HS: My parents exposed me to the delights of good food and complex flavors at a young age. I watched my father experiment with developing his own sauces while I did my homework at the kitchen table. My mother explained to me the importance of the “holy trinity” in Cajun/Creole cooking as she made a family favorite, Jambalaya, for dinner. We have boxes filled with treasured family recipes, handwritten and splattered with the fruits of meals well-enjoyed. I grew up with a respect and a love of good food and culinary prowess, but had yet to explore how that food had made its way to my plate in the first place.
“I grew up with a respect and a love of good food and culinary prowess, but had yet to explore how that food had made its way to my plate in the first place.”
My interests in cooking evolved into agriculture after reading Dan Barber’s The Third Plate and Larry Olmsted’s Real Food/Fake Food. Both explored the relationships between farming practices and healthful food in a way that inspired me to think critically about my place in the food ecosystem, and forced me to question whether the food I made for myself was as nutritionally dense as it was flavorful. I made a number of changes to my food consumption habits in an effort to be more mindful of the quality of produce I was eating and to be more conscious of how my routines affected the environment. Although my individual efforts failed to reverse the effects of climate change (sorry, world), I was able to realize the health benefits almost immediately. I came to the realization that the food we cook is only as good as the food we grow and have access to; it was through this understanding that I felt I could treat the source by growing healthy food for others to enjoy.
It was at that point that I began searching for opportunities to farm in NYC, where local and sustainable food systems were sorely needed to feed a growing population. The technology behind hydroponics and vertical farming intrigued me, given a lack of land resources in the city as well as some of the environmental benefits of utilizing CEA. I was interested in learning more about the efficacy of closed-environment farming and how it could contribute to the real food movement. It was during this exploratory phase that I found Square Roots and their Resident Entrepreneurship Program.