Sustaining Us — John Ikerd

Why is it that so many people suspect that American Agriculture has been on the wrong track? And perhaps a more important question is why so many people increasingly believe that change is beginning,  pointing American Agriculture and our entire food system in a better direction. Well some credit should go to our guest on Farm To Table Talk, John Ikerd. John was raised on a farm and spent half of his career working in support of ever larger scale agriculture, “industrialization”. Then he awakened to the idea that he had been totally wrong and did a U turn, dedicating his time and effort to promoting more sustainable food systems. He’s written books, blogs and given speeches spreading the word of his vision for a better way forward. Farm To Table Talk asks John why when he came to a fork in the road, he took the road to Sustainability. He is finding and helping people on similar journeys all over.  Geography, climate and circumstances vary greatly but they hold passionate beliefs in common. We call it a ‘movement’ but it’s also a revolution for change to sustain us.

John Ikerd is an EcoFarm  keynote speaker Thursday January 25  at the Asilomar Conference Center, in Pacific Grove California.          

BioMaximizing — Glenda Humiston, UC-ANR

Biomass is basically every part of plants, what we eat and what we don’t.  The more fruits and vegetables that we eat the more BioMass that is left over that can be either a serious problem or a brand new opportunity. Farm to Table explores this new world with Dr. Glenda Humiston, Vice President of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the University of California. We usually just talk about what we eat, but plant ‘left overs’ can contribute to climate change or a large reduction in carbon footprint.  New processing cooperatives could produce Cellulistic nano fibers that can be used to produce hi-tech cross-laminated timber that in turn may be used to build skyscrapers.  A  plant based “wood first” policy will replace some concrete and steel buildings that will be stronger in earthquakes and more cost effective to build. Our conversation travels from BioMass to controlled environment farming, food for Mars, opportunities for volunteers and the foundational role of 4-H.

Food’s Broad Tent — Joel Salatin

Whether you farm ideas, dreams, plants or animals we better be prepared.  Joel Salatin, the self-referenced lunatic farmer of Polyface farms has prepared thousands of people for their own type of farming and he’s doing it again with another book, “Your Successful Farm Business”.  As the title suggests, it’s helpful to farmers, but not just for farmers. In this conversation with Joel we talk about farming, writing books and the common concern found everywhere he’s been in the world: mistrust. It’s what is driving people to look for authenticity–the flip side of mistrust. Farming is a subset of the food system–the broadest tent where a mistrustful public’s hunger for authenticity is ubiquitous. Joel shares a food-centered message for farmers and people who may never have a farm ‘farm’ but who can get energized about not letting farm land turn into another strip mall.

Growing Incomes and Nutrition — Ricardo Salvador, UCS




“Are we willing to pay more for food or just be quiet and accept the fact that we are an exploitive food system?”  This is the tough question posed by Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists on Farm To Table Talk and to an event in San Francisco hosted by the Food &Environmental Reporting Network (FERN) and the Center of Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA).The meeting room at the Ferry Building was filled with Bay Area ‘foodies’, activists, media and others interested in the food movement for a discussion entitled “Hunger In The Age of Trump”. A key message is that true sustainability must go beyond environment and include adequate income for farmers, farm workers and others up and down the food chain–all the way to our own table.  Farm To Table Talk brings that straight talk to this podcast with Ricardo Salvador emphasizing that instead of boasting about the shockingly low percentage of disposable income Americans spend on food, we should be ashamed that more doesn’t go to back from restaurant or retailer workers all the way back to the farmers who also often make just enough to hang on, let alone pay more to their own workers.  If we spend more for food, we may have to spend less on other things, but that’s a conversation for a different podcast, such as the Minimalists.

Global Change — Prabhu Pingali & Maureen Valentine

Improving food systems is a high priority all over the world. This Farm To Table Talk is about changes that are taking place in India with the help of Cornell University’s Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition. Established with a generous gift from the Tata Trust, the Institute is a long-term research initiative focused on solving problems of poverty, malnutrition and rural development in India. Our conversation with the founder and Director, Dr. Prabhu Pingali and Tata-Cornell PhD scholar Maureen Valentine covers the gamut from the Green Revolution to improving crop systems, raising goats and nutritional gender issues in rural India. We learn what they are doing in India, what is changing because of their work and what we can learn from the efforts to change food systems around the world.

Generational Tastes — Eve Turow Paul

In times of chaos, Millennials (and others) are spending their time and money on eating really great food and creating uplifting moments, together. People are using food as a way to reconnect with farmers; using food to educate themselves about the the climate–growing things, creating something beautiful that is tangible by nourishing others. Author of “A Taste of Generation Yum”, Eve Turow Paul,  was a Keynote Speaker at the reThink Food conference hosted by the Culinary Institute of America and MIT Media Lab. She is a Millennial writer, speaker and brand advisor who sets down at the table for Farm To Table Talk to explain how and why our society is turning to food culture for meaningful lives.

Setting the Table — Zoë Carpenter, The Nation

What does the future hold for a favorite essential, Food? Over the years researchers and authors have taken a stab at answering that question. Now the oldest weekly magazine in the nation, appropriately named “The Nation”, is pulling out the crystal ball to give us a glimpse of what the future of food could or should look like. In a special issue of the magazine The Nation covers “The Future of Food: Setting the Table for the Next Generation.” Reporters and experts focus on building a sustainable food system, perennial grain, culinary rituals, post-coal food transitions, Big Ag, food justice, Silicon Valley and a stiff drink. Zoë Carpenter, The Nation’s associate Washington editor penned the introduction to the food issue and shepherded it to fruition. She has appeared on MSNBC, CNN and now adds to that impressive list by joining in this conversation on Farm To Table Talk about “The Future of Food.”

Rethink The Ranch — Kevin Kester, NCBA

Why don’t we say Ranch to Table? Maybe its because people don’t think about ranches much at all and if they do it may be a distortion of the predominantly family owned ranches that produce beef across the USA. Like all segments of Agriculture today, technology plays a growing role: from using drones to check the cattle to using smart phones from the saddle to upload and download information. In other important ways Ranchers haven’t changed, still committed to their family, their cattle, their sustainability and their industry. Kevin Kester is a 5th generation California rancher and an elected leader of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In this episode of ‘Ranch’ To Table he shares the story of his

family’s ranch and a new consumer campaign that builds on the heritage of the “Beef It’s What’s For Dinner” promotions with a social media focused invitation for consumers to #RethinkTheRanch.


Food Evolution — Kennedy, Ronald & Dimock

When we talk of change in our food system, is it a “revolution” or “evolution”? Academy Award®-nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy (THE GARDEN, FAME HIGH, OT: OUR TOWN) chooses evolution but the conclusions of his film, Food Evolution are somewhat revolutionary. We visit the Roxie theater in the Mission District in San Francisco for a west coast premier of the film, a conversation with the film-maker and feedback from a panel including a somewhat skeptical  Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change and an unabashed fan, UC Davis Geneticist, Dr. Pamela Ronald.  The film is narrated by esteemed science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson and is “set amidst a brutally polarized debate marked by fear, distrust and confusion: the controversy surrounding GMOs and food. Traveling from Hawaiian papaya groves, to banana farms in Uganda to the cornfields of Iowa, FOOD EVOLUTION wrestles with the emotions and the evidence driving one of the most heated arguments of our time”

Reviews have ranged from “propaganda” to high praise such as in the New York Times: “With a soft tone, respectful to opponents but insistent on the data, “Food Evolution” posits an inconvenient ….” Michael Dimock, Pamela Ronald and Scott Kennedy don’t completely agree, but they give us food for thought.  You can listen to the conversation on Farm To Table Talk and find where to see the film at

Earth’s Regeneration — Abbey Smith

Meat consumption has been blamed for climate change but what if this is completely wrong and instead increasing responsible livestock grazing and the meat consumption that goes with it would actually slow or ultimately reverse climate change? That’s one of the big ideas that we discuss with Abbey Smith, the global network coordinator for the Savory Institute and rancher in Northern CA. The Savory Institute teaches and provide local support (on a global scale) for Holistic Management, one of the pillars of regenerative agriculture–holistic planned grazing. “1/3 of the earth’s land surface is grasslands”..seventy percent have been  degraded—leading to to climate change, floods, droughts, famine, and worldwide poverty”