Kip Tom, Chairman of Tom Farms, is speaking at the third annual D.C. Food Tank Summit, Let’s Build a Better Food Policy, which will be hosted in partnership with George Washington University and the World Resources Institute on February 2, 2017.
A life-long resident of Kosciusko County in northeast Indiana, Tom Kip grew up on his family’s farm in the community that his ancestors homesteaded in 1837—seven generations of his family have farmed the land. In 1952, Kip’s parents started out with 120 acres. Under Kip’s leadership, the business today has more than 25,000 acres with locations in the U.S. and in Argentina.
Tom Farms has grown to be one of the largest seed suppliers in the U.S. With investments in Silicon Valley in agriculture data science companies, partnering with Silicon Valley high-tech corporations, Tom Farms is considered a global leader in agriculture production and an early adopter of new technologies.
Food Tank had the chance to speak with Kip Tom about his background, the work of Tom Farms, and looking ahead at food system changes.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Kip Tom (KT): Growing up on a farm, the culture, seeing the global need, understanding the need for change, and most importantly my parents and family.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
KT: Knowing that we have the ability to play a role in re-shaping the industry to meet the global demand. While doing it in a way that provides affordable, nutritious food, fiber, and energy, meanwhile protecting the environment and the resources for future generations.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
KT: As soon as I could walk I was in my father’s footsteps, knowing I wanted to do what he was doing when I grew up.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
KT: There are many places we can have a positive impact on the food system. It starts with a strategic view of the entire chain from the discovery of a new molecule or a trait through production practices such as food processing, distribution, storage, and promoting consumption of healthy nutritional choices.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
KT: Probably most obvious would be Norman Borlaug, someone who did what others said was impossible, wasn’t popular, and required the combination of hard work and innovation, and he can claim success with the millions of lives saved.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
KT: The disconnect between the food supply chain industry and the consumer.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
KT: Food waste, period.
FT: What advice can you give to President Trump and the U.S. Congress on food and agriculture?
KT: We all know the challenge to feed a hungry world that will need more food in the next 35 years that we have produced in the last 8,000 which will provide not only economic opportunity for agriculture in the developed countries but also in the developing countries with small holder farmers. At the same time, the humanitarian contribution will be monumental. Let’s choose success, as failure should not be an option.