Lisa Trocchia grew up in the only Italian-American family in her rural southeastern Ohio community. It was from her father’s passionate Italian food heritage and her mother’s practical pioneer Appalachian that Lisa learned to understand food as a deep cultural connection to people and place. She says, “I learned at a young age that food is a powerful expression of love, self-reliance, and the very best way to bring diverse groups of people together.”
Over the years, Lisa’s view of food and the role it plays in society was shaped by her experience as an educator, a mother, a professional baker, farmer’s market gardener, chair of the regional food policy council, and through her leadership roles with local community-based, non-profit organizations doing food access and sustainable community development work. For the past twenty years she has lived in Athens, Ohio, part of Central Appalachia, often referred to as the “local food capitol of the U.S.”
Lisa describes the area as “asset rich.” She adds, “Unfortunately, generations of exploitation by extractive industries left the region challenged economically, socially, and environmentally. Like many young people, I left to pursue an education and career opportunities. It seemed like the only choice. When I returned, many years later, it was to the right place at the right time. I have been privileged to work with a dedicated and cooperative group of people who have successfully established a strong local food system. Local food entrepreneurship now creates opportunities for local folks and provides pathways to keep the wealth created by local people, from local resources, in our communities. It feels like closing an important circle for me. My relationship to community-based food systems is a lived one.”
After working in the local food system for a number of years, Lisa became interested in teaching at the university level. With an undergraduate degree in education, she began to look for a graduate program that reflected her own mindset—one that valued systems and network thinking—and discovered a description of the MSFS degree online.
“I was attracted to the fact the program was interdisciplinary,” she says, “and systems-based in its approach.” The online curriculum was also appealing, which allowed her to stay in her off-grid home in the Appalachian foothills.
“I felt GMC understood something very important: those involved in food systems work are likely to be deeply rooted in place. The MSFS program is bioregionally focused, and that really resonated with me. I have always understood the importance of relationships in food systems work, and spent years cultivating trusting, cooperative connections within my local food community. It just didn’t make sense to me to move to a large urban area like New York or Boston to learn more about food systems.”
“I think the interdisciplinary, systems-based approach at GMC, in combination with truly excellent, caring instructors, provides a world-class educational experience. I was well-prepared as a scholar when I eventually entered a PhD program at Ohio University. The MSFS program challenged me academically, gave me every opportunity to develop my critical thinking and research skills, and helped me to achieve my goal of teaching about food systems in higher education.”