10 Questions for Local Food Entrepreneur: Vera Chang
This interview originally appeared on Examiner.com.
Vera Chang is Public Relations and Marketing Director for Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont.
Q: Tell us about your food journey.
A: It began in high school when I had my first experience on a farm, which changed my life. In college I helped form an organization called Food Truth to help engage the campus. This was before the food movement had really gotten going. Food Truth was my first foray into helping to shape conversations and ideas about food. From there I went to Santa Cruz to complete an organic farm apprenticeship. During that apprenticeship, I was invited to join the first BAMCO Foundation Fellows Program and spent three years helping to support the company’s initiatives around large-scale change in the food system. After that I decided that I wanted to return to a farm and focus on bringing more farms to people and people to farms. That led me to Shelburne Farms and here I am.
Q: What is your main focus as Marketing Director?
A: Keeping the mission front and center in our communications. Our mission is to educate for a sustainable future. With an organization as complex as we are, that message can get confused. The entire farm is our campus for learning and engagement and we focus on professional development for teachers because we know that for every teacher’s career, we can reach hundreds of students.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Doing work that’s aligned with my values.
Q: How do you manage failure?
A: Reminding myself of the mantra: “This too shall pass. Everything is temporary. There are more opportunities ahead. We can choose to move on and do our best.”
Q: How do you cope with pressure?
A: I try not to sacrifice eating well. A good healthy meal can be really grounding, even a very simple one. I also try to make time for yoga and meditation, even if it’s just for a few minutes. And I remind myself that rushing doesn’t yield better results.
Q: What are you going to do next?
A: At the end of October I’m heading to Terra Madre, an international conference in Turin, as a Slow Food delegate and Shelburne Farms representative. This year, Vermont will be sharing Vermont cheese, maple syrup and other artisanal products. It’s the first year that we’re doing that and I’m really looking forward to sharing what we do with such an international and diverse community, and to bringing home new ideas.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in the past year?
A: A couple months ago my mom said to me: “When something goes wrong, just think of it as tuition. You’re paying for a lesson that you’ll have in the future.” I can’t believe she waited this long to tell me!
Q: Give us your advice for aspiring food entrepreneurs… in 6 words or less.
A: Be loving to yourself and others… If love were a guide ethic, I think everyone would be better off.
Q: You win the Oscar of your industry.When you take the stage, who will you thank and for what?
A: All the people at Shelburne Farms who have believed in me to carry the farm’s mission forward. Our President and Vice President, market gardeners, cheesemakers, chefs… My classmates, colleagues and BAMCO… Everyone who has inspired and influenced my journey. And my parents and brother who are so supportive of my interests and ideas.
Q: What about Shelburne Farms most feeds your soul?
A: The magic of being with children on farms. In the spring, we have a group of kindergarteners from the Sustainability Academy, the first magnet school in the country to have a sustainability focus. Children on working dairies are an unusual site to see. These children come from all over. Many are refugees. The experience on the dairy brings another dimension to children in their classrooms. Seing children from all over the world as an element to our working farm feeds my soul.