Brand Ambassador: Michael Hanson – Food & Travel

If I’m going to spend most of the year away from home, there has to be a purpose to the travel. And, not just to do yoga or ‘experience the local culture’. Or to see a museum or a plaza. This is what I told myself years ago as I was drifting towards a career that sent me away from places that I had chosen. I moved to Seattle because the mountains and rivers and salt water expanses were attractive. If I had an off day, this is where I wanted to wake up. Yet, here I was waiting at another gate for a delayed flight to go to a place that’s not mine.

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Nine years later, the majority of these trips have revolved around food, and where it comes from. I am lucky. I have the option of experiencing food at the end of its journey. We all try to avoid the carbon footprint of avocados in January in the NW or Atlantic Halibut anytime, but in many areas of the US, we have access to food from around the world. This last month, I spent two weeks in Apalachicola, FL and two weeks in Sumatra, Indonesia looking at the source of four of our foods.

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In Apalachicola, a century-old fishing industry is on the verge of collapsing. The oyster beds that built this small, working town, have collapsed. Blame is spread equally between the BP oil spill, the lack of freshwater coming down the ACF Basin and overharvesting the young oysters. Either way, an industry and a community hang in the balance. I’ve continued a longer series of images about this community and these fisherman.

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Then, I took a bus to a train to a plane then two more planes to a taxi and 45 hours later, sat my bags down in the Kerinci Valley of Sumatra, Indonesia. I came to see where cinnamon, tea and coffee come from. Sumatra is productive. They grow rice, cabbage, potatoes, and almost every other vegetable you find in your dinner bowl every night. They produce around 85% of the world’s cinnamon, and a huge portion of the world’s coffee and tea come from this area. I spent every morning and evening following farmers, harvesters, and processors. It’s a good feeling to know where something comes from. To be able to understand who picked it and whose job depends on it is unique and necessary. If consumers understand where their food comes from, I think we’d make better decisions when and where we shop. Besides, the food tastes a little better when you know its story.

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