024 – John Hernandez, Hoos for Heifers



Welcome to Giving Back November! All month long I’m profiling food nonprofits in our area. Meet John Hernandez, president of UVA’s Hoos for Heifers, whose mission is twofold: get students out to the farm to see how our food is grown, and collect funds so folks in need can enjoy local grass-fed beef.

John, a history major, comes from a 4th-generation family of cattle farmers in Bristol, Virginia which makes him uniquely qualified for this endeavor. As he states, “I’m a Carhartt kid in a North Face world.” I met John’s parents, Johnna and Saul Hernandez of Mi Terra Farm at the Appalachian Food Summit in September. When I heard John’s unique perspective, I knew I had to have him on the show.

Through a partnership with Bill and Cynthia McCaskill of Quarters Farm and Loaves and Fishes, a Charlottesville-based food pantry, John and all the members of Hoos for Heifers are ensuring students have a hands-on experience and needy folks get to enjoy organic pasture-raised beef which is better for you but can be prohibitively expensive.

Why beef? Because most people eat it. Beef’s price points are higher than chicken and turkey. So how can we provide the best quality to folks who can’t afford it? Hoos for Heifers is attempting to do just that.

We discuss the organization in depth and talk a lot about his family background and childhood experiences. It’s not all scenes of Pinterest pastoral. This is real life folks. This is income. There are hard realities that must be faced. Many farmers have a day job just to make ends meet. Add onto that the everyday realities of making dinner and getting kids to soccer practice and it’s any wonder why the industry is aging out.

Grass fed beef wasn’t always higher in price than grain fed. Why? What does John think when he hears “Appalachian Cuisine?” How does the notion of “privilege” fit into it all? And what does it mean to be a Carhartt kid in a North Face world? You’ll have to listen to find out. I was inspired by Johnna and Saul’s words at the summit and even more inspired by the son they raised.

Hoos for Heifers is collecting donations until the end of the Fall semester. So there’s still time to donate! Go here. Now. And Happy Thanksgiving.

SHOW NOTES – Links to items discussed within the episode:

This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.

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