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Grove uses degree to impact food choices

Heather GroveRecent Stetson graduate Heather Grove ’11, is a great role model for Stetson students, exemplifying that the hard work you put into your four years will determine what you can do with your degree after graduating. Grove studied local food and geography at Stetson University, co-created Hatter Harvest with Kate Matthews and Caity Peterson, and was involved in many other environmental sustainability issues on campus. The process of completing her senior research project played a significant role in what she planned to do after college. While at Stetson, she had studied the benefits and barriers of local food sourcing for the county’s farmers and for institutions, such as her alma mater.

“Through my research, I met some of the pioneers of Central Florida’s local food movement, including the founder of A Local Folkus, who is now founder and owner of East End Market, Slow Food Orlando’s chair, and many inspirational growers and producers,” she said. The results of Grove’s senior research were eye-opening, and she realized that there was much to be done in the local food movement.

After graduating, she moved back home to Orlando and began volunteering for the Winter Park Harvest Festival and other local food initiatives. After six months of volunteering, her hard work paid off and put her on her current career path. While Grove had the opportunity to move to other places to do the same type of work, she knew Orlando was the right place for her.

“I knew there were more opportunities for growth in Orlando,” Grove said. “While working on environmental or social issues lacks some of the immediate gratification other work provides, it’s very rewarding to be a part of a mission-driven start-up, knowing that you are contributing to a cultural change.

Heather Grove“We wanted to create a place where people could better understand their roles within the regional food system, and how their food choices affect not only their bodies, but the local economy, environment and community,” she said. She now plays a vital role in Central Florida’s growing good food movement, working with John Rife, Gabby Lothrop and many others in hopes of making a positive difference in Central Florida’s food system. This is what the East End Market plans to achieve.

Grove’s career is something that she is very passionate about and expresses her gratitude toward Stetson for guiding her to fulfill her aspirations. Her love for DeLand made it difficult for her to leave, but she has recently found her ‘place’ and ‘purpose’ in her new hometown in Orlando.

“The more engaged I become in Orlando and East End’s Audubon Park Garden District, the more I discover how much DeLand has contributed to my appreciation of localism,” Grove said. As the community manager of East End Market, she has developed a prominent role at East End and gives all the credit to Stetson for giving her the experience that led her down this path, and for teaching her to appreciate the small businesses and farmers that are such an important part of DeLand’s culture. Grove is pictured far right, along with her colleagues (l to r) Gabby Lothrop, John Rife and Kamrin Rife,  who officially opened East End Market on Oct. 25. (You can read the “East End Story,” in Orlando Weekly, Oct. 9-15, 2013.)

Heather Grove is just one example of a successful alumna who is putting her Stetson degree to work and making a significant difference in Central Florida. Stetson encourages each and every student to do the same in his/her part of the world.

Check out the East End Market’s Grand Opening album, photos “By The Robinsons” at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eastendmkt/sets/72157637312987896/

 By Courtney Allbee