Published: Jun 6, 2013
Morgan Chmielewski ’14 looks for herbs to add to the freshly-picked salad the students enjoyed at the end of the tour.
James Beckett ’14 digs for a scoop of compost, which he’ll scan for bugs. Beckett was at Sweetwater Organic Farm with his University of Tampa classmates studying the rhetoric of food.
From left, Kyetra Byrant’16, Morgan Chmielewski ’14, Kathryn Huxtable ’14 and Rashid Gargash ’15 make small containers for planting seeds at Sweetwater Organic Farm.
Kyetra Bryant ’16 didn’t think twice about the food she bought from the grocery store or ate from restaurants or got in the Vaughn Center’s Ultimate Dining. But after a two-week May term course called Food Fights, where she studied how food is sold, eaten, cooked, distributed, marketed, grown and discussed, she is thinking differently.
“As a consumer it is easy to be naive about exactly where our food comes from and how it is processed, which sadly leaves our money and our health in the hands of producers,” said Bryant, a journalism and communication major from Oviedo, FL. “There is a tight veil between consumers and producers, and since the industry is made to benefit us, we should be knowledgeable on what is going on with our food.”
Despite a love for food, Bryant said she never gave the big picture much thought before. Now, she has reconsidered drinking tap water, is more educated about the difference between organic and non-organic foods and knows the reality of animal cruelty by some meat producers.
On a sunny May morning, the class took a tour of Sweetwater Organic Farm, weaving among rows of kale, peppers and beds of the edible flower nasturtium. Encouraged to taste by Sweetwater farmer Chris Hawthorne, James Beckett ’14 picked one of the bright orange flowers and popped it in his mouth.
“It’s got a kick,” said Beckett, a graphic design major and writing minor, comparing it to wasabi.
The course took the students to sites across Tampa, from Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm to witness alternative growing methods to La Segunda Bakery where Cuban bread is rolled into long loaves. They talked with Chef Jeannie Pierola of Edison: Food + Drink Lab, participated in a dorm-style cooking demonstration at the Rolling Pin: Kitchen Emporium and Skyped with Florida food bloggers.
Bryant was most moved by the field trips and reading texts like Bottled and Sold by Peter Glieck and watching a documentary about the modern day slavery of tomato farmers in Immokalee, FL.
The course was designed as an off-shoot of a research-based, first-year writing course by assistant professors of English Kacy Tillman and Bill Doyle. Doyle had originally taught a writing course using food as the theme and knew there could be more explored with the topic.
“I think this is a more well-rounded course. We are consciously looking at the rhetoric of documentaries and the biases bloggers come with,” Tillman said. “I don’t want to turn anyone into a vegetarian. I just want them to think about what they’re eating.”
Read the Tampa Bay Times story, "University of Tampa class learns about local Tampa food."
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