Customers at Audubon Market in St. Francisville were surprised recently to see yellow school buses pull up to the store and students disembark for a tour. Not a common field trip, two classes of West Feliciana High freshmen were visiting the local market because of a college-level human geography class they’re taking.

Nicole Means, who teaches the advanced placement course, said the lessons center on several major topics: introduction to geography; population and migration; political organization of space; agriculture and rural land use; industrialization and economic development; and cities and urban land use.

Means said she organized the trip so her students could make local connections to a current unit of study that focuses on food and agriculture.

“Most recently, the students have investigated how and where food is grown, distributed and sold, and the diverse selection of items offered at Audubon Market provided a great venue for them to explore the themes in this unit,” Means said.

Angela Neal, produce manager, gave the students a tour of the produce section while explaining places of origin, regulations and shelf-life of produce as well as what criteria foods must meet in order to be labeled organic. Neal also demonstrated how fruit is cleaned, cut and packaged for sale.

Harold Hughes, the deli manager, led the tour of the market’s bakery and sushi departments, offering samples of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and a demonstration of a sushi roll being created by one of the market’s chefs.

“For many students, it was their first time to sample sushi,” Means said.

During a tour of the meat department, butcher Gilbert Harleaux described the different kinds and cuts of meats and fish, explaining that some fish come from as far away as China.

“Because customer safety is a priority, all meat, poultry and seafood must undergo strict safety standards, no matter their origin,” Harleaux said. “Each package of meat has a tracking number so that if any contamination occurs, the factory or farm where the meat was processed can be traced.”

The final leg of the tour was given by Mitch Talley, Audubon’s grocery manager, who brought the students through the dairy and freezer sections.

Following the tour, the teens divided into small groups and participated in a scavenger hunt assignment, analyzing ingredients found in various food items and comparing them to the geographic models discussed in their unit.

“They considered distance, bulk, perishability and transportation costs in getting items from farm to factory and finally to consumers,” Means said.

The students also searched the store for ingredients found in both natural and processed foods, amazed by the amount of corn products found in both.

The group ate lunch at Audubon Market, some students taking advantage of the hot plate lunches and sushi while others expanded their taste buds and sampled dishes such as octopus salad.

“The trip to the grocery store was quite literally their coolest field trip ever. They not only endured sub-arctic temperatures in the various coolers, but they learned that valuable learning experiences can occur within their local community,” Means said. “It’s not necessary to traverse the world to realize the impact geography has on our daily lives.”