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Rohman shining bright light on Mid-Shore Food System
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
(June 30, 2015) Her name is Neoma Rohman. “Neoma” in Cherokee translates to “sunshine.”
Her grandmother was Cherokee. She is named after her grandmother.
At 38, married and a mother, she is not yet midway in what she calls “a storybook life, ” a life that carried her to Easton, Md. five years ago and transformed her into the heart and soul and most certainly the “CEO” of what is becoming known as the Mid-Shore Food System.
The food system, if and when fully realized, would be designed to prevent anyone in the Mid-Shore from “going hungry.”
As a girl growing up in the timberland of Oregon, Neoma knew hunger. “I don’t want anyone else to go through that,” she said.
Born in Mazatlan, Mexico — yes, Neoma holds two citizenships — her stepfather was a logger in what she calls “the rainforests” of Oregon, the Piedmont area of the state near the mouth of the Columbia River.
He was thrown out of work when the endangered spotted owl was identified in the timberland.
Then, he tried his hand at fishing.
That didn’t work either Neoma reported, because the Columbia was poisoned by runoff from the clear-cut forestland.
The family lived on what the land provided. They battled hunger with fish, deer, elk, ducks, berries, anything scrounged from the land.
Then followed jobs for her stepfatheras a house painter and finally a laborer with the state’s unions, jack-hammering concrete and the like.
Hunger is a nasty thing, Neoma said. “Sometimes you get so little you don’t even know what’s missing.”
Introducing the food system project to a large meeting at Chesapeake College recently, Neoma said that “I want to help you so it doesn’t get here too.”
When Neoma was 11, her mother, Nicole Leslie, decided to go “out East.”
With James, her stepfather, deciding to stay behind, the mother and daughter put all of their belongings into an antique schoolbus and “ended up in Maine.”
Out of these wanderings and struggles and hardships grew a determination to overcome them and and ultimately, in 2004, Neoma was awarded a degree in biology from Mary Washington College, now the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.
Neoma displays in her conversations an uncommon intellect, capable of envisioning, in her mind’s eye, the complexity of the food production and distribution system which she hopes to create and about which she is so passionate.
Her energies are charming. She rides a motorcyle, a Ninja 650R. She shows no evidence of tiring from what is an exhausting schedule.
“I am not a bit shy,” she said when a photograph was proposed. “Let me put on a little makeup.” Turning to the door she said, “Chapstick.”
Atop and amid the food safety project maneuverings there is her family — Gregory Rohman, whom she met and married after landing in Easton and who is employed at a restaurant about a block from her modest office in downtown Easton, and daughter Pepper, who is four.
But there is a cloud on the horizon.
The Mid-Shore Food Safety project is funded under a one-year agreement between Chesapeake College and the Town Creek Foundation.
That agreement was scheduled to expire June 30 but there is little expectation that it will not be renewed and recharged.
“It may take a while to get that done,” said Neoma, “but I could use a break.”