Authors of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” Barbara Kingsolver and her husband Steven L. Hopp, spoke at Virginia Tech about their book and sustainable farming.
With an introduction by Daniel Wubah, dean of undergraduate studies, and famed poet and professor Nikki Giovanni, Kingsolver and Hopp opened their presentation to roaring applause.
Large-scale sustainability projects are occurring every day and Tech is no stranger to them. With events such as Sustainablity Week and Recyclemania, the Office of Sustainability is making efforts to reduce Tech’s negative impact on the environment.
Kingsolver’s book, this year’s university common book, falls right into place with Tech’s efforts to go green. The book chronicles the lives of Kingsolver and her family as they spent one year eating food bought locally and their investigations of the food industry. To illustrate the theme of the book, D2 held a dinner before the event serving a vast array of food from exclusively local sources.
The book is being used by many faculty members to educate Tech students about what it means to eat organic, be sustainable and soften the impact on the environment. Thus it was logical that the authors, who live south of Blacksburg in Abingdon, Va., to discuss their book about local sustainability efforts and answer any questions from the crowd.
The authors read excerpts of their book, highlighting key themes such as eating with the seasons, the food industry’s dependence on oil and initiatives to reduce global hunger. Both Kingsolver and Hopp also expanded on efforts they have made in and around their community, including their restaurant that uses ingredients from local sources only.
Beginning with casual ease and a quick joke, Kingsolver talked about her pride in Tech’s efforts to educate the citizens of the state. “Surprised” and “flattered” that their book was chosen, Kingsolver and her husband were excited to speak on their book and elaborate as necessary.
Kingsolver read from the book, saying “Many bright people are in the dark about their food.”
“We can’t know what we haven’t been taught,” she continued, about the issue that the book aimed to tackle.
Both authors touch upon key facts mixed in with the narrative as “dorky sidenotes” according to Kingsolver and Hopp. The so-called “dorky” notes mention alarming facts such as the statistic claiming each piece of food travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to a dinner plate. Furthermore, the recent oil spill in the Gulf equates a mere day of oil required to put food on a plate in today’s food industry.
The presentation brought together an array of audience members, ranging from students who read the book in class to New River Valley community members, eager to hear and eager to share. Heads nodded emphatically as Kingsolver made a point or supplied examples of America’s “culture of greed; of ‘what do I want’ versus ‘what do I have.’”
Kingsolver also tackled the idea that education has come to mean moving away from farms and agriculture.
Her words were new for some but extremely familiar to others. David Christian, a freshman business major, said he had learned about sustainability in the past.
Like many other incoming students, Christian was required to read the book and attend the lecture for one of his classes.
Rosemarie Sawdon, a member of the New River Valley community who was been growing much of her food for more than fifty years, said the book reinforces her way of life.
“I’m proof of what eating well means for your health,” she said enthusiastically.
Sawdon has been heavily involved in the local organic movement and has long held an interest in sustainability.
Ann Groves, another community member, came from a family of sustenance farmers in New England and has always lived the lifestyle. She is currently talking to her friends and neighbors about trying to set up a half-acre potato farm cooperative in south Blacksburg.
Groups such as the Environmental Coalition at Virginia Tech have instigated many green projects, while students from a combination of majors helped with the construction of the solar powered Lumenhaus exhibited on the Drillfield. Events such as Sustainability Week will feature talks, workshops, recycling projects and film presentations to educate and inform.