ISP students traveled to Athens, GA on Febraury 17-19 to study Sustainable Food Systems with Professor Brandon Craft, who has shared his reflections below:
The Sustainable Food Systems Travel course is always the highlight of my teaching calendar, and this year has been no exception. The course travel component has for several years now included a trip to the Georgia Organics conference, one of the best organized conferences in the southeast for anyone interested in the Good Food Movement. Whether our students have been conscientious eaters or grew up on a family farm, they have always come away with a better understanding of the broader movement. One of my main objectives is always to help further define the "Good" of the Good Food Movement.
This year we kicked that off nicely by driving down to Atlanta and going straight to an amazing meal at my favorite Atlanta farm-to-table restaurant, Wrecking Bar. Chef Terry Koval had prepared two completely bespoke menus for our Thursday and Friday dinners. Every member of staff from servers to chefs can tell you the origin of each ingredient. The food is creative, showing off the artistry of new southern cuisine without even a hint of pretense. If the students were not sure up until this point what Good Food was, they left the first meal with a much stronger understanding, and they may have been surprised to learn how crucial the act of eating together is in creating that goodness as the fellowship was itself an amazing way to start the trip.
The next morning we split into two groups for farm tours. My group went to the on-campus farm at Oxford College at Emory, and Dr. Stutzman took a group to Truly Living Well and Habesha. The former was an amazing example of how well-run an on-campus farm can be, with Emory University showing off its commitment to source as much campus food locally as possible, and the latter was a beautiful display of how urban farming can contribute to the healing of inner city food deserts. After the tours we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the conference before heading into afternoon in-depth workshops for a broad range of topics from the sociological aspects of building healthy food systems to the nitty gritty of on-farm planning and more. By the end of this first day everyone's heads were spinning with all of the exciting new ideas they had been learning about about. Thankfully, we had another amazing meal with Chef Terry at Wrecking Bar awaiting us for dinner.
The last day was full of shorter conference sessions punctuated with great meals. Between sessions students wandered the expo hall and spoke with vendors of all sorts of farming information, supplies, and equipment. A day full of great conference sessions, passionate conversations with other conference goers, and quiet moments alone to absorb all of this new information was capped off in the most extraordinary way, the Farmer's Feast. Each year, the conference ends with a meal that defies description. A collaborative effort between a team of farm-to-table chefs and local organic producers, the Feast is a sprawling multi-course celebration of Good Food. This year the keynote address happened during the Feast. We were wowed by Barbara Brown Taylor, a theologian married to a farmer, as she spoke with great reverence about how farmers are blessed to be tasked with such holy work. The room fell silent in hushed awe as she spoke from a decidedly Christian perspective to a crowd of mixed religious backgrounds about the priestly role of the farmer, undoing the fall of nature and living the command to till and keep. If any of us still missed it, this is when it all came together: the Good Food Movement is about much more than tasty meals, farms that avoid using certain chemicals, feeding urban poor through community gardens, etc. Obviously it is all of those things, but it is greater than the sum of the parts. For people of faith it also includes figuring out how food can enhance our communion with those around us, how it can help us love our neighbor, and how it affects our care of the created world. Every year I come home from this trip with a deeper knowledge of what Good Food means.