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For Food Professionals: Rise with Resilience

A well-tended rose finds its bloom, adapting and

adjusting to changing conditions. Rise to the occasion.

Rural America taught me much about reacting, responding to and recovering from a variety of circumstances.

Happily for me, it turns out that growing up in Iowa, and the first one in my family to earn a college education, delivered incredible experiences that formed an interest in and stamina for jobs in food.

My development with food began with developing a work ethic as a child, working in our vegetable garden pulling weeds so we’d have food to eat during the winter and walking long rows of soybeans in the hot days of summer, again pulling more weeds so they wouldn’t take over the crops. Living through the farm crisis in Iowa in the late 1980s as a teenager--a crisis more severe than any since the Great Depression--While other family members were out working the farm, I was responsible for preparing economical, 'fill you up' family meals and preserving food for winter. To this day, I'm not a big fan of corn, lima beans or macaroni and cheese. It was an instructive responsibility in which I learned efficiency, time management and overall resourcefulness amidst scarcity. In the late 1990s, a tornado destroy my home and my family's farm. Imagine fields of corn flattened. Livestock that was never ever found. Farm equipment ruined, looking like crumpled pieces of paper. My family re-built the farm and kept going. The grit gained from these experiences helped me find my way out of my humble beginnings, forever changing the shape of my career and my future.

I knew deep inside that I didn’t want to lose anything ever again. Farm-style practical thinking taught me that I didn’t want ever to be unemployed. With that learning in mind, I gravitated toward putting food at the center of my plans. After all, I thought, people will always have to eat. Everything around us may change, but our bodies remain essentially constant—so I decided to study the impact of food. My plan was to eventually become a nutrition educator. My motivation came from being taught well.

My formal education, K-12, began in a single-building school in rural Iowa—and it’s still there intact and inspiring. I learned the basics. Faculty members told me I wasn’t smart enough to go to college. They advised me to be a farm wife. Thankfully, my mom had enough foresight to put me on a post-secondary education path.

Open up to optimism. Develop a mindset for everything to gain.

“An amount of grittiness and strength from experiences may alter the curve of one's beginnings.”

Attending, and eventually graduating with multiple degrees from, both Iowa State University and The University of Iowa demanded, as it should, the awakening of every intellectual molecule in my body in the areas of food and nutrition science, dietetics, business and education. I had no hesitation, maybe because I didn’t fully understand what I had signed on to do. It was probably better that way; otherwise, I probably would have quit. Of course, there were doubtful times met with the adult guidance ranging from, “you will forever regret dropping out of school” to “stick with it” and “take it one day at time”, all essentially code words for “quitting is not an option.”

Funding a college education, whether during high or low economic times, is always a challenge. Over the course of many years, I always found ways to put together part-time jobs in the food industry while attending school, ranging from working in concessions at a collegiate sports venue to bagging groceries to preparing and serving Italian food to conducting research about people’s food choices to teaching a variety of nutrition courses. I liked the pace of the restaurant jobs, especially making decisions quickly and the extra income was always welcomed. This collection of assorted food jobs provided informative as well as valuable business and customer-relations experiences that have continued to serve me in my career.

Think about the times when you've been challenged and tested in the food industry. What specifically from those moments helped you move forward ?

  • Why did you choose a food job?

  • Can you remember what you liked about working a food job?

  • What was fun (and hard!) about the job?

  • What did you learn from the food job and what will you use from it in the future?

  • How did it help build your resilience (spring back from tough situations)?

Rev up your resilience to GROW!

#foodcareer #foodjobs #leadership #Gratitude #Resilience #Opportunity #Wisdom


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