After months of planning, the two other Fellows and I kicked off our “Story Behind the Food” tour last week. Over the next few months, we hope to visit with hundreds of students who eat in Bon Appétit college cafés
every day to spread the word about BAMCO sustainability initiatives
like Farm to Fork, the Low Carbon Diet, and our work with the Coalition
of Immokalee Workers in Florida.
My first two stops were LeTourneau University in Longview, TX and St. Edwards University in Austin, TX. At LeTourneau, a small but enthusiastic group of students on the school Senate joined me, BAMCO General Manager Doris Wilson and Executive Chef
Paul Riley for my presentation. They were very excited about the
Student Garden Guide and also wanted to follow up about how they can
educate their peers on labor and environmental issues in the food
system. I also chatted with Doris and Paul about their passion for sourcing Farm to Fork products, which must be from small- to medium-sized owner-operated farms within 150 miles of the café. The local food system in East Texas is in the early stages of development, so I hope their efforts to connect with more local growers can be a catalyst for the region.
At St. Edwards, 25 students, professors, and staff members attended my presentation and enjoyed a tasty
spread of snacks and beverages. GM Michael Smith, EC Brian
Krellenstein, and Sous Chef Elvin Lubrin were on hand to get to know
students. A representative from the brand new student garden was in the audience, so I hope my presentation inspired them to collaborate with the fine folks at the St. Edwards BAMCO. I was overwhelmed by the positive response from St. Edwards students—I could tell they really cared about things like sustainable seafood and farmworker justice.
While in Texas, I was able to visit two farms that sell produce to St. Edwards. The owner of Bella Verdi Farms gave me a tour of his incredibly productive hydroponic greenhouse. It’s only 1/3rd of an acre, but he can produce up to 2,000 heads of lettuce per week plus pounds of basil, microgreens, and salad mix! I
visited with two of his part-time workers and was impressed with the
amount of pride they took in watching seeds grow into big, beautiful
heads of lettuce.
The second farm I visited was Naegelin Farms down in Lytle, TX. Sonny Naegelin grows all kinds of “chemical-free” vegetables and also is getting into pastured pork, beef, and chickens. We drove all over his several hundred acres and got stuck in mud and had to get rescued by one of his twin sons.
Sonny’s been farming all his life, just like his father, grandfather,
great-grandfather, and great-GREAT-grandfather before him, and had a
lot of perspective on farming, labor issues, and life in general.
Next week, I’ll be meeting with students at Wheaton College near Chicago, IL. Can’t wait!