Champlain student reflections on “Taking Root”

On October 28th, Vermont First, Farm to Plate, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture hosted the Taking Root Student Symposium at the University of Vermont. This symposium was designed for all Vermont college students to celebrate farm to institution and learn about what it means to chart a career in food.  The keynote speaker was Ben Hewitt, a Vermont-based author of many books including The Town That Food Saved and Making Supper Safe. Throughout the day, students learned about:

  • Why farm to institution is important

  • Innovative work happening in Vermont’s food system

  • Career paths of many of Vermont’s leading entrepreneurs and thinkers

  • Resources available at each campus for students to pursue food systems-relevant coursework as well as food-related employment

  • Current food-related job opportunities; students will also have time to network directly with some Vermont employers in the food industry.


Champlain College student reflections:

Emily Gatz ’20, Graphic Design; Waste Reduction Coordinator on Champlain College Campus

What I enjoyed most was the keynote speaker Ben Hewitt. He shared a lot of anecdotal information which made his speech more personal. Towards the end of his speech he shared a list of fourteen actions that can change your life or others around you, and they are as follows:

  1. Remember it is important to feed yourself with locally grown and even personally grown items

  2. Ask someone for help since most people when asked if they need help say no and use manners (please and thank you)

  3. Turn off the news

  4. Every week write a handwritten letter to a Facebook friend

  5. Eat Dirt! Literally!!

  6. Don’t have a credit card, unless you get cash back and miles

  7. Give something away, especially if it has a lot of worth

  8. Do not fear, someone is profiting off your fear

  9. Look up to the sky in early morning and take it all in

  10. Create something

  11. Stay home

  12. Provocative by choice

  13. Ask a question to have more questions or knowing that there will be more questions coming out of the question (ask good questions, you know – like in Core classes)

  14. The way you spend your time is the way you live your life

Before finishing, he stated “small talk is nothing but it is everything.” I took it as it didn’t matter what they talked about, it was that shared moment, those small moments in life that make all the difference.

I want to be challenged to follow his fourteen points of advance especially writing a handwritten letter to a Facebook friend especially since I don’t talk to most of them on a daily or weekly basis through other means. I hope these pieces of advice will shift my perspective, even in the slightest, so I can live a more positive, sustainable, and healthful lifestyle.


Hansel Alexander Carter IV ’20, Filmmaking; Eco-Rep Area Coordinator

My greatest takeaway from this symposium was from listening to the second round of panelists. As each one told their stories and backgrounds of their experiences, they told of the importance of working your way up to your end goal and making connections in and out of your field. There was one woman who worked as a chef and moved from University to University to France, and then ended up at UVM from a connection she made a while back. It just reminded me to take each day one day at a time and really make an effort to get connected with the people you meet and not set your mind on your end goal. Your end goal will come to you in time, but for now you have to live in the moment.


Lauren Guiney, ’19,Management & Innovation with a minor in Psychology; Eco-Rep

My greatest take away from the symposium came from the farmers, including the keynote speaker and panelists. Despite knowing that climate change is already having an impact I was surprised to hear one farmer explain that she has already seen the impact through the increased rainfall (9 more inches to be exact) over the past 30 years. With Vermont being such an agricultural state as it is I was shocked I haven’t heard more about this and the impacts it most certainly has on farming practices. I also was inspired by the focus on dirt! Soil is perhaps one of the most underappreciated foundations of our lives that we never think of, yet it is essential to our well being and survival. In fact, soil became a poetic theme for the day and I was entrapped by how beautifully it was described and discussed. I recently finished a project examining the problem of food waste and food loss in the United States, so hearing from farmers, distributors, and organizations that are working within this system was particularly interesting to me. The effects this has on the climate and soil are pieces of the greater wicked problem food waste is and it all can be intertwined. Moving forward, I hope to focus on developing a personal project (that perhaps may end up going beyond myself) around these issues and how we can close the loop, utilize the different incredible people in these systems, and downsize this national/global issue.