Evan Girard: Problems with passion
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 00:10
Words come naturally to Evan Girard. He can stand at the front of the room and talk for hours about sustainable food systems, commanding curiosity and attention with his burly beard and hike-wear, and get others interested in his passions simply because of his own zeal.
At any Waysmeet Center event, local farmers’ market or sustainable food initiative happening in the Seacoast region, you are almost certain to find Girard or at least one person who has been touched by his passion. Sometimes all you have to say is, “Does anyone here know Evan Girard?”
Girard came to the University of New Hampshire a few years ago with the intent of studying ecogastronomy. At 24, he is still studying at UNH and trying to finish up his degree, spending his summers as a mountain tour guide for the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) and recruiting people for his project, the Month of Food Citizenship.
If anyone is turned off by Girard’s enthusiasm towards living a sustainable lifestyle and recruiting others to do so, it has not stopped him from moving forward. Girard, originally from Aiken, S.C., has collaborated with multiple groups on campus each year to participate in the Month of Food Citizenship. The first year, eight student organizations, academic departments and offices were involved.
While Annie Steeves and Rebecca White – both senior students and committee members for the Month of Food Citizenship Real Food Challenge with Girard – were involved in the Month of Food Citizenship’s initiation, Steeves said that Girard “pretty much created it with Tom Kelly.” Kelly is the chief sustainability officer for and founder of the Sustainability Institute.
This year, Girard has sparked the interest of over 50 organizations on campus. Those 50 are now devising unique ways to incorporate the Month of Food Citizenship’s mission into an event within their organization.
“He’s a very passionate person to work with,” Steeves said. “He has lots of ideas. He knows everyone, and he’s energizing to be with. At the same time … he has such big ideas that sometimes it’s really hard to get people to latch on to them.”
Brian Gugger, a junior communications major, knows Girard through the Slow Food organization at UNH.
“One night early last semester or two semesters ago after a Slow Food meeting, I struck up a conversation with [Girard] because he struck me as an interesting guy,” Gugger said. “We talked for a very long time, at least two hours, mostly him speaking. ... Sometimes I feel as though I can’t have a conversation with him without diving into food policy.”
Working with Girard in the Slow Food community, Gugger has noticed Girard’s zeal for changing the campus with his big ideas. Girard’s zeal does not seem to bother Gugger.
“Some may find his zeal self-centered, but I believe his motives are pure,” Gugger said. “He sincerely wants to make the world a better place.”
After failing out his first year at the University of South Carolina, Girard was drawn to UNH because of the book “The Sustainable Learning Community,” edited by Kelly, John Aber and Bruce Mallory. Then, Girard heard about the ecogastronomy program at UNH. When he arrived on campus, this led him to explore the depths of sustainability on campus.
He joined the leadership team at Slow Food UNH, brought the Real Food Challenge campaign to UNH, asked UNH Dining Services to recognize National Food Day on Oct. 24 and started to work at the Agricultural Experiment Station – or Woodman/Kingman farms – to name a few things that set his passion aflame.
Girard also noticed that there were no undergraduate students in UNH’s Sustainability Institute’s task force where graduate students and faculty pondered more sustainable food systems.
“Evan would just go to the food task force meetings just to be there and have a student voice there,” Steeves said, “and now this year, they have students on the task force, partially because Evan made a pretty big deal that he wanted students on there. So really just engaging with people and communicating about his thoughts really, that in itself is one of his greatest contributions.”
Girard has helped bring change to the UNH campus with his passion for food sustainability. He’s gotten a multitude of people to think about applying sustainable living to their own lives and organizations by bringing the Month of Food Citizenship to UNH. His desire for change, though, can be a hurdle to recruiting and keeping people.
In a student organization meeting about the Month of Food Citizenship with one or two members from each participating organization present, Girard became a leader. He opened by talking about the mission and collaboration for the month. He greeted everyone in the room with a smile and some sort of comment relating to earlier, private discussions. With about 30 people in the room, Girard made it seem like he was best friends with all of them.
In the same meeting, Girard’s co-leaders took a backseat while he spoke for most of the meeting. Other people in the meeting kept glancing down at phones and watches. By the end of the meeting, about 15 people were left.
“I think passionate people must always be cognizant of the fact that not everyone is passionate about what they are,” Girard said. “However, I am willing to take every shot I get at helping others become passionate about what I am.”
In the years Girard has studied at UNH, Girard has found and maintained his passion for sustainable food systems. According to Steeves, Girard’s passion for sustainable living has gotten him to reach out to a plethora of people.