The universal language of foodShare
If you have been keeping up with the Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders, you know that we are seasoned globe trotters. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration but we have experienced many facets of agriculture this summer. From Africa to Washington D.C., we’ve learned a lot of food security. Next on our tour of ag, and what I had initially thought would be the least glamorous part of my 11-week internship, was Co-op Week. But to my surprise, it turned to be one of the most inspiring weeks of my entire internship experience, and dare I say, of my life.
Like most Americans, and although I was born in America’s heartland, my connection to agriculture is fairly limited. Aside from my grandfathers’ success in the highly-competitive Kansas City BBQ arena and my great-grandpa's amateur, but nonetheless lively, stint as a Texas rancher, I didn’t see agriculture playing a role in my life. So, for the bulk of my young adult life, I was disconnected from where my food came from while maintaining my devotion to local food security and nutritional literacy through my nonprofit, Busy Bee Foods.
I’ve come to realize this disconnection hinders food security and that is the reason I applied to be a Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader for Food Security. Sure, I wanted to be a part of a remarkable program dedicated to solving world hunger, but I also needed to close the "food" gap in my own life. Solving hunger starts with agriculture, and we must all realize this. The moment in which I personally recognized the importance of agriculture was during co-op week.
My week spent in the Oregonian countryside was incredible. In the Willamette Valley, we visited Wilco, a farmer-owned cooperative that serves its members through business units including Hazelnut Growers of Oregon, Wilco farm stores, fuel services and agribusiness. Similar to agriculture, my familiarity with the cooperative model was also limited. However, I soon realized how the cooperative model truly embodies what Land O'Lakes, Wilco and agriculture are all about—community.
In addition to learning about Wilco‘s business model, I also saw first-hand the role the farmer has in cultivating food for our rapidly growing population. It was my first time seeing farms that harvested crops other than corn, soybean and wheat on such a large scale. We saw fields of hazelnuts, blueberries, broccoli, cauliflower, hops–the list goes on. My countless conversations with producers about harvest wins and losses, ag technology and sustainability efforts showed me how personal farming really is.
One encounter that sticks out in my mind is the talk I had with Wilco co-op member, Tim Kreder during our twilight blackberry farm tour. He shared with us his take with the current state of agriculture including: monopolization, consolidation and policy. But his biggest worry was the thought of losing his fourth-generation family farm. This is when I realized the intrinsic sensitivity and personal accountability embedded in agriculture. No matter our background, be it me, a socially-conscious Black woman, or Tim Kreder, a passionate farmer, food matters to everyone.
Although I’m not sure where my own professional future might take me, Land O'Lakes’ Global Food Challenge program has shaped my perspective on what it means to be a part of agriculture. Food security cannot exist without the farm, and it is essential that both consumers and producers join to end this thing called food insecurity. And to bridge the gap, we must realize that food is a universal language—something that has the power to sustain us all. Agriculture is not only for farmers or agronomists, it is for anyone who desires to contribute to feeding human progress.