Nov 18, 2019
Dr. Jay Weeks is a recent graduate in the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University where is research focused on soil chemistry. Jay joined with the Global Food Systems Initiative at K-State early in its relaunch and has been instrumental in the development of “Something to Chew On”. Prior to his new professional journey into the agriculture industry with Indigo Ag, Scott, Jon and I talked with Jay about the student experience, the expansion of information sharing at K-State through podcasting, and his personal and professional development during his time here.
The Future of Food: Food Systems, Podcasts and Farewells - with Dr. Jay Weeks
I feel really fortunate to be beginning my career in agriculture right now because of where we stand. From an environmental standpoint and the public perception of agriculture. I think people are willing to, to say, you know, there's enough information out there people understand that we need to make changes right.
Something to Chew On is a podcast devoted to the exploration and discussion of Global Food Systems produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University. I'm Maureen Olewnik, coordinator of Global Food Systems.
I’m Scott Tanona. I'm a Philosopher of Science.
And I'm Jon Faubion. I'm a Food Scientist.
Hello, everyone and welcome back. At its core, a university exists to help students become aware of the world around them understand the past and learn to identify current and future questions and how to confront the challenges of their generation. Our guest today is Joseph J weeks. Now, Dr. Weeks, J became involved in the global food systems at K State early in its reincarnation and well into his work toward completion of his PhD. The idea of using podcasts to help deliver information on those core university requirements in the area of the food systems was a cloudy notion in my mind when I first met Jay, his enthusiasm for this form of information sharing helped to develop the current platform, something to chew on. Jay worked with me, Scott Tanona and John Faubion, on the idea of bringing information on K State food system related research to students, faculty into the world. Its current success is testimony to the university's ability to accomplish the goals of developing the next generation of leaders like Jay. Jay, as you moved on to your new job and new life, we hope for your continued input and direction from the perspective of food systems professional. Congratulations. Now, let's hear a little bit about Jay how he got here, how he completed this series of goals and where he is headed. And I get to say this this time. So Jay, welcome to the podcast.
Happy to be here. It's exciting to be in this seat for once.
Absolutely. Well, this is a little bit of a bittersweet podcast for us because this is Jay’s last time that he's going to be taking off and moving on to another, another part of his life. But congratulations on your PhD.
Thank you. I really appreciate it.
And your job and your job.
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, like you said, it's, uh, I'm sad to be leaving all of you. But I'm excited for the next step as well. So very, very way things go.
That's right. Very exciting. Well, as our audience knows, Jay, you've been the one sitting in this spot for the last eight months, six, eight months. And this was pretty much your brainchild, and in putting this podcast system together, and I really appreciate all the work you've done on it. It's been a real journey for us so far. And it's been quite a success. And so we're really excited about it. And I guess we'll just take the same tack that we do with the other presenters.
My own medicine.
Yes. Tell us a little bit about your background.
A little bit about my background. Well, if I go all the way back, my interest in food, sort of stems from the fact that my grandparents owned a small dairy farm in central New York. So growing up, you know, my grandmother watched me when I was really young. And so became familiar with, you know, being around the farm and all that when I finally was old enough, I got to participate in farm activities. And I thought that that was really cool. So I spent school breaks, and summers and things like that, on the farm all the way up through my undergrad actually. And I wanted to run the farm when I was done. I wasn't even planning on going to college, although my mother especially thought differently and said, No, you're going to college, you decide to do something different afterwards, then that's fine. But I want you to have that. So I decided to pursue a degree in agricultural sciences at Cornell University. And I didn't know what I didn't know which is kind of a running theme in my life and that fell in love with soils and found out I really liked chemistry, which I didn't know before and found that I could marry soils and chemistry and use that you know those passions to do make progress. And in other parts of the world, I had a professor who was doing research on lead contaminated soils. So I became interested in the pollution components of that. So I decided that for graduate school, I wanted to do research and lead contaminated soils and tried to protect people from those soils, and that when they're trying to grow fruits and vegetables, and that sort of thing, especially in inner cities. So I met a professor, I worked here at K State, Dr. Ganga Hettiarachchi, at soil conference in San Antonio. You know, she, we hit it off right away. And, you know, here I was, that's how I got started.
Excellent. So that's your background? That's my, what about your foreground? What's up next.
So I started off with the, with the soil lead stuff. But I, you know, after a couple years of that, realize that I really was more interested in soil fertility. And I realized that there was probably a greater chance to make a global impact working in soil phosphorus than in necessarily working in soil lead, although both are very important for different reasons. So I started pursuing research related to improving the use efficiency of, of soil, phosphorus fertilizers, and trying to understand the chemical mechanisms there and how we could improve farming practices and make better fertilizers. So I pursued that for most of my PhD research. And then, you know, again, I started seeing that there are other options out there besides just working in soil phosphorus, and that it's not just limited to, you know, you none of these things operate in a vacuum. Right, you know, so phosphorus interacts with the carbon. And you know, so I became more interested in carbon cycling, and things like that. So this opportunity came along at a company that's relatively new called Indigo egg, where they are trying to build a one of the things that they're trying to do amongst many, that they're trying to build a carbon markets, where they actually pay farmers to implement practices that build carbon on their soil. So they can sequester carbon as a, as not only a means to improve soil health, but also reverse climate change, right? And because not, because those practices initially, are always profitable for the farmer, especially at the beginning, sometimes by paying farmers to sequester this carbon that sort of makes that process roll. So I'll be working as a soil scientist, they're helping to move some of their work from their r&d departments into into commercial commercial products and things like that.
And this is in bucolic rural Boston.
This is they're based out of Charleston, Boston. Excellent.
So could you How much of that is, is about like the economics, right? And how much is it about sort of the science? So what kinds of things are they developing? That you can say? I mean, and talk about right? And what kinds of what they're doing. You said they have to incentivize farmers for doing things to so like, what's going on there? I mean, I don't know how much you can say about what they're actually up to. But..
yeah, I mean, because I'm still a little bit out, right? I don't want to I don't want to overstep, overstate what they're doing. But you know, we really scientifically, we know that there are ways to build the carbon stores in the soil, and that it's beneficial for for soil health, because it improves nutrient cycling, improves water holding capacity makes makes the soils more drought resistant, if you're growing crops in them and that sort of stuff. But there are there can be financial barriers to, you know, to growing a cover crop for a variety of reasons, some of it is just the cost of growing it, and terminating it and things like that. So I really think that I personally believe more in market based solutions to problems. And I think that if we're going to come up with ways to mitigate climate change, or actually start to reverse some of the effects of carbon emissions, that we really need to find financial incentives, because although there will always be people who adopt these practices for the good of the environments, or find that it's beneficial on their own farm and things like that, I really find that if, if we can build functioning markets that pay people and incentivize people to implement these practices, and they get the added benefit on the in the field to then it's a win win for everybody in that case, and it's not just relying on the farmer to do what's right, because it's necessarily what's right, even though in the long run, it probably would benefit them anyway.
Do you think this is transportable successfully outside the limits of the US? Is this a model or an idea that that would work? In Africa, for example?
Oh, yeah. I mean, absolutely. I mean, as long as there's a functioning carbon market, right. So as long as there's people putting money into that market to pay for these practices, which sort of depends on you know, the political process and what the consumers who are buying the products of the companies are paying for the carbon offsets For as long as that sort of process exists, then yeah, I think it could be, you know, it could work anywhere.
And clearly sounds to be a mid range to semi long range solution, as well, if at least unless I'm, if I'm understanding it correctly, this is something we're not gonna see large quantitative differences in right away.
Well, no, I mean, what the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere right now is something like 415-420 parts per million, right? You know, if we, if we implement this in in five years, that's not going to all of a sudden be back.
No, no, no, no, I'm 100. Yeah, what I was gonna do was make an inequality between that rate of change in the rate of change in politics, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the political balance, and then you'd be all up?
Well, yeah. I mean, that's why again, I think it's important to build markets around this sort of stuff, that that can be resilient to at least some of those whims of the politics, right. You know, we, as we've seen in the last few years, the politics can be pretty capricious, and, you know, what gets implemented by one administration can easily be redacted by the next. So if we build something that, you know, the public or the private sector believes in and that farmers buy into, then that can operate independently of, you know, then of what the government's doing? Ideally, although, yeah, the government will always have some influence over them.
Yeah. So what's the idea with the carbon market? So this is people paying for offsets? Is this is the idea generally, you know, I actually don't know that much about what people are proposing here is it but is, it is generally that governments are going to be paying right for these offsets, or that other other people who are using right emitting a lot are going to be paying. So it's just sort of it's just between content producers, right.
Yeah, it's my understanding that, at this point, I'm not 100% certain, but it's my understanding that the government won't be paying necessarily for the offsets that it's, it's going to be the the company's doing the right meeting, right? Because they want to be able to say that they're carbon neutral, or even carbon negative, because now with increased public awareness that there's, there's possibly a market for that, right? People will pay a little bit more to know that, or have the idea that their products are or not, are more sustainable, right.
So yeah, so this, and again, this isn't about the company in particular, just sort of about the idea. Right? So then, so then we have the potential to sort of, you've got the potential to mitigate. Right? So right, you know, people do this personally, too, right. So if I'm gonna take a flight somewhere, right, how do I offset right, my, my, my carbon footprint there, right, and I do something else, or I pay into something that, you know, does something good to plant some trees or something like that right. Now, you know, generally that's not gonna, that might mitigate your impact, right. It's not reversing it by itself. Right. And I think that's one of the big challenges with that is it might slow down, right, the rates of increases, right. But, and so one amongst many things to be doing Sure. Right, you know, sure.
But I don't necessarily I know.
I don't, I'm not picking on you or the company either. Right. But I sort of, yeah, I mean, all these ideas are, it's hard.
Well, and you mentioned that the offsetting your flights. I know, there are companies who have tried to set up personal kiosks in the airports, pay X amount of dollars for every mile, you're gonna fly or whatever. And for my understanding is those actually weren't that successful, because it was sort of confusing to the consumer. But it's actually what I understand a lot of the airlines have signed on to an agreement where they actually are purchasing offsets to some degree as part of an international agreements. So I think that it's that right, the, you know, whether it be American Airlines, or Delta, or somebody who really commits to buying those offset credits, if that's really what's going to build the market, if we can get more companies on board, doing that sort of thing. And people vote with their dollars to support companies to do that, that's a better way to do it.
And then and then we need more ways of actually sequestering carbon. So then we Yeah, right.
Yeah. But that are mutually beneficial, right. What's great about what I'm hoping to participate in is that this is beneficial for farmers anyway, right? So it's not a sort of a win win, right?
Well, taking it back to kind of your time moving through the university setting, how you work, you identified a major professor that you wanted to work with and went through and work for that. Who else did you have as mentors kind of working with you on the way through that? That piece of it?
Uh, well, I mean, there's been I've been thinking back I've been getting really nastalgic. Yeah. Yeah, weeks here, but there's been a lot of people who've had a really positive impact on not only my career, but also my, you know, my personal development as well. I mean, you Maureen, had have had tremendous impact, giving me this opportunity. Just getting to know you better over time. And you and Scott and John as well. It's been great to get to know everybody. But my graduate committee has been has been really influential in helping me to identify what my research priorities are and ways of thinking about my research that I might not have considered right. It's really important than I think, you know, in my experiences isn't even done enough that we need to have other people outside voices challenging what we're doing in research, so that we get outside perspectives, and we don't get too siloed. And what we, the mental models we build of the impact that were of the things that we're doing? How did our maybe absent from the real world, so constantly asking those questions. So that's been really influential. Obviously, my friends out at piccalilli farm have had a been immensely influential net analysis and have been great and really have been a significant influence on my life. But, you know, other things that have been immensely influential have been podcasts, to be honest with you. What got me into doing all of this to begin with is a couple years ago, a friend of mine sent me a couple podcasts that were like three hours long a piece, he's like, I think this is really interesting, you'd be, you know, I think you'd find this fascinating. And I was like, three hours, time. So
I remember having that talk.
Like, who's got time to listen to this. But I, you know, I eventually, you know, in the car, and things work through a couple of months, like, wow, this is crazy. And that sort of opened up my mind to a lot of different possibilities. And what people are talking about it, it's helped me frame my research a little differently, too, because you get outside perspectives from different scientists, you know, listen to physicists listen to philosophers, and psychologists and all that kind of stuff. And it really helps me build a more interdisciplinary, understanding of the problems that we have in society, and how sciences is one part, you know, technological solutions are one part of those solutions to those to solving those problems. But there, as we've talked about, in previous episodes, that it's only one component, right? You know, it has to work politically. It has to work socially. It has to work to scale and all that kind of stuff. So, I mean, there's been a lot of different influences. I'm sure I'm missing people and things in there. But what am I grateful for the opportunity?
What about the rigor of working on a dairy farm? As a means to focus you?
Sure. Well, yeah, I mean, there's definitely something to be said for growing up. Never cultural family. You know, my, my grandfather won both grandfather's on both sides and my grandmother's to work, we're constantly working seven days a week, you know, from the time the sun comes up to the sign the sun comes down. Yes. And that's just the way life was.. You can't stop the cows no matter what, I can't stop the cows. That's for sure. So yeah, I think it was enormously influential, although, you know, I've changed my thinking about, you know, hard work a little bit. Over time, I think, you know, staying focused and working hard, is really important. But I also think that, you know, always grinding and outs and always doing the same thing, because that's what needs to be done is maybe not the not always what you should be doing. Sometimes you need to take a step back. And, and say, you know, is what I'm doing still working for me in the capacity that I needed to, and where do I need to make those changes. And I think sometimes if you're always focused in and this happened in grad school, too, you know, you got to get this project done, you got to get this project done, you got to focus on publishing this paper you lose sight of, of the whole thing. So you know, especially as I've gotten later into my, in my degree process, I've sort of slowed down a little bit, which, you know, isn't isn't always advisable. And reevaluated, and that's, that's actually part of what turned me into going into the commercial sector for a job versus academia. I think academia has a lot of positive things, but thinking about my own personal goals, and where I wanted to focus my efforts, you know, it's not for everybody, but that's by taking that step back is, I think, important.
So, in the process of working through you, you went through and talked about some of the mentors that you had and people that that influenced you. How, what kind of interaction with students had a very positive or negative I mean, how did that interaction work as you were working through your programs?
Oh, yeah. So I've had a lot of different interactions with students, both graduate students, fellow graduate students that I've been working with, I had some that really helped me get started. And I as I got older, I began to appreciate how much they helped me get off and running and how important it is to have older graduate students and postdocs in the lab, so that you can sort of they can help you speed along your development. You know, this is where you need to go to do this. And this is how you accomplish this and I was much further along because, you know, people like Philip were, you know, helped me get started in my research. So there's definitely that aspect. I've had the opportunity to work with students and other departments, which has been good, you know, learning how different research groups do different things, and how geology looks at soils very differently than soil chemistry in the Agronomy department looks at soil. So it's helped me build that perspective as well working across departments. I taught I was a teaching assistant for six semesters here, and two semesters at Cornell. So I was able to interact with a wide array of undergraduates. And that was, that was interesting as well. I learned a lot about how people learn. And I learned a lot about how, you know what makes sense to me, because of the way I learned doesn't necessarily make sense to other people. And one of the most striking things was mindset, and how important some of this stuff is, and I hate to sound cliche, you know, saying that there's a difference between a growth and a limited mindset. But it really makes a difference in some of those undergraduate students. I had a really bright girl once she missed class, she was on a field trip or something like that. And she said to me, she's like, No, I really enjoy what we're doing in lab these days. And I want to teach eventually, but I'm afraid that I won't have enough smart kids to do some of these things. And I was like, What? What do you mean, you're afraid you don't have enough smart kids? And she's like, Well, I'm not sure that everybody's gonna get it. And I'm like, well, everybody can get it, you know, eventually, just we got to, you know, think about how to do this differently. And she was, she was really shocked, she'd really thought that there was this dichotomy that there were some kids that were going to get it, and there are some kids that that weren't, and never the twain shall meet. Right. Yeah. And, you know, that made me think, well, you know, she didn't come up with this out of nowhere, right, somebody had taught this to her, whether it be, you know, I don't know, it could be parents, it could be her own educational experience, but it was coming from somewhere. And that really makes it you know, that matters. So it makes me wonder sometimes with students that are struggling, if it's, it's a framing issue, in some ways. So my you know, my interaction with students has been diverse, and it's been different depending on you know, kind of where they're at along their, educational process, but there's always something to be learned for sure.
So we've talked a little bit about where you've come from and, and where you're heading to, in the process of starting into your graduate work. And from that point, till the till, till now, have your impressions or thoughts about what agriculture is about changed. I mean, you came out of you came out of a situation where you were working on a farm and, and had all kinds of notions of what that was about even thought about taking over that farm. And you're heading down a path that's totally different from its agriculture, but it's totally different. How do you think about agriculture in a different light? Or are your opinions on what it's about? Have they changed?
Well, yeah, I mean, as I've gotten older, not only just about in agricultural specifically, but I find that a lot of things tend to be on a spectrum, the, you know, a lot of things that are presented to us as is, you know, in these individual silos, whether it be an agricultural sandwich, conventional agriculture versus organic agriculture , or sustainable agriculture , or small agriculture versus big agriculture , and all that kind of stuff is that is that none of those fit neatly within little boxes. And when I, when I started, I definitely sort of had that mentality, right. I mean, we were, we were a small, pastured dairy, we were trying to do things as environmentally friendly as possible, and, you know, supported the agriculture or the organic movement, to some extent. And I kind of grew up with this idea that, you know, the big commercial agriculture wasn't, wasn't always the best, right? But, you know, I, my perspective has definitely changed and that there can be very good, very environmentally friendly, very successful, very big farms. And there can be very small farms that do things that are horrible for the environment, right. And there's, there's organic, that's, you know, is very careful to, you know, recycle all their nutrients and all that kind of stuff, and they're gonna be organic, that is even worse than some of those really big conventional farms that none of this, you know, we it's easy, because I think mentally we like to put things in little boxes because it's easier to think about rather than everything fluctuating. But we really have to identify agriculture on an individual farm basis. And what what works well in one region, or what works well on one farm doesn't isn't going to work on another and that there isn't a simple prescription to what makes farming environmentally friendly or productive or even financially sustainable, that we really need to consider all of the options that are on the table and make the best choice individually.
Do you think there are particular issues with scale, sort of doing things on the large size? I mean, sort of like you just said, so there can be huge farms that do things better in some ways, right? Is the risk to the environment, though from a small farm, even if they're like really being bad, right, sort of the impact of smaller right? How much do you think that's a factor to really worry about?
Well, it depends on what they're doing. Yeah. Right. You know, if that small farm is in the, you know, at the beginning of a tributary that flows into a large reservoir that New York City uses for its drinking water, that could be, you know, hugely detrimental, whereas a farmer out in western Kansas that maybe doesn't have x, you know, that's maybe pumping groundwater for irrigation, but does things as sustainable as possible as building the carbon on their soil? Is drought resilient, that might not have anywhere near the environmental impact? It's tough to quantify that plus, you know, it depends on what you're, what you're quantifying, you're quantifying water usage. You're quantifying use of certain fertilizers, you know, greenhouse gas emissions, there are so many very different variations.
Yeah, this is super important. I think we've talked about this too, a bunch of times here, I think it's important to keep on emphasizing that, right? There's no, there's no one dimension, right? You know, there's so many different things. And sometimes you try, you do better on one dimension, sort of it makes it harder to do better on this other one, right? Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. And that's, it's important for people to acknowledge that, right? I mean, there's always going to be trade offs with things and one way or another, you know, if you want, if you want food, that's, that's produced in ways that maybe are better for the environment, while it's probably going to cost more in the in the grocery store, right? That's the crazy thing about the commodification of a lot of grain crops is that it's a race to the bottom, you know, the more you produce, the more the price goes down. So when the farmer makes less than then they have less money to implement those practices. You know, I think, going back briefly to the carbon market thing, I think that's the nice thing about that as essentially as a secondary source of income for farmers to, to get paid to do those sorts of practices independent of their yield. And I think that that's really, important.
Yeah, that sounds really promising. It really does.
Do you get much pushback? When you? What has the type or the amount of it changed over the course of say, three years? Four years?
In my own personal opinions on things? Or?
Well, you either one, you know, when you when you're talking about this, somebody puts up their hand goes nonsense or some other?
Yeah, I mean, sometimes people push back on things, I always welcome criticism, I think that's the only way that you can really make sure that what you're saying is true and holds up to debate, right? So anybody out there that wants to review anything, I say, please, please leave a review on iTunes. Yeah, but you know, it's interesting. It's an it's a fascinating time to be in agriculture. I was just having this conversation with my roommate the other day, I feel really fortunate to be beginning my career and agriculture right now, because of where we stand. From an environmental standpoint, and the public perception of agriculture, I think people are willing to, to say, you know, there's enough information out there, people understand that we need to make changes, right. And technologically, the sky is the limit right now. It's just, you know, it's what, what incentive structures are we going to put into place that allows some of these things to flourish or not? So it's, it's great to be thinking about what the food system could look like, even 10 years from now. So yeah, I mean, there's pushback, but I think people are becoming more and more open minded, especially as you know, I don't think a lot of people in the past have had a lot of, we kind of went through this dip, right. I mean, there were people who came from there was a lot of people a while ago, that had some relation to farms in their family, right. But as farms have consolidated in the small farms have gone away, to some extent fewer and fewer people in the greater population have any connection to the farms in general. But that slowly, that trough is slowly building again, people are now paying more attention to what they're eating, where their food is coming from. So that's sort of opened up a lot of space to start talking about how could we be doing things differently? And, you know, some people might be willing to pay a little bit more for those kinds of things. So I, you know, I'm hopeful. I think there's less pushback now than there what there would have been 10 years ago.
10 years ago, it was still very much an argument about whether or not this was a way of life that had limits to which you wanted to or should allow change. So you ran up against those walls in any discussion, and that's changed substantially.
Yeah. And I think that there's a lot more willingness to compromise around things like you know, whether it be genetically engineered crops, is using those things as one tool in the toolbox of many different options. As opposed to it being, you know, either you're going to be organic, or you're going to be an agro chemical user. Right? You know, it's a much more hybrid use of some of these tools.
So you while you're doing all your studies here, you've spent time on a farm here, too, right? So can you say something about how that like, how that worked like the, you know, keeping, keeping connected to actually, you know, being on the farm and doing that work, but now, you know, you're going, you're going to Boston, right? Sort of right? Are you gonna, are you gonna miss all this to like, what did it mean to you while you were here? And then, you know, how's that going to be going forward? Are you gonna still try to find some connection to the land like that?
Well, yeah, I mean, my position is going to be something like 50% tribal, so I'm still going to be visiting a lot of farms around the country to make sure that what we're what we're proposing is, is working in the field, it's important to really have that, that connection to the farmers. They can't just, you know, farmers, like nothing less than somebody standing in a big city being like, You should do this. Yeah.
I'm from Boston, and I'm here to help.
My future boss, said that he's even had farmers say, you know, you're one of those guys that works from a stand up desk. Yeah. Well, that's, that's, you know, that's not the goal. Yeah, it's really important to stay to stay connected to the land because farmers are doing what they're doing for a reason. And it's important to understand how, you know, if we're, if we're proposing any changes that works within within their model. But from my own personal standpoint, yeah, I've been working with Piccalilli farm for five, five years now or so. It's been great just because of the camaraderie I love Nelson and their daughter, Mary, a lot. So it's been great to have that connection. But I believe in that physical labor is a really important component to a healthy life. I think that the research out there shows pretty conclusively that getting exercise is good for your mental state, and your emotional state and all that. So it's been beneficial there. But yeah, I mean, I didn't have much experience with vegetable farming in growing things, like you know, pea shoots, and sunflower shoots in a greenhouse. So it's been, it's been a really great experience, to learn all of that sort of stuff to Nelson, it really opened up my eyes to a lot of different practices that I wouldn't have been familiar with before. Also, you know, it's given me a different appreciation for the use of food, you know, as something you eat, you know, they're, they're great cooks, and they're, you know, they're interested in using things like sunflower shoots in a dish, which is something that I wouldn't have ever had experience with. Before even you know, eating different cheeses, fresh chev, and that kind of stuff is just something that I didn't have a lot of exposure to. So yeah, I mean, having a diverse array of experiences with different kinds of farms is it's always good to get more experienced, no matter what you're doing, you know, the more you you more you interact with people who are, your more tangentially related, but are doing things differently, the more you're going to understand that, that everybody's human, and everybody has their own needs and priorities, and that, you know, people are doing what they're doing, because for a reason.
One of the things that I know that you are really good at as well, is mixing wonderful cocktails. So you have mixed a cocktail or two, cocktail or two. So there's a lot of chemistry involved in that there's a lot of there's a lot of artistic thought that goes into it. I mean, where did that come into your life?
Well, yeah, you know, I often bartending I got a lot of people asking me, you know, whether or not I use much of my chemistry knowledge to make better cocktails, and the sad answer is no, not really. You know, I understand some of it, you know, that, like, ethanol is a great, you know, agent for you for extracting certain flavors and that sort of thing. But honestly, you know, I liked bartending because it was a break from some of that kind of stuff. And it allowed me to explore the artistic side of food a little bit more. I mean, I think a cocktails are absolutely beautiful, you can take you know, three or four different ingredients that you might not think go together and they can just be in the right proportions. And if you shake them just enough for stir them just enough or you garnish them just right. That, you know, it can transform into something completely different. And I love that and I love sharing that with people. You know, it's, it's great when I have somebody who's like, oh, you know, I like to drink gin and tonics or something like that. So you're like, Well, let me show you this gin cocktail, you know, you would have never, never had an experience with before. They're just blown away by and I think that that's great. It's, it's a fun social thing. It also you know, honestly, bartending helps me become a little more social. Helped me talk to strangers a little bit better. It helped me with my, I guess you all listening will be the judge of that helped me with my podcasting to being able to have a conversation with people that you might not necessarily know. So yeah, there's I mean, there's all kinds of interactions there. But I'm not saying that everybody should should go into the bartending business, but it's not, you know, it can be an immensely beneficial experience.
Well, in that is kind of a segue into some of the discussion we thought about heading into on in the area of podcasting. As I started this out today, I mentioned that this was really your, your brainchild, this was your baby as we put it together. And when you came to me and said we should we should try podcasting. And you said an hour long, I had the same reaction you did with your friend giving you a three hour long podcast thinking, no one's gonna listen to an hour long podcast. And we've both seen really great response to what's been happening here, which is encouraging, but just really fulfilling to see that there are a lot of people that are interested in understanding what the faculty members on this campus are doing. So you talked a little bit about how you got into the podcast, what were your thoughts about this particular one, when we got going?
Well, I mean, podcasts as a media have been around now for I don't know, a little over a decade. And like I said, I just got into them a couple years ago. What I but I mean, they're rapidly growing here in the last few years. And I think the reason for that is that people are starving for nuanced conversation on some of these big issues. You know, I've always been pretty critical of the of the media, you know, some deserving, some not. But you know, I think what draws a lot of people to podcasts that are an hour long is that was it a couple of things, you know, one, there can be a lot of podcasts, and they can be produced cheaply, and pretty, you know, pretty easily on topics that there just isn't enough of a market for otherwise, right? You know, some of the topics we cover or more popular with the public, and some of them, maybe not necessarily as much, but nobody's gonna go out there and you know, spend, you know, $50,000 to make an hour episode about one of the things that we're talking about, right. So this is a really great way for people to explore all different aspects of life that don't always get a microphone, you know, because the barrier of entry is so low. So it's really great in that respect. And, you know, again, like I said, the the nuance we can spend, we could spend an hour discussing, you know, the, you know, why it's important to consider, you know, certain whether we should be eating fats, or sugars or something like that, right, or, you know, any of the topics that we've covered. We haven't published this yet, but the the Linda Duke one talking about the art and the aesthetics of food, you know, there are people out there who are interested in that sort of thing. But, you know, how often would we be able to broadcast you know, Linda Duke to all these people who don't necessarily have access to it. So I just think it's a really great media for exploring ideas and learning more about, about life, I'm always fascinated by the world.
So tremendous irony to this, in that back in the 50s, at the start of the television age, it was not uncommon to have half hour or even hour long talk shows where people would discuss particular ideas. They tended to get broadcast generally on Sunday mornings, but you had a chance to engage not one on one, but at least be exposed to those ideas and those opinions. And that sort of went away. And it's good to see it come back in podcast form.
Yeah, I mean, like I said, people are I think people are starving for more detailed discussions of some of these issues and ideas. And it's it you know, people are so busy, too, that podcasts are great, because you can listen to them, whether you're at the gym, or if you're on a commute or you know, whether you're cooking dinner or something like that I can consume podcasts in a variety of ways that I can't read a book. And I think that's another reason why they're becoming more and more popular.
Yeah. And that's, that's maybe a sad commentary on sort of why they're popular. Right, sir. But I do think it's true. So lots of people have long commutes, right, and what else are you gonna do? Right. But I love that podcasts have filled in some of that. I also think people really looking for community too. So it's not just ideas. I think that's another thing that podcasts provide a lot of right is this feeling of right, that conversation and there's these people talking and you're entering into, you know, entering into, you know, somebody else's world in some conversation, right. And, I mean, a lot of them aren't very idea. Focused, right. Some of them are idea focused about content. Some of them are just like, friends chatting over dinner kind of stuff, right. And then some of them are funny, and some of them Yeah, so it's amazing the diversity of stuff that's out there and I love that we're able to provide one little, you know, niche. Right. And it's pretty cool. Really is.
Yeah, it's fun. I think you're right that there is a community. But I know I listened to two podcasts where I sort of identify with some of the people who were or you know, the hosts. Oh, yeah. Right. And it makes a difference. Yeah, you could imagine some of these people is, you know, pallin around having a beer with them.
There you go. Right. That's our goal. Right. So this one, right.
Yeah, it's great. And like you said, you know, it is sort of sad that people have these situations where they have the opportunity to hear podcasts instead of reading a book or whatever, but they're gonna have those anyway. Yeah. So I'd rather be filled with, you know, more substantive content than being filled with something else. Yeah.
I mean, it's, it's amazing. The podcast world is amazing, really is cool. I'm really glad you kick this thing off. So So tell us more about like, yeah, I don't know, the process and how you felt going through it. Starting it and seeing it actually successful?
Well, it's Yeah, I mean, it's pretty cool. Because, you know, I had actually talked to a couple people about having idea to explore more food related ideas. In a podcast setting, there was an informal conversation sort of thing about, I don't know, probably six months to a year prior to teaming up with Maureen here. And when she mentioned that there was they were thinking about doing a podcast, I you know, it just happened to be a really great coincidence. You know, so we were able to kick it off. I mean, I, I was just curious to see whether or not I could do it, right, it's fun to have those sorts of challenges. And I, you know, I guess I would like to, to some extent, turn it back around to you guys, what it's been like, and we can make this a little more of a discussion. What's it been like, for you guys to be involved? You know, I know that you were a little excited, a little skeptical when I came to you at first saying, hey, you know, is this something you'd be interested in doing.
I was definitely skeptical, sort of not about the idea, but about sort of how much I would be comfortable in this role, right, because I think that this is something that we probably haven't ever talked about in the podcast, but we talk about it a lot outside of it, right? When we're talking, you know, a bunch of us are academics, both our both our guests, and, you know, people who are hosting here, right. And our, the way we do things is really different, right? Sort of when you when you talk, it's you know, it's in front of a classroom, or it's, or it's a presentation of research, or you know, you know, working with colleagues one on one, and those are all very different kinds of, you know, interactions and, and plenty of us do things sort of out in the public, but it's still, there's still something very different about being recorded live right at every little thing that you say that might just go a little wrong. Right. And you know, about, you know, how, so I was worried about how prepped, I would have to be right sort of how how much I would need to know, don't want to say something ridiculously stupid, right? You know, so yeah, so this was a challenge. So it's, but I but I'm, but I love podcasts, too, right? I don't listen to enough of them. Because Luckily, I have a very short commute. And on a bike, so it's not a good place to listen to a podcast, right. But, uh, and I'm committed to the idea of communicating, right. And the idea of getting ideas out, right, so. So I jumped in, I guess, right, you know, it's been, it's been great. It's been surprisingly not too bad. And I don't know, I think I'm sure I could be much. Absolutely. And better as though it's like, it's been great. But..
There's a word weird
vulnerability. Yeah. And you're like, you're having your
conversation being recorded.
It's like, oh, it's it's, as was alluded to earlier, we just some extent, even though we might claim we aren't, we generally know where we're going with a lecture or with a presentation. So we've got the confidence of that, that knowledge net down there in case something goes wrong here. It's wherever it goes, you know, it's a random walk through science, and you have to be ready to flex your head and respond.
Well, and I think that that's why it appeals to so many people in this format is that it's more conversational, right? It's more like you're sitting around a table talking with people as opposed to, you know, the quote, unquote, sage on the stage or whatever, that's just sort of telling you what you should know. It's more you know, these people, we're all just people exploring ideas. And…
Yet the idea is that it's a threat free environment, I think, makes a big difference as well. I'm not going to stand up, hopefully not to disagree with her.
Now it's been really good. Reach. I have not gotten directly involved in doing the podcast until just recently and have enjoyed what I've done so far. But the whole idea as you said, when you and I first talked about this, I was thinking about doing a podcast, but I was thinking 15 minutes, you know, something very short, just little clips on what faculty are doing on campus. And I'm really glad you talked me into the hour approach to it because it's being picked up all over the world, which just shocked me. People in many parts of the world are interested in what we're doing here. And it's giving a little bit of voice to some of the research that's being done here that, you know, that may not, may not get out in anything other than a peer reviewed journal or something like that, where you've got a small handful of people that would read it. So it's been a great journey. For me, it's been very, very interesting. And hopefully, we're going to be able to keep that going.
I'm sure you guys will do great. I look forward to listening to some more in the future is after I move away, and you guys continue with this, but yeah, I mean, you bring up another good point, as far as podcasts in general is, not only is it a low barrier to entry to make the podcast, but it's also pretty easy for people to access them all over the world, right? People who might not necessarily have access to other means of educational materials, you know, can be downloaded in any country anywhere. And they're there for, you know, as long as the internet's alive, right? Which may be good or may be bad. Think a little bit about like internet archeology and stuff, right? It's like stuff that you can find from 15 years ago, that's, that's still there, but it's out. Now, think differently, or the public perception is differently. You know, there'll be a huge graveyard of podcasts just available somewhere,
Which is waiting to be mined for Well, yeah.
But there's so many of them too, though. This is the thing, right? sure that there's so much out there. It's kind of Yeah, it's kind of crazy.
Next week, we're putting on a big data workshop, this is gonna be one area of big data as we move forward. Lots and lots and lots of information sitting out there. Yeah. Yeah.
Jay, what was your most surprising thing that happened in a podcast? One of our, one of the ones that we had here? Or, you know, something that you just weren't expecting? Or something that you learned? Or? Or? Or, you know, I don't know.
Well, it's funny I think Maureen and I have talked about this a little bit is, I think this is true of everybody is that are most people, at least as people love to talk about themselves, right? You know, we thought at the beginning of this, that sometimes it would be challenging to get a faculty member or something to talk for an hour about what they're doing. But it hasn't been as a challenge at all. But think about day to day life. When do you besides us being in this room? Do you sit and talk to somebody about themselves for an hour, right? You never, we never get to have those conversations anymore, because people are busy, or they don't want to get into something that's controversial, and have that weird, you know, social moment, and all that kind of stuff. So I really appreciated just getting to know people, because people can be pretty fascinating. And they have a lot to share. And that's another great thing about the podcast is more people get to share what they know and what they've learned. And I think that that can only be a good resource for people moving forward.
I think the degree of passion that people exhibited for what they were doing, and dedication. Yeah, but beyond that.
We've never had one that we walked out of here and said, that didn't work. Or we can't, you know, we're not going down that path or whatever. It's they've all been positive. I mean, I think we've had good experiences across the board.
People are huge repositories of information and ideas and, and passions and that sort of stuff. And it's, it's fun to explore that a little bit.
I find myself thinking every now and then. Oh, I wish so and so we're still alive. What a what a podcast that would make sure Yeah.
What do you think? You have something Jay?
Well, I you know, thank you all for, for being part of this project and giving me the opportunity. It's been a real pleasure to work with you all. And we can all stay in touch for sure. And like I said, I'll be look forward to listening in the future.
Yeah. And, and thanks for making this happen. It really has been great. It's been great to be involved. Absolutely. Glad you glad you pushed.
Yeah, I remember saying well, maybe he comes back again, it comes back it goes. It's not too bad.
Yeah, no, this is all right. I could do this.
Yeah. And we just wish you all the best.
I appreciate it. Yeah. Thanks so much. All the best.
If you have any questions or comments you would like to share check out our website at https://www.k-state.edu/research/global-food/ and drop us an email.
Our music was adapted from Dr. Wayne Goins’s album Chronicles of Carmela. Special thanks to him for providing that to us. Something to Chew On is produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University.