As a farmer’s daughter coming of age in rural southeastern Washington, Maggie Martin ’69 didn’t have to look far to locate produce at the peak of freshness.
“One of the [asparagus] fields was right next to the house,” she recalls. “I can remember as a kid, I’d put the water on to boil, go out and pick as much asparagus as I thought we needed for dinner, wash it, and drop it in the pot.”
In addition to growing wheat and asparagus, the family raised grass-fed beef, kept a garden, and picked fruit from nearby orchards and fields.
“My dad’s attitude was, ‘We’re farmers, and we’re going to have quality food on the table,’” says Maggie. “We weren’t eating junk food. We never bought potato chips, never bought cookies. If you wanted them, you made them from scratch.”
Maggie hopes to pass that from-scratch spirit down to the next generation, so she’s established the Fund for the Study of Healthy Lifestyle at Oregon State University.
The endowed fund will support OSU students (particularly those with rural backgrounds) exploring a healthy lifestyle’s positive impact on lifelong health, with preference given to studies emphasizing local and farm-to-table nutrition and nutrition education as a key to preventing obesity and chronic disease.
Establishing the fund in the form of several charitable gift annuities made sense on practical and philosophical levels, says Maggie: “It was a combination of putting it someplace where it could do some good without going to the tax man, giving me a stream of income, and establishing a little bit of a legacy in terms of combining what I learned at Oregon State and what I’ve learned throughout my life.”
After graduating from OSU’s School of Home Economics (now the College of Public Health and Human Sciences), Maggie headed to San Jose, California, where she taught home economics before being hired by a new company called Intel. She spent her career there, watching the region transform from farmland to tech-land. American ideas about eating were changing, too, while obesity and chronic disease levels were rising.
Even a farmer’s family isn’t immune: diabetes eventually struck Maggie’s father, her brother, and then Maggie herself. In response, she’s doubling down on the joys of fresh, simply made foods and studying up on her disease.
Reversing the larger trend of declining health outcomes will require better nutrition education much earlier on, Maggie believes, starting right at the family dinner table. The Fund for the Study of Healthy Lifestyle supports exactly that – and will strengthen the college’s already extensive research and outreach programs related to healthy eating.
“It’s not so much about living longer,” she says. “It’s the quality of the years you live.”