I enjoy inviting people to guest blog from time to time.  It adds an extra bit of content “flavor” to things, I think.  I love to get their thoughts…their take on things related to career transition and reinvention….and I love to be challenged myself a bit.  And that’s just what Martha Wagner did:  She challenged me as you’ll read below.  She adds some real flavor to the blog — both in a literary sense and….a culinary sense!

Introducing Martha Wagner.

Cheers!
Brian

It’s hard for me to imagine Brian Kurth sitting in an office cubicle or even behind a big desk in his former corporate life in Chicago. In a recent chat at one of his favorite Portland coffee shops, he looked relaxed, like an entrepreneur affected by, but not crushed by, the current economic times.

I’d recently read Brian’s book, Test-Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-By-Step Guide To Finding And Creating The Work You Love, and found it to be an innovative “how-to” guide to creating your own career mentorship.  But when I went to the VocationVacations website, I thought there were some possible gaps in the list of career test-drive experiences, so I called him and we set up a time to meet. He was happy to listen, but before long he was twisting my arm into writing a guest blog about the gaps I detected in his list of career paths. He said that his blog readers might provide valuable feedback about whether I was onto something.

What expertise do I have? Well, I’ve been following local and national stories about food and farming for 30 years. I am resuming an earlier freelance writing career, now focusing on food and local farming. I devour foodie blogs and newsletters from local and national groups such as Slow Food, Friends of Family Farmers and the Organic Consumers Association. I go to meetings of my county’s Food Policy Council. I’ve been shopping at Portland’s many local farmers markets for years, and more recently have witnessed the sprouting of new home gardens and the arrival of backyard chickens all over the city.

Even though Brian has a number of food-related careers on his VocationVacations list—including baker, brew master, chef, chocolatier, cheese maker, farmer, ice cream maker, restaurateur, winemaker and wine retailer (he’s got a passion for that business)—there are other career paths in food and farming that I think people are eager to explore. Just one example: Camas Davis, a 30-something Portland-based food writer and chef I recently interviewed for a story, wanted to learn about what she calls “the dying art of the butcher shop” and through a friend of a cooking teacher she knows managed to set up a summer internship with a family of farmers and butchers in southwest France. The experience gave her the confidence to start the Portland Meat Collective, a venture in which she and other chefs are teaching a range of butchering skills to restaurant and home cooks.

When the First Family put in an organic kitchen garden at the White House it was one very visible indication of growing interest in farming and in organics. In the Northwest, the number of organic farms growing vegetables, specialty grains and beans, and garden starts is increasing. Farmers markets and natural food stores are selling meat from small farms that are practicing sustainable animal husbandry. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms are providing a way for eaters to connect with farmers and farmers to sell direct to the public. Farmers markets, grocery stores, even food banks and in Portland, the city Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, are sponsoring food-related classes these days focused on topics as diverse as eating economically, canning and preserving, raising backyard chickens and almost-vegetarian cooking.

So where am I heading with all of this and how does it relate to VocationVacations?  As I watch new food and farm related businesses open, I see a need for more VocationVacation mentorship choices across the country—for careers such as butcher, organic and/or CSA farmer, cooking instructor, personal chef and garden designer (vegetable gardens and mixed gardens). In the world of baking, organic, vegan and gluten-free baking are up-and-coming specialties. Food cart businesses—from waffles to tamales to barbecue—are one of the hottest new restaurant trends. I just met a first-time food cart owner in Portland, newly transplanted from Chicago and loving his new livelihood. VocationVacations, I suggest, should make it easier for people like him to test the waters of new careers related to food and farming.

So now I leave it to you, dear readers. Let Brian know if you think he should expand the VocationVacations list. Do you have some ideas of your own for him?

Best!

Martha Wagner

Martha Wagner arrived in Portland in the late 80s, following a circuitous path from the Midwest to Connecticut, England, New Zealand, Northern California and Eugene, Oregon. She has written about food and health, from tofu to walking shoes, for numerous magazines and newspapers. In her “day job” (www.marthawagner.com) she edits and proofreads countless words for colleges, nonprofits and businesses. She lives at a 3.7 acre urban co-housing community where her neighbors include 37 chickens.

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