File this under Random But Awesome: a couple of weeks ago, I took pictures for an agriculture conference here in Los Angeles.
My dad has worked in agriculture my whole life and beyond. When he got the invite to this year's Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference, he was bummed he couldn't go, but, being the good dad that he is, he connected me with the guys at Seedstock and they ended up hiring me to take photos for the two-day conference, which included a field trip to Houweling's Tomatoes greenhouse and certified organic McGrath Family Farm.
When I was still living in Minneapolis, I would sit at my desk job every day, poring over online articles about two subject: photography and the sustainable food movement. I volunteered at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, read The Omnivore's Dilemma, and started eating better than I ever had in my life. I swore that when I moved to Los Angeles I would only shop at farmers markets (which is a year-round possibility in almost every neighborhood here), would cook healthy meals and would only eat organic food forever and ever, amen.
You can probably guess what happened.
I am still an organic fanatic and for the most part won't eat much food that isn't certified, especially fruits and vegetables, but that's about as far as I've gone for quite awhile. My passion-bordering-on-obsession with the sustainable food movement faded as settled into life in Los Angeles and had to focus on how to make enough money to eat food in the first place.
It's an interest that has always been in the back of my mind, but hasn't really been a part of my life for the past couple of years, until recently. I've been taking a good, hard look lately at what kind of pictures I want to take, what kind of values I want to pursue, and what kind of movements I want to be involved with that support those values, and the offer to photograph this conference just happened to coincide with all of that. I have an idea about the direction I want to take my photography, and the Seedstock conference was a good first step towards putting myself in the right environment and spending time with like-minded, innovative people who are passionate and motivated about healing the earth and helping people nourish nourish themselves in a sustainable and healthy way.
In other words: I had a fantastic time.
Our first stop on the field trip was Houweling's, where we got to don amazing outfits (someone on Facebook told me I looked like a cauliflower) and were given an elaborate tour of the greenhouse system they use to grow tomatoes in sustainable, controlled environment. I was impressed by the sheer size of their facilities. Usually when I think "greenhouse", I think of cute little round-topped buildings at garden centers where they grow flowers and herbs. This was zero percent like that; Houweling's greenhouses are huge glass structures with rows of tomato plants stretching almost as far as the eye can see.
We then drove down the road to McGrath Family Farm, and after eating a delicious lunch (consisting, naturally, of locally grown vegetables and meats), Phil McGrath himself gave us an extensive tour and talked to us about his farming philosophy and why he made the decision to be certified organic. The landscape was incredibly different from the farmland I grew up around in Minnesota, and I couldn't get over the beauty of the mountains in the background in many of the photos that I took. Phil's passion for farming ethically and providing food locally was so inspiring, and his opinions on farmers markets and the importance of supporting smaller farms was a much-needed wake up call.
Many thanks to Robert, Jason, & Time for deciding to hire me and letting me have this fantastic experience, and to all of the wonderful people I met at this conference whose lifestyles and passion are inspiring, to say the least. I can only hope to someday contribute to the kind of impactful, meaningful work that they are doing every day.