Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) will be speaking at the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit, “Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders,” which will be held in partnership with the George Washington University, the World Resources Institute, the National Farmers Union, Future Farmers of America, and the National Young Farmers Coalition on February 28, 2018.
Chellie Pingree started an organic farm in the 1970s. Selling produce and raising sheep for wool turned into a thriving mail-order knitting business that eventually employed ten people in her small community. Chellie is still a small business owner today: in her hometown on the island of North Haven, Maine, she owns Nebo Lodge and Restaurant and Turner Farm, a diversified organic farm supplying produce, meat, and cheese to Nebo Lodge, a farm stand, and the local farmers market.
In Congress, Chellie has advocated for federal policy reforms to better support diverse approaches in American agriculture, including sustainable, organic, and locally-focused farming. Many provisions from comprehensive legislation she introduced to make these reforms were passed in the 2014 Farm Bill. With her current seat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Chellie is focused on making more reforms in the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill. She has introduced legislation to increase investment in organic research, support the growth of local and regional agriculture markets, and reduce the nation’s food waste. In 2017, she received a James Beard Leadership Award for her national leadership in food system reform.
Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Congresswoman Pingree about her vision for agriculture in the United States.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Chellie Pingree (CP): I’ve been an organic farmer for about 40 years. I was first inspired to start farming by the back-to-the-land movement in the 1970s.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
CP: The food system needs to be rebalanced to focus more on smaller, sustainable agriculture.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
CP: In my early days of farming, I had a well-worn copy of Helen and Scott Nearing’s book, The Good Life.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
CP: A better food system will make healthy, affordable food more accessible for all families and help expand local economies.
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with?
CP: I think our grandparents might not have recognized some of what is considered food these days because it is so highly processed.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
CP: I think it’s important to keep in mind that our food system is the people who make it up—from farmers to consumers—but also the policy that is put in place at the national, state, and local levels. Good food policy leads to good food!
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
CP: We should start with making sure the candidates for president talk about food in the campaigns. When Americans start voting based on the food policies of candidates, the food system will start to change more rapidly.
The D.C. Food Tank Summit is SOLD OUT but tickets remain for our Seattle Summit!. Register HERE for the Seattle Food Tank Summit, Growing Food Policy on March 17. This event will sell out – register today!