Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Nikiko Masumoto, farmer at Masumoto Family Farm, who will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Nikiko Masumoto (NM): First, I was introduced to feminism as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and it set my soul ablaze. Then, in an environmental studies class, I first thought about our organic family farm in a global context of agricultural systems straying further away from sustainability, justice, and humanity. Suddenly, the home and people I had grown up with were illuminated; I realized my family was choosing a courageous path and a life full of hopes of making the world better. That’s exactly what I had wanted to do, and the place and the method became clear.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
NM: Give voice and power to the people working in the fields.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
NM: I am most excited about the growing creative methods being used to connect the cycle of food from field and farmer to eater.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
NM: My jiichan (grandfather) returned to the Central Valley of California after living through American concentration camps. He was one of the 120,000 Japanese-Americans from the west coast who were imprisoned during World War II without due process and denied the rights they held as citizens of our country. When he was released, he gave the rest of his life to growing a family farm. His stubborn resilience and his incredible tenacity would not heed to the racism he lived through; he claimed a place of belonging in American soil and, in return, grew the sweetest peaches for all to enjoy. His legacy inspires me every day.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
NM: In addition to my jiichan’s legacy, the good people I work with inspire me to make our food system more just, and the plants, soil, insects, sun, birds, and more motivate me to live peacefully and heal the earth.
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with?
NM: The symptoms and signs of climate change are more salient. We must face this head on with courage. In the United States, the levels of inequality in our country have grown to staggering disparities. Fewer and fewer people carry the wisdom of the land.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
NM: I would rather see deep examination and earnest commitment to a long, hard, slow path to make our food system resilient, just, and flavorful. I am weary of classifying “firsts” when there is so much need to address.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
NM: Everyday, if each person chose to do one easy thing and one hard thing to make the food system better, we would be able to celebrate short term gains on small scales and begin the long pivot towards a better world for all. The “thing” is up to each of us.
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
NM: If we could leave our legacy of water in better shape than we’ve inherited, that would be huge.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
NM: If we are thinking politically and of impact: addressing the nutrition and health of the next generation of children would be a huge step and statement from the White House.
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