People in Food

Guest Speaker: Joseph Simcox

April 27, 2015 | By Erica Handel

University of Hartford


Joseph Simcox, a botanical explorer, came to speak to our class on Monday. He is an ethnobotantist who studies the relationship between plants and animals. Joseph believes that the problem with our world today is that we are losing food tradition to food corporations. The main issue is that we don’t know where our food comes from since we don’t have access to growing food, and we rely on grocery stores to get food products. Joseph travels the world, discovering new plants, fruits, and vegetables that can be grown in sustainable ways and are a healthier option than what people normally eat. His assistant, Anthony, travels with Joseph and helped him shoot a film in the Amazon Forest.


Joseph knew that he wanted to be a botanical explorer at a young age. “I asked my parents to buy me squash for my birthday,” he told the class. He first read about the Amazon in various National Geographic articles and did not know that 35-40 years later he would be traveling there with Anthony, a man named Jason Piper, and his brother. Joseph preps for his trips by reading about the location he is going to before visiting and assessing what is true and what is not about the articles he reads. He is a naturalist, and is interested in nature and its beauty. Joseph states, “Plants are the most interesting thing on Earth.”


The most important thing, Joseph mentions, is for people to have curiosity. He says that people are detached from where their food comes from due to lack of experience with growing food themselves. New media allows corporations to be in control and influences people. Monsanto, a company that dominates American culture, is a large chemical company who is responsible for Agent Orange, an herbicide that is sprayed on plants and poisoned a lot of people. The solution to taking down companies like Monsanto is a concept called Green Technology, which increased sales and ousts competition. Joseph talked about Comstock Ferry, the oldest seed corporation in the U.S. This company is run by seed growers who sell seeds numerous times rather than just once, to keep different types of seeds in stock.


Joseph had a lot of interesting points that were memorable from his presentation. One point was that food is not just about nutrition; it is also about emotion and filling your stomach. What we eat has a spiritual significance. Another point that Joseph made was that food is now being seen as an object instead of a food item, due to labels and different brands, and it is becoming known as “pretend food.” One last thing that I took away from Joseph’s presentation was when he said that his goal was to convince everyone in the room to eat differently and care about the food they eat and where it comes from.



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Inspiring Awareness and Utilization of Global Botanical Diversity