I am a writer – new job and Culinary Trust Fellowship

While having a beer with some women from my indoor soccer team the other night, Maria asked me: “So you want to be a writer?”

Round Barn Kolsch at bentwood Tavern

We were talking about what we do outside of our day jobs and I was telling her about writing for Edible Michiana and this blog. It really hit me in that moment that I am a writer. That’s one of my top defining identities. I am a storyteller.

In fact, that seems to be a main reason I was chosen for my new job as marketing and communications manager at Toast Hotel Group. The company owns two charming boutique hotels on the New Buffalo harbor, Marina Grand Resort and The Harbor Grand. Both hotels are home to remarkable restaurants, Bentwood Tavern and the Terrace Room, respectively.

I’m also about half way through a Culinary Trust Food Writing Fellowship with Edible Michiana. It’s like a short-term paid internship for adults. I wasn’t even going to apply, though it’s clearly a perfect fit for me. Edible Michiana editor and publisher Victoria Brenneman encouraged me to give it a shot and I’m so glad I did. I’m finishing up two inspiring features and about to start a few more.

My new position at Toast Hotel Group, where I’m around delicious artisan comfort cuisine all day, and my writing fellowship have been keeping me very busy. That’s why you haven’t heard a peep out of me here on the blog. You can expect another couple months of silence as I finish up the fellowship and get settled in at work.

Once my fellowship stories are published, I’ll share links here, but for now I wanted to share the essay I wrote for the fellowship application. Special thanks to Molly and Kristina for writing recommendation letters!

Culinary Trust Food Writing Fellowship Application Essay

Sitting on a stubby wooden stool in a dimly lit barn on a cool Michigan evening, I reach under the brown cow in front of me and grasp two warm teats. Deliberately making a fist one finger at a time, starting with my pointer, I move a bit of milk down, squirting out a quick, short stream. I practice right hand, left hand while David Veale, owner of Bluebird Farm, demonstrates the correct motion, grasping the air in front of him.

How did I get here?

Katie Carpenter milks Penny Jersey cow and Bluebird Farm & Orchard, Three Rivers, MI

I found Bluebird Farm while researching local raw milk herd-share programs for an article I was writing for the Edible Michiana Winter 2015 issue. David is the only farmer I talked to who milks his dairy cows by hand. I ask him why a software developer would want to don overalls and boots to milk a cow every morning before work and every night after a long day at the office.

He answered with a story. Years before, David caught a bug from his infant son that turned into a heinous sinus infection that took nine months and five different antibiotics to heal. This experience launched him on a life-changing quest to take control of his health through nutrition. His research ultimately led him to 60 rolling acres where he provides for his family in a very fundamental way.

David shares his passion with his neighbors, people like me, through a raw milk herd-share program. Seven years ago, I wouldn’t even pour milk on breakfast cereal, yet I find myself here, milking a cow named Penny and writing about it on my local food blog, FollowTheFlavor.com. At 21 I was eating sugar-free chocolate cookies I bought at Meijer; now I know Michiana producers and they know me because I consistently support them with my paycheck and my words.

It was a series of stories like David’s that led me here. In my early 20s I read Omnivore’s Dilemma; Fast Food Nation; Folks This Ain’t Normal; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and more. It wasn’t grisly facts or staggering numbers that spurred me to change my eating habits. It was the vivid stories.

I want to tell stories like that.

I started writing for Edible Michiana five years ago, soon after I read through the first vibrant issue. My most recent feature on Pasture Haven, a local dairy farm that offers herd shares, introduces some raw milk history, laws and health information. But more importantly, it tells the story of Andrew and Norma Yoder, who left conventional farming to pursue a different path, one that isn’t easy, but directly impacts their community for good.

My hope is to tell more stories like that one—stories that celebrate life-giving agriculture and food systems—stories that empower people to make informed food choices. Storytelling is my craft and an exquisite catalyst for change. Please grant me a Food Writing Fellowship so I can further develop my skills and tell the important food stories happening in my longtime home, Michiana.