This morning I was sent an announcement from the Washington Post about “The Future of Food Conference.” According to their website the conference will answer the question: “How is American and international food production changing to respond to growing demand from consumers for healthier and more natural food? Experts from some of world’s biggest food companies, academia and nonprofits discuss trends in agriculture and consumer behavior that is shaping the future of food.” I was immediately interested until I saw that there is no one on the program involved in production agriculture of a type that is going to feed a growing world population in a sustainable manner, although Sen. Tester might qualify. By sustainable I mean environmentally and financially. It looks like there’s a real scarcity of “farmers” on the list. The conference does have some very interesting sounding speakers that includes His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. Others include:
Wendell Berry, the novelist, poet and pioneer of the organic movement; Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation”; Sam Kass, White House Chef; U.S. Senator Jon Tester; Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner, FDA; Gary Hirschberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farms; Dan Barber, the chef at Blue Hill; Will Allen, the founder of Growing Power; Susan Crockett, vice president and senior technology officer for health and nutrition at General Mills; and many other leading figures in the food and sustainability movement.
You can probably guess the tone of the conference and therefore the “reporting” that will happen as a result. So I started an email exchange with the Washington Post representative who sent me the announcement. First I pointed out the lack of farmers on their list. She replied that there were some on the program that “focus on farms” like Growing Power, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Stone Barns, Land Institute, National Farm to School Network, Navdanya and IAASTD. Here’s how I replied to that:
I understand program limitations. However, you really don’t have anyone involved with the type of production agriculture that has the best promise of feeding a growing world population. I wouldn’t really put any of those you mentioned in that category. Therefore, I think you could potentially have a very misleading slant on the information presented. You really ought to consider farmers who are members of organizations like the National Corn Growers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Soybean Association and there are many more. These are family farmers who are using modern farming techniques to be sustainable both environmentally and financially. I’m copying this reply to representatives from these groups who you can look to as a resource as you put this conference together. I would be happy to point you to others if you’d like. I think that if you made your panel of speakers more inclusive you would really have an interesting mix of viewpoints.
I was thanked for my input and told it would be passed along to the organizers. I wonder if they would approve me as credentialed media to cover the event. I actually will be going to Washington, DC that day for another conference that starts the following day. I could apply for credentials if anyone would like to sponsor my coverage. I would do it. What do you think? If we can’t have a balanced program it would be nice to have some balanced reporting. But even if I can’t attend and you can’t either then you still have the option to watch it:
The conference will be live-streamed on washingtonpostlive.com/conferences/food from Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall. An agenda will also be listed on the site the week of the conference. Following the conference, video highlights will be available online.