Posts by Nghi
My first 2 months on campus have been a constant chain of events with little to no time in between for much breathing. Now that my first block is over, I want to catch you up on what it’s like to be on campus these past two months.
During Bridge Scholars Program, the wonderful Professor Heidi Lewis warned us of the craziness of CC and the block plan. She also spent a large portion of class addressing the reality of attending a predominantly white institution such as Colorado College.
After two months of being here, I have seen and felt first-hand the pressure to speak up/represent a whole race as the only Asian person in a space. I have felt the pressure to project the best image of myself 24/7, and I have felt the need to explain my culture to people.
As a first-gen, low-income, woman of color on campus, I have struggled with imposter syndrome day in, day out.
persistent self-doubt of one’s ability, feelings of inadequacy, and feeling like one doesn’t belong or deserve to be at a college
It’s tough to not be effected by imposter syndrome when my peers went to private schools, all know how to ski, play instruments, balance all their classwork and social life, AND have six packs. Yes, I try to convince myself that we’re all just teenagers figuring out life, but I believe some teenagers got more of a head start than others. I also know that my shitty public high school education taught me little in the classroom, so you can catch me every weekday frustrated over not understanding my assigned readings.
The college journey isn’t always black and white, good or bad.
The block plan is amazing, classes only last for 3.5 weeks if you don’t like them, and if you do, you get to spend 3 (or more) hours in class every day. A huge bonus of going to an extremely small liberal arts school is the amount of resources and activities available to me. For example, I went stand-up paddle-boarding off-campus on Sunday for $5. For my Priddy Trip, I went camping in the San Juan Mountains for 4 days with a small group of freshmen. We have gone on a million field trips in my class, as you can probably tell from my last blogs. I love the variety of opportunities and people I get to experience every day.
However, everything comes at a price. There’s more interesting stuff to do on campus than there is time in one day. During block 1, I committed myself to everything under the sun and RSVP’ed to every interesting event I saw. As my friend warned me “You’re making the typical freshman mistake of trying to do everything, slow down.” I was pulled in so many directions and came back to my dorm exhausted every night. College is a four-year marathon, but it often feels like time is always fleeting and I must do everything all at once.
I’m figuring it out, block by block. I came to CC excited and wide-eyed, ready to attack college head-on. I was glad to be far away from home, from high school, for a chance to start over, that I forgot about ME. I forgot that I had a limited amount of social energy. I forgot that my usual self-care routine isn’t enough to take care of the exhausting demand of the block plan. Recently, I’ve prioritized everything else first, myself second.
Even more than the classroom learning, the block plan has taught me more about myself and how to adult. It’s taught me that the fast pace of campus often leaves little time for reflection. It’s taught me that I often move too fast, and often forget to stop, breathe, and feel the grass. The pressure that I feel at a predominantly white school is real, more real than any blog or adult could have prepped me for. But I do belong, and I am good enough, or at least I’ll keep repeating it until I believe it.
On Tuesday morning of fourth week, we set out to go on another adventure. Our next destination is a quinoa farm in the San Luis Valley! We met up with farmers Ernie New and Jennifer Smead of White Mountain Farms to learn more about their organic family farm.
Back in 1984, Ernie was approached by a friend trying to convince him to grow quinoa. However, he didn’t know how to grow it, clean it, or eat it; quinoa was still new to the American market. All he knew was that quinoa was sensitive to herbicides and didn’t take much water to grow. Over time, other farmers in the San Luis Valley also caught on and started growing quinoa, too.
In 2019, the market demand for quinoa so is great that, as Ernie New puts it, “If everybody in the San Luis Valley stopped growing potatoes and started growing quinoa, it would barely make a dent worldwide [on the demand for quinoa].” Companies are putting it in their cereals and processed foods to market the product as “healthier.” The bulk of White Mountain Farms quinoa is sold to a middleman to be sold to a large company. Thus, similar to Spud Grower Farms, the White Mountain Farms family has little to no idea where their crop will end up in the world.
Jennifer Smead also gave us a tour of their potato packing facility. She touched on the market demand for perfect potatoes; 25% of the potatoes harvested are thrown away because of aesthetics or damage to the outside skin. Potatoes are classified by their appearance; number 1 potatoes have less defects and are overall more evenly shaped than number 2 potatoes. Smead says she rarely eats number 1 potatoes, number 2 potatoes taste just as good.
We also took some potatoes home!
After a long day of touring quinoa and more potatoes, we came back to CC’s Baca Campus, took our last Italian quiz for the block and relaxed. I went on a walk into Crestone with some classmates. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to reach the closet market, they had fresh, local, organic produce, and cheap kombucha.
I found these beautiful tomatoes at the market, too!
We spent our last night at Baca making pizza and hanging out. After a crazy block of adjusting to college, learning Italian, taking a million field trips, and talking about environmental science, it was time to destress. On Wednesday morning, we headed back to CC to start our block break!
The view on the drive back to campus.
I spent my block break on campus, hanging out with friends, climbing the Manitou Incline, and cooking the potatoes from White Mountain Farms.
My roommates, Isley G. and Erin H., ft. the view from the top of Manitou Incline. A must-try if you’re in the area!
On Sunday morning of block break, I drove 45 minutes to Canon City and went SKYDIVING! I could see the mountain ranges and multiple 14ers when jumping out of the plane. 12/10 would recommend Colorado as a skydiving spot.
Where did the potato on your plate come from?
We departed from Baca Campus Monday morning on a quest to learn more about America’s industrial farming industries, specifically large-scale potato farms in the San Luis Valley. I was not particularly excited to get up at 7:00 am to see something as mundane as potatoes. Aren’t they just potatoes, what could be so interesting about them?
Jamilah M., with her constant optimism, said “Nghi, we’re going to see the most potatoes we have ever seen in one day today” in an effort to make the trip more exciting. Oh boy, she was right. We saw potatoes alright.
We met up with Heather Dutton, manager of San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District and fifth-generation San Luis Valley resident. She brought us to Spud Grower Farms to check out their potato harvest. At first the field looked empty and I thought “Where are the potatoes? That’s all I came here for.”
Our first view of the potato circle
It somehow never clicked in my brain that potatoes are root crops, and root crops are underground. As we walked through the field, I saw small potatoes left behind on the ground. Can you spot what’s potato and what’s rocks?
The potato vines in the picture are dead because they are “beaten to death” 3-4 weeks before harvesting so the potato skin can have time to harden and dry out. If potatoes are harvested right away, the skin could easily peel off and get bruised.
While we were standing there, harvesters came by and scooped up the potatoes from the dirt, passed it through a conveyor belt to shake off anything that’s not potatoes and left them on the ground for the next round of harvester trucks to come pick them up. Sometimes the harvesters will miss some potatoes, and while unfortunate, it’s not worth it to go back over a row twice.
We were standing on a quarter section aka a crop circle. Each crop circle yields around 5-8 million pounds of potatoes every season. Spud Grower Farms grows 13 circles of potatoes annually, and another 13 circles of quinoa and barley. However, they predominantly focus on potatoes because it’s their cash crop. Farm Manager, Michael Curtis, is 1 of 4 full-time farmers working on the 26 crop circles which makes up the farm. To put this into perspective: there are only 4 farmers working year-round to make sure 81 million (2018 yield) pounds of potatoes gets into big grocery stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Krogers.
Pictured is Heather (left) and Michael (right).
(DID YOU CATCH THAT? 81 MILLION POUNDS! And that’s barely 1% of annual American potato demand).
We, as consumers, demands perfect potatoes. Potatoes coming from the San Luis Valley could be repackaged into the potato buyer’s packaging. This process strips the San Luis Valley identity from the potatoes, thus making the origin of the potatoes untraceable.
Crop circles in the San Luis Valley. Credit: Google Maps: Satellite.
Even though Spud Grower Farms grow a massive amount of potatoes and use industrial machinery, they are first and foremost a family farm. They care about their potatoes, try to minimize pesticide usage by fighting diseases with cover crops, and replenish the soil as much as they can.
Industrial American farming gets a bad rep, but as Heather puts it, “It’s not about the size of the farm, it’s about the ethics.” Michael added, “We would never grow something that we wouldn’t eat ourselves. I don’t buy potatoes from the store, I come out to the field and get potatoes to feed my own kids”
Heather and Michael also touched on water issues in Colorado. “80% of the population in Colorado is on the front range, yet 80% of the water is on the western slope. This puts a stress on municipalities to provide water for their constituents.”
Investors from Denver are looking to come into San Luis Valley, buy land from farmers to acquire the land’s water rights and groundwater wells, and pipeline the water to urban areas. This leaves farms like Spud Grower Farms left to worry about the future of water and the make-up of the farming community. Even though San Luis Valley sits on a large water aquifer, it’s disappearing more quickly than can be recharged.
While our urban lives are seemingly disconnected from farmers in the San Luis Valley, are we truly disconnected? The type of house we buy, the lawns we choose to water, the food we choose to eat, it’s all affecting the water reservoirs in Colorado and farmers around the state. If farmers like Michael were to stop growing food, where else would our food come from?
Bonus pictures of the potato sorting facility:
The beautiful Meghna Bagchi ft. 500,000 lbs of potatoes in the back.
Saturday of second week, we departed at 9am to Denver for an Italian Festival. It was a nice sunny day and I was ready to try some delicious Italian food.
Italian cuisine was popularized over seventy years ago and has made its way into the staple American diet. Familiar foods like pizza, spaghetti, gelato and pasta are easily found in every city. We have romanticized Italy as the country of vacation and its foods as “fresh, handmade, and touched by Italian grandmothers.”
The festival, located in an outdoor shopping mall, attracted audience from all over. Many booths were decorated with grape vines, wine bottles, or any Italian-related tokens to seem more authentic. For example, there were seven consecutive booths named “Grammy’s Sicilian Pizza,” “Grammy’s Canoli,” “Grammy’s Italian Goodies,” and “Grammy’s Italian Cookies” and so on. The Grammy’s booths used the cute abbreviated version of “grandmother” to portray an image of Italian authenticity and home. The tablecloths they used were checkered and bright colors and font styles looked handwritten to add to the illusion. As a consumer, it is hard to tell if the recipes they are selling are truly passed down from grammy; however, they are for sure using the image of the Italian grandmother to attract their customer base.
Willik ft. large Grammy’s “Sicilian” pizza slice
Some classmates have called this festival the “American-Italian Festival” because of the festival’s loose interpretation of what is Italian and its adaptation of Italy to fit the American audience. Some booths at the fair had nothing to do with Italy such as: Costco, Wells Fargo, Empanadas, a booth selling stickers, and so on. The list of sponsors for this event included corporations, banks, TV stations, and a lack of Italian companies. Thus, it seemed like the goal of this festival was to attract the widest audience possible, not to portray an authentic image of Italy.
The Italian Festival is more of a gimmick than a true showcase of Italian values. Prices are marked up, tables are designed to attract the eye, and the word “Italian” is loosely used to describe foods. The one upside is the arancini, it was so cheesy, crunchy, and coated my mouth with its fried goodness!
Bella and Jamilah ft. gli arancini
Despite my critique, the festival was a great way to get off campus, get some fresh air and get lost in “Little Italy” for a few hours. It’s nice to see a glimpse of Italian culture in real life instead of just reading about it in the classroom. I even found a Sharetea! Normally I don’t like boba, but it’s hard to resist when boba reminds me of home. I never thought home sickness would affect me, but college is proving me wrong.
Goodbye Denver! Ci vediamo dopo!
Hello! My name is Nghi and I will be blogging about Slow Food in a Fast Food Nation. A strange combination of Elementary Italian and Environmental Science. I had no idea what to expect on the first day of class. Would we be doing a block of Italian and a block of enviro? How did these two seemingly different topics connect?
On the first day of class, we jumped into learning Italian adjectives and spent the rest of class eating and talking about Twinkies. Twinkies represent the perfect capitalistic food: cheap, lots of calories, easy to eat, perfectly identical to every other Twinkie, and convenient. If I were to describe the qualities a Twinkie possess in Italian, they would be morbido, economico, dolce, e piccolo.
During the first week of class, we had already started learning introductions in Italian, numbers, pronouns and adjectives. In the environmental science portion, we explored what foods are considered “good to eat” and “what is ‘disgust?’” by eating dehydrated crickets. They came in a variety of flavors including sour cream and onion, salt and vinegar, or we could choose from the mixed-bugs variety pack. The bugs weren’t half bad, they tasted like Lay’s potato chips. Kind of delicious, actually.
In an everchanging society, the U.S. has changed how the world eats with its political and economic influence. We are slowly turning the world into a fast-food globe with McDonald’s, with our emphasis on efficiency, convenience and cheap calories. Italy, known for its extraordinary cuisine, is fighting against the quickly changing food economy with the Slow Food movement. The Slow Food movement promotes local produce, traditional cooking, and an overall RE-connection to what food means to us. We are simultaneously analyzing Italian cooking, American economy, and where food really comes from.
Frankly, I have no idea where my food is coming from. My idea of “food sources” mostly consists of gory videos of filmmakers exposing the inhumane meat industry. I know that the animals in these videos live a short time, are force fed, and go through mass massacres. Then, they’re packaged in plastic and shipped to the store. Furthermore, I have no idea where my vegetables come from aside from that tropical fruits are imported from Mexico. The sad part of it all, is the fact that I don’t know much about my food sources beyond that. It’s almost magical how groceries show up on the shelf and are refilled every hour; it is almost as if some food elves are hiding in the back waiting to stock the shelves.
On Wednesday of week 1, we visited New Roots Farm; an organic farm ran by CC Alum Sarah Hamilton and Susan Gordon. We learned about their pressing water source and how politicians will favor lawns over farms to please their constituents. We also got to meet Bella, the beautiful golden retriever, she welcomed us with her waggly tail and high energy. After being on campus for weeks with little to no dog contact, meeting Bella was the perfect campus getaway for many of us. Subsequently, we spent the afternoon at Duca’s Neopolitan Pizza enjoying their delicious imported tomatoes from Italy.
Some flowers from New Roots Farm.
This lighting does this pesto pizza no justice, it’s absolutely delicious #notsponsored
Our first week of class has made me realize how much I don’t know about my foods, it was always there, I never had to question where anything came from. However, meeting farmers like Sarah, Susan, and Bella at New Roots who really cares about the produce and their consumers also makes me want to care more about my produce and farmers.