by Lindsey Berk, Operation Groundswell
“Eating is an agricultural act.”
—Wendell Berry, American novelist, activist, cultural critic, and farmer
We seem to have forgotten that.
At least, I had forgotten that until I left my corporate job and my NYC apartment in 2011 to begin a three-year journey around Latin America and Australia. Working on a winery in Mendoza, Argentina during its harvest taught me the importance of a farmer’s vigilance and dedication—as well as how fickle a crop can be. WWOOFing [working as part of organization World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms] on an organic farm in Byron Bay, Australia, brought out my inner child as I delighted in pulling carrots, radishes, and peanuts out of the ground. Volunteering at a coffee cooperative in Guatemala instilled in me the importance of fair wages and food justice. This was the same girl who had grown up with a plethora of food in the pantry, always answering the slightest hunger rumble with a more-than sufficient meal without giving a second thought to how that food got there.
But now I know how food gets to us. I know that a cup of coffee is never just a cup of coffee.
I know that every ingredient has its own journey, and that frankly, not all journeys are created equal. Local or industrial, organic or conventional, commodity crop or Fair Trade, slow food or fast food. These words were not just created by marketers; they have a real impact on the way we eat. That’s why I teamed up with Operation Groundswell to lead From Seed to Shelf: Ethical Consumerism from the Ground Up in Guatemala this fall.
From Seed to Shelf is a nine-day exploration of where our food (and coffee) comes from and what it goes through before hitting the shelves of our local grocery store.
We’ll go into the jungle to taste raw cacao straight out of the pod. We’ll farm alongside coffee farmers while hearing about their daily struggle to makes ends meet. We will peel back the curtain of industrial agriculture and see the challenges our food producers face every day. We will research issues such as food justice, land distribution, and malnutrition in real time and with real people who face these issues every day, every week, every year.
Guatemala’s unique political and economic landscape will serve as the setting for our adventure. We will get our hands dirty working on a community-initiated project, stretch our legs as we ascend an active volcano, and cleanse our minds in the beautiful hot springs of Fuentes Georginas.
We created this program knowing full well that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” But ignorance is not bliss; come to Guatemala this fall and take a step towards closing our food-knowledge gap.
For more information on the Seed to Shelf Program, please click here.
Lindsey Berk is Guatemala Program Leader for Operation Groundswell is a non-profit organization committed to providing authentic, ethical, and affordable travel opportunities to people all over the world. For seven years, OG has facilitated backpacking and service-learning programs to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America carrying out small scale development projects and building a community of travelers that are socially, environmentally, and politically aware of their impact in the communities they travel to and live in.