Connecting with international students using farmer’s markets and food

Every semester I teach at Conestoga College, I use food to get the attention of my business communication students. There are always foodies in my classes of international students.

The Cambridge Farmer’s Market is one of the oldest in Canada. Photo by Kevin Swayze

That means I’m always planning how to share recipes, restaurant recommendations and places to visit and experience food in the Waterloo Region area. In each class, I create an online discussion forum in the eConestoga online learning platform, provided by D2L.

I think of it as an applied business communication exercise. The students are my customers for the information and local expertise I share. I see plenty of evidence about how food builds trust with students facing a new culture, climate, and educational environment.

At the start of a class in January 2020 – before my teaching moved online – I ordered in an urn of coffee to share with my students before we started talking about communication theory.

I’m now teaching students living in Brantford, along with Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo. Brantford is the latest addition to by geographic teaching roster. Now I’m learning what food information I can share in that city, too

I always start by sharing videos about the local farmer’s market.

The St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market, on the northwest edge of the City of Waterloo, also gets students’ attention.  It’s Canada’s largest farmer’s market and a busy place with lots of local fresh farm food and prepared food on open days.  There are also lots of vendors with a range of clothing and household goods.

Here’s info about the smaller Cambridge Farmer’s Market, which runs every Saturday morning near my home. It’s the closest farmer’s market to the Doon and Cambridge campuses.

And the downtown Kitchener Market. That’s just around the corner from the new Downtown Kitchener campus of Conestoga.

What other food information do you suggest I share with the students new to the Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Brantford areas?