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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

As many of you know, last year I started in a new role at a nonprofit. I'd been searching for a position where I could merge my skills in nonprofit development and my love of food. Someone was listening and I secured a job with the Real Organic Project.

So, I wanted to share my story and express the profound impact that this organization has had on how I think about food. And I would be remiss if I didn't extend gratitude for my colleagues at the Real Organic Project for generously sharing their farming experiences with me since I joined the team last year as Development Director. Everyone at the organization from my co-directors to the certification team are all current or former farmers and their experiences have enriched me. My 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and development, coupled with my skills as a classically-trained chef, contribute a unique perspective to our programs.

For me, "Food is Love" is more than a mantra; it is a guiding principle. Throughout my life, the significance of real food, family meals, and celebrating life's milestones around the table left an indelible mark on my appreciation of growing your own food and the transformative power of cooking. The Real Organic Project has not only deepened my understanding of organic farming but has also provided me with an intensive education. Now, as I dedicate myself to fundraising for our programs, I am constantly reminded of the challenges faced by hardworking farmers dealing with unpredictable weather, market access, and financial instability.

The complexities of our food system, the hurdles organic farmers face against Big Ag's greenwashing, and confusing food marketing have opened my eyes. I am motivated to delve deeper into these issues and advocate for what is right, just, and honest.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure to meet many of the farmers represented by the Real Organic Project label. I have deep respect for their value system, their grit, and most importantly their integrity to grow food in healthy soils and their humane care for animals on well-managed pastures.

I am profoundly passionate about our mission. If more eaters were aware of the flaws in our food system and how big Ag companies care more about profits over people then we would have a renewed organic movement, change would occur—one farm and one eater at a time. While we are making progress, time is of the essence, and we need to intensify our efforts.

I encourage you to engage in conversations with family and friends, support local farming, and explore Real Organic Project's website for a wealth of resources. If you are so motivated please subscribe to our Sunday letters, join the Real Friends book club, and listen to the weekly podcasts, all of these actions can make a significant impact. Whether it's just asking your grocery store for Real Organic Project labeled food, hosting a fundraiser, or organizing a screening party of our latest symposium, small changes and genuine activism can create a ripple effect - and it all starts with you. And, if you are so inclined to contribute - I'd be greatly appreciative!

I am also so grateful to my dedicated Co-directors, Linley Dixon and Dave Chapman, for providing me with the opportunity to grow within this vibrant community. Each day, I learn more about the challenges faced by farmers, and I focus on raising funds to propel our certification and educational programs forward. Working with our committed team and engaging with our community of donors and farm partners is a privilege. As we collectively strive for more integrity, equity, and transparency in our food system - I can't think of a more rewarding job.

Together, we can all champion a better food system with a guiding mantra that food is love!

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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting a “Cooking with Cocktails” dinner party for our cousin Kristen to celebrate her birthday with some of her dear friends. As the chef, I led the culinary adventure with a cooking demonstration complete with tips and insights tailored to a menu we've selected in advance. Our guests love to get involved and help prep the meal while imbibing some potent cocktails - crafted by Marc - our in-house bartender. This marked the third year that we gathered for this annual tradition. Our culinary theme had a distinct Italian flair and we started the evening with a mushroom crostini, by special request.

We progressed with an arugula salad with dried cranberries (that are rehydrated with orange juice), creamy goat cheese, pecans and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. For our entrée, I prepared a rigatoni with a cream-based Bolognese sauce enriched with porcini mushrooms, ground beef and mild Italian sausage, and aromatic vegetables. For dessert, a tiramisu with dusted cocoa, lady fingers soaked in strong coffee and a bit of rum, and an unctuous creamy mix of mascarpone, eggs yolks, sugar, and heavy cream – all whipped together to combine with all those layers of goodness. Four courses, four incredible women, and countless unforgettable moments.

The laughter and stories ensue as Marc mixes up cocktails and the sound of glasses that 'cheer' in unison. I love spending time with them, they are all Moms of young kids and I know that they enjoy a night away from their usual routine – and they deserve it wholeheartedly. Marc and I are delighted to pamper them and make the entire evening a fun, sometime raucous, laughter-filled celebration. These four women have a beautiful bond and it is a joy to watch them interact.

From left to right, Anthony, Jillian, Rochelle, Kristen, Marc and Caroline

They remind me that I’ve been so lucky to have strong, unique, and smart women in my inner circle. I am grateful for the long lasting friendships that have graced me with knowledge, points of view, opinions, thoughts, emotions, love & loss, successes, beauty & style, trends, talents and most importantly relationships that are bonded by trust, honesty and mutual appreciation.

My friends in many ways have shaped who I am today. The remarkable qualities I observe in them inspire me to become a more well-rounded individual, encouraging me to explore and learn, offering me profound opportunities to become a better individual.

All the women in my life have bestowed upon me an invaluable gift, and I express my gratitude by emulating the qualities that make these special people so exceptional. I am a composite of all these incredible women who have influenced and educated me, and for that, I am eternally thankful.

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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

Since moving to rural mid-Michigan, Marc and I had contemplated the practicality of buying a pickup truck for many reasons including hauling dirt, plants, and mulch from our local nursery, taking our monthly recycling to be sorted, and having the benefit of four-wheel drive on slick snow covered backroads.

This past fall, we purchased a Ford F150 and drove it off the lot with the radio station set to 94.5 The Moose – new country music. I’ve never professed to be a big country music fan but the truck and our rural lifestyle seem to go together effortlessly. And over these past few months, song lyrics have secured a place in my brain and slip into my daily parlance.

It has been fun taking the new truck on grocery runs and assorted errands, I am feeling more at ease in our country setting and my trips off property have afforded me the time to reach out and call my sister Irene while I’m on the road.

Our conversations were easy and always wound down a path for us to speak about design, color, styles and themes. We have always shared a love for art, color, texture and fashion. As the house was being built, I included her in the process and progress step by step. Irene was a fount of ideas and she provided me with some invaluable advice and considerations. My sister and I would communicate in some form almost daily. Our conversations were touchstones and a way to connect, laugh, report news, discuss issues, and just feel closer.

When I lived in Boston, Irene would come visit me as often as she could - this photo must have been taken in the mid 1990s. I was a freelance writer and barista at a local neighborhood café.

Prior to uprooting from Brooklyn, Irene and I met for lunch to talk about my big move from the east coast. Our time together to talk was unfiltered and real. We knew each other in a way that only siblings could fathom. She embraced our plans to move and was very excited to hear about our dreams to build a new house. I had always anticipated her to visit us so she could witness the beauty of the lake and tranquility of our quiet woods. I knew she would find such peace and serenity in the natural surroundings of our home but unfortunately she was not afforded that chance.

Three weeks ago, my dear sister Irene passed away from complications of the Covid-19 virus. She entered the hospital earlier in January and her condition worsened so quickly that she went into the ICU and was eventually put on a ventilator. On January 14th she passed away … and my world stopped spinning.

Days have passed and weeks have gone by and I’ve tried to write this post and give my sister Irene the honor she deserves for living her life and giving so much – and the shocking realization is I don’t think anything I write could encapsulate the love, loss, and reality of my sister’s departure from the physical world. I stumbled many times to prepare this post and questioned how I would ever properly convey the beauty and artistry that was my sister.

I so dearly wanted to express how often she put the needs of others in front of her own. I hoped to expound upon how much she loved her nephews and niece and how she was always there for them. I tried to reiterate the stories that would capture her depth of soul and creative talents. I endeavored to communicate how sweet, caring, and thoughtful she was and how she wore her heart on her sleeve – so exposed – that it often got hurt. We supported and leaned on each other until all of a sudden that all vanished. I’ve been told grief is the price we pay for love, and I am grieving deeply.

This past week as I was again running errands, my instinct was to call Irene and then I realized I couldn’t. On the radio a country song started to play – ‘Til You Can’t by Cody Johnson. Listening to the lyrics a wave of emotion washed over me and I was reminded to grasp each day with hope and love and to always be grateful for my family and friends. This refrain rings clear and is a harbinger to live to the fullest, love with all your heart, and hold those dear to you as close as possible.

If you got a chance, take it, take it while you got a chance If you got a dream, chase it, 'cause a dream won't chase you back If you're gonna love somebody Hold 'em as long and as strong and as close as you can…

'Til you can't

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