Teacher Profile: Anna Barnes

What's your story? Where are you from? How do you find yourself in the C-U area? How long have you lived here?
I grew up on a farm in Vermilion County. We raised hogs on pasture and grew corn, soybeans, and produce for farmers markets and some C-U restaurants. The closest town was Hope, but it was too small to have a post office. People would spray paint "less" on the sign, which was pretty accurate. No one from my high school was going to get to farm back then. 

I came to C-U to go college. I always thought that I would graduate, go to New York, and never look back. I took a job doing pr in White Plains after graduation. It was challenging and paid well, but it didn't make me happy, so I took a job at a farm magazine in Minneapolis. Two years later, I was managing a competing publication on the other side of town. I loved my colleagues, but seeing the direction most of agriculture was headed was dismaying. Too many farmers were dying of pesticide related cancers, too many communities had tainted water, and the barriers to entry were prohibitive for young farmers.

I moved back to CU to join my husband, David. Volunteering with Prairieland CSA gave me a chance to help change what I didn't like about conventional agriculture.

What inspired you to teach? How long have you been teaching? When did you start teaching at CGFC?
Teaching has been something I've done since I was a kid in 4-H. In 4-H, everyone teaches each other. In college, I was a teaching assistant in photography, and in the late 90s I taught a semester of environmental communications for a friend who was on sabbatical. I started teaching canning classes to help PCSA's members extend their shares through winter. When Common Ground moved to Lincoln Square, I started teaching the canning classes there. Regardless of whether it is a college class or a cooking class, the goals of reaching people and exchanging information are the same. Of course, cooking classes are more fun because everyone gets to eat at the end instead of take an exam. I love teaching because I get to learn, as well, both from research and from my students. Like my favorite teachers from high school and college, I find myself constantly updating information and looking for ways to improve the classes I teach. 

What do you enjoy the most about teaching at the Co-op? What class(es) do you teach at the Co-op?

What is your philosophy/perspective on education as a part of our food community?

Teaching at the coop is amazing because in a couple of hours you can help someone go from being timid about canning to being confident enough to put up their whole garden. Over the years, I've taught classes on canning, as well a making cheese, yogurt, tofu, doughnuts, and pasta. The best classes are all hands on deck events where everyone is participating and leaves excited to try what they've learned at home. You know that their kids and friends are going to end up learning those skills, too. For me that is key. Sharing culture through food breaks down barriers. It allows us to find common ground and build community.