DIANA RODGERS, LN
FARMER, WRITER & LICENSED NUTRITIONIST
Boston, Massachusetts to Carlisle, Massachusetts
It was late summer when Urban Exodus visited Diana Rodgers and her husband Andrew at Clark Farm in Carlisle, Massachusetts. The farm was bustling with CSA members coming to pick-up their weekly shares and the fields were dripping with peak harvest produce and flowers. Diana and Andrew met in college at UMass and from their inception they shared a passion for sustainable living. After moving in together they planted a large vegetable garden and kept worm bins in their kitchen. Following graduation, they decided to move the the city of Portland, Oregon to start the next chapter. They both quickly found work in the corporate world. Still craving the peaceful restorative qualities of being connected to nature, Diana and Andrew spent nearly every weekend exploring the rural reaches of Oregon. Andrew became more and more interested in agriculture and the couple decided to move back to Massachusetts so he could pursue a master’s degree in soil science. Diana found work as a marketing manager in Boston at NPR. Plagued with a lifetime of digestive health issues, Diana began to feel really run down and her new doctor tested her for Celiac’s disease. She gave up gluten cold turkey once the positive result came back. Removing gluten from her diet drastically improved her quality of life and she became very interested in studying nutrition - both to help keep herself feeling good and also to become more adept at knowing about how different foods affect human beings in different ways. In 2012, Andrew was hired as Clark Farm’s new farm manager and the couple moved with their two kids to Carlisle. The farm operates a vegetable and meat CSA program, an education program with local schools, sells produce to restaurants, donates excess produce to a community to meal program, and sponsors low income shares to those who can’t afford the CSA. Diana’s passion to help people learn how to better nourish themselves and their families inspired her to start the Sustainable Dish blog where she writes about nutrient dense, sustainable nutrition and brings to light some of the issues facing our food system today. She also went back to school, completed a graduate program in nutrition and is now a registered dietician with a clinical nutrition practice in Concord, Massachusetts. In 2016, she started the Sustainable Dish podcast where she interviews experts in food, farming, nutrition and eco-living. She has published two books: The Homegrown Paleo and Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go. She has become a nutrition expert and speaks at conferences and schools all over the world. Since leaving the corporate world and moving to the country, both Andrew and Diana have become sustainable food advocates. With their kids working alongside, they continue to build a life filled with hard work, good food and fresh air. (Click here to jump to her interview)
What inspired you to move to the country?
Nature, quiet, feeling connected with the world. I only lived in the city for a few years because I need to feel grounded and can only do this in the country. I can’t imagine my children only knowing concrete and noise. They need to run and play in the dirt. This is their natural born right.
What do you miss most about the city?
I only go into the city for nice dinners and occasionally an art show or to go shopping.
Why did you decide to move to Clark Farm?
We love the idea of farming right in the middle of a community of non-farmers. We feel it’s critical that people connect with their food, so as part of our CSA, we have members actually visit the farm each week and some of the items are pick your own. We find that members grow attached to the farm as “their farm” and they have a richer experience. We also run education programs to teach young people how valuable small farms are so that when they grow up, they’re more likely to interested in conserving farmland.
What do you appreciate the most about your life now at Clark Farm?
I most appreciate that we are giving the community and my children a connection to food production and nature. In our highly disconnected, plugged in world, small community farms are vital if we are to learn about sustainability. My children get home from school, ride their bikes down to the pond, pick blueberries, play in dirt, and understand the basic cycles of life and death, how nature truly works.
What inspired you to develop sustainabledish.com?
Sustainabledish.com started from my desire to talk about issues in our food system, beyond protein, fat and carbs. In addition to my clinical nutrition practice, I love diving deeper into sustainability topics, animal welfare, social justice and community building.
Are there any books you would recommend to people interested in farming and/or moving rurally?
Everything by Joel Salatin and Wendell Berry for agriculture. For food, The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf was incredibly pivotal in my nutrition eduction. It completely saved my life.
Would you ever go back to an urban existence?
I enjoy visiting for vacations. But I’ll never live in a city again.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
Tell me a bit about Sustainable Dish Podcast. Why did you start it? What has been the most rewarding part of this project?
The Sustainable Podcast was started because I wanted to share my life on the farm. It’s been so great to “meet” these other women changing the food scene. We get to explore lots of interesting topics from sustainable beef production to backyard beekeeping, to butchering.
Walk us through a typical day in your country existence?
I walk outdoors in nature every day for an hour (even in the snow) and cook most of my meals in the kitchen – I see most city folks eating out for most of their meals.
Are there things that you are able to do here that you wouldn’t have dared to try before moving from the city?
All of my work would not be possible in the city.
Do you have a specific space or place that helps you feel inspired?
My farm, conservation land, the local cranberry bog, the woods, open fields, the ocean, etc.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
That country people don’t have “culture” or aren’t smart, which couldn't be further from the truth.
What are your future plans/goals for the coming year?
I’m finishing a graduate program in nutrition and will be traveling to New Zealand in October for a nutrition conference and to tour around. I also plan on spending a week in central America in the winter and starting a new book focused on sustainability and our food system.