Rosa Cantrell is an Auburn senior with a passion for real food – food that “truly nourishes producers,communities and the earth” (realfoodchallenge.org). From studying Agricultural Communications to leading the Auburn Real Food Challenge as its president, Rosa aspires to effect big changes in the food system at Auburn and beyond. Her enthusiasm for this goal is as infectious as it is evident.
Rosa attributes her passion for farm fresh food to her upbringing; she grew up in Highlands, a small North Carolina resort town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Here, she and her family frequently visited local farmers’ markets, a ritual that instilled in Rosa a love for fresh produce. More often than not, she would beg her mom for permission to eat freshly bought, locally grown tomatoes on the way home like one might eat an apple.
In 2008, Rosa’s family transitioned from the Appalachians to the Plains and established a new home in Auburn. The Loveliest Village was familiar territory for Rosa. With a father and grandfather who graduated from Auburn, she’s been going to games and wearing orange and blue for as long as she can remember. She graduated from Lee-Scott Academy in 2010 and had two options: flip burgers or attend Auburn. For someone as hardworking and determined as Rosa, the latter was the obvious choice.
Upon beginning her studies at Auburn, Rosa was a pre-veterinary major, but switched into agricultural communications after enduring a semester of biology. She then floated around, trying out different student groups until finally she found one that was a perfect fit, the Auburn Real Food Challenge (ARFC). She attended seminars and conferences and fell in love with the movement for one simple reason: it works. She asserts that it’s a “tangible and logical way” to change the food system.
Rosa became president of ARFC in Spring 2013 and has loved every second of it and the opportunities it has provided her. She completed an internship with Campus Dining, during which she was responsible for marketing and promoting all its sustainable practices, especially Plains 2 Plate.
Plains 2 Plate is a farm-to-table restaurant located in the Quad and it’s Rosa’s proudest accomplishment. She played an essential role in making the idea a reality, from brainstorming ways to bring real food to the university, to working with Campus Dining to create a menu, to actually meeting with the farmers who grow the food. After establishing all the logistics, their dream was realized and Plains 2 Plate opened in January 2014.
The creation of Plains 2 Plate is a shining achievement for the organization as it seeks to realize its mission and accomplish its long-term goals. The mission of Auburn Real Food Challenge is to “increase community-based, ecologically-sound, humane and fair food at Auburn University and the surrounding community through action-based initiatives that will reconnect people with their food.” Their current major goal is to shift 20% of Auburn’s food budget to the purchase of real food by 2020.
While very successful, ARFC does face a few challenges. The main one is enacting a change in corporate food policies, especially at Auburn. Rosa remarked that since most students are preoccupied with other activities the issue of eating locally isn’t high on their radar, and student advocacy is important to create change. However, she remains optimistic for the future of the movement at Auburn based on its success thus far.
Rosa loves every part of working with ARFC, but her favorite is getting to know students from all walks of life and learning what food means to them. She thinks that the most special part about the club is that it’s a safe zone where individuals can be authentic and feel free to say what they think. Everyone is there to enjoy themselves and make a difference and she loves being a part of it.
Rosa will graduate in May, and while she’s sad to leave this organization behind, she’s excited for what the future holds. She has a dream of returning to North Carolina to work on public relations and marketing for a sustainable agricultural organization. One day, she even aspires to start her own grocery co-op and farm. In the meantime, she plans to further the real food movement while enjoying her remaining time at Auburn.
Derrick Jensen stated “we cannot hope to create a sustainable culture with any but sustainable souls.” Rosa Cantrell is, without a doubt, a sustainable soul.
Post contributed by Alicia Valenti, Office of Sustainability Intern