I was raised in Eastern Washington, outside of Spokane on a bit of land with two parents who liked gardens, animals, and food. Running between the horses and our pack of dogs, I was taught turkey karate to re-win dominion of my backyard over the birds that were bigger than me!
I studied communities and their relationship to food at the University of Washington, Seattle, creating a Food Systems degree within a fantastic interdisciplinary program, Community, Environment and Planning. My senior project propelled me forward into my first job after graduating, working for Burst for Prosperity and Seattle Tilth co-managing their Refugee Farm Incubator Project. For two years I worked with refugees from Burundi and Somalia helping them translate the farming, business and marketing skills they already had to the ones needed in their new climate and their new American home. Their stories of farming with monkeys and elephants, as well as their experiences in refugee camps, taught me so much about the potential and endurance of humans, that each of us has a unique story and equally unique skills and talents to offer and, most importantly, it showed me that I love supporting these skills to grow and shine.
My next adventure was as an Agriculture Extension Volunteer for Peace Corps Paraguay, 2011- 2014. I initiated season-lengthening, soil improvement and reforestation projects in rural Paraguay within the challenging environment of thoroughly integrated industrial agriculture system. I also supported communities install bio-digesters, which are a plastic bag that the family fills with manure, producing gas to cook with and fertilizer to put in their fields and gardens. Try explaining that process in a language you are just learning, the looks on those faces are priceless (you want me to cook using what??).
While doing all of this, I fell in love with BIKING! In Seattle especially, dependence on oil and being stuck in endless bridge-bound traffic drove me crazy! Drove me to biking it did, and to new adventures and possibilities.
All of these experiences led me to create Pedal and Plow. I wanted to better understand the agricultural situation of South America from the view of my bicycle. This view was slow enough to allow serendipity to lead me to people and organizations that shared their experiences with me. I was curious to see how the changing circumstances created by global climate change and global markets are affecting the possibility to live as a small farmer.
And I did: I found and documented successes they were making through diversifying their crops and democratizing their communities.
Please read and enjoy my blog, which includes preparation for the trip, the trip itself, and the fruits of my labor, along with new adventures as I continue doing food justice work in the United States food system.
You can email me if you have any questions or comments at lydia.caudill@gmail(dot)com
Have a great day!