A Summer Farming with Ivan Perez

Some summers are meant for reflection, some for rest, this summer was meant for adventure. Ivan’s adventure.

Undoubtably, this past summer has been an unconventional one. For me, it was a time for rest, searching for new opportunities, and reflecting on what I desire for my future. As a result, I have had time to create and design my blog, work on new business ideas, read a slew of books, and dream up new, exciting projects for the future- stay tuned for some more exciting blog content coming soon! For my dear friend Ivan, this summer was about diving into something new: farming. When Ivan thought about what he wanted his summer to look like, amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, he reflected upon simpler times, when life was full of the peace and magic that the outdoors can often instill within us.

Hello Ivan, tell the people who you are and a little bit about yourself.

I am currently a Senior at Babson College studying entrepreneurship and business strategy. I’m a cancer sun and gemini moon which really describes me (moodiness included). I live my life knowing that I am incredibly lucky to be alive, lucky to have supportive friends, and have selfless parents that help ground me. In anything I do, I try to seek discomfort, and try not to make life more complicated than it has to be. However, I can be a very restless person and, as a result, you might see me take on random projects. Maybe it’s ADHD, maybe it’s an internal fear of being stuck doing something forever, but I love jumping around learning as much as I can from everything!

Why farming and why this summer?

As a kid I love gardening with my mom and dad. From the ages of 6 to 12 I remember going to Lowe’s every Saturday because they had free workshops to build random things. I still have birdhouses that me and my dad built from when I was 10. While my dad and I were building things in a random corner of Lowe’s, my mom would always be in the garden section with a cart full of plants and flowers. I loved Saturdays because I was either at Lowe’s or spending time with my mom planting flowers outside. Till this day it’s one of my favorite childhood memories

During quarantine, I was stuck. I felt hopeless every time I opened Instagram- I felt like the world was going to shit, and grew frustrated that I wasn’t doing anything meaningful to make things better. So, I decided to do something that would be meaningful and make me happy. That was farming for me.

How did you convince your parents to let you go live on a farm for a month?

I live my life dedicated to seeking discomfort and trying to push boundaries in everything I do. For me this meant, packing up my backpack and living on an organic farm in the middle of nowhere Texas. I won’t self-incriminate myself, but I’ve had to tell one too many white lies to my parents to convince them to let me do things. I really believe that if you care about something, no matter the obstacles, you will find a way to get it done! This is something that I remind myself often.

What are some things you have learned about farming?


READ, READ,READ. Get informed! Know where your food is coming from, who is the person that is farming your food, are they good people, and they are trying their best to be sustainable, do they use insecticides, do they use pesticides/fertilizers that contaminate run-off water? Learn as much as you can about the things you are putting into your body.

Most organic farmers are not actually organic. There are big loopholes in organic regulations. There is an inherent conflict of interest built into the organic certification system. The very agencies that inspect organic farmers and processors, and certify their products, are paid by the farmers they certify. Also, just to get nerdy with you, there are three types of organic classifications: 

  1. ‘100% organic’ is the highest level, for packaged foods and produce.
  2. ‘Organic’ products contain at least 95% organic ingredients.
  3. ‘Made with organic ingredients’ contains at least 70% organic ingredients.

Most times in grocery stores, nothing is 100% organic, even at places like Whole Foods, most things are organic and not 100% organic. Customers are oftentimes misled and no one really cares to double check things. However, I’m optimistic that things are changing and that starts by voting for officials that care about the environment, that will ensure fair regulations, and have a willingness to advocate transparency in every sector of life. 

What are some things you have learned about yourself?

If you don’t know what you are passionate about, try new things. I loved farming, but am I passionate about it to do it for the rest of my life? I don’t think so. Farming can be very lonely. I was out in the field with 106 Fahrenheit (41 Celsius) degree weather everyday. I was waking up before most people even have their first dream, and it’s only you, the fields, and the livestock. It was very lonely most days, which was hard for me because I enjoy talking to people. But, back to something I learned, you don’t know something until you have tried it. So I challenge myself and you, to try something new, deviate a bit from the norm, and learn to push yourself!

What is one piece of advice you wish you knew at the beginning of this farm-adventure?

Patience. Nothing happens overnight. The plants we were germinating in July weren’t going to be harvested until 4-5 months later. The soil we were growing on had taken 28 years for it to be nutrient rich and the farm itself started over 30 years ago.

Paul, the main farmer and owner, who is 74 probably, will never live to sit under the shade of the trees he planted. These pear trees planted will probably outlive me. 

Yet, I watered them everyday because I knew that nothing in this world is mine, that my time here is limited, and sometimes we will never see the fruits of our own labor, but that doesn’t mean we give up! If anything, it motivated me to wake up grateful for everything I had around me. Also, drink tons of water and wear sunscreen! 

What do you wish more people knew about farming and where their food comes from?



Behind every farm, is the dream to make the world a better place. If you have the ability to shop directly from a farmer please do so. Google local farmers near you, call your local community garden, ask how you can get involved, volunteer your time to help out if you can

Also, I wish people had the confidence to start small, have patience, and slowly become more self-sufficient. The best way to know how something is grown is by growing it yourself! Buy that basil plant you always wanted to buy or, better yet, get the seeds and watch it grow! It might not seem like you are making a difference, but every small thing matters!


Would you recommend this experience to other people and, if so, why?

YESSS! Please, please, please! It should be on everyone’s bucket list to work on a farm, preferably an organic farm! Before you die, you have to visit a farm, you have to volunteer at a farm, or, better yet, become a farmer! Nothing compares to being able to see something grow, to literally go from the soil to your table. It’s like watching a baby grow right before your eyes, it’s so rewarding! It helps you appreciate all the hard work that goes into growing and making the food we all eat. Please put it on your bucket list to work at a farm and hopefully you think of me when you’re out in the fields picking weeds.

How has this experience changed your perspective and what will you do differently going forward because of this experience?

My parents immigrated to the United States when they were teenagers almost 30+ years ago. My mom’s first job was when she was 13 years old at a tomato farm where she earned less than $1 per hour. As of 2019, the average Mexcian farmer makes 3,200 pesos ($165) a month.  Many people around the world and in places not so far from us are struggling. They are exploited, they are underpaid, have no access to healthcare, suffer from diseases caused by extreme sun exposure, and barely have enough money to make ends meet. This is the reality that most people live, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Therefore, it is our responsibility as people to try to fix these injustices by not only voting for people that care about these issues, but also involving ourselves in solving these injustices.

There are big problems in the world and not enough people that care enough to solve them. I challenge myself, and you reading this, to have the courage to find something you care about and make it better! We all have it in us to make the world a better place, all we have to do is start!

Becoming Food Instagram Famous with Michelle Buslov

How Michelle started and grew her food Instagram page to having over 1,700 followers

Photos taken from Michelle’s Instagram

My good friend Michelle and I share many things in common, we both studied abroad together on Babson’s BRIC program, we love finding great deals, and we love food. We both enjoy eating savory dim sum, lobster rolls, and poke bowls on a night out and always make sure to snap a picture before the meal begins- and Michelle definitely has a knack for food photography as you can see above! Over the COVID-19 pandemic’s quarantine period, Michelle decided to turn her food photo skills and passion for new restaurant finds into starting a food focused Instagram account, where she showcases her latest eats. Try to control the drooling as Michelle takes us through how she has achieved such tasty success.

Michelle, tell us a little bit about you. 

I just graduated from Babson and am working remote at an e-commerce analytics start up. I recently started a food blog with the handle @bostonfoodie_mish to share and find restaurants in the Boston area! 

Why start and food instagram and why now?

I was sitting at home one night until around 3 AM just following food accounts and scrolling through Yelp! looking at new restaurants I wanted to try and it suddenly hit me that I could make one of these accounts myself. I really liked the idea of having my food account separate from my personal account because, instead of spamming my friends with food pictures, I could share them with the foodie community who are really interested in learning about new restaurants and dishes. 

What was the most surprising thing you learned about running a food instagram?

I think I was surprised by how engaged and supportive the food community was. If someone likes your page, they will go back and like or comment on a lot of your photos and put in the effort to send you a message about how much they like it. It’s always nice to have an Instagram community where people are building each other up and sharing pictures of something they really love! 

What is some advice you would give to someone who is interested in starting a food insta of their own?

I think the number one thing that has helped me has been engaging with other foodies, especially ones that had a lot of followers or had pages that I wanted to use to guide me. Almost like networking and just saying “Hey, I’m new to this, what is some advice you have” because the people who are actually in it and running a successful food Instagram will really know what is necessary to get there. Of course general social media growth applies, but they can give you specific advice to the food industry. Although a lot of people didn’t reply, some big accounts did and they really helped me grow by giving me tips on my photos, hashtags, and how to gain more followers overall. Sometimes they would even repost my content and give me a wider audience! 

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What is the biggest challenge in running your page?

The biggest challenge is definitely keeping up with the time commitment associated with having a food blog. Taking time everyday to engage with others and take quality pictures at restaurants can sometimes get tricky with a busy work day, but I think the best way to overcome that is taking it day by day and remembering that this is something I’m doing for fun. If I don’t respond to a comment it’s not the end of the world and everyone understands. 

What is the craziest thing that has happened to your food instagram since you started it?

One thing that was kind of crazy was when I got an email inviting me to some foodie event in Boston Common. It was right after a month of having a food Instagram and I wasn’t sure if it was a foodie event. I have my email in my Instagram account but no one had emailed me for foodie reasons so I was really confused. However, I couldn’t find any information about this event on the internet so it seemed like it was a closed event. I emailed back asking if there was a charge for the event. They responded back saying that it was free and that I could bring a friend. I ended up showing up with my boyfriend and it was a foodie event with all this free food and well-known foodies with a lot of followers. I had a little imposter syndrome around all these people with fancy cameras and tens of thousands of followers but it was such a fun experience and I got to try some amazing food from Earl of Sandwich and delicious ice cream from The Tipping Cow Creamery!

What are some food instagrams that inspire you that you follow:






Do you have any goals or milestones for this fun project?

 I definitely have some goals as far as growing followers and featuring restaurants that may be less conventional. I really want to stay authentic and not just post things that I know will get a lot of likes, so posting a diverse set of foods has been super important to me and I hope to add even more types of cuisine. 

What are some of your favorite places to eat and take instagram worthy photos of your food?

I would say my favorite place is definitely Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown because soup dumplings are AMAZING. As far as cute pics go, Boston Burger Company and Taiyaki NYC have some really aesthetic looking desserts, so I definitely know I can always hit up one of those for unreal pictures!

What are you waiting for? Go follow Michelle!



What I Learned Working in an Artisan Bakery

How working in foodservice changed my perspective, inspired creativity, and instilled gratitude.

Photo was taken from Liv Breads Instagram account

When I came back from being abroad my junior year in college, it was the end of November. I knew I would not be returning to school until late January and the prospect of sitting at home waiting to move back into my dorm drove me crazy. I had just traveled the world and craved more experiences and learning.

I knew about a new bakery that had just opened in my hometown over the summer called Liv Breads. When it first opened I went in to enjoy a coffee and a plethora of samples they offered, tasting their delicious sourdough breads and chocolate babka. I had always thought that it would be an amazing place to work and that thought never left my mind. The bakery was beautiful, with an open floor plan that allowed customers to see the bakers toss giant loaves into the oven, and the owners were always warm and friendly, not being shy to get behind the register and help customers out themselves.

Having remembered the bakery, I decided to go in one day with my resume and simply ask the owners if they needed any help during the busy holiday season. I was extremely nervous walking into Liv but knew that the worst thing that could happen would be that they said they were not hiring. My impromptu “interview” with the owners was quick, as they asked me about my customer service experience- which consisted of a summer working at a pizzeria on an island and my work at the college library front desk- and my culinary skills- which amounted to countless cooking classes and experimentation in my own kitchen. We exchanged numbers and, low and behold, I was offered a job working at the bakery!

When I arrived on my first day, I was handed an apron and placed at a work station in the kitchen. Thinking they would have me work the cash register, I thought to myself:

“Am I actually working in the kitchen here? Am I even qualified to do this?”

After a quick panic, I was shown probably close to 100 cauliflowers and was instructed on how to cut them. I spent close to all morning cutting the cauliflowers while I sipped on a coffee that one of the friendly baristas made for me. (Thanks Dylan!)

While working in the kitchen, I learned invaluable culinary skills, like how to make food in large batches- egg salad, tuna salad, quiches, roasted vegetables, and various dressings- the proper technique of how to cut all different types of vegetables, and how to taste and adjust recipes. I learned how the produce ordering was managed and how the ingredients were purchased. But, I also learned about true grit and hard work. Almost every day for the month and a half of my winter break, I came to the bakery at 6 am to prepare for opening and sometimes stayed until closing, helping to tidy up the front and back-of-house. When the dishwasher could not come in, I helped to wash the greasy pans and used dishes. When the customers came in huge waves, I worked overtime to make sure we had enough cut roasted vegetables, sandwiches, and salads to last until the end of the day. Despite some hard hours and grueling days, I would not change a thing about this experience.

From working at Liv, I tasted halva and pure tahini for the first time. I learned how to make delicious soups, quiches, salads, and savory focaccia from family recipes. I was introduced to Jewish culinary traditions and learned about the dietary laws within Judaism, such as pareve. I became friends with amazing, hard-working people and learned about their journeys in becoming bakers, baristas, dishwashers, and cooks in their own ways. I learned what amazing management looks like and how, if you work hard and are motivated by kindness, you can run a successful business. When I spilled close to a gallon of olive oil on the kitchen floor- which did in fact happen- or accidentally made pesto with sugar instead of salt- which also happened- I was never criticized or made to feel bad about my mistakes. Instead, I was encouraged to problem solve and learn how to fix them. I was asked to try all of my food and to suggest new ideas. I was pushed to be inspired in the kitchen, despite being a novice, and motivated to want to come to work every day to be and do my best.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was how hard people in the foodservice industry work. When I worked at the bakery alongside my co-workers, we spent hours on our feet whether we were working in the kitchen, in the bread baking department, or taking orders at the front of the bakery. It was a surprisingly physical job, which required endurance for making food, consistently sanitizing every surface and piece of equipment, and lifting heavy containers all day. I definitely slept well that winter break!

Since my employment at Liv, whenever I visit a local restaurant or cafe I think about how many actors there are behind the scenes of food production, something I had never considered before. There is so much work that is being undertaken out of the sight of the consumer, it is easy to take advantage of the opportunity to walk into a coffee shop and simply order a coffee. Now I know just how much hard work goes into making small food businesses operate and thrive. Working in food service taught me not to be afraid to get my hands dirty and instilled in me gratitude toward those who work in the industry. I would have never discovered all of this had it not been for some extra time, an idea, some incredible employers, and a chance worth taking.

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Photo was taken from Liv Breads Instagram account

Check out Liv Breads on their website and order a chocolate babka (they ship nationally and trust me you won’t regret it).

My Florence Recommendations

My favorite restaurants, markets, and cooking classes in Florence, Italy.

After having spent one month in Florence, Italy studying cooking, I made sure to document all of my favorite places to eat, shop, and learn about food across the city. I hope this guide will be helpful to you on your next trip to this Italian culinary gem.

General Notes on Eating Out

  • Always make a reservation for dinner beforehand. Italians often take hours to eat, therefore tables can be hard to come by, especially on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.
  • While I was in Florence, I utilized Trip Advisor for researching places to eat. For many restaurants, you can make a reservation right online at tripadvisor.com, which I found extremely helpful.
  • Restaurants usually open for dinner at 7:00 pm.
  • Unlike in the United States, you have to ask for the check when you are ready to leave or else the waiters will not bother your table.
  • A cover charge is often included, denoted as “coperto” on the check. If it is not, you can add a few Euros to the bill or up to 5% for service, but no more.

Best Breakfasts

Every small cafe is good in Italy to stop in for a coffee and croissant, but here are two memorable spots I recommend.

Caffe’ Pasticceria La Loggia Degli Albizi

  • Address: Borgo 37 50122, Borgo degli Albizi, 21, 50122 Firenze, Italy


  • My favorite croissants in the city along with a wide variety of sweets
  • Delicious coffee
  • Outdoor seating (the sparrows make great company)

Ditta Artigianale

  • Address: Via dei Neri 33, 50122, Florence, Italy
  • Located near the Uffizi Gallery


  • Not an Italian breakfast, (it serves croque madames and monsieurs) but it has a delicious breakfast and excellent coffee selection

Best Lunches

Gusta Panino

  • Address: Piazza Santa Spirito | Santa Spirito 1R, 50125, Florence, Italy
  • In the square in front of Santo Spiritu


  • Excellent paninis to-go if you are on the other side of the Arno


  • Address: Piazza San Marco 9/b, 10, 50121, Florence, Italy
  • Right around the corner from the Galleria Academia


  • Great place to get a quick pizza or focaccia
  • You can sit in or take it to go
  • Pay after you order and finish your meal

Enoteca Bar Fuori Porta

  • Address: Via del Monte alle Croci 10r, Florence, Italy
  • A great place to go after visiting Michaelangelo’s Square


  • Excellent crostini, cheese, salad, and wine options
  • Beautiful outdoor seating

Ara: E Sicilia

  • Address: Via Degli Alfani 127 R, 50121, Florence, Italy
  • Very small inside


  • Tasty lunch right near the Duomo
  • Not a formal sit down
  • Serves yummy rice balls (which I highly recommend), stuffed breads, and sweets

Alimentari Uffizi

  • Address: Via Lambertesca 10r, 50100, Florence, Italy
  • Tucked away down a very narrow side street


  • The owner is incredibly nice and all of the prosciutto comes from his son’s farm
  • Excellent paninis made with fresh breads, cheeses, and meats

Best Dinners

Pizzeria Santarpia

  • Address: Largo Pietro Annigoni, 9, 50122 Firenze, Italy
  • It’s hidden behind the Sant’ambrogio Market in a large square


  • Best pizza and calzones in Florence
  • Relaxed, fun, and casual atmosphere

La Ménagère

  • Address: Via de’ Ginori, 8, 50123 Firenze, Italy


  • Modern, unique, and delicious food
  • Beautiful interior
  • Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Free Wifi

Konnubio Corso Tintori

  • Address: Via dei Conti 8r, 50123, Florence, Italy
  • There is another Konnubio in Florence, but this location is better


  • Yummy and interesting dishes
  • Comfortable and beautiful atmosphere
  • Excellent service

Olio & Convivium

  • Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 4, 50125 Firenze, Italy


  • I ordered one of the fixed menus and it was delicious
  • Italian food with a unique twist
  • It is also serves as a gourmet shop

Trattoria 4 Leoni

  • Address: 4 Leoni, Via de’ Vellutini, 1r, 50125 Firenze, Italy


  • Tasty authentic Italian food (must order the pear ravioli, which they are famous for)
  • The menu is all in Italian, but do not hesitate to ask the waiter what everything means
  • Outdoor seating in a rustic square

Il Santo Bevitore

  • Address: Via di Santo Spirito, 66r, Florence, Italy


  • Excellent elevated Italian food
  • Best restaurant dessert in Florence
  • Overall very delicious

La Cucina del Garga

  • Address: Via San Zanobi, 33r, 50129, Florence, Italy


  • Beautiful restaurant that practically doubles as an art gallery
  • Amazing authentic cuisine that is packed with flavor

Il Borro Tuscan Bistro

  • Address: Lungarno Acciaiuoli 80r, Florence, Italy
  • The location overlooks the Arno


  • Delicious Italian food with classic flavors
  • If you sit in the back of the restaurant you can watch the chefs at work

Best Sweets

Dolci e Dolcezze

  • Address: Piazza Beccaria 8/r, Florence, Italy
  • Easy to spot because it is bright green on the outside


  • Excellent coffee, cream filled croissants, tarts, and cakes
  • Very pretty atmosphere to sit and have a mid afternoon pick me up

Gelateria La Carraia

  • Address: Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25, 50124, Florence, Italy
  • Two bridges over from the Ponte Vecchio on the other side of the Arno
  • Green on the outside


  • Easily the best gelato in Florence
  • Wide variety of flavors and cones

Best Markets

Mercato Centrale

  • Address: Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123, Florence,Italy
  • The first floor hosts all different food stands and vendors, the second floor is an amazing open food market, and the third floor has two restaurants that can be reached through staircases from the second floor on either side of the market (they are hard to find, feel free ask someone who works there if you cannot locate them)

Sant’Ambrogio Market

  • Address: Sant’Ambrogio Market, Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
  • Indoor food market boasting family owned, traditional vendors the sell everything from local honey to homemade pastas.

Best Cooking Classes


  1. Giglio Cooking School

    • Best school to learn the delicious basics of Italian cooking.
  2. La Cucina del Garga-Cooking Classes (recently closed)

    • Cooking classes took place in the restaurant’s actual operational kitchen. Really interesting experience to work in a real commercial kitchen and see what the chefs do during normal hours.

  3. Great Tastes of Tuscany Cooking Class

    • Classes take place in a Tuscan villa outside of Florence. Prepare yourself for a full day of delicious cooking (and eating!) in a beautiful setting.
  4. Mama Florence Cooking School

    • High tech kitchen and informative instructors. Best class for the beginners!
  5. Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici-Cooking School (Mercato Centrale)

    • Every student gets to work on their own state of the art cooking station. Very fast paces, so bring someone along to help out!

Like A Florentine

A cookbook inspired by a culinary Florentine adventure.

Whenever I am ever asked about my favorite book, my mind immediately reaches for one obscure and often opened book, Like a Florentine, a cookbook that I created for my senior study project when I was in high school. This cookbook is not my favorite because of its poetic writing, expert photography, or unparalleled illustrations, but because it reflects a very distinct inflection point in my life.

When beginning to think about what I wanted to do for my senior project, I explored many different options, yet none completely satisfying.

During one brainstorm, my dad finally asked me “if you could do anything, what would you do?”

I quickly responded that I would travel to Florence, Italy to take cooking classes and learn about Florentine cuisine. His simple response “then do it,” would be the surprising faith and confirmation that I needed to pursue this dream. I soon met with a travel agent to help with the planning of the trip. From this meeting, I spent days sitting on the floor of Barnes and Noble, diving into every Italian travel book I could find, and scouring the internet for cooking classes in Florence. I also set up a Kickstarter campaign to help with the financing of the trip. Using Kickstarter, I self-funded the trip in 25 days, raising $6,350 from 39 backers. I used this money to take cooking classes, partake in local market tours, and try various authentic Florentine restaurants over the course of one month.

The culmination of this trip was a 96-page cookbook filled with the recipes, photos, illustrations, anecdotes, and observations from this Florentine focused culinary experience. The self-fulfillment of this dream stands as one of the most impactful events of my life. Although I love to reach for the book in times of nostalgia and when I am hungry for homemade focaccia, I sift through the pages more often to remember the completion of, what seemed to be, such a large feat. I reread Like a Florentine to remind myself to continue to have the courage to take on risky ventures. Completing and documenting this culinary journey gave me the confidence that I could pursue other passions and strive for more challenging dreams. My cookbook serves as a continual reminder to me that I have the grit to take challenges head-on and the ability to overcome any obstacle that comes my way.

To view my Kickstarter page click here!