Callie Martin. You see her working in the Produce department and on the grounds outside The Wedge. But, did you know that she is the research assistant for the elusive Professor Produce and is an author in her own right, pushing out the popular weekly Wedge website feature, This Week in Produce (TWIP)?
A woman of so many talents has to come from somewhere special, and Callie does—Minneapolis! A graduate of South High School, she became interested in social and environmental justice at age 15. That manifested into a passion for food politics, which drew her to Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., where she focused on food politics and ethnobotany. Her education seems tailored to creating an awesome Wedge staff member. She looks at topics from many angles, including environmental, botanical, political/social and culinary.
Callie’s first-year college program was a cross-disciplinary course called Seeds of Change: Food, Culture and Work. Students and professors spent the year traveling around Washington State to study botany, sustainable farming, women’s and Latin American studies, and political economics. They met with farm workers and their union leaders, visited a seafood-processing plant and toured farms ranging from a half-acre organic operation to a 1,000-acre conventional spread. They learned how trade agreements allow cheap conventional food to come into this country at the expense of the environment and farm workers. The last quarter of the year focused on finding solutions to the problems they’d studied. Callie did her internship at a certified organic community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm near Olympia and something clicked.
Her sophomore year was spent engaged in Native American studies and working with the Nisqually tribal nation on a salmon-habitat-restoration project. Her later studies were devoted to the botany of South Puget Sound Prairie plants, as part of a vigorous attempt to save species. Students camped in the Oregon desert, on islands off the Olympic peninsula and in the Cascade Mountains in pursuit of the native flora. As part of that work, Callie contributed 10 botanical illustrations to a plant identification book to be published by the college in 2014.
After graduation, Callie returned to Minneapolis and did a short internship at the Women’s Environmental Institute near North Branch, Minn. While shopping at The Wedge for groceries for the farm she saw a Produce job posted. She turned in an application on the spot and started working when her internship ended.
Callie wants to use The Wedge grounds to create a Minnesota native-plant teaching garden as another tangible example of how the co-op is continually working to improve our sustainability as a community business. Native plants provide habitat and food for pollinating insects and are adapted for survival in our cold winters and hot summers. They also have deep root systems which absorb water quickly and hold soil in place, and best of all, require no pesticides or fertilizers or even, after the first year, watering.
It’s the variety of the work at The Wedge that Callie credits with keeping her brain sharp. No two days in a row are the same at The Wedge, where beloved co-workers bring so much humor and kindness to the workplace. Callie says she feels privileged to work on what she went to school for at a place where personal and professional growth are possible.