By Isis Ulery Chapman, Seacoast Eat Local intern
I am starting a new kind of post here on the blog. I think that we should all get to know the people behind Seacoast Eat Local a little more, so I will be interviewing all of the board members and people that have created this amazing community.
For my first post I started with Sara Zoë Patterson, she is a Co-Chair on the board, and a super sweet woman that I am honored to have met.
Could you tell me the story of how you became involved with SEL?
I’ve always been an environmentalist, trying to take as much direct action in my own life while affecting bigger change, too. The connection between agriculture and environmental impact is significant, but what is so hopeful is that impact could actually be a positive impact, instead of adverse. And we get so many opportunities to choose to have a positive impact through food choices. So I have been pretty conscientious about food choices, and have volunteered and interned at a variety of different farms, while also being passionate about food. I love to cook and eat and enjoy food. Around 2005, through my connections with the farms and farmers I volunteered with, I began to try to share with a broader community the importance of eating locally and information about all the food that was being produced in our area. I joined forces with other interested consumers and farmers, and we founded Seacoast Eat Local to be able to have even more impact for our community and support farmers.
What is your definition of SEL?
Seacoast Eat Local makes connections – between farmers and consumers, between consumers and their food, between people who have excess food and people who need better food. We’re growing communities through greater access to local foods and giving everyone the opportunity to eat local all year long while working hard to make farming an economically and environmentally sustainable cornerstone of our community for a resilient future.
What is your job title at SEL? What kind of work are you given with that title?
I am the Co-Chair of the Board of Seacoast Eat Local. The responsibilities of Chair, which I share with Celeste Gingras, are to ensure we are always working toward meeting the mission of SEL as best we can. It includes overseeing and directing the board, overseeing staff, and keeping both the big picture and small details in balance. In addition to my Co-Chair responsibilities, I also volunteer on the Seacoast Harvest and SNAP committees, and share lots of different kinds of photos and events and information through our website, blog, and social media outlets.
How has SEL grown since you’ve been working with them?
Seacoast Eat Local started as a website, and now we have the annual publication Seacoast Harvest, are in our 9th season of Winter Farmers’ Markets, and our SNAP program is growing each year – it has been continual growth for the organization since its founding.
What has been your favorite aspect of working with SEL?
Seeing the visible difference the programs have made to so many people. Whether it’s the happiness of buying fresh green food all winter long, the ability of farmers to expand their operations and create new jobs, or the gratitude and happiness when a low income shopper discovers the fresh, healthy food they can now buy for their families through the SNAP incentive programs, it’s great seeing hard work pay off and grow to be able to impact even more of our community.
I know SEL has been working hard to continue to assist the SNAP community, how did you get involved with that?
Like much of our work, we saw a need that was not being met. New Hampshire is catching up fast, but there was a time when we, as a state, were very behind in offering SNAP access at farmers’ markets. The program feels like such a win win for everyone – farmers are connected to an expanded consumer base and these new customers have access to fresh, healthy, whole foods.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to become involved in their local foods community?
One of the best things any of us can do is to bring a friend or coworker or family member to a market. There are so many ways to get involved, from just changing how you eat yourself to volunteering in a lot of different ways. There are plenty of events to go to, from food swaps to gardening classes to farm to table dinners. And lots of volunteer opportunities. But the best way we can support the local food community is to help farmers sell everything they grow. And to do that, we need more customers.
What is your favorite vegetable that you can find at markets in the winter?
Spinach. Hands down. I never stop raving about winter spinach, and I barely eat it in the summer because the winter version is so much better in my opinion. I bought three bags at the last market and they’ll be gone in as many days! I saute it with a little butter, and eat it for breakfast with eggs and Flying Goat Farm chevre.