A recipe for success: Reinventing Johnson Food, Beverage, and Agribusiness

JFBA Board
JFBA Board, from left: Neil Sen, Micaela Lucero, and Scott Howard (Whitney Hayes is not pictured)—all Two-Year MBA students in the Class of 2020

By Micaela Lucero, Two-Year MBA ’20 and Consortium Member

Johnson Food, Beverage, and Agribusiness (JFBA) is a social club that provides a space for the Johnson community to share and discuss trends in the food, beverage, and agriculture industries. The club has two key focuses: connecting with agriculture and farm-to-table industries in Ithaca, and examining these industries in the context of culture and tradition. JFBA organizes cross-cultural and educational, Ithaca-based events to share the importance of food, beverage, and agriculture in our everyday lives. Looking back, it’s It’s clear we’ve come a long way from where we started.

Rewinding back to the beginning

I’ve always thought that people are best brought together by food. As a Hispanic American woman who grew up in northern New Mexico, I’ve always felt a strong connection between my culture and the food we share. The two are deeply intertwined in tamale, enchilada, and natillas-filled Christmas Eves and family gatherings. As I moved away from home and ventured outside of my comfort zone, I realized that I could bring my love of food and culture with me everywhere—including Ithaca.

While my first few months at Cornell were absolutely wonderful, something was missing. I missed home-cooked meals and was curious about what Ithaca and its agriculture focus had to offer. And I wasn’t alone. A few MBA students and I decided to create a club that celebrated food and culture while also providing an educational component of the food, beverage, and agriculture industries. Our Ithaca location, filled with farm-to-table eateries and a sustainability perspective, provided the perfect backdrop. Johnson was incredibly supportive of our endeavors, and within a couple weeks, we founded Johnson Food, Beverage, and Agribusiness.

From past to present

Student preparing food

We decided that we wanted our first event to be a collaborative effort that would showcase a food that Johnson students may not have had an opportunity to try. We partnered with Johnson Japan Club and co-hosted Okonomiyaki Night. Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese food that is made up of batter, cabbage, and typically shrimp or pork. After sourcing ingredients from local small businesses, we set up our hotplates and got to work. The chefs walked our participants through each step involved in prepping, cooking, and eating okonomiyaki with special sauces. We made more than 50 okonomiyaki plates!

JFBA: We’re just getting started

We were excited and encouraged by the Johnson community’s interest in cultural and educational food events. Going forward, we’re planning a cross-cultural event between the South Asian Business Club (SABC), the Hispanic American Business Leaders Association (HABLA), and JFBA. We hope to fuse cultures and offer participants the chance to make their own tandoori tacos. On the educational front, we’re planning tours of Cornell Dairy and Cornell Orchards and a fall 2019 speaker series featuring Ithaca business leaders in the food, beverage, and agriculture industries.

About Micaela Lucero, Two-Year MBA ’20

Micaela Lucero

Micaela Lucero is a first-year MBA student at Johnson. She is involved in Johnson Food, Beverage, and Agribusiness (JFBA), the Hispanic American Business Leaders Association (HABLA), the Consortium, and Community Impact. Before business school, Micaela worked as a paralegal and investigator for Los Alamos National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy nuclear weapons and scientific research facility. She worked on cases addressing noncompliance in the workplace and developed initiatives to improve safety and productivity. Over the summer, she will be a commercial operations intern at Merck in their Global Human Health division. Micaela holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.