Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with rancher, lawyer, and author Nicolette Hahn Niman, who will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Nicolette Hahn Niman (NN): It was kind of accidental, really. I was working as the senior attorney for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., at Waterkeeper, and he asked me to launch a national campaign to reform industrial livestock production. That was the beginning of a journey I’ve now been on for 16 years!
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
NN: The power of the consumer. Each of us has tremendous influence over the food system because we directly interface with it several times a day. Every penny we spend on food is a vote for what kind of food system we want.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
NN: There is an amazing amount of research and work on farms and ranches around the world focusing on the biology, especially the microbiology, of the soils. It seems that having a healthy soil microbiome is the single most important foundation of a viable, sustainable food system. This is amazing since hardly anyone was considering this even a decade ago!
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
NN: I have met so, so many over the years, and it’s nearly impossible to choose one. They have been men and women of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, and they are simply re-making the food system. One small but powerful step at a time, by creating farms, restaurants, markets, and direct-to-consumer ventures that are founded on the principle of food that is ecologically and humanely produced and healthy to eat.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
NN: I have seen first hand the damage to water and land that industrial food production takes, and I can see signs everywhere of declining human health. Having children also helps keep me motivated, I want the Earth to be vibrant and beautiful and food to be health-giving and delicious for them and all children. Sometimes we forget the great joy that comes with a delicious meal, lovingly prepared and shared with family!
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with?
NN: The lack of understanding and lack of connection with nature. The root of our problem, as I see it, is that we feel humans are smarter than nature. Humans are looking to chemicals, drugs, machines, and genetic manipulation to solve humanities’ challenges. For me, the answers are in nature and we need to get back to understanding how it functions if we want a long and healthy future for humans and the Earth.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
NN: Healthy, ecologically-produced food that is accessible for all.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
NN: Treat every occasion where you buy food as a vote for the kind of food system you want, also learn how to cook!
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
NN: Good food for all.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
NN: The incentives should be urgently and always, always tied to two things: ecological sustainability and nourishing, healthy food. We need to stop subsidizing farming that’s destroying the planet and food that’s making us sick!
Join the discussion using #FoodTank across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!