Field Trips

I’m not sure I remember what my
office looks like, but I’ve had excellent reasons to stay away this week. I
visited a tomato farm 35 miles north of LA that shook my definition of “local
tomato.” (Yes, I felt the earthquake, but that’s not the shaking I mean.) In
addition to organic heirlooms densely grown with the aid of sophisticated
monitoring equipment to measure water absorption (I’ve become a tomato
geek), I saw a temperature-controlled greenhouse dependent on seed beds from the
Netherlands. Setting aside the
energy-intensity of this production system (which is enormous), do these
tomatoes still qualify as ‘local’ to LA? Later that evening, I gave a talk on
the food system’s contribution to climate change before a very enthusiastic
audience in
. They asked me questions for an hour after a
60-minute presentation. One audience member recorded her reactions in her blog.
Santa Monica may
not be representative of the general public, but the audience for this topic has
grown enormously over the past year. The connection between food and climate
change doesn’t seem as odd to many as it once did.

I spent the second half of the week
in Seattle.
Nearly 250 student leaders and advisors from Jesuit colleges around the country
gathered at Seattle University to share ideas and learn about
community-building. My role was to talk about ethical dimensions of school food.
Being a “corporate tool” at Bon Appétit, I realized, was having a job in which I
get to think about – and work on – these issues. Pretty cool. I got a sense that
many of the students thought so too. The Chardin Garden,
developed by Patrick Rossmann
, a residence hall director at Seattle
University, is a delightful example of a school-based project that reflects
campus awareness about knowing how our food is grown and where it comes from.
The chioggia beet he bit into looked really appetizing!

I’ll be back in the Bay Area this
week. Catch me on a panel at the Commonwealth Club this Wednesday evening – part
of the Slow Food Nation kick-off.

– Helene York, Director of the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation