As a garden education consultant, I help people reconnect to the source of their food and in doing so, to adopt healthier consumption choices.
Here are a couple questions for you:
- What are some different ways to eat potatoes, and which is your favorite?
- Would you be able to identify what a potato plant looks like?
I find that most people can only answer the first one… and I think that says something profound about our society and how people relate to their food.
Here’s my story:
I grew up in the inner city of Chicago. As urban children typically do, I didn’t have much exposure to nature or farming while growing up. Like many kids in the “age of convenience,” I consumed a lot of fast food and TV dinners.
It wasn’t until college when I started learning how to cook for myself, and at that time I noticed a great improvement in my health and energy. My first job after graduation was on an organic farm, which gave me my first experiences with gardening. At this time, I realized how important and empowering it is to learn where your food comes from.
The owner of the farm gave me a book that had a major impact on the way I perceive our environment. The book was about sustainable agriculture and the importance of building the health of the soil. If soil is highly exposed to chemical inputs, its overall health and vitality will decrease. As I learned more about this topic, I decided to focus my career on organic agriculture.
I went to one of the top agricultural graduate schools in Germany and completed a Master’s degree in Organic Agriculture and Food Systems. During my studies, I found an article by Monica Eng that would set me on my career path. She reported that many Chicago public schools have edible gardens, but were not allowed to use their garden produce in the cafeteria. I decided to conduct my Master’s thesis on the topic of school garden-to-cafeteria programs. I connected with experts in garden education in Chicago, NYC and Denver in order to provide recommendations for successful program implementation (Click here to see my thesis.)
Studies show that when children engage in gardening, they eat more fruits and vegetables and they enjoy the taste of them more! Through my research and experience, I’m convinced that gardening is the most powerful way to encourage healthier consumption choices, and to potentially mitigate epidemics like obesity and diabetes.
Since returning to my hometown of Chicago, I have collaborated with numerous organizations and stakeholders that are invested in the growth of garden education locally and beyond. My goal is to give more people the opportunity to experience the benefits of gardening and preparing fresh foods.
I look forward to connecting with you!