Friday, June 26, 2015

(Food) Roots Run Deep







Oftentimes, I think back and reflect on how my interest in food and agriculture got started. While I can think of a thousand different moments that may have influenced me and started me on this path, there are a few defining experiences in particular. These
experiences became really clear to me during the fall semester of my sophomore year. I was taking a Civic Agriculture course with the fabulous Dr. Kim Niewolny, when we were tasked with mapping out our food roots. Not being the creative or artsy type, I at first dreaded this project, but resorted to printing pictures of defining moments. The project was a success and I often think back to what I thought my food roots were then, and what they are now. I'd say that many have stayed the same, while others have changed, and even more have been added. Now that I'm on a new journey with this blog and site, I decided it was time to reevaluate my food roots and recount those defining experiences for you all, in hopes that you too will think and reflect on your own roots!

The very first memory I have of food is sitting at the Christmas table at my grandparents. Every year, for as long as I can remember, Mimi would make this decadent chocolate log that just tasted plain awful to me. While I am a die hard chocolate lover, each year I would taste this cake with hopes of a smooth, velvety chocolate taste--just to despise it. It always had some type of coffee and liqueur in it and just not the kind of sweet a 5 year old wants to have on Christmas Eve. While I've warmed up to the cake over the years, this cake still had meaning to me throughout my childhood, even in all of its coffee liqueur glory. To my family and others around the world, that cake was tradition that links to my mom and grandmother's French heritage and time they spent in Germany. To me, it symbolized the end of a holiday at Mimi and Pape's, one that had it's ups and downs from delicious foie gras (I'll save that for another post) and glorious piles of presents to the inevitable family chaos.

Fast forward through a few years full of summers eating tomatoes straight from the garden, touring farms with Girl Scouts, the beginning of my horse obsession, and I'm brought to my middle school years. Middle school is an awkward time that I think all of us are glad is over, but to me it was also the beginning of new chapter at a new school, in a new county, with all new people. When my parents decided to make the move from Prince William County to Orange County, VA, I distinctly remembering staring out the car window as we passed the hill of Prospect Heights Middle School and thinking that moving to Orange was the WORST THING EVER! What was I supposed to do in the country? How wrong could I have been! Moving to Orange was one of the best things that ever could have happened to me and I'm so thankful for my parent's decisions and all the people I've encountered and experiences I've had that led to to where I am today and the passions I pursue. I've lived on a beef cattle farm, held local food seminars, spent countless hours with dairy cows, taught kids how to garden and where their food comes from and ultimately decided to go to Virginia Tech, where my passion for agriculture was fueled even more!

Since being at Virginia Tech, I've been enlightened, challenged, inspired, and enabled through the various experiences I've had. Whether it was interning on Capitol Hill during the slow to pass Farm Bill debacle, studying abroad in anti-GMO Europe, writing curriculum for the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher, or now interning for a big food company, I've learned so much about my food values, the debates surrounding food and ag, and the challenges with meeting changing consumer demands. All in all, these experiences have made me into the person I am today, pursuing the career and personal ventures that I am passionate about. This is just a snapshot of my food roots, but we all have roots that have shaped our history and food values and identity. What's your story? How have your experiences shaped how you feel about food and ag? Comment below or email me at sarah@theconventionalfoodie.com! I'll pick one (or a few!) food roots stories to be featured and win some goodies!

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