Building Community At America's Table

Meal Five: Janice Person and Friends

– written by Grant

People are complicated.

Take Janice Person in Monsanto Public Affairs. She has reached out and engaged the One Hundred Meals project and invited us to St. Louis for tours of their corporate headquarters and growing facilities.  Now, you could view us as a thorn in her side, but she engaged us in a friendly way, so off we went!

So she has this job. Monsanto PR. Yikes! But she also has a brother and a nephew who are organic farmers. Huh? Yup.

And we had dinner with her at Niche in St. Louis – Meal Five: Janice Person and Friends. The food from Gerard Craft was amazing, by the way. Never mind all this annoying food policy talk; get thee to Niche for dinner!

Janice’s friends at dinner are also ours – Mike Haley and Ray Prock, conventional farmers who have this way of listening to us. They want to engage and learn and share so much that it is disarming. And don’t we all have our weapons drawn these days? Yeah, we all could use some disarming. Read their content at Just Farmers if you don’t believe me.

So anyway, the point of this post is to tell you that in a few short months I have been able to go from a person who would have said – “Heck no! No way I’m sitting down to a civilized dinner at a fancypants restaurant with Monsanto and be able to enjoy my meal!” to a person who, to use my previous language, had dinner with the enemy and thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the company.

After all, meals are more than food. They are community-building and best shared with friends and family.

When you sit down to a friendly dinner with people you are learning to respect, not agree with, but respect, you find that you have things in common. We both garden, enjoy good food and drink (uh, thank you Paul Virant for inventing that incredible chocolatey-habanero-bourbon-barrel-aged beer!) And you differ on things – Janice is considering spraying Roundup on the irritating mint taking over her garden. Does not compute! But to each his own, I guess.

And you find that although someone like Janice works for Monsanto, she is not Monsanto.

Janice is a person.

Corporations are not people.

But they are made up of people.

And people are complicated.

Which might all be to say:

Our food system is complicated.

As I learned the next day.


4 responses

  1. Thanks again for coming and being so open to discussing things we may not agree on, but doing it with respect. Now if only we could get this ability to go viral! We all could learn a lot more…. I certainly challenged myself to really look at things from different perspectives. Our convos helped me think of things from other perspectives. For that I am truly grateful. And I have to say, the dinner at Niche was incredible!!! I am thrilled Gerard is opening up places in my part of town so I probably have another expensive hobby to enjoy!

    September 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

  2. I love this post. I was raised knowing only the more high-tech, mass-production side of agriculture (even though my family were “small farmers” and at one point “hobby farmers,” we still fit the “conventional agriculture” buck in most ways). Through some really unusual and interesting experiences, I’ve learned to love and appreciate the other paths that agriculturalists may follow there.

    When I read this article, I saw myself, years ago, thinking, “Crazy organic people.” It’s so incorrect, and so demeaning to this beautiful and diverse world of food production we have! And buying organic may not be a priority to me, but I do buy it on occasion and respect the massive amount of dedication that it takes to sincerely adhere to that lifestyle.

    If you ever head out to the Kansas City area for this stuff, let me know. I’d love to tag along for a Meal.

    (Also, some of your meals in rural Illinois were incredibly close to my hometown! I’ve watched high school football games at Gibson City before!)

    October 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

  3. Grant, both you and Ellen (real people) have helped me look at the world around me (conventional cotton farming since the day I was born) in a more broad perspective. For that, I am sincerely grateful to these two Real People.

    October 1, 2012 at 11:26 am

  4. Mark Lathrop

    Keep Rockin on Janice!!!

    October 2, 2012 at 6:28 am

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