Guest Blog Post Written by Nicole Cotroneo Jolly
When you look at the staple foods in your kitchen — maybe rice, flour, sugar, coffee (definitely, coffee!) — can you picture how any of these foods grow?
Most Americans can’t. In fact, I couldn’t. And that’s why I created “How Does it Grow?” — the first web series to tell the stories of our food from field to fork, one crop at a time. The web series is also the foundation for the first online hub for teaching agricultural literacy.
We’ve all become disconnected from our food. The convenience of supermarket shopping has enabled us to purchase our food without considering how it actually reached the grocery bins, or even how our shopping preferences influenced the way it was grown and harvested (because they do!). At the same time, the supermarket aisles have been squeezing out whole, natural produce in favor of processed and packaged foods whose ingredients we no longer recognize.
Teaching our children the principles of healthy eating has never seemed more important — but nagging them to eat their vegetables is a drag. That’s where the power of video storytelling comes in. Each episode of “How Does it Grow?” is designed to capture the imagination of its viewer — child and adult alike — and to help them fall in love with fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains.
Each episode, which is less than five minutes long, takes the viewer to a farm where the featured crop is grown. We share some basic nutritional information, and then give some historical and cultural context — for instance, did you know that since ancient times garlic was considered a source of great strength: Greek Olympians ate it before competing, and Roman soldiers ate it before battle.
Then, we follow the crop from seedling to harvest, highlighting the farming practices unique to each food. For instance, did you know that farmers have to do something special — and labor intensive to keep your cauliflower white?
At the end of each episode, we give an easy and delicious tip on how to incorporate the featured food into your diet.
The series has been designed to inspire talking points that go beyond each video and dip into other fields of study, from science to economics to civil studies. Our video about cauliflower may inspire discussions about the role that insects play beyond pollination, or the issue of food waste in America. Our mushroom video may lead to a biology lesson on organisms— what’s the difference between fungus vs bacteria, plant vs animal?
In time, we will be creating worksheets and exercises as companion curricula to each video as well as a children’s book with the A-Zs of how food grows (apples, bananas, etc).
The “How Does it Grow?” series is available on howgrow.org, and on the popular social video platforms, YouTube and Vimeo. As a nonprofit food education initiative, the episodes are free, and can be embedded anywhere so that you can share it on Facebook or even your own website.
New episodes are released regularly. To keep up, you’re welcome to sign up to receive automatic email alerts each time a new video comes out.
Nicole Cotroneo Jolly is a journalist, video producer and founder of How Does it Grow?, a nonprofit food education initiative rooted in agricultural literacy. Connect with Nicole and the HowGrow team at howgrow.org and on Twitter at @howgrow.