Tag Archives: essay contest

Essay Contest Runner-Up: You Are What You Eat by Aviva Friedman

15 Aug

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

Consider: Eating is one of the most intimate things that we do, as what you ingest actually becomes part of your body.  In a day and age where the status quo is cheap, low-quality, high-quantity food, it is therefore out of the ordinary to seek out local, organic, nutritious and natural food.  What an interesting concept, considering our place as inhabitants of the Earth!  For thousands and thousands of years, we ate food that was grown with the beating sun as fuel, molded by years of natural selection.  We used the rain as our sprinklers to water our crops, and we used our hands to harvest them.  And within the last hundred or so years, we have completely disconnected from this process.  It now requires effort to overlook the household names of chain supermarkets, to ask where your food comes from, to grow your own food, or to buy from a local farmers market.


Eating local and organic food is about so many things.  It is caring about your body and what goes into it, it is caring about the Earth that sustains us, but it is also about swimming upstream–saying no to the easier option.  Saying no to the omnipresent  corporations and yes to the local farmers.  Saying no to unhealthy, low-quality government subsidies and yes to fresh, natural produce.  It is taking an active stance in something that affects all of us.  Eating locally and organically is eating food with integrity.

About the author: Aviva Friedman is an Environmental Studies student at the State University of New York at Binghamton.


Essay Contest Runner Up: Connecting the Pieces by Melissa Brody

8 Aug

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

My mom opened the fridge, searching for options. I had barely arrived and she already wanted to fill me with food. She turned and proudly announced she had bought brown eggs. She didn’t want to feel judged. “Where did they come from,” I asked. She stared at me in disbelief, then huffed, “Where did this obsession with local come from? You were never like this before.” She was right.

Growing up, I didn’t think twice about where my food came from; food was just there. While I was in college, a trip to McDonalds occurred at least once a week, and although we cooked, we opted for the exotics—mangoes, avocados, pineapples. They made us feel fancy. Yet somewhere along the way things changed, rapidly. My curiosity awoke and suddenly I wanted, no, needed, to know exactly what I was consuming and where it came from.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

I traded exotic delicacies for local produce. My senses became alive to the touch, smell, sight, and taste of local food. The first time I tasted an heirloom tomato, I wondered why I spent so many years forcing flavorless supermarket tomatoes down my throat. I became aware of the thick layers of wax that coated far-traveled cucumbers. For the first time I saw baby carrots for what they really were, and considered the labor and waste that went into making those perfectly petit creations.

I became jaded at first, angry about what people bought. Why sell California strawberries in June when they’re growing practically at our feet? Asparagus in December no longer seemed natural. But through my adventure into local, I found so much more than food. Eating local brought me community. We joined a co-op. I no longer dreaded food shopping because I now had a say not just in what I was eating, but what the store carried. We joined a CSA and found neighbors we never knew we had. We visited farms and farmers markets, learning not just where but how our food grew.

Food now had a face. Picking up a fava bean brings me back to the farm stand where the farmer took time to explain how to peel the beans and his favorite way to prepare them. A spoonful of applesauce reminds me of the unseasonably warm September weekend we spent picking apples upstate, then bringing the fruit home to can. An omelet transports me to my first visit to Stone Barns where I collected eggs while chickens pecked at my sneakers.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

Photo courtesy of Melissa Brody

My journey as a locavore has affected my life in ways I could never have imagined. I look at the world differently. I have yet to pinpoint the moment in my life when everything changed. I’m not sure who or what convinced me to question why raspberries, peas, and butternut squash are always available all year long. But I’ve learned to connect the pieces—to understand my impact on this earth, to realize the labor that goes into the meal that sits in front of me and to savor each bite that enters my mouth.

About the author: Melissa Brody is a marketing professional by day, food blogger by night. She is an advocate of the local food movement and founding member of the Bay Ridge Food Co-op. Melissa’s blog, Brooklyn Locavore (bklynlocavore.com) features seasonal original and adapted recipes and locavore finds.

Essay Contest Runner-Up: The Benefits of Bounties in Our Own Backyards by Denyel Koury

31 Jul

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

I was in sociology class sitting in an old school room during my senior year of college. On this particular day, we were learning about agriculture and the environment. I was sinking into my seat, my feet encroaching on the legs of the desk in front of me until the professor began to raise his voice. I snapped back to an upright position like a rubber band.

“You guys don’t get it,” the professor shouted. “Organic milk is so delicious! For homework, go to the store, buy organic milk and taste it. That stuff they’re giving you in the cafeteria doesn’t compare.”

working with animals Stacey Grabski

Later, I walked to the grocery store and bought the organic milk. I plopped the quart on my kitchen counter, examined the carton, and poured myself a glass. From the moment it touched my tongue, I noticed a deeper creamier taste. I knew this milk was pure, free of chemicals and void of other “additions.” Drinking it made me feel both refreshed and responsible. I was happy to support the animal, the farmer, my health, and the movement toward a sustainable earth. This moment opened the floodgates to other organic foods and the idea of consuming locally sourced products.

I live in Western New York, and I am surrounded by true locavore pioneers. It begins with our farmers who want you to know about their practices and produce. It is not unusual to be invited to a farm tour from our thick-skinned yet generous growers who treat their crops, meat, and dairy products like their own children. Do they make bumper stickers for tractors that read, “My goats are smarter than your honor roll student?” I wish.

Thor Oechsner checking oat field_RachelLodder

Jokes aside, our region boasts a myriad of restaurants and vendors who bridge these harvests to consumers. Inspirational chefs highlight the bounties available in our own backyards through gastronomic wizardry. Bite into any local culinary creation and you will taste the thunderous rapids feeding the river, the dramatic escarpment etched across Niagara County, and the rolling hills of the south towns. These dishes are so amazing you will want to bow to your plate. Our local grocery stores and markets pride themselves on local and organic products. These community-lead businesses create jobs in our own neighborhoods and support other local establishments. They uphold traditional service, friendliness, and knowledge, making each customer proud to shop at their businesses.

Our farmers, vendors, and events leap to rock star status thanks to the local publishers who bring our region to life through journalism. They make natives excited to live here; they prompt us to re-discover our region while simultaneously inviting the rest of the world to stop by for a taste.

Combining wheat_RachelLodder

Eating locally and organically connects the consumer to the creator, invigorates local economies, supplies us with a healthy well-being and provides a social, economic, and environmental win-win-win. Maybe I should send a thank you card to that professor.

Essay Contest Runner-up: Call Me a Food Snob by Patricia Hawley

25 Jul

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

Call me a food snob. Say that I have a refined palate. But growing up in the 1970s I was most often called “picky eater.” There was no convincing me that the engineered taste of Tang even remotely resembled fresh-squeezed orange juice. Astronauts be damned! Steaming bowls of reconstituted potato flakes routinely stood in for the real thing; I turned my nose up at those too. Typical dinner fare for the times but odd when you consider that I grew up in a small city surrounded by a checkerboard of farmland. And not just any farmland. Muckland. Rich, composty, black-as-night muck that grew some mighty fine onions and POTATOES! Seriously. We took field trips to those farms. A few dozen fourth graders piled in a rickety school bus traveled 12 minutes north in an effort to learn that ‘taters weren’t just for “tots.”

But as a kid, you eat what you’re fed and I managed to find some palatable options. Cool whip was a favorite. Ditto Manwich. It wasn’t until a brush with food allergies in early adulthood that I had to rethink my diet. A few viral videos later (thank you Food, Inc.) and the transition was complete. I was determined to eat whole, fresh foods (nothing canned, bagged, or boxed) that were in-season, local, and organic. I felt better, I looked better, and I was able to file my food intolerances away next to my Elton John albums.

Patricia and Ted Hawley own New York Craft Malt, LLC. They malt grains that are grown within 15 miles of their malthouse for the microbrew industry.

Patricia and Ted Hawley own New York Craft Malt, LLC. They malt grains that are grown within 15 miles of their malthouse for the microbrew industry.

Like a pack-a-day smoker who quits cold turkey and lives to tell the tale, I became “that person”. You know the one – the food police: “You’re going to EAT that? Do you know what’s IN that?” Until it hit me. Everyone, on some level, wants to do the right thing. They want to eat healthy foods. They want to support local agriculture and sustain their community. But they don’t need me, or anyone else, demanding penance for their food sins. They need, instead, an advocate. So, I write to my legislators asking them to say “No” to GMOs. (Yeah I actually follow those email links asking me to sign online petitions!) I shop at road-side stands. I worked with a local farmers market to create a cookbook with hundreds of recipes using local ingredients. I mean, kohlrabi is just a weird looking root unless you know what to do with it! I talk to farmers. I pick their brains. I want to know everything about that blueberry – from soil conditions and varietals to the name of the 16-year-old niece who picked it! Because we have to put more than a human face to the locavore movement. We have to convince others that selecting that carrot at the green market whose silt stubbornly clings to its roots – the same dirt that’s under the fingernails of the farmer who sold it to you – is not only a noble pursuit but is undeniably sexy! And we won’t get there by bullying or scare tactics. We’ll get there by knowing better.

About the author: Patricia Hawley is the co-owner of New York Craft Malt, LLC, a malthouse that focuses on small batch, artisanal malts for the microbrew industry. Patricia previously owned Fountain of Youth Organics in Brockport, NY and still sells online at foyorganics.com.

Essay Contest Runner Up: Inter-act by Kayleigh Burgess

18 Jul

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

Food Chain: 1. an arrangement of the organisms of an ecological community according to the order of predation in which each uses the next usually lower member as a food source 2. a hierarchy based on power or importance

Food Web: the totality of interacting food chains in an ecological community

The screen door flaps closed behind him, bathrobe ties trailing, as he rushes onto the porch, shotgun in hand. A peaceful man, pacifist man, he stands ready to fire the first warning shot. There will only be warning shots. His instigator freezes, midway between forest edge and chicken coop, pointed ears and black eyes alert. Pausing momentarily, this red fox weighs his chances at a chicken breakfast, before darting back into the woods. Its dawn in the Finger Lakes, and man versus nature is playing out like a high school novel.

For so many of us, eating local is as much about growing as buying, whether it’s a half-acre homestead or a potted tomato plant in our window sill. And chances are, if you’ve ever tried to grow your own, you’ve been there – waking to find that a deer has chewed your tomato seedlings to a quick or that squash bugs have colonized the undersides of your giant, verdant zucchini leaves when you weren’t looking. I know a community of gardeners that only grow things the gophers won’t eat and another gardener who constructed a five-foot perimeter fence before putting a single plant in the ground. And me, I grow weary at the mere thought of planting cucumbers, having battled tiny yellow beetles for years, armed with tinfoil, soapy cayenne water, and the decisive crush of thumb and forefinger.

But, I have also watched with wonder as bees gravitate toward the morning blossoms of my luffa gourds. There are the butterflies, the bats, and the birds that are a garden’s pollinators and protectors. And the man with the shotgun? He rejoices to live in a place with foxes and raccoons and weasels, even if it means battling them for the chickens that lay his eggs.

In the industrial food system, we are the last link in an invisible food chain, tertiary predators of Raisin Bran and Rice-a-Roni, Preggo and pasta. Not so for the locavore. For the local eater and grower and preparer, life reveals itself as the food web it truly is – an inter-connected symphony of unique, and hungry, players.

As we attempt to grow our own and raise our own we stimulate the web, working to deter, attract, and repel. We learn to watch for the signs and notice the details. Shotgun and soapy water in hand we commune with nature, not as witnesses, but as actors.

About the author: Kayleigh Burgess is a graduate student who has worked as an urban agriculture educator at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County, served as a board member for Syracuse Grows, and focused on food resource availability in Syracuse as an AmeriCorps VISTA.


People’s Choice Essay Contest

15 Jul

While we are inspired by reading the Locavore Essay Contest runners-up, there’s an extra bonus to reading these lovely pieces.  That’s right, you can vote on a People’s Choice award!  In late August, we’ll open up a poll for the chance for you to vote on your favorite essay.  The essay with the most votes will receive a subscription to Taproot magazine, as will one randomly selected voter!

Essay Contest Runner Up: The Story of Eating by Lisa Miskelly

10 Jul

Another runner-up essay from our Locavore Challenge writing contest – enjoy! These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

The story of eating and the story of farming are one in the same for me, entangled in a loving web of livelihood and passion, work and leisure, early-morning harvests and mid-day meals which satisfy more than bellies, but that cultivate senses.

My senses digest the story of eating: the feel of sore muscles pulsing with the ache of a day’s labor; the sight of an ungrazed pasture decorated with dew-lined webs; the dank smell of earthworms and wet soil after heavy rain; the slight sounds of cows rustling in a dark barn; the taste of the first strawberry of the season, a gift placed into my mouth by a 7-year-old girl as my mud-caked hands transplant beans into soft ground.

It is a story of people – producers, share-members, and friends.  Of kohlrabies so big the neighbors take a photograph, of fall harvest meals so bountiful there better be hungry friends around to share, of kids so enamored to see working horses they gape or giggle at the sight.

It is a story of land. What is offered and what is taken, what is harvested and what is returned, what debris, manure, and legumes are turned into the soil, decomposed into the darkness of earth to be digested, and fed back to our bodies and the bodies of our children’s children.

The story of eating locally, organically, seasonally, welcomes responsibility.  It necessitates a commitment to fulfilling our social responsibility to ensure the accessibility of real food to all—to illuminate a food justice that eliminates the disparity between those who can, and those who cannot, afford to buy food grown by human hands and fertile dirt.

A summer share from Lisa's Good Work Farm

A summer share from Lisa’s Good Work Farm

It is the emergent story of small movements of political action: Don’t molest, or unrightly claim ownership over, these seeds, don’t invade a country so that my food can be trucked cross-country.  A prudent demand for autonomy, liberty, and authentic freedom.

Walking into a field in midsummer, I feel myself living in a world of abundance.  I come into the kitchen bearing some sumptuous delights: garlic scape tendrils, golden yellow summer squash, pungent leaves of basil, armloads of spicy greens to be reduced by heat and steam.

Eating locally stimulates a love affair with the earth and its inhabitants; each meal suggests another opportunity to tempt and honor the palates of my community with meals too good to be born from anything but the earth itself: rich compost, unfathomably complex soil micro-organisms, persistent pollinators, labor of tender bodies and focused minds, long days hauling in hay and harvest—balancing budgets, birthing lambs, seeding kale.

To taste food grown by a farmer, unconditional, unconditioned food, unadulterated, respected food, is to taste the history of the landscape, of the animal, of the farmer’s craft.  To eat this food is to recognize what is required of us. Care for land, heal economic disparities, teach children, learn to cook.  It is not a solution alone, but part of the web, part of the process, the momentum, the promise, the gift.

About the author: Lisa Miskelly co-runs Good Work Farm in Emmaus, PA and previously co-ran Great Song Farm in Red Hook, NY, both of which use organic practices. 

Essay Contest Runner Up: A Locavore Love Story By Lillian Dickerson

6 Jul

This spring, NOFA-NY held the first ever Locavore Essay contest.  We asked our community what it meant to take on the challenge of eating locally and organically.  While it was tough to choose, we decided on a winner whose piece (and it’s a great one) will be published in the fall “Locavore Challenge” issue of New York Organic News.  The winner has also received $50 worth of books from Storey Publishing and a year’s subscription to Taproot Magazine.  

We’re publishing some of the contest runners-up here on the blog to encourage and incite you to embrace local and organic at this very moment and forever more!  These essays do not necessarily represent the opinions of NOFA-NY, its staff, or any of its certified organic or farmers pledge farms.  We hope they give you plenty to think about and discuss!

A Locavore Love Story
By Lillian Dickerson

Locavore. Someone who eats local, and mostly, organic, foods. Passionate about the environment. Empathetic to the small farmer’s plight. Aware of the risks of GMOs and growth hormones. A Locavore lives with these tenets ingrained into his being. Without them, his identity is insecure. Locavores don’t just think about food as a means of fuel and sustenance. Food is an essential component of the world around us – how we conduct our business, feed our families, and treat the other human beings sharing our ecosystem. When I buy bread, I consider where the grains came from, who cultivated the fields, how the wheat was separated from the chaff, and how many miles it had to travel (and how much fuel was expended) in order for it to reach my hands.

A field of sweet corn ripening for hungry locavores to enjoy.

A field of sweet corn ripening for hungry Locavores to enjoy.

The Locavore cherishes food in its due season. A ripe strawberry at the end of June has a satisfying, succulent quality that cannot be achieved from ones picked under-ripe abroad, only to ripen on the thousands-of-miles-long journey to the grocery store. Roasted butternut squash in November has a richness that can only be completed by the rainbow of leaves scattering the crisp air around it. Refraining from fresh raspberries in December may mean some self-restraint, but it also signifies less unnecessary fossil fuel waste – a greater good the Locavore is happy to sacrifice for. The big picture is what the Locavore sees – the goal is to sustain the ecosystem, not satisfy a fleeting craving.

I, a Locavore, love the land and I love my food. I want them in their purest form possible. Give me a crisp Gala apple, a tender potato, sweet maple syrup, or juicy sweet corn from the neighboring farmers, and I’m brimming with contentment. Knowing the people who make my food makes it all the more satisfying when I enjoy it, because I understand that I’m also supporting my friends who work their hardest to provide quality goods to nourish me. Without local farmers, my food life would be abysmal, but my environment would also deteriorate before my very eyes. I’d like to convey my gratitude to them for the food they give, and the life they sustain. My heart will never stray from local, all for my love for my favorite small farmers and the interminable work they do.

About the author: Lillian Dickerson is no stranger to NOFA-NY, as a former office intern.  She spent the 2012-2013 academic year in the University of Rochester’s KEY program, which allows undergraduates to take a tuition-free fifth year to pursue any form of entrepreneurial venture.  Lillian’s project was entitled “The Business of Health” and was an exercise in what it would take to open a healthy-foods, locally-sourced, sustainable-business-practice café in Rochester.

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