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Gala 2013: Talking about Food

At our 2nd Annual Gala - Celebrate the Harvest on September 10, 2013, three interns presented a dynamic speaking series highlighting their personal encounters with youth, food, and community, the three intersection points of The Food Project's triangular mission. Over the course of the coming week, we will be posting transcripts of their speeches, along with a live video recording that might include some deviations from the planned script. 



Baie Rogers

Marblehead, MA

2013 TFP Gala Talk: Food

I’m sure that many, if not all of you have heard someone say, “Food is that thing that connects us! We have always survived on food and we continue to connect with each other through food.”

That is all true. Food does bring folks together in great ways -- from galas like tonight, to farm lunches on our land in the summer, to our kitchen tables every morning, and all the way to Farmer’s Markets across our communities. It’s the Farmer’s Market that I want to tell you about tonight. As I said, food brings us together, sometimes in complicated ways. Coming together around food can create tensions and frustrations as well. So about the farmer’s market...

I remember this one day at the Farmer’s Market in Lynn. It was raining and the market was filled with different tents that were selling a variety of items, from homemade jewelry to unique recipes of vegetables and fruit, corn husks for tamales, and beautiful produce of all kinds.

The Lynn Farmer’s Market is located near a train track. Our group of Food Project Interns couldn’t hear our own voices because there was either a train running past every half hour that would drown out our voices, or vendors yelling for some help setting up their stands. We were clearly off to a slightly rocky start, and remember, this is only the beginning of the day.

On market days, when the market opens at 11:00, the space is overwhelming and exciting all at once. We were selling cucumbers, onions, garlic, lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, green beans, hot peppers, bell peppers, zucchini, and flowers -- all grown on our land in Lynn. Our vending space is so colorful, so inviting, and so diverse -- just like the youth who grow the food! All of the interns and growers can describe what we grow and how we grow our food. We are there to welcome everyone who comes by our stall, and the offer the best produce possible to our neighbors at a really affordable cost.

On this day, the market was filled with customers of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities, who wanted to buy some local food. There were so many people that I slowly leaned back in order to brace myself for the wave of people coming over to our stand. As the market went by, customers began to become more demanding, from choosing top quality tomatoes BEHIND the display we had in front of our vending space, to questioning how good our cucumbers actually are. But out of the entire day, the one thing that really stood out to me was how much honey was being sold almost every hour and the fuss the customers made in order to obtain this honey. That was when my curiosity kicked in; I wanted to understand why honey is SO important to these customers. During my lunch break, I began to look up recipes that contained some honey. As a result, I was greeted with dozens of recipes that require honey as the main source of taste, flavor, and/or appeal. And that was when it hit me.

That honey, the product everyone at the market fusses, argues, and even fights over, may be a part of their culture and/or tradition. It wasn’t just honey! And like the rest of our produce that we were selling that day, they weren’t JUST vegetables. The food that we grow and sell can have a significant importance on someone’s culture or tradition.  And with that, I was connecting with the customers through food.

That is what I love about the Farmer’s Market – there I can really connect with strangers, which sounds odd when you think about it, but it’s true. Up until the end of that day at the market, I never realized how many connections I have made with customers through bell peppers or through corn. I never really reflected on the times I have had the opportunity to connect with the customers.

But that is why I am here tonight talking about food. Here at The Food Project, the youth are able not only to help grow and harvest the produce we sell, but they are also able to connect with strangers and cultures on a more honest and challenging level. So, yeah, the market may be overwhelming and slightly chaotic, but it’s worth listening to a different story and building a new connection through food.

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