Tamar Haspel, columnist for the Washington Post, is speaking at the inaugural Boston Food Tank Summit, “Investing in Discovery,” which will be held in collaboration with Tufts University and Oxfam America on April 1, 2017.
Having been on the food and science beat for nearly two decades, Tamar writes the James Beard award-winning Washington Post column, “Unearthed,” which covers food supply issues. She also contributes to National Geographic, Cooking Light, and Edible Cape Cod. At home, she and her husband Kevin Flaherty raise their own chickens, grow their own tomatoes, and hunt their own venison. They also own Barnstable Oyster off Cape Cod, growing about 100,000 oysters per year for New York and Boston restaurants.
Food Tank had the chance to speak with Tamar about her background, motivation, and looking forward.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Tamar Haspel (TH): For me, interest in food and food systems is a natural extension of really liking to eat. And I really like to eat.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
TH: It’s such a broad subject, there’s always something new to learn. Besides, the rock star thing never really looked like it was going to pan out anyway. And we all have to eat, every day. It’s not a subject that’s going away.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
TH: I was, I’m afraid, a woefully uninspired kid.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
TH: The eating public’s interest in food can drive public pressure for transparency and improvement. Effective legislation in this political environment seems like a pipe dream, but the people who sell food need to be responsive to the people who buy it.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
TH: The food heroes I find most inspiring are the people whose jobs have nothing to do with food and who generally go unnamed and unrewarded. They’re the American parents who, every day, find time in busy days—and money in tight budgets—to put healthful, good-tasting meals on the table for themselves and their kids.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
TH: Run-off. When it’s the erosion of soil, it’s critical degradation of the land. When it’s excess fertilizer, it’s the source of serious impairment of our waterways.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
TH: Support the farmers who grow food responsibly.
FT: What advice can you give to President Trump and the U.S. Congress on food and agriculture?
TH: There seems to be broad-based agreement that it makes sense to link basic conservation techniques—continuous cover, no-till, crop rotations, buffer zones—to federal subsidies. Leverage that in the next farm bill.
Click here to purchase tickets to Food Tank’s inaugural Boston Summit.