The instructor in my college Intro to Reporting class was divvying up beats, and we wanted the good stuff. This was the first opportunity for us journalism majors to go out and do journalism, and we all wanted something like the crime beat or city hall. Something meaty.
“Erik,” the instructor said, scanning down the list. “You can have, let’s see. Agriculture.”
I can have … sorry, what now?
I mean, it’s not like I hadn’t already been confronted with agriculture. I had left Fort Lauderdale for a college town in the Midwest. My first dorm had been next to the School of Agriculture; I looked out my window and saw a literal cornfield. I quickly bonded with Dave, a New Yorker who, like me, was sometimes vexed by now living in a place where you might just randomly encounter wheat.
Dave and I needed each other because we were surrounded. We lived every day with frustratingly decent, maddeningly polite Midwesterners who earnestly believed in concepts like “pedestrian right-of-way,” or as Dave and I saw it, “just walking out into the street like an idiot.”
These people had funny high school stories that involved things like 4H and county fairs. My funny stories involved police or Aquinas dudes turning up at Monkey Road. (Kids, ask your parents.)
So here I am, a befuddled kid in a Guy Harvey shirt surrounded by corn and livestock, and I’m the one who gets the agriculture beat. So, I do the only thing I can. I roll up my Dockers and I go slogging out into the Missouri wilds.
And you know what? It was great. I’d always known that food came from somewhere beyond Publix or Winn-Dixie, but for the first time I was seeing the particulars. It was, I discovered to my surprise, really interesting. And really important. Talking to agriculture professors and other experts, I even got schooled on my home. I heard about winter vegetables and a Florida farming industry that I, an eastside Broward guy, had not exactly been exposed to.
This is our food issue and foodwise, you’ll find plenty of the finished product in it. Great recipes, excellent restaurants. But also check out Christiana Lilly’s story about farming in Broward. It’s got a rich history here, and also a vibrant present.
We’re not all going to be farming experts, but it’s good to at least know a bit about where our food comes from and which food we can find growing near us. How food gets to our grocery store or restaurant shouldn’t be a mystery to Floridians.
Unlike pedestrian right-of-way, which should definitely remain a mystery. I’ve seen the way some of you drive; there’s no way I’m just walking in front of you.