Mike Koch, Executive Director of FRESHFARM, 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.
Mike Koch is an agribusiness leader and award-winning food advocate and entrepreneur. Prior to becoming the Executive Director of FRESHFARM, Mr. Koch served in the Garrett County Maryland Government, where he supported the development of Maryland’s first and largest Foodhub: the Garrett Growers Cooperative. Since 2000, Mr. Koch has also been the president and owner of his internationally acclaimed hand-made cheese business, Firefly Farms, which won the United States Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Small Business Award, among many others.
Food Tank had the chance to speak with Mr. Koch about the importance of unraveling the “true cost of food,” and of supporting locally grown and sustainably produced foods.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Mike Koch (MK): I own and operate a farm-centric food business: FireFly Farms, an artisan cheese maker. We were incubated through the FRESHFARM/farmers market network and I understand well the importance of economic and physical access to consumers that such markets provide. Through my exposure to FRESHFARM, I was recruited to serve on their board of directors before being selected as their executive director.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
MK: The importance of the work and its urgency motivates me. The food system sits at the intersection of environmental, health, and social justice issues that touch every individual, family, and community.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
MK: Neil Armstrong and my grandfather who farmed an 88-acre family farm in Bremer County, Iowa, until he was physically unable to continue in his 90s.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
MK: Our biggest opportunity lies in harnessing the power of changing consumer demand. The dramatic change in consumer preference for locally grown and sustainably produced foods can drive significant change if farmers and food producers are providing the support needed to sustainably scale production and access wholesale channels effectively. Amplifying this consumer demand through early childhood education provides a powerful “one-two” punch.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
MK: The most pressing issue: increasing consumer awareness about the “true cost of food” and unpacking the external costs embedded in an industrial food system designed to produce cheap food.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
MK: Cook at home, eat seasonally, and choose non-CAFO proteins every day. Pick one or all three.
FT: What advice can you give to President Trump and the U.S. Congress on food and agriculture?
MK: Level the playing field for small and medium-sized agri-businesses through rationalized regulation, investment in “food security” infrastructure, and rural economic development funding and jobs creation.