By the time you read this, I’ll most likely have finished up my time at the Addison Independent with more than a few tears.
As I write it, I’m preparing to move on from this three-year experience that’s taught me almost everything I know about journalism, agriculture, technology and adult life.
I started here at the Addy Indy as an intern, fresh out of Middlebury College armed with an English degree and a mighty indecision about what I wanted to do with my life.
All I knew was that I liked to write, and I really liked food.
Now, I’m preparing to head to the University of Vermont as part of the inaugural Master of Science in Food Systems class (headed up by Cornwall’s Amy Trubek), in large part thanks to my time here at the paper.
I figure the best way to explain this is probably not a hastily written column that I whipped together along with the 5 million other things I’m trying to finish this week. Here, instead, is an excerpt from my UVM application essay:
In my family, food isn’t just food. It’s an experience, both the cooking of it and the eating of it.
With my parents and my brother, I grew up eating my father’s cooking every night — eating at the dinner table was never negotiable. With my extended family, I grew up rolling out dough for my family’s traditional Italian-Albanian ravioli recipe on Thanksgiving, helping to chop vegetables for my Thai aunt’s annual family feast, and learning to love “stinky cheese” from my French uncle. On summer nights, we lingered at the dinner table until long after the sun had gone down, talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s company over good food.
As I understood it, though, my food came from bags or boxes or Styrofoam containers at the grocery store around the corner. I grew up in New York City, and until I arrived at college in Vermont, I had little notion of the complex food systems that brought the food to my plate. It became clear that I couldn’t continue to revel in cooking and eating without learning more about where that food came from and how it had been delivered to me.
In nearly seven years in Vermont — four in college, three writing about food and agriculture at the Addy Indy — I’ve learned a lot about how food is grown and produced, how it’s processed and where it’s sold. I’ve attended lectures on many areas of the food system and I’ve written articles about everything from roller-coaster dairy prices to federal agricultural policies and labor legislation.
All over the country, I’ve seen writers and journalists and bloggers begin to bring questions about how our food system works into the national spotlight. Awareness of food safety issues is running high, as meat recalls and disease outbreaks are increasingly linked to systemic failures. Discussion of the labor force on our national farms has come into the spotlight as states attempt to crack down on illegal immigration.
Meanwhile, farmers are now using social media to communicate with the public in ways that were never before possible. The number of farmers’ markets nationally increases each year. Small artisan cheesemakers and bakeries, microbreweries and vineyards are seeing strong demand for their products. And food access organizations like Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects and Vermont Food Bank are contracting with area farms and starting their own farms, working to ensure a nutritionally dense food supply for their clients.
There’s a lot going on in agriculture, but as I’ve delved into writing my own stories and reading other agriculture coverage in the mainstream media, I’ve realized just how little I — and, indeed, the nation — actually know about our food system. For all the reporting I’ve done, I still have no idea how to navigate the labyrinth that is food policy, and from a state dominated by relatively small-scale agriculture, I find myself struggling to get a grasp on the national and international economics of it.
That’s the idea as it stands: to take a step back, to figure out what’s going on, and then to dive right back into writing.
I couldn’t be more sad to leave the Addison Independent family, and the wonderful communities that sustain it, but I’m excited to jump into a new adventure.
So until I see you all again (after all, I won’t be too far away), live well, eat well, and stay in touch.
From here on out, Andrea Suozzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.