Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Growing and Giving: Michelle Bates-Benetua

Lettuce Link Program Manager Michelle Bates-Benetua was recently spotlighted on Urban Farm Hub. Michelle's work and collaboration with Seattle gardeners is instrumental in widening access to fresh food and gardening education in our region.
People On The Move: Michelle Bates-Benetua with Lettuce Link
Ashley DeForest, Urban Farm Hub, March 26, 2010
Who are the people behind the urban farming projects cropping up all over the Puget Sound Region? What inspires them? What foods nurture them?

Urban Farm Hub has launched a weekly spotlight series to celebrate the amazing people who spend their days creating a healthier, more sustainable local food system. This week we’d like to celebrate the inspiring work of Michelle Bates-Benetua.

In addition to caring about the food she feeds to her young family, Michelle is the Program Manager for Lettuce Link. This 22-year old program encourages people to grow food for their families, works with community gardeners to provide food for food banks and educates children about nutrition and sustainable food production.

What inspired you to get involved in the local food movement?
I started food gardening at my shared housing in my late 20’s—inspired by childhood memories of my great grandfather’s garden (searching for green beans in the huge vines), my uncle’s garden in California (corn, tomatoes, peppers), by farmers I met while working in SE Asia and by the fact that I had the time. Here in Seattle, I started volunteering with Lettuce Link from my P-Patch garden. I was a WIC kid and in turn was motivated by the idea that I could contribute something meaningful and share the bounty of my fledgling garden with folks who need it most. It wasn’t until I started working with Lettuce Link a few years later that I really realized that the quest for good food, (food that is just, affordable, equitable, sustainable) was part of a movement.

If you could change only one thing about our local food system, what would it be?
That it involve, represent, touch and impact the lives of people from diverse racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

If you could bring only one pack of seeds on a long trip what kind would you bring?
I suppose it depends on where I was going—somewhere cool and temperate, I’d bring along chard. Somewhere with heat, I’d take tomatoes.

What do you think about the adage “It’s not the food we eat; it’s our eating habits”?
I haven’t heard that before, but it makes sense. Even if we’re eating healthy, if we’re always on the run, eating on the go, we’re not respecting the one who prepared the meal or the food itself and we’re probably eating too fast and too much.

Speaking of eating habits, what’s your vision of the perfect meal?
The one that is made when I get home from work!  The one that is on the table before my young children become over-tired and has a variety of options so that everyone is pleased and willing to eat. With these two things in place, the meal becomes a time when we can all talk, when everyone actually sits with their feet under the table, where there is no whining, no crying and when I can take my time chewing my food, tasting it and savoring the moment.

If you were a goat, what would you say?
Bring on the blackberry bramble.
This article was originally published on Urban Farm Hub on March 26, 2010. 

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