August 21 2014

New York Times Hosts Panel on Farming, Forgets to Invite Farmers

Julie Gunlock

The paper of record seems somewhat confused about what it means to be a farmer. 

Consider this panel planned for November hosted by the New York Times. The panel, titled "Food For Tomorrow: Farm Better, Eat Better, Feed the World" includes exactly zero farmers on the panel. That's right, not one farmer has been asked to speak about...FARMING.

The panel is described this way (emphasis mine):

The first annual New York Times Food for Tomorrow conference, hosted by renowned Times journalist and food writer Mark Bittman, will explore two of the most important food challenges facing the world in the 21st century: how to feed a growing population of the world’s poor and how to reverse poor eating habits in the developed world. 

The event, to be held at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, will gather over 200 C-suite executives, chefs, researchers, N.G.O. leaders and important thinkers about food issues for a day-and-a-half of networking and discussion.

Hmmm..."important thinkers" about food and farming and the future of agriculture and the needs of a world's increasing population. Gosh, who do I want to hear from? Let's take a look at just who the New York Times considers an important thinker on these issues:

Well, there's Dan Barber, a celebrity chef who grows organic food to supply his restaurant the with the pretty, dainty vegetables that populate his $50-plus a plate menu items. And then there's Rep. Chellie Pengree, who reprents Maine, a well known and very powerful agriculture state (wink) and then there's a handful of "writers" and "activists" and super smart "think tank"  brainiacs and of course well known acivist and nutritionist Marion Nestle and then a smattering of environmentalists (natch). But really none of these folks matter because the New York Times managed to snag the two most well known experts on these issues--the city-dwelling, hipster's authority on food and farming, Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan.

The one bright spot is the presence of Kathleen Merrigan, the executive director of sustainability at George Washington University who previously worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I'm pretty confident Ms. Merrigan worked and talked daily to farmers. So at least she'll be there.

This is a good illustration of how agriculture is largely covered by the mainstream media today. Leaving farmers out of discussion on important topics like the future of food is ludicrous and frankly insulting to the entire agriculture community particularly when it's so easy to find legitimate sources on the subject. Personally, I'm glad I read farmers' personal blogs and follow several on twitter. I find these resources to be particularly useful:

The Foodie Farmer

The Adventures of Dairy Carrie

Nurse Loves Farmer

The real thinkers at Biofortified and scientist Kevin Folta (for GMO and other agriculture questions)

There are many, many others but this is a good start. I hope you'll look to these resources for information instead of spending money to attend the New York Times "environmental activism dressed up as a farmer" panel.

 

 

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