For a class assignment from her central Pennsylvania high school, Madeleine Daepp — the recipient of competitive scholarships from the Truman and Udall foundations and a Rhodes scholarship finalist — conducted a research project on hog farming.
“What surprised me wasn’t the conditions of the farm. I had heard of confinement farming — the rows and rows of hogs,” says Daepp, a recent Arts & Sciences graduate. “I was surprised by the conditions of the farmer. He had had to start a second business, and he didn’t want his children to go into the business, because there wasn’t enough money and the conditions were too bad. He had to carry syringes of antibiotics and penicillin with him in case one of the hogs looked unhealthy… I started to see that farmers, who are doing some of the most important work in our country, were facing such economic and health conditions.”
The experience stirred in Daepp a passion for food production and agricultural policy. At the university, she met a group of like minds running the Burning Kumquat, a student-run farm operating on campus, where she has served as president.
We asked Daepp for her thoughts on food.
1. I wish people knew just how much work goes into the food we eat every day, all along the supply chain. We kind of take it for granted. We don’t really think about the care and effort and attention to weather, and disease, and labor restraints. There’s an idea from Slow Food St. Louis that we should all be eating good, clean, fair food… Child-labor deaths, migrant laborers: There are real human beings in the fields out there, getting cancer and not earning enough to take care of their families. Maybe if we knew all that, we would pay more attention.
2. I’m most proud of the Burning Kumquat and its changing my view of success. Before, I thought success was about how other people saw you: a good career or getting A’s. But really it’s about how you impact other people. One of my favorite things I’ve done is cook for Kids’ Place [an after-school program]. To me, delivering a plate of fresh spaghetti with homemade pasta sauce to a kid who’s never had it before — that’s success.
3. My dream job: Secretary of Agriculture.