June 24, 2011
2011, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
Public Policy and Advocacy Program
I went into college thinking that I would eventually become a doctor. The benefits of medicine and its power to help people always attracted me. In my first year at the University of Kentucky I took a class on “world food issues” and I realized there were many, and perhaps more, profound ways to help people and make a difference through agriculture. Luckily, right as I was shifting my personal focus, the Sustainable Agriculture major was being launched at UK. I was fortunate enough to be in the first class of graduates from that program and learned from an excellent group of professors and classmates. Our comprehensive coursework included classes from entomology to policy to economics, an internship on UK’s organic farm, and a capstone class where I designed a rooftop garden for a local distillery. I also earned a degree in Spanish during that time.
Immediately after graduation I became the assistant manager for the Lexington Farmers’ Market, the largest farmers’ market in Kentucky. By running the market’s EBT (food stamp) program I realized my desire to work in a capacity to advocate for programs like the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, which have the power to make such a difference in a community. I saw the way that a small investment in infrastructure had huge economic and social impacts on customers, farmers, and the perception of the market as a whole. In my opinion, the best way to affect real change is by coupling specific, local solutions with strong policy support.
Having discovered a newfound interest in the power of policy, I moved to Madison to intern with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. Five months of working with MFAI exposed me to state and federal agricultural policy, the power of coalition building, the importance of advocacy, and how to organize grassroots and grasstops campaigns. I have already seen that the opportunities, exposure, and contacts I’ve gained through this internship will be invaluable in my pursuit of a sustainable food system, and I am so thankful for the opportunities I was afforded. In the fall of 2011 I will head to Tufts in Boston to study for a Master’s in Agriculture, Food, and the Environment with a personal focus on farm and food policy.