By Isis Ulery Chapman, Seacoast Eat Local intern, part of her series getting to know the board members and people behind Seacoast Eat Local
I know you just joined Seacoast Eat Local over the summer, could you tell me the story of how you chose to work with SEL?
I never envisioned myself working for a non-profit organization! I am a scientist, specifically a plant scientist, and once I completed my graduate studies in Plant Biology at UNH, I knew that although I loved the subject matter and research, I couldn’t stand to be cooped up in a laboratory all day long anymore. I loved teaching – that was my favorite part of graduate school. I love connecting with people – I love sharing my passion with people. When my husband and I decided to farm, I realized that I could help on the farm with my baby alongside, and I could connect with customers at farmers’ markets about why we were passionate about growing our own food. As our farm business grew, we joined more farmers’ markets – including Seacoast Eat Local’s Winter Farmers’ Market. I was so inspired by the good work SEL was doing to help small farms increase outlets for healthy food, and even more inspired by the SNAP/EBT program that enabled anyone, regardless of income, to have access to healthy food. We even became authorized to accept EBT in our farmstand because I believe so deeply in equitable food access. Last spring, when both my children were of school-age, I began looking for off-farm employment and there happened to be an open position within SEL just at that time. I feel very fortunate that the Board choose me 🙂
So far into working with SEL, how would you describe SEL?
Seacoast Eat Local is an amazing organization I’m extremely proud to work for. We support our local producers, first and foremost. We advocate for our farmers and believe in creating a community of culture around food produced within our own communities. We also believe that everyone in our community should have access to that food, regardless of the obstacles and we work to help people in our community overcome those obstacles. We believe in ecological sustainability, and a community that is able to source its most precious resource – food – from within itself is a community made stronger and more sustainable.
What is your job title at SEL? What kind of work are you given with that title?
I am the Program Coordinator. My position entails organization of the Winter Farmers’ Markets, administration of the SNAP/EBT program at area farmers’ markets, and I offer support to our Director of Programs in fundraising efforts, program expansions, and the publication of Seacoast Harvest.
How have you seen SEL grow since you’ve been working with them?
Seacoast Eat Local seems to have grown substantially within the 2015-16 season, even though we are only two staff members in addition to the Board, interns, and many volunteers that are critical to our organization’s success. Giving our programs full-time attention has enabled us to widen our SNAP/EBT service area to include previously unreached low-income communities, and we have even more ‘tricks up our sleeve’ (stay tuned – exciting growth to follow!)
What has been your favorite aspect of working with SEL?
I love, love, love connecting with market customers. I love helping people get turned onto local food. Kale grown down the street and picked this morning has far superior flavor and nutrient density compared to that available at the grocery store – and I love knowing that I’m nourishing my own children with foods that support my farmer’s family, my community’s health, and my local economy. Helping people learn this truth for themselves drives my own enthusiasm.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to become more involved in the local food community?
Regularly attend farmers’ markets! Even if you can’t afford to buy all your food at the market – make a habit of attending. There is so much information to be learned from connecting with our growers. Your farmer can teach you a lot about what is available and why – depending on our climate, the growing season, the market – and make suggestions about what produce is at its peak and when you can expect others to be available. You can also learn about a variety of sustainably raised meats and in cuts not traditionally available at the grocery store. Plus, when you begin eating locally and seasonally, there are constantly new foods available!
What is your favorite vegetable that you can find at markets in the winter?
Yukina savoy! I love eating it raw – it’s slightly sweeter than baby kale and crisper than spinach. You might find me walking the Winter Farmers’ Market with my hand in a bag – just snacking away! It’s also easily hidden in smoothies for my kids. Typically I either toss a handful into a salad, or use it as a bed of raw greens under salmon or chicken.