Position: Board Member
I am an assistant professor of anthropology at Clarkson
University who studies and teaches about food. I moved to Potsdam with my family after finishing my PhD at UCLA in 2018. I grew up in a small rural town in the central California foothills, so although Potsdam is very different (especially in terms of weather!), it also feels like home. I feel privileged to raise my two daughters (1 and 4 years old) in this community.
Food has always played a central role in my life. My mother is an avid organic gardener and has been active in the gardening, co-op, and farmers’ markets communities in my hometown for decades. I grew up appreciating food that came straight from our garden and from local producers.
Food was always how we cared for our family and friends, and that’s likely why I’ve chosen to devote my professional life to the study of food. I’m currently finishing my book manuscript on urbanization and shifting food supply systems and agro-ecologies in Bangalore, India. A major component of this research considers “alternative” retail networks that connect urban residents with nearby farmers, so I’m familiar with the challenges and opportunities of this process across cultural contexts. I’m currently developing a future research project that examines efforts to attract city residents to move to the North Country in the age of remote work, and food will be a big part of this project.
I can honestly say that the Potsdam Food Co-op was one of the reasons why I decided to uproot my family and move from L.A. to Potsdam. I visited the store during my campus visit, and it convinced me that I would have enough to make a nice life in this small town. I’ve been a Co-op member (with my husband, Zac Miller) since we moved here in August 2018, and I truly think that we have better access to local foods here than in L.A. There’s nowhere like California in terms of the range of produce grown and the length of the growing season, but there is such an energy here around local food networks and an appreciation for thoughtful and sustainable production, from meat to apples. This energy is what makes me want to run for a seat on the Board of Directors. The Co-op has made a big difference in my
experience of this region, and I want to make sure that others see the value that the Co-op provides the community, as it currently stands and as it might evolve in the future.
Due to my research, I am well aware of the challenges of making small-scale agriculture
economically viable for producers and retailers, and accessible to a range of consumers. While I am not a specialist in marketing, I like to think that I have creative ideas for how to engage with a variety of stakeholders, as well the ability to think outside the box in terms of imagining different contexts and solutions. My work on the GardenShare Outreach and Education Committee since 2019 means that I am familiar with many of the local groups and events relevant to our regional food system. Also, I teach courses at Clarkson about food, and therefore try to stay current on issues relevant to our area (we read an entire book about the environmental history of the dairy industry in New York state, for instance, in which Heuvelton makes an important appearance!).
To my mind, the Co-op’s biggest strength is its commitment to supporting local producers and serving our community by providing access to foods that otherwise would be almost impossible to find, but I think there is room to grow in terms of the Co-op’s audience and outreach. I imagine the store becoming more of a destination that brings in a wider range of community members, mainly by using the new space to create room for community events, expanding seating and prepared foods offerings, and, in general, becoming a place for the community to come together.