If you've called the CNG office in the past couple years, chances are you've talked with Aly Miller. Her efficiency, creativity, and unflagging positivity has been a huge asset to our organization. This spring we promoted her to a new position that takes greater advantage of her writing and creative talents. Read on to find out what keeps Aly going at CNG, and what she's doing with all the fresh CNG produce in her CSA basket!
How did you hear about CNG?
I heard about CNG through Growing Power, a prolific urban farm with locations in Milwaukee and Chicago. I've always felt that CNG was a leader in the movement, and when I saw a job post a few years ago, I couldn't believe my eyes!
Working behind the scenes at CNG can be pretty demanding. What keeps you going?
Haha, yes it is! I think the friendly emails and phone calls from our farmers keep me going. Every day I'm at work, I hear at least one anecdote from a farmer that reminds me why this work is necessary and important! A little bit of appreciation, or even a smiley face in an email goes a long, long way!
Tell us about your new role at CNG!
My new role as the Design and Marketing Specialist is to create more ways for our members to market themselves and their certifications. Right now, I'm working on designing custom banners, postcards, and business cards for our members, and writing press releases. This means a lot of design and writing, which I love to do! I'm also paying close attention to the ever-changing landscape of social media and marketing, looking for ways that small farms can compete in an online marketplace often dominated by larger businesses and well-funded startups.
What are some of your other creative projects?
I spend much of my time outside of CNG working as the editorial assistant for a food blog called The Nosher
, where I write recipes and blog posts about cooking, culture, and food history. In my spare time, I freelance as a graphic designer and illustrator. Sometimes, I make things for fun, like this seasonal produce watercolor
Where are you from and how did you end up in Brooklyn?
I grew up just north of Milwaukee, WI, and I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for college. After graduating, I served as an AmeriCorps Farm to School liaison, and when that ended, I haphazardly applied to a short-term job at a food writers' conference near Hudson, NY. I met many inspiring farmers, writers and chefs during my short stint upstate, who all encouraged me to stay on the east cost. The short story is that I got a job with a chef and moved to Brooklyn, which (at the time!) was the most affordable and convenient place to be! I've been here ever since.
How did you get involved in sustainable farming?
As a student in Madison, I started learning about the cultural and historical aspects of food through our campus's Slow Food chapter. I studied geography, in large part, because it afforded me the flexibility to write and research ideas like urban farming, the history of agriculture, and social justice. As a senior, I developed a project that linked UW students with farmers and food justice initiatives in Madison. These experiences definitely inspired me to find more ways of assisting farmers from "the sidelines."
How do you integrate sustainability in your own life?
As someone living in an extremely dense city, I feel that it's my responsibility to take to the bike paths, sidewalks and subways as much as possible in order to reduce congestion, pollution, and fossil fuel emission. I could go on and on about that! I also support my local food co-op, coordinate a Local Roots CSA
drop-off (which sources from a CNG farm!) and cook at home every day. Oh, I also deliver my produce scraps to the local farmers' market to be composted! If everyone pulls their weight in this city, we can make some sweeping changes!
You cook great meals with your CSA shares. Any new favorite dishes to share?
Lately, I've been enjoying all that's possible with summer squash. I've been making noodles (using a veggie peeler or mandoline) out of them, tossing them with fresh pesto. I also enjoy frying squash 'coins' in olive oil and then marinating in vinegar and fresh mint or basil. It's an old Roman tradition (called 'concia') that I recently read about, and I'm hooked.