Translating Science Through Story

By Michele Payn

Baking bread is a common activity in my kitchen. There is a certain solace in mixing the simple ingredients of flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast. Kneading the dough provides relaxation and rare time to reflect. The aromas that fill the kitchen, from the beginning of yeast growing all the way through baking, smell like home. And the taste? There are few things that will make me drool more than a freshly baked slice of bread formed by my own hands!

My daughter and I bake French Bread year-round; I've found our friends treasure our homemade bread as a heartfelt gift. We make cinnamon rolls, tea rings and kuchen at Christmas from a recipe that includes mashed potatoes. We use the same recipe, leftover from my 4-H days, to make dinner rolls at Easter and Thanksgiving.

When we bake bread, we don't worry about the complexities of chemistry or talk about the science, we just take it for granted. Yeast grows in warm water, activated by sugar. This releases carbon dioxide and alcohol, creating bubbles to make the bread rise, which is in turn supported by gluten. It's just the way it works.

Making bread isn't hard, nor is the science involved with yeast growing. But that's because we understand the process. Do people trust what they don't know?

Reaching across the plate will help you understand helps grow that trust. In my first book, No More Food Fights!, I interviewed Olympic athlete Garrett Weber-Gale (who swam with Michael Phelps). He's now the owner of food information hub Athletic Foodie, and pointed to the ultimate value in reaching across the plate when we talked: "Find multiple sources when you're seeking out information about food. Look for people on the opposite side of the fence, where you'll have a better chance of learning about different sides of the food plate. 

The reality is that we share common values, but there's a great deal of misinformation driving us apart. Science must prevail, or we all lose. Food prices will rise, food imports will increase, regulations will drive the system, long-term farm & ranch viability will suffer and misinformation will continue to flourish. I think our food deserves better, don't you? I know our families deserve better.

Turn to science, not away. Find experts who use science, not sensationalize a study.  The International Food Information created this useful piece on evaluating evidence. "Not all research is created equal. Many times, scientific studies conclude results that contradict each other, and scientists express opposing viewpoints on subject matter. This can lead to confusion for consumers and increased perceptions of risk of hazard…" 

Once you know the science, how can you translate it through story? My baking bread story is one that bakers everywhere can relate to, not just farm and ranch women. What stories happened today that you can use to translate the science of food production?


Michele Payn lives on a small farm in west central Indiana, where she and her daughter enjoy all things pink while working with their Holsteins. Michele speaks from the intersection of farm and food, helping thousands of people around the world through her keynotes, books and training programs. Visit  or connect with @mpaynspeaker on social media channels. Her second book, Food Truths from Farm to Table  , is expected late 2016.

Copyright© 2016 Cause Matters Corp. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction granted for

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