booth at the Farmers’ Market to get the community excited
  • Host complimentary community workshops for all ages
  • Write informational articles for the local paper and ESFL newsletter
  • Gauge interest in “Food Education” course
  • Collaborate with local scout troops on community cleanups

 Impact Goals

  • Promote healthy habits through educational workshops.
  • Improve the health of residents in Kent County.
  • Encourage the “Buy Local” movement.
  • Provide nutritional advice for families.
  • Prompt children to think about food differently.

Project Leader: Lanning Tyrrel ’22

Before our current era of premade building materials, ready-made houses, and prefabricated tools, when humans moved to a new area, we had to create all of our own shelter and tools and grow our own food.

The skills needed to “start from scratch” have slowly been lost to us as we grow more and more accustomed to having all the jobs required for our survival outsourced to other people. The ESFL outpost reintroduces lost skills and helps people to better understand and appreciate what it takes to support each human by serving as a functioning homestead that creates context through hands-on learning, teaching, connection, and research.


Construct, over time, a model pioneering community on the River and Field Campus. This main outpost would have capacity for people to live on a permanent basis, and to have other rotating guests who could attend classes and view demonstrations. The outpost will be self-sufficient through food production by means of permaculture and animal husbandry, tool production by way of blacksmithing and casting iron, clothes production, basic boat building. Campus will grow to include permanent living facilities, kitchen spaces, food storage using a root cellar, a barn, a fully equipped smithy, classroom facilities, a smoke house and hide tanning facilities, boat/canoe building dock, and clothes making facilities. Through use of permaculture techniques, the campus will have a sustainable permanent food supply, with enough excess to sell to the community. Animals raised will include chickens, pigs, and goats, with the possibility of sheep and cattle depending on the availability of feed in the environment.

Long-term Goals

  • Full-time staff living on campus
  • Multi-day overnight workshops available
  • Village entirely self-sufficient
  • Training for members of the ESFL to start more outposts across the country
  • Provide community with sustainably grown and raised food

First steps

  • Establish basic shelters at RAFC
  • Begin mushroom cultivation
  • Begin training in wildcrafting and survival techniques
  • Observe plants present in environment and begin identifying what can be added to improve yield and improve soil health

 Impact Goals

  • Spread the ideas of permaculture.
  • Create a sustainable community built from materials gathered from the land.
  • Give people the knowledge and skills to create things by hand.
  • Help to support the food lab through the sale of our products.

Project Leader: Alaina Perdon ’22

A food desert is defined as an area, especially one with low-income residents, that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

In 2010, nearly 30% of Kent county residents were living in a USDA-classified food desert, with the number projected to increase in the coming years. Residents lack a steady supply of nutritious food. A large percentage of this population includes school-age children. Children are crucial elements of the nutrition crisis, not only because they are especially at risk in terms of malnutrition related health complications; but also because, as is frequently stated, “children are the future” — any hope of change lies within the youth.


A small, student-tended garden will be planted in a public space or learning environment with interactive lessons presented on gardening, sustainability, and healthy eating. Students engaged will not only learn basic gardening practices, but also how to make healthy eating choices — information they can carry through life as well as bring back to their families. They may also learn basic cooking practices through trips to the ESFL.

Long-term Goals

  • Establish a garden club in which students may tend to a campus garden
  • Incorporate edible landscaping across school campus
  • Develop system in which students may bring harvested foods home
  • Host trips to ESFL for students to learn how to make meals using food from their garden
  • Explore indoor greenhouses/aquaponics to ensure year-round growth
  • Incorporate composting element to reduce waste

First Steps

  • Establish relationship with administrators and determine viable area on school campus or accessible public property
  • Give preliminary lesson to students in regards to purpose and benefits of campus garden

 Impact Goals

  • Help establish food security across economic barriers.
  • Promote healthy lifestyle choices through education.
  • Expand mission of ESFL to general public through youth.
  • Ensure project longevity through education.

What We Do

Dr. Schindler describes the scope of our work in the Eastern Shore Food Lab. Check out more videos.