(03/25/22) LAFAYETTE, La. — Louisiana 4-H alumna Katie Anderson knows to open the door when opportunity knocks; she’s been doing so since her freshman year of high school. Today, she is turning her love of food into a fledgling charcuterie business — and it happened somewhat by chance.
Upon high school graduation, Anderson began attending college at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. She soon got a job at a local rum distillery, where she realized how quickly plans can change and that adaptation would be the key to success.
“I started out in my job as the girl who just did whatever, like if it was going to get this or putting together a basket,” Anderson said. “Then, a few months in, something happened with an event that we were going to have with around 100 people attending, and the person who was supposed to coordinate it just didn’t show up.”
It was then that the Natchitoches Parish native saw her opportunity to implement the marketing and food preparation skills she had honed through her participation with the Louisiana 4-H Food and Fitness Board.
“The event was happening no matter what, and I just kind of had to take over,” she said. “It ended up going really well and I got promoted to event coordinator, so that’s what I’m doing now.”
Anderson started on the Food and Fitness Board during her freshman year at Natchitoches Central High School. By the time she reached senior year, she was board chair.
It was in her senior year that she and a schoolmate participated in Tiger Tank, a statewide 4-H competition patterned after the television show Shark Tank, where students pitch business ideas.
Her team created and submitted a plan for a charcuterie business, which ended up placing first. Anderson said she didn’t realize at the time just how much being on the board and participating in 4-H would prepare her for college and employment.
“The knowledge I gained from creating that business plan through Tiger Tank is something that I use for events to this day,” she said. “I did a huge spread for a 40th birthday party a few weekends ago.”
Natchitoches Parish 4-H agent Pam Pearce saw something in Anderson from an early age and knew she was going to grab every brass ring presented to her.
“I had the pleasure of being Katie’s 4-H agent for five years,” Pearce said. “Katie is a game changer, a critical thinker that is mature beyond her years and she continues to use the skills that she acquired in 4-H to excel in her career path.”
The goals of the 4-H Food and Fitness Board are to:
—Work with board advisers and nutrition and fitness specialists to plan and implement healthy living programs that provide for life skill development related to food, nutrition, fitness and overall health. This includes food preparation, food safety, basic nutrition, healthy choices and physical activity.
— Develop decision making, communication, planning, organization, problem solving, leadership and service skills.
— Gain skills necessary to make and teach about healthful food choices in a variety of settings.
— Expand knowledge about the sciences of food, nutrition, exercise and fitness, and understand the scientific methods used in research.
— Explore careers in dietetics, nutrition, food science, fitness, kinesiology and other health-related fields.
— Be prepared to lead Food and Fitness demonstrations at parish, regional and state levels.
Whenever she can, Anderson tries to incorporate local, fresh ingredients into her plates and grazing boards. This stems from her desire to build bonds with the community where she lives, something she learned through 4-H.
“I joke that Louisiana doesn’t grow olives, but there is a local company that makes a pickled garlic, and I like to call that the Cajun olive,” she said. “I always try to source locally grown berries and things like that. It’s important to me to embrace the work of local farmers.”
While Anderson’s charcuterie business is currently incorporated as part of the rum distillery where she works, the college freshman hopes to one day expand the business and branch out on her own upon graduation.
“What I want to do for the rest of my life is feed people,” Anderson said. “Now, I’m getting a marketing degree so that after culinary school, whatever road in the food industry I decide to take, I can have that business background to make it successful.”
Former 4-H Food and Fitness Board chair Katie Anderson has grown her love for feeding people into a charcuterie business. Upon graduation from the University of Louisiana, she hopes to attend culinary school. Photo provided by Claire Zak/LSU AgCenter
Former 4-H Food and Fitness Board chair Katie Anderson creates huge charcuterie displays for events and functions. She jokes that the grazing tables are like “Lunchables for adults.” Photo by Katie Anderson