Food for Thought: Concentrator Nichole Calero!

3 May

Nichole Calero, an Ada Comstock Scholar in her last semester at Smith, hails from Great Barrington, MA. Always ahead of the curve, Nichole was planning to study food at Smith through the structure of an American Studies degree very early on. When Smith added the Sustainable Food Concentration, she applied immediately.

“I took Landscape Studies my first semester here, and that really inspired me, because it gave me a whole new toolset to look at things with.” Nichole has enriched her course selection at Smith (other favorites included Writing About Food, Economic Botany, and ENX 300, the concentration capstone) with practical experiences, the first of which was her time spent interning at Berkshire Grown, an organization in Berkshire County that promotes local food and farms. “Essentially they called me the outreach intern. My job was to understand what Berkshire Grown was about, and visit members who may not have had much contact with the organization, but were producers in the area.”  This means that Nichole visited farmers, and gave them the opportunity to ask any questions, bring up any concerns, give feedback, and offer suggestions. This one on one time with farmers eventually led to Nichole creating individual bios for each farm that were put on the website. For her second required practical experience Nichole worked on a CSA farm (which she had previously been a member of) for a season—a different, yet equally important, learning experience in the world of food.

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When Nichole discusses her future plans, she looks broadly at the past, and, more specifically, at food trends. While she finds diet trends fascinating from a personal standpoint, she also finds them troubling, particularly in terms of the inherently classist nature of food tendencies, especially the new sustainable food movement. “When you look at social patterns and how they work, you see over and over again that the upper class finds something “trendy” that the lower class is doing for survival and then they promote it.  So [in the case of sustainable food] now you have people growing their own food and it’s “the thing to do.” Just like supporting small farms is “the thing to do”, instead of just a thing to do. But that inevitably excludes a lot of people, and some people can’t afford a CSA share (although I’m noticing that more and more farmers markets and CSA farms are accepting food stamps, and that’s great). When I first started my education I really wanted to understand marketing, so that I could help promote the local food movement. Now I think that’s the wrong angle, so I’m more interested in working with an organization that seeks to bring food access to the people who aren’t currently able to have it.”

As for the Sustainable Food Concentration, Nichole is excited that it’s finally here, despite it taking years for these ideas to become mainstream enough to merit collegiate acknowledgement.  “These ideas are really important for the survival of the environment, and for the survival of the human species—all species actually. I think that it’s great that Smith has taken a step to create the MacLeish field station, but it’s very removed from campus. I realize that iconically it’s important for the Smith campus to be beautiful and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, but I think that it would be beneficial for Smith to take another initiative and go ahead and let us have more than a single community garden that’s tucked away behind buildings. The Smith Community Garden is great, but it would be beneficial for the college to make something that’s inclusive for more than just the students who are interested in this line of thinking.”

Anything else?

“I’m really proud to be one of the first graduates from the Sustainable Food Concentration, because I think it’s a sign that Smith is really acknowledging that this is a really important aspect of our future.”

Thank you to Nichole for chatting with me—I can’t wait to see where your passions take you!

-Eva McNamara, ’13

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