Something that has become very apparent to me recently is the overwhelming number of young people who are devoting their lives to sustainable agriculture and local food movements. Perhaps I am more aware of it because I have been more involved with it lately, but something tells me there is a growing momentum that is very unique to my generation. Since noticing this, I’ve become curious— what is spurring this momentum? What makes young people so passionate about food?
Laura Budde is a 21-year-old student at the University of Michigan, studying Program in the Environment, with a specialization in sustainable food systems. She grew up in Minnesota, where her mom had a small garden, but her experience with agriculture was otherwise limited to driving through the monocultures of corn that pervade the midwest. When her mom bought her Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in high school, it was the first time she learned to think about food as something positive and essential to our well-being.
After taking an environmental issues class at the Univeristy of Michigan and declaring a major in Program in the Environment as a sophomore, Laura was made more aware of food politics by books and films like Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Inc. and decided as a sophomore to focus on sustainable food systems.
As a junior, Laura spent a semester abroad (with Semester at Sea— a study abroad program that sails around the world and stops in several countries for a diverse learning experience). This past year, the theme of the program was environmental sustainability, and several classes pertaining to the theme were offered to students. Laura took a class on the anthropology of food, through which she was able to see how different cultures experience food. From ethnic cuisine to rice paddies in Vietnam and China to a fish auction in Japan, she got to learn about different food systems and it became very apparent to her from these experiences just how industrial our food system in the US is.
Upon her return from her voyage around the world, Laura spent part of her summer on a program, Hecua, that looks at sustainable food systems through research laboratories, agricultural policy institutes, meat-packing plants, creamery operations, conventional farms, and small-scale CSA farms. She then spent the rest of the summer WWOOFing on two different farms in Washington. She spent one month on a vegetable farm in Mt. Vernon harvesting and selling to local cooperatives, and then six weeks on a goat farm that specialized in milk, cheese, and fiber art from sheep’s wool.
For now, Laura is most interested in the production end of the food system, and would love to have her own farm some day, or even work as a farm animal vet to make sure that the base of production is healthy. In the future, she could see herself doing agriculture related work with Americorps or with farms-to-schools programs. According to Laura, the biggest issues facing the growth and health of local food systems are transparency, education, and access to information— It is difficult to make the issues visible to the public, but it is necessary to continually reach out to the population and hold corporations and industries accountable.
I’ll be bringing you more profiles of young foodies in the near future!