Yes, my family is from Iowa. Yes, I spent much of my youth running through my grandparents' corn fields. That said, now that I live smack dab in the center of Philadelphia, I’m a big fan of eating food and not so much into growing it. Still, I was recently fascinated by all the work it takes to get that food to my plate.
In volunteering for Common Market, through the Taproot Foundation and GSK's Emerging Talent program, I was asked to spend my Saturday on a truck. My perfect Saturday consists of sleeping in a bit and heading to brunch so when my alarm went off at 5am on Saturday, I was less than excited.
Nonetheless, I pulled on my polo and closed toed shoes, and drove to North Philadelphia to meet my truck driver. As soon as I saw 5 foot tall, smart and quick-witted Nitza, I knew I was in for an unexpected experience.
Nitza would be my driver for the day. She loves her job and, in particular, the ways the guys are always surprised when they see her hop from the driver's seat to load the produce. We rode to southern New Jersey together discussing her job, the way the team works together, what the leadership of the organization is like, the ways to work with the farmers, and so on.
Stopping at our first farm, AJ Buzby, I got to really see the farm-to-table experience in action. The female farmer had opted to give more crates of beets to Common Market than was noted on the intake form and I was curious why. She said that two beets in a bushel (which was the appropriate weight) looked too small to her and she wanted to do right by the customer. Basically, she was giving away food because she thought the customer would be happier. We grabbed the boxes and headed to the next farm, Panther.
At Panther, we were picking up chives and bok choy. Again, Nitza loaded all the materials directly from the farmers invoice sheet to the refrigerated truck. We logged the temperatures of both the produce and the truck, inspecting the produce before accepting it – all while Nitza discussed ways of working the skid loaders with the farms' migrant workers.
On our way home, Nitza and I discussed how despite all my experience living in the Midwest, I had a complete lack of appreciation for the way my food came to the table. For me, it was just there. After working with Nitza and the farmers, and seeing how hard they worked to ensure the best quality food was transported and handled in the most efficient, effective and safe way possible, I have a whole new sense of gratitude for my food, and a new found admiration for my Iowa roots.