Connecting the Dots through Storytelling

As I have made my way through my college career, the question has not been what do I want to do–it’s been what don’t I want to do. It hasn’t been easy to narrow that down into a clear path that leads to job at the end, but from what I’ve been hearing here at the Outer Banks Field Site, it probably shouldn’t be.

As were my peers at the field site, I was matched with an organization or member of the community whose work matched up with my interests. I was given the wonderful opportunity to work with Beth Storie on a project that is able to encompass many of my passions: writing, agriculture, sustainability, and talking with people. Beth is the creative mind behind Outer Banks This Week, a website and magazine that brings all the great things about the Outer Banks from the locals to the visitors. Seriously, you won’t miss a beat if you let Beth and her team plan your vacation out on the coast!

I’ve been wanting to make sustainable living more visible and accessible to the public, in some capacity. I know that education is the key to making this happen, and if I’ve learned anything, facts and figures aren’t always the best way to provoke change. My internship is allowing me to explore storytelling as a means of communicating with the public. My mission has been to find organic farmers in eastern North Carolina and interview them about their careers. If there was a group of people to gain inspiration from, it would be the organic farmers. Though I’ve began asking the different farmers questions from the same script, each interview goes in a very unique direction.

My first interview was with Hazel Inglis, one of the most lively people I’ve ever met. Her family owns Somerset Farm near Edenton, NC, which looks like a snapshot out of the early 1900’s when they use horses to plow the land. Hazel worked on a farm for a couple years after graduating college. She loved the work but never glamorized it: ““I like going to bed with my muscles aching. I like that. I like when you plant a crop…you watch them grow. You weed. You chop. You hoe. You pick it, and then you sell it. It’s really amazing to see the whole process.” Hazel stressed the importance of this connection to food that’s good for us and the environment.

My second interview was with Robert Perry, a very wise person I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know here at the field site. Robert used to be the director of the program and continues to be on the Community Advisory Board for the field site while he focuses on other ventures. Robert is a conservationist through and through and brings that attitude into everything he does. Robert and his siblings inherited a large amount of land that their father farmed and are renting it to a family of organic farmers. Robert maintains a relationship with these folks and visits when he can. “We feel that we provide an oasis for the animals inhabiting the area to breathe and to grow without the impact of pesticides.”

The third person I interviewed was Uli Bennewitz, owner of Weeping Radish Farm Brewery. Uli is a genius in my book, but he would never label himself as such. In fact, Uli hates labels and even goes without calling his food “organic.” Uli grew up in Germany and went to school for agriculture in England, then brought his knowledge to North Carolina after graduating. He is a pioneer in the farm to fork movement, bring his brute honesty and creativity to an industry that’s losing both of those. “You either pay now or pay later, that’s what this is all about. The whole local food movement is all about spending more money upfront on your food and that’s the only way in the long-term that we are going to reduce healthcare costs.” Uli has a knack for making academics and politicians scratch their heads after hitting them with a truth bomb.

If you haven’t already gotten this from what I’ve written: I love what I’ve been doing! I’m gaining valuable perspective and meeting some amazing people along the way.  I’m finding that writing allows me to connect with people in both the process and the product. Also, how can I complain while I’m living and learning on the coast?