Transfer student Zoe Bara finds a home in Sustainable Food Systems
Zoe Bara prepares produce grown at UD Fresh to You, an on-campus student-run farm. The UD senior sustainable food systems major enjoys being outside, studying soils, and educating others about our food.

Embracing the outdoors

October 06, 2021 Written by Lauren Bradford | Photo by Monica Moriak

Transfer student Zoe Bara finds a home in sustainable food systems

After studying bioinformatics and computer engineering in Chicago, transfer student Zoe Bara knew she needed a change. Searching for a major that would allow her to be outside and hone her interest in biology, she found the sustainable food systems program and started at the University of Delaware in spring 2020.

“Looking back, it makes sense,” said the UD senior. “I grew up in the environmental scene. My mom used to work at a local environmental non-profit and I grew up going to summer camp there. I’ve always had an interest in food and food production. Now I’m vegan and have started learning more about what I can eat and that really brought out that interest. It makes total sense when you look back, but the path to getting there is not always so easy.”

We recently sat down with Zoe to find out what she loves about her classes and internships in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Transfer student Zoe Bara finds a home in Sustainable Food Systems

Q: What has been your favorite classroom experience at UD?

A: Last fall, I took the Introduction to Soil Science class. I was terrified because I’ve had problems with chemistry and I knew that soil science involved a lot of chemistry. I got into the class and fell in love with soil science. That was at a point in the pandemic when we were starting to do some in-person labs again and I think that made a big difference. The class was online but we could be hands-on in the lab to feel the properties of soil, figure out how they work and troubleshoot in a way that was really helpful.

This past spring, I took Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition taught by Dr. Jarod Miller from the Georgetown campus. He was excellent. It was a lot of really valuable information but presented in a way that is really useful. It was not just random chemistry for you to memorize. We learned how soils work and how they’re different wherever you are. I’d definitely say the soil science courses have been my favorites so far.

Q: Tell us about your experience interning with UD Fresh to You, our on-campus farm.

A: I started interning at UD Fresh to You in spring 2021. In the beginning, I was weeding a lot. We still weed a lot; it’s a fundamental part of our work. I also was propagating and completing sometimes very grueling work for the first six weeks to get everything ready. We had a really diverse array of vegetables this summer. Then, we started to convert to our fall crops. Every day is different, which is really awesome, but you still have the opportunity to get better at the tasks that do repeat.

We donated some of our produce to groups in Delaware and we operated two farm stands per week. It’s nice to see what people are interested in and what they gravitate towards at the farm stands. Sometimes the produce might look funky but sell really well, even if you wouldn’t think people would pick it up. I prefer to be in the background doing the growing and the hard labor, but it is fun to hear the questions people have. Sometimes they catch you off guard and are really interested in recipes or how things are grown.

The UD senior Sustainable Food Systems major enjoys being outside, studying soils, and educating others about our food.

Q: What do you plan to do after graduation?

A: I’m looking at grad schools now. If I do that, then I’d study soil science and I’m looking out west where there are a lot of interesting programs. I haven’t had an opportunity to really get into research yet, but I'm hoping to get into a lab this year to get a feel for it and see if grad school is the right fit. Now that I know I like growing, I’m not sure that grad school is the right choice. It might make more sense to go apprentice around the country to get experience and add more tools to my toolbelt. I’m trying to keep it open.

Q: What would you say to someone who is considering the sustainable food systems major at UD?

A: It’s a great major. I’ve really enjoyed my time and have had a really positive experience at the university, despite the pandemic. When I first started, I always thought that you couldn’t be a farmer if you didn’t grow up on a farm. That is so not true. I think people can be intimidated by agriculture because they don’t have a lot of background knowledge. At UD, we are very welcoming to new farmers. You’re not expected to have 20 years of experience on your family farm before you get here.

I also think we as a country don’t always care enough about where our food comes from, how it’s grown and how the people who grow it are treated. The whole system needs work, as is the case with most systems. I think I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of tools to help myself and other people really think more about where our food comes from. I like to randomly ask people what they think about their food. That’s all you can do, right? Try to educate people.

Learn more about sustainable food systems and other majors in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

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