Interview mit Heather Gammon
Nutritional Ecology: An American’s Perspective on a Few Questions
Throughout our school year, we have worked with Heather Gammon, an American from California. She moved to Austria in October 2020 after finishing her degree in English Studies. She works in Austria as an English teaching assistant and has been volunteering at our school since last year. In one of our CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) lessons, we discussed some essential questions regarding the topic of nutritional ecology.
Q: questions asked by students of the 4th year; A: answers given by Heather Gammon.
Q: Do you learn a lot of nutrition ecology in school?
A: To my knowledge, nutrition in general is not a common class at the high school level. My high school certainly did not offer it. High schools in America teach much more general knowledge than the specialized high schools in Austria.
Q: Do you notice any differences when you are shopping for groceries? For example, bread or pastries?
A: Groceries in Austria are much cheaper than in America. I am from California, where food and living costs are much more expensive than in other parts of the US; however, Austrian groceries are generally still more affordable. Fruits and vegetables and all the healthy foods are extremely pricey in the US, especially if you want to buy organic.
Bread in America is also completely different to that of Austria. Austria has many different types of fresh bread for sale, even in supermarkets. American stores sell bread as well, yet it is not freshly baked. Instead, it comes from a factory. We don’t have such a rich bread culture that Austria does, either. Our most commonly eaten bread would be considered Toastbrot, here in Austria. To us, only bread put into the toaster is considered ‚toast‘.
Moreover, bakeries in Austria are on another level and have the most delicious products. In America, we have bakeries of course, but they sell cupcakes, brownies, cookies – sweet goods – almost exclusively. You won’t find a croissant or a Kipferl or a fresh loaf of bread or a sandwich or a Schokoschnecke in a typical American bakery.
Q: Now, to a wider ecological topic. What about dry periods, or do you have water problems?
A: Again, my answer has to be specific to California, but I swear, being from California is not my whole personality. California is suffering, as it has my entire life, from a drought. Most of the water in California is used for agriculture. The taps have never run dry for me, but water shortages remain a problem throughout the state.
Q: What is the average size of farms in America? Are they much larger, or a lot more? Does the average American know what a farm looks like in the USA? What is taught in school about agriculture?
A: The average size of an American farm is about 445 acres (180 hectares), whereas in Austria it is about 45 hectares. In a nutshell, this makes perfect sense, given the size of the countries. Compared to Austria, California alone is about five times its size.
I have never met a farmer or anyone who even knew a farmer until I moved to Austria. I also never learned anything about agriculture in high school. It`s interesting that I know practically nothing about agriculture and my state is such a powerhouse in this market (but it is California, we are a powerhouse in every market). California produces over a third of the country`s fruits and nuts and our good climate enables year-round growing of such produce.
People are a lot more disconnected from the land in America. We picture happy cows and sheep in green fields. Unfortunately, the reality is much darker than that. Instead of lots of family farms like in Austria, we have lots of factory farms. Essentially, they are big businesses that industrially raise livestock indoors.
Thank you for your information, Heather.