I am so excited to be writing this very first blog post for Locally Grown Inc.; the (brief) version of how Locally Grown got started, at least from my perspective. We started Locally Grown to collaborate with others in our community to build a resilient and equitable local food system and a sustainable Farm to School Program in Hillsborough County.
So how does a former School Nutrition Director, who worked in the same school district for 16 years decide to change everything and start a non-profit? It all began with a simple phone call to our other co-founder, Arianne Corbett. During that call a seed was planted, I just wasn’t quite sure what was growing.
From Full-time to Freelance
I tend to be a practical person and I like stability . So, if I was going to take a leap of faith and make a MAJOR career shift, I wanted these things:
- For my work to captivate my attention and make a difference
- For my work to enhance my life and that of my family, not distract me away from it
Fast forward a few months and I am now an independent consultant figuring out a completely new way of working. As a freelance consultant you often find yourself with “open” time in your schedule. Time that is not being paid by anyone, so you choose what to do with that time; scroll social (I like to call this networking), look for work opportunities, maybe learn something new or improve a skill. Arianne and I were meeting regularly and looking for a joint venture, something we could tackle together, something bigger than either of us could do alone. We didn’t quite know what that was, but we knew we wanted to make a difference in our own community. School Nutrition Professionals were working under some of the hardest conditions we had ever seen; staffing shortages, food shortages and the ongoing stress of a global pandemic. We wanted to find a way to support them now and into the future.
Meanwhile, I was spending my open time and even much of my personal time learning about home gardening, urban and regenerative agriculture, soil health and the idea of re-vitalizing local food systems. Vibrant local food systems got me excited; I would spend hours going down one rabbit hole after another finding amazing things happening across the United States and in other countries. I had to find a way to bring this into my work.
When I moved on from my formal job in School Nutrition, I had a lot of unfinished business if you will; dreams and visions I had that were unfulfilled and a calling to continue to support the undaunted hard work of those feeding kids at schools. One of those dreams was to have the School Nutrition office on the property of a teaching farm. I envisioned a robust Farm to School Program where we served and marketed local foods and inspired a whole new generation of farmers by allowing our students the opportunity to get their hands dirty on our farm and experience what it is like to plant, harvest and provide food for others. I was sad in a lot of ways that I wouldn’t be able to see this vision come to life……..and then I realized that maybe I just had to reimagine that dream.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”Socrates
Building Something New
So as I put the pieces together it ended up looking like this:
I want to spend my time engaged in re-building a vibrant local food system in my own community; one in which anyone who wants to be involved in growing and producing their own food can do that with a home garden, at a community garden or by volunteering at a local farm, one in which everyone has choice in what they eat and knows where and how it was grown, and one in which local agriculture products can actually nourish and support the needs of our community.
Schools provide as much as 40% of the nutrition needs for most students and cafeterias are the largest “restaurants” in our communities.
So lastly, I want to connect our kids to our local food system and let them engage in building the future of it by:
- Serving locally grown food at schools;
- Showing students how and where that food was grown; and
- Letting students grow food and serve that at schools too.
This is work that is worthy of my time, this is work that does not feel like work at all.
And just like that, the idea for Locally Grown was born. The seed that was planted during that call with Arianne is growing into something exciting. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Follow our journey and join us as we build a resilient and equitable local food system and Farm to School program in Hillsborough County.