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The Woman Behind “Farming”: Q&A with Photo Contest Winner Sarah Waybright

By Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member

DC EcoWomen launched its annual photo contest on Earth Day – April 22 – to capture images of the incredible environmental work our members do each day.

Several photos featured members enjoying the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin with friends and family. Other images took us a bit farther out of downtown – the Capitol building viewed from the United States National Arboretum, rock climbing at Great Falls State Park, and rocks floating on frozen water in Alexandria, Virginia.

Many folks showed us their green thumb. We received pictures of a tree planting along the Anacostia River, community gardens, a green roof garden at the University of the District of Columbia, and farms throughout the DMV.

Other folks showed us images of people helping people. We saw a picture of women teaching women about Antarctic climate science during an all-women leadership training course in Antarctica. Another picture was taken at the Virginia High School Leadership conference, where a woman had just given a speech to students on how to be an environmental leader in their schools and communities.

Our grand prize winner, Sarah Waybright, sent us a photo incorporating all three of the categories that we put forward for this year’s photo contest – women working on environmental issues, providing career growth opportunities for other women, and taking advantage of the D.C. area’s natural beauty. Her photo depicts her farming at Potomac Vegetable Farms (PVF) in Reston, Virginia, where she works alongside three women who run the farm and put on educational programs for young women interested in farm-based leadership.

We recently chatted with Sarah to hear more about the photo and the woman behind it.

DC EcoWomen: Congratulations on winning the Photo Contest! Let’s talk about the photo you submitted. I love how happy you look in it. What’s its backstory?

Sarah Waybright: This picture was taken on a little harvesting outing when a friend (who takes lovely photos!) came to visit. Getting to pick veggies you’ll eat right away is a privilege many people have never experienced, so when I have guests I like to upgrade their dinner with a farm trip! I see farming as a foundation for all the things I want to do with my career. Food is the intersection of nutrition and science, and farming is the intersection of food and our environment. Everything I want to share can “stem” from there. Working on this farm has been a true, unique joy. The people are all so supportive and kind, which isn’t something you can say of every work environment in the D.C. area!

DCEW: From your website, Why Food Works, I see that you are a Registered Dietitian, offer nutrition coaching services, and sell your own pottery – all while working on the farm. Can you tell us more about your career and how you got to where you are today?

SW: One of the things I’ve done well to this point in my life is design my days around the things I love to do, and no two are the same. I spend 20 hours a week health coaching, 15-20 farming, 10 doing pottery, and fit maintaining my brand (at times better than others!) in between those things for now. I come from a farming family that still runs a dairy farm in Pennsylvania and was lucky to grow up with a big garden. I never intended to be a farmer, but my interest in the health sciences brought me back to it. Our food systems and health are closely intertwined!

DCEW: When you submitted your photo, you wrote that you are working to open a farm where you’ll teach workshops on fermenting, cooking, growing, crafts, environmental principles, and good living. Do you have more details on it?

SW: Yes! I’m very excited that working at PVF has introduced me to a like-minded farming partner, Pam Jones. We’ll be establishing Gathering Springs Farm just north of Middleburg, Virginia, over the course of the next year. We hope to launch in time for market season next April with a few veggies we’ll grow over the winter. Things are still very much in the planning stages, but moving forward bit by bit almost daily now. That’s about all the information that exists, but stay tuned for more over the coming months!

DCEW: I see that you’ve submitted photos for our photo contest in previous years. Why do you continue to submit photos, and is there any advice that you’d like to give folks interested in next year’s contest?

SW: I was so excited to win this year. I thought getting a runner-up spot last year was pretty great, but my entry resonating with DC EcoWomen feels like confirmation that things are moving in the right direction. My recipe for success in submitting photos has been sharing a nice picture of something authentic that I’m passionate about and explaining why with a good description!

Sarah Waybright is a Registered Dietitian, the owner of WhyFoodWorks, a health coach for Wellness Corporate Solutions, and works at Potomac Vegetable Farms. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to get food tips, nutrition information and healthy recipes.

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