Supporting Hardworking Farmers

Jamie Bugel
After gaining hands-on experience as an apprentice at the Dickinson College Farm, former biology major Jamie Bugel ’13 followed her interest in nutrition to become director of the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison, Wis., the largest producer-only market in the country. Taking an active part in supporting farmers, she makes sure that thousands of people have access to food grown in their community.
Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you along your career path?
I was able to learn diverse skills at Dickinson that have helped me tremendously throughout my career. I majored in biology and was able to build laboratory skills that I used during my time as a research technician for a perennial wheat-breeding program in Kansas and in my graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison breeding sweet corn for more savory corn flavor. In addition to lab work experience, my biology classes allowed me to learn fieldwork skills and foster a deeper appreciation for the environment, which helped me facilitate a citizen-science project at the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources monitoring wildlife populations throughout the state.  
After graduating from Dickinson, I apprenticed on the Dickinson College Farm, which was so helpful for gaining hands-on experience growing food. Additionally, working as a team on the farm gave me an amazing example of how positive and constructive feedback from leaders could create a welcoming and productive work environment. I’ve brought these soft skills with me everywhere I have worked since leaving Carlisle. Especially now in my role as the director of the Dane County Farmers’ Market, I rely on my experience harvesting, planting and selling at the local farmers market in Carlisle market to identify the needs of the farmers who sell at the market. 
What was your favorite activity/organization at Dickinson?
I was on the swim team throughout my time at Dickinson and spent a lot of time in the water! I still swim regularly, and while I’ll never be swimming two to three hours a day like in college, that baseline has helped me feel confident in my physical abilities and pursue so many fun adventures, from scuba diving to backpacking. I was also lucky to be able to participate in and lead service trips. These trips were great experiences where I could meet folks from around campus who I would not have met otherwise! They also introduced me to different ways of thinking and geographic areas I would not have had a chance to visit if I did not participate in these trips.
How has Dickinson’s focus on global education impacted your life or career since graduation? 
I studied abroad with the School for Field Studies in Turks and Caicos. I was able to learn more fieldwork skills studying coral reef habitats. Additionally, I think the best learning experience was really understanding what it was like to live on a fairly remote island. Living on South Caicos for a few months made me much more interested in where our food comes from. All our food was shipped in biweekly, and access to fresh vegetables in particular was sparse. I’ll never forget the food boat coming into the island on Thanksgiving Day, which allowed us to have a relative feast (otherwise we had a supply of peanut butter, beans and rice), but it was also a great reminder of how fragile our connections to food can really be.
What jumps out as a great memory from your time at Dickinson?
I loved living in a yurt on the farm. I can still stoke a fire fairly quickly after having that wood-fired stove be my only source of heat when the temperature started dropping in the fall.
How did you get interested in your work, and what about it excites you most?
I was interested in nutrition while at Dickinson and majored in biology to learn more. I did quickly learn that I also really enjoyed the more environmental, cultural and systemic aspects of why we eat what we eat, which made me much more interested in how our food is grown. This led me to apply for an apprenticeship position at Dickinson's farm, which gave me both hands-on experience and more knowledge of the larger food systems throughout the country and world in general. We all have to eat, and one of the greatest experiences a person can have is eating a fresh tomato right off the vine or a sweet corn cob right off of the stalk. Working on the farm gave me so many of those experiences, and it’s something I want to make sure everyone has the ability to access at some point in their life. I think the most exciting thing about where I am in my career is that I'm an active part in supporting hardworking farmers and making sure thousands of people have access to food grown in their community.
What does your current work entail?
My current work is as the director of the Dane County Farmers’ Market (DCFM) in Madison, Wis. DCFM is the largest producer-only market in the nation and was the model for many farmers’ markets around the country. "Producer only" in this instance means that all the farmers must grow, raise or make the produce, meat or cheese that they are selling. It also means that the person behind the farm stand must also be involved with the production of what they are selling. So everything a customer buys at the markets is a product that you can ask questions about, and you know your dollar is going directly to the local economy. While my background in science and farming has helped tremendously in leading the organization, one thing I am continually learning in this position is how to run a small business/organization, which has been an exciting new challenge.

Published June 6, 2023