The Faces Behind our Food: A New Project

It’s been a busy summer, y’all. For kids, in Virginia at least, it has only just begun. But, as I look out my window and watch the fireflies light up my yard at dusk — and think of how stinkin’ hot it was today — I’m reminded it’s in full swing.

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So, I guess you could say I needed a summer project. You know, besides decorating a nursery and growing a baby. One that would remind me why I write about food and people and love it so much. One that would give me the chance to do both in an even better, less restrained way, for a new platform that allows me to interact directly with readers and respond to what they (you) want to read most. One that could provide a glimpse into the future of journalism, or at least a promising prospect for funding the future journalism.

I was asked to consider joining BEACON several weeks ago. I was familiar with the new platform; some freelancing colleagues have joined and find the crowd-funded outlet to be a terrific complement to the work they are doing for more traditional publications, a place they can tell the side stories that don’t always get picked up or pursue the epic projects for which conventional newsrooms no longer seem to have the budgets.

And, boy, do I have projects I’ve never gotten around to, stories I’d love to write that always seem to fall through the cracks. I have a Word document full of these ideas-without-a-home, full of stories that take more time to tell than I have and tidbits that get cut from articles hemmed in by word counts for magazines and newspapers.

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So when BEACON asked if I had a project worth funding, I said yes. And THE FACES BEHIND OUR FOOD emerged. We launched the project this week and I’ll be fundraising for it for the next 30 days.

With this project, I hope to give a voice to the stories that have been shelved for too long and to the people behind what we eat who are simply too fascinating, too passionate to be overlooked. In some ways, it’s a form of buying myself the time to tell the stories I’ve wanted to tell, wanted you to read, but that get sidelined for ones I know I can sell to publications more easily.

It’s been an interesting exercise to remove the editor-pitching from my mental process and to look back over my list of ideas from this perspective: If I were my food-minded reader, what would I pay to read (albeit just $5 a month)? What are the stories I’m not getting anywhere else and who do I trust to tell them? I hope this project becomes the answer to those questions for you.

You can read more about the vision for THE FACES BEHIND OUR FOOD series, and how to support it, here. You can learn more about the BEACON platform in general here and read commentary on its prospects for supporting good journalism here. This won’t change what I do on this blog, which is more light-hearted and user-friendly — from recipes to things to think about while filling your reusable bag at the market.

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In other news, I had a story in The Washington Post‘s food section today on the food bank garden that is growing other gardens (pictured above). And I got to interview one of my chef-philosopher heroes, Dan Barber, for a later story for The Post. (These highlights helped overshadow the 3-hour, 100-gram glucose test I had to endure today — but I passed! No gestational diabetes!)

I’m learning a lot about local food these days and doing some philosophizing myself (along with my editor at the Chesapeake Bay Journal) about whether it can “feed the world” or, as Barber pointed out to me, even should have that as a goal. I hope to continue delving into the how of applying all these thoughts here, talking to you about what this means while at the grocery store (today, for example, it meant staring at the sorry suggestions for tomatoes and wondering why I wrote ‘Greek salad’ on my grocery list when those aren’t even near their peak… and then feeling like a hypocrite for, ahem, putting them in my cart anyway).

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Thanks for your support along the way. I look forward to keeping you posted on this new venture!


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