As a student of international business administration, Lea Delfs believed it essential to spend a year experiencing a different culture. Through the J-1 Visa College and University Student Program, Lea found a home at Washington College in Maryland. There, she put her marketing expertise to work– helping the college promote its online learning initiatives. By her second project with the college, Lea had gained a new appreciation for American small business.
“My sponsors allowed me to attend a conference in Pennsylvania, where I was able to get in touch with American school teachers and could promote our GIS [Geographic Information Systems] online learning program,” she says. “[I also worked with] the Upper Shore Regional Council (USRS), taking footage of local businesses that was featured on our website. It was the first time I [had seen] American farms and I was greatly impressed by the immense size of farmland.”
Tasked with updating the USRS Harvest Directory, which links area residents to producers of sustainable agriculture, Lea was inspired to research the benefits of locally grown food. Her interviews with area business leaders, producers, and farmers led to her blog post “Eating Local,” which makes several arguments for the practice.
“My article emphasizes that the decision each person makes when buying groceries affects not only their personal health but also the economy as a whole,” says Lea. “Decreased fuel consumption will help to reduce the carbon footprint, and eating regional products can strengthen the local economy by saving money on distribution and packaging.”
Lea credits the J-1 Visa program and her sponsor, Washington College, for helping her use her business skills to successfully reach American consumers and the agriculture community. She’s continued work on her new passion since returning home. Nestled in a small area of northern Germany, her town’s rich farming tradition has opened countless doors.
“Eating local and seasonal has always been an important issue in Germany,” says Lea. “Since my return, [I’ve been] working in the service section of a local farm that only sells its products in the region. This work gives me the opportunity to further do my bit for a more sustainable environment.”
Lea’s proud of the work she’s done to help others lead healthier lifestyles, but she’s most surprised by the changes she’s noticed in herself. She marvels at the ability of her marketing tools to “create awareness about something as important as the benefits of local food” and she’ll always remember her American experience when she buys locally.
“Before going to a big grocery store I will always think twice and would rather purchase fresh food at the farmer’s market,” says Lea. “I [want] to demonstrate how everybody can contribute something to a more environmentally-friendly [life].”