Hello, everyone. This is food talks executive producer Rob Pera. On today's episode, Danny moderates a conversation with best selling author Michael Pollan, 19 Ranches Paul Willis and Tonka bars. Don Sherman. They discuss how we can achieve a more balanced, resilient food system that's better for our health communities, animals and food and agriculture. Sector workers. Enjoy the show. Hi, everyone. My name is Danny Nirenberg and I am co founder of the Research and Awareness Building Organization called Food Tank. It is my great honor to be part of the 22nd Niman Ranch Pork Company Hog Farmer Appreciation Celebration. And although we are all not together in person, as we usually would be, this is really an exciting time for both the company and our food system. Today's panel is part of the final week of events to celebrate nine months independent network of independent family farms. So please visit Niman Ranch H fag. So that's H f a d dot com for more information. I think it's no secret that we've seen unconscionable tragedy over the last several months, but also incredible resilience, hope and innovation and a really reckoning when it comes to racial inequality. in this country, and I hope coming out of this crisis that we can reset the food system and all learned from the incredible example set by companies like Niman Ranch on drily learn what a resilient food system looks like. Before I introduce our first conversation, I want to remind everyone to use the hashtag and our farmer 2020 again. That's N r. Farmer, 2020. And now I really get to introduce someone I and so many of us watching and listening, have admired for a long time. Michael Pollen is one of those people who is impossible to introduce. He is a writer, he's an educator, and he's a voice of reason when I think all of us need one. I would like to say that his writing, especially Omnivore's dilemma, really democratized how Americans think about food. People who weren't foodies or Aggies read it, and it literally changed their lives. It changed how they thought about our food system, where our food comes from, who produces it and how animals were treated, and it also did something really extraordinary 14 years ago, which is to expose many of the cracks in the industrial food system that air now, even Mawr, evident because of Cove in 19. On a personal note, I remember talking to Michael for the first time on the phone in about 2005 because I was doing some research on factory farming, and he was incredibly gracious with his time and his resource is. And when he signed my book on the boards dilemma at the DuPont Circle Farmers Market in Washington, D. C. Where I volunteered, he actually remembered that conversation which blew me away. So something like that, when you're a young writer and researchers is really sticks with you. So, Michael, thank you so much for joining me today and joining all of us. It's really an honor to have you and I have to say, Ah, highlight of my career. Oh, Danny, thank you so much. It's wonderful to have another opportunity to talk with you and to be here. I'm here because of Paul Willis. You know who I have known since I was reporting on Omnivore's dilemma. I remember spending some really transformative time with him at his farm, and Paul has patiently invited me toe every farmer appreciation dinner. I think for the last 22 years or almost that, and I've never been able to make it to Des Moines. Um, and the advantage of doing it virtually is not having to fly to Des Moines. The disadvantage, of course, is there is no food involved, which is seems a shame for for a food event. But at least we can talk about it. So anyway, it's wonderful to be here with, with all of you today. Thanks so much. So I want to dig right in and start talking about how Omnivore's dilemma traced how America and now much of the world eats you talked about meat from feedlots and meals from fast food restaurants and then, on the flip side, really, the growth of organic and the sustainable agriculture movement. It was kind of this behind the scenes view of of our meals, both the good and the bad, and that leads me to. My first question is, in so many ways, Michael, I think you were looking into your crystal ball not on Lee telling us what the food and agriculture world kind of looked like in the middle dots, but also what could happen if we didn't pay attention or we ignore the food system. You talked about antibiotic misuse and overuse the conditions of animals in factory farms as well as the wonders and the benefits of grass fed meat. So I'm wondering if you were writing a sequel or another chapter, uh, Thio Omnivore's Dilemma. What would you include? What was missing? And in 5 4006 when you were writing that you would include today? Well, you know, I think that a lot of the trends that I talked about both positive and negative have been accentuated since the book came out in 2006. And since then things with the food system have gotten a lot worse and a lot better on DE. So it's kind of a mixed bag. I mean, I think that if I were writing it again, I would pay more attention to concentration in agriculture. I think that that has gotten much worse with enormous implications for farmers and ranchers. Um, that we have seen the absolute failure of antitrust policy. Um uh which, you know, The Obama administration briefly threatened to do something about, but quickly backed off under pressure. Um, eso I would look at that, I would look at process food, which I think has gotten more processed in the time being. We have products I couldn't have imagined. Then I think Pizza Hut, I think, just introduced a pizza that comes with cheeseburgers or tacos on it. So I think the absurdity is the process. Food have gotten worse. Um, I think there has been a lot of work to internationalize what is worst about the American food system as fast food comes to Africa. So I think I might have paid it a little more attention to the international situation if you are writing it again on the other side, though, I think we've seen the growth of an alternative food economy that is much bigger now than anyone could have imagined. I'm talking not only about the burgeoning of local food farm to table, all of which has gotten much, much bigger. Uh, but also, you know, a bunch of innovative companies, uh, pay attention to where their food comes from. Source. Very carefully. Andi, we've seen a lot of innovation on the farms. Um, I had a look hard for a Joel Salatin. You know, back then, as someone who would come up with new ways of raising animals in rotation on grass. And and now they're, you know, they're hundreds of innovative farms right now, and that's all very encouraging. Um, so eso it's the best of times in the worst of times. All right, But a central message of that book is this word we use rather carelessly unsustainable. Um, and I was making the point that the giant monocultures, whether a corn and soy or of animals on feedlots were unsustainable, That had a very specific meaning. It just didn't mean that we didn't like it, that we had some kind of moral or aesthetic objection, but that by its nature, it had it was gonna break down at some point that there was something fundamentally wrong in the structure that was not going the last. And I think we've seen signs of that, Especially in the last year. I think the pandemic has exposed what is done sustainable in the system on. We can talk more about that, but but we've had this incredible window open on the food system on, you know who is actually, um, cutting the meat and picking the crops and and have a dependent. We are on these invisible workers who we now call essential workers. They've always been essential. We just didn't know it until the system started to buckle last spring. So I think we're having a reckoning, actually, on that A lot of the, um the critique that was spelled out, and not just by me, but by a whole generation of I'm think of Eric Schlosser and you know, Marien, Nestle and that whole generation of food writers who had a kind of a political take on food. Um, I think we're seeing some of those, uh, chickens come home to roost. Absolutely. You mentioned concentration and how it's worse for both farmers and ranchers. But that concentration has also been really detrimental to food and farm workers. And I'm wondering if you could comment a little bit on that. Yeah, well, you know, as Thean Astri has gotten concentrated in fewer hands, Um, the you know, one of the problems with that is that the the workforce, Aziz Well, as the ranchers, the people growing the food, but the workforce has been treated more and more badly. I mean, you know, there, 56 I just read. 57,000 food system workers have tested positive for Kobe. We do not. The CDC has issued safety guidelines for both meat plants and farms, but the Labor Department under President Trump has declined to make the mandatory. You have states like Ohio that have rules governing. You know how nail salons can work safely? Uh, even rifle ranges. You know, they've got granular rules, nothing about agriculture. Eso We're just kind of pretending that the people that the hands that feed us are out of you half of them are undocumented, and we're not paying attention to their health. And and the great lesson of the pandemic is that we're all in this together, that the reason you want something like universal health care is that the health of your neighbor now affects you in a very direct way. And if your neighbor isn't covered by health insurance or has, you know, substandard health insurance that has a direct effect on you because of exposure to the coronavirus. Um, so we're seeing you know, a very dangerous situation both in the in the farm fields now and in the meatpacking plants where, of course, workers air also being forced to work, even save conditions, partly because the president, uh, invoked the Defense Production Act declaring Meet a critical part of the national defense in order to force workers back on the line Thistle at the behest of John Taison last spring, who threatened, you know, meat shortages? Um, so there's a There's an incredible um um, justice being done in our names on that to be part of this industrial food system is you know, people should know that that's the system that that they're connected to and complicit in S. O. I think that. But it's it's this learning moment. We're seeing this in a way we have, you know, um, and this journalism, you know, there's some very good journalism being done. There's a fantastic piece in politico today about what's going on with farm workers. I urge everybody to read. I just tweeted it, Um, and in fact, we're doing. Right now, we're preparing a sequel to Food Inc. The 2010 movie on the system, because enough has changed to justify a sequel, I think right, and just like Omnivore's dilemma, I think Fuding changed so many people's perspective on on food people again who weren't, you know, that interested in where their food came from before it was an ah ha moment for so many people. And I loved what you had to say about, you know, sort of the Internet nationalization of of what we're seeing with factory farms and concentration and agriculture. And, you know, it's factory farms air not only in Asia, which where they've been very prevalent for a long time. But also you mentioned, uh, sub Saharan Africa. And there's some real dangers there without, you know, certainly not a lot of worker protection. Certainly not a lot of regulation. So really paying attention to how we're spreading this bad example of farming toe other countries. It is important to watch. Yeah, it's a bad. It's a bad kind of farming, and it's also a bad kind of eating, and you know you have. I think it's in Ghana, where rates of diabetes have gone up 1500% in the last couple of years as fast food has moved in. Um, this is another aspect of on and when, well, let me back up a little. When KFC and other companies come to Ghana. They don't just bring their chicken with them. They want to raise the chicken locally, and so they change Ghanaian agriculture, and they encourage people who had been growing food to eat. Just start growing feed to feed chickens. And so you have this move into commodity agriculture, in a place where food security is, is less certain than it is here. So suddenly you've got farmers growing inedible food, which is to say, animal feed. And and you suddenly have farmers whose survival depends on international markets, which, as we know, swing wildly on. But those farmers could be very easily wiped out by collapses and prices. So it's a it's a it's a risky thing to be doing, but I want to say one more thing on the health impacts of the way we're eating. I think another, uh, illumination of the pandemic has been the link between bad diets, uh, in our health and that, you know, one of the most amazing facts about the coronavirus that the people who have died from it half of them have are obese. 30 or 40% of them have type two diabetes. Half of them have hypertension, so that the the earmarks of the of the standard American diet, as it's called, are closely correlated with your susceptibility to this disease. And I don't think we talked enough about that. Agreed. And we're finding that also inflammation, uh, bought full body inflammation as measured in things like C reactive protein are very good predictors of, ah, hospitalization for coronavirus on. And of course, inflammation is largely caused by a bad diet by a fast food diet. So here we have this diet that, you know we've long known kills us slowly in ordinary times now, killing us rather quickly and eso. I think we should be paying more attention to how we're eating because it's such a critical part of maintaining a healthy immune system. Yeah, that's an excellent point. I think this idea of food as medicine is really taking a stronger hold because bad diets and you know, your susceptibility to Cove in 19 is just increased exponentially and even, you know, R former U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. This is like the fight he's taken on to, really, you know, put more in you support more research into fruit and vegetable consumption to really get people toe to start thinking about their diets in a different way. And I could say that, you know, those were things he probably wasn't talking about much when he was secretary of agriculture. And I like, damn, but it's nice to see somebody with a lot of gravitas, you know? Now, coming around to these issues. Yeah, well, you know, there's this long tradition of Agriculture Secretary is becoming much more progressive when they no longer have any power. Absolutely, Absolutely. So I want to get into this idea of resilience. Everybody I know everybody is talking about. We need a more resilient food system post, Kobe, we really need to transform into this more resilient food systems. And I fear that this idea of resilience is becoming more like, you know what sustainable, you know, used to mean, you know, it means different things to different people. And I'm wondering, from your perspective, what does a resilient food system look like? Well, e I agree. I mean, resilient and sustainable, And now regenerative are all words that risk being corrupted. Uh, such You know, such things happen. One of the reasons one of the arguments for making strong federal definitions as we have for organic, is that you can do something to resist that complete corruption of language, although their you know their problems with that, too. But resilient means able to withstand shocks. That's how I interpret it. And there is a trade off between a system that is highly efficient, like our food system. When it's working, as it's supposed thio, we have concentrated it to the god of efficiency. How could we produce more corn, mawr, pigs, mawr? Everything with a minimum amount of feed, a minimum amount of time, minimum amount of human labor? That's how we judge. It's It's the capitalist definition of efficiency. It's it's a factory idea To get Aziz much from your inputs is possible on It doesn't take account of a lot of things, but it sure gives you a lot of cheap food. Um, the problem is, though, to make a system efficient and even mergers are are supported by the government in the name of efficiency. That's sort of the argument for companies to get together. Um, you if you lose something at the same time, you lose the kind of redundancy when you have four companies slaughtering 85% of the beef in this country. Um, when you have a single plant, as we saw, I forget it was where it waas in Sioux Falls or Iowa City that was slaughtering 5% of the pork in the country, so that when they closed down, there were shortages in the supply line, and the farmers contract ID to that plant were actually euthanizing to use a horrible euphemism. Their animals. You see that the risks of this worship of efficiency, which is you lose the redundancy of having thousands of the meat plants so that collapse in any one of them barely ripples the system. Eso efficiency is tends to give up on resilience. Um, and what we have seen in the pandemic is the importance of resilience and the limitations of efficiency. You know, everybody was. Everybody noticed that toilet paper disappeared from the stores like instantly, and there was a shortage of the beginning of the pandemic. Well, that's the result of a highly efficient but not resilient system. There were two to supply chains in America supplying toilet paper controlled by different monopolies or oligopolies. One of them was sending single ply toilet paper in giant rounds to institutions and schools, agrees offices. Thea other was sending smaller roles of higher quality toilet paper to supermarkets. Suddenly, everybody was staying at home and not using toilet paper at work. But all that toilet paper could not be moved to this other marketplace because it was just a different product. Different suppliers, different trucks, different everything. So this is an efficient way to sell toilet paper to Americans. But it turned out not to be resilient at all. And then you have these shortages, so so that trade off. I think we need to be really alert to. And we have to think of policies that increase resilience on when we're when to meet companies. Air thinking, emerging we have toe look. Is that going to mean, even if it means greater efficiency, even if it means lower prices? Is it going to create a precarious system, not withstand shocks because shocks or what we're going to get? I mean, pandemic is is a huge shock. Uh, there is, you know, it's a rehearsal for things like climate change. However, other shocks, air coming, you know, other pandemics, air coming. We've long known that factory farms are incubating the next pandemic. And you know this one appears to have come from a wet market in in China. There's no reason the next one couldn't come from a feed. Latin America? Absolutely, absolutely. There Patriot dishes for this kind of thing. So this idea of building a system that withstand shocks that's not just in the hands of farmers. It's not just in the hands of companies, it's it's in the hands of all of us. And I'm wondering, you know, you wrote this. You co authored this, um, op ed a few years ago with Mark Bittman and Ricardo Ricardo Salvador about building sort of, ah, a national food policy. And I think you know, that's what we're getting at here. What kinds of policies? Well, we'll make it, you know, easier for us to withstand these shocks. And I'm wondering, why don't politicians pay attention to this? I mean this this is, ah really difficult time in our turbulent political situation, for sure, But how can we get politicians to start paying attention and to build those policies in place that protect workers that protect the land to protect farmers and farm workers. How can we get that going? Well, you know, one of the changes that's happened since Omnivore's dilemma eyes that there are the food reform movement, the movement Thio create a national food policy devoted to the values of both human and environmental health. Um, has support in Congress in a way it did not. In 2006 you have Cory Booker's as proposed a moratorium on feedlots. Hey and Elizabeth Warren are talking a lot about antitrust policy and and, you know, bringing this era of concentration, which is as more intense than it was in 1920 the last time we broke up the meat plants. Back then, there were four plants that slaughtered 80% of the beef, and now four plants slaughter 85% of the beef in 1970. There were, you know, it was much more diverse. Landscape that work. We broke up the trust, and we created an environment that was a lot healthier, a lot more resilient. So you've got and you have Jon Tester two in the Senate, you've got way. Have some powerful allies now and we need to support them. We need to get some of these people on the ad committees. They tend not to be on the activities, Um, and to realize that food is an issue that isn't just about farmers, that it's about eaters, too. Um, and we have Teoh, you know, push it every year, every every Democratic primary. You know that all the people in Iowa met more presidential candidates than any of us have and have had them on their farms and have heard them, you know, get religion on, you know, carbon C, frustration or animal welfare, any number of things. But democrats seem to forget this as soon as they get into power and they, you know, they turn Teoh. You know that Tom Vilsack of the world for more of the same. I'm hoping, though this time we can. We can really exert some power assuming that we have a change of administration and make clear that the Department of Agriculture that that appointment is critical not just toe ag policy, but to our health policy as a nation and our environment, our climate change policy, and that we need to we need to realize that AG policy is not this little ghetto, but It's actually central to public health and central to climate change. So does that mean in four years that you're running for office? Michael Pollen for for Congress, President? When Obama was elected, there was this this silly movement, I thought Thio make me add, Secretary. Um and, uh, you know, anyone who thinks that that's in the realm of possibilities doesn't know the first thing about agribusiness eso before we turn to our amazing Panelists. My my final question for this sort of one on one discussion is, you know, and it's not a positive one, Michael. It's it's what's your biggest fear? What? What if we go back to the way things were? I mean, I feel like we've learned so much during the pandemic about how fragile our food system is. What if we go back just to the way things were and we don't build those systems in that will withstand global shocks? Well, you know, I think part of resilience is having a lot of different food systems. Frankly, it's not just having one. I mean, I don't I don't see the industrial food system going away. I think the challenge is to build more alternatives to it s O that you know, if if the, uh you know, the confinement hog industry falls apart because of some new pathogen or who knows what. Some concern with the environmental effects of those horrible structures, Um, there'll be still the way to get pork. I mean, that's kind of what Nyman exists for. It's a shadow. It's a shadow pork industry, and we need shadows at every stage. We need grass fed beef, which, by the way, barely existed as a as a business in 2006. That was kind of thinking more than anything. Now, now there's Ah lot of grass fed beef in the market s Oh, I think we have to think in terms of pluralism and that the idea is not necessarily to destroy the industrial food system. I don't think that's realistic, but also to keep it from from crushing competition to it, and that we need to nurture competition, nurture the farmers markets, nurture the small farmers and realize that, you know, I mean the to inspect bigger slaughterhouses rather than smaller, because their their inspectors then become more efficient, right? They can look at more carcasses in an hour. That's the wrong way to think. Um, that's the kind of efficiency that courts disaster. Uh, did Oh, you know, faster line speeds and things like that. So at the same time, the government needs to support small slaughterhouses and small farmers. So, you know, that's what I think we need to do. And if we don't, um, you know, I think we've had a preview of what happened last spring when huge amounts of food was being destroyed, both vegetables and animals, because the system was breaking down on there were shortages in the supermarket. It felt a lot like the, you know, the late Soviet Union when you walked into a supermarket and absolute limits on the number of things you could buy. I mean, we had an image of of what could be, And I'm hoping that that image will stick with people as we because because our biggest problem in our food system is that we take it for granted. We take granted that there will always be, uh, incredible choice on the shelves. Um, that we will be able to get what we want when we want it. Way saw that. That isn't necessarily the case, right? And we take for granted that it will always be inexpensive that you know, not just available that inexpensive. And I think what you're you're, you know, alluding to with this pluralism that you mentioned we need a variety of different kinds of farming systems and structures. In place is really just a more diverse food system, one that's, you know, more like, you know, a mixed crop, you know, livestock farm, where you're seeing lots of diversity happen all the time. But having that, you know, spread out in different ways, so that that that that diversity protects you. I mean that when there is a tornado or whatever they call that new kind of storm I've never heard of in Iowa a couple weeks ago that your show right, you've got a lot of different crops and that, you know, some will get wiped out, but some won't. I mean, there's been very good research that suggests that the more diversified a farm, the more resilient it is when there are catastrophic weather events so way just have to keep that in mind. You may lose some efficiency by adding to your rotation or adding animals to your corn and soy rotation. But you gain something else. Uh, and you also gain access Thio to the consumer. I mean, and I think a lot of farmers I mean, if you look at the the parts of the system that did well in the spring, it was the smaller farmers who were able to pivot. They had relations to consumers. They thought about eaters not just, you know, Cargill or whomever. They were selling Thio. And you found, you know, farmers put together, see ece boxes. Some dairy dairy people who had pasteurization equipment had people coming to the farms and buying milk. So So that's the kind of diversity to that you don't just sell into the commodity food chain. But you also have a consumer outlet that protects the farmer, um in ways that, you know, dependence on this massive, efficient system never will. Absolutely pivot has certainly been the word of the year. Whether you're a former or not. No, no, no. There's no other way to describe it. So I thanks so much, Michael, I think this is a really important and instructive way to to begin this discussion. I wanna welcome our other Panelists into the conversation. It's really my pleasure and honor to introduce Don Sherman, the CEO of Native American Natural Foods and Taco Bar, who was a tribally enrolled member of Shawnee and Delaware tribes on again. We have someone who doesn't need much of an introduction. Um, Paul Willis, the founder of Niven Ranch Port Company and my favorite farmer of all time. Thank you both. So much for joining us. Thank you. Thank you, Danny. Eso um, Michael wrote a really interesting piece in the New York Review of Books in June, and he said, You know what we've been talking about that there will always be a trade off between efficiency and resilience. And he also said not to mention ethics and that the food industry, often for the former, and that we're now paying the price. But he also asked readers to really imagine, you know something other than this factory farm model, and he talked about it before where there are thousands of farmers raising pigs and chickens and bringing them to, you know, hundreds of regional slaughterhouses. And Paul, this is the model that Nayman has really set up and and put forward with your vision. You now have 750 plus. Probably at this point, farmers raising pigs across the country, mostly in the Midwest. And now you're expanding into other products, like bison, which Don can talk about in a few minutes. So I want to ask you, Paul the same question I asked Michael, you know, what is your definition of resilience? Is it the model that you set up with Niven Ranch pork? Well, I think it is. Uh, you know, back when we started this, at least one of my goals was to distance ourselves as far as possible from the commodity world, you know? So we wanted somebody to check animal welfare toe. Look at that. Even a stamp. It's some kind of certification. Eventually, no. Antibiotics have to be raised by by farmers animal welfare standards. Uh, pasture bedded pins, these kind of things. Uh, we didn't have a name like resiliency or anything for it, but but in fact, that's really what we were doing. And, uh, and and then another part of it waas to pay farmers a fair price to compensate them for for doing these extra things. And one of the things that Michael, uh, said that really a run, Uh, true with me. It was when he started talking about riel food, and I thought, Well, that's it, you know, way wanna have, whether it's animals are vegetables or fruit or grain or whether it is raised raised with riel, things not not chemical additives Not, you know, so that that that that tied in with organic production and also also animals raised in the in a way that they could exhibit their natural behavior. And and I also, um, our farmers don't just do do this raise a certain kind of livestock. Almost everybody are raising other things on their farms, which makes the farms diversified. And in each of these production system compliments each other. So that's a really definition of resiliency. And, you know, I've been talking Teoh a lot of the folks on your team about how Nyman's farmers have really withstood Cove in 19 when so many conventional hog farmers just haven't been able. Teoh, you know, the ah lot of them are going out of business and you're getting sort of record interest from those conventional folks, uh, to be part of of Niven Ranch Port Company, and and I'm wondering, do you think this interest will continue? You know, post Kobe when we have a vaccine, and if everyone starts wearing their masks and does what they're supposed to do you think that interest in Diamond Ranch pork and farmers wanting to be involved will continue? Yes, I dio. I think it's a trend, and it's not going to stop just because coal But, uh, Ondas Michael said, This may not be the first pandemic there. There could be other things that will happen. But just, uh, just by the very fact we have a lot of small farms, we talk about social distancing. We had farm distancing. I guess you might say the number of pigs that we produce out of our network of farmers is equal to maybe a couple of factory farms that they're all concentrated in in one place and all, uh, you know, depending on, like you were talking about that large packinghouse and Sioux Falls. So during this time our farmers were assured, you know, there are potential for problems, but we assured our farmers that that we would buy their hogs and we would find we would. You know, your pigs are ready for market. It isn't like you can keep them for ah ah, half a year or something like this. It's that. Anyway, there was a sense of confidence that they had and working with with us. Nyman, that's great. And and Paul, I mean, you know, this might be sort of a controversial question. Is the company, you know is not even ranch poor company able to withstand all this interest? Are you able to meet all that interest? You know, Do you have enough capacity to really work with those farmers in a way that will get, you know, get them set up and get going by this time next year? Absolutely. We we have demand the demand is shifted, you know, from food service, Andi and all of our restaurant partners, We were, you know, very sympathetic to their situation, trying to do everything to get them back on their feet. But people started going, as you know, going to grocery stores instead of going out to eat. I think Michael said he just went out to eat for one of the first times, and I've heard other people say that. So that's that kind of that part of our business is kind of returning. And, um So, uh, yes, the demand is there. People, I think have, uh, have had heightened awareness of of what's in their food. How is it how it is our food raised, And so they're looking for quality, and, uh, and all of those attributes to go with what we do. That's great, Don, I want to bring you into the conversation now, because at this point about you know that Paul brought up about heightened awareness of how you know food is raised and the quality and I I feel like what you've been able to do with Native American natural foods and especially talk of our is really help folks understand how the animals were treated, how they're honored. You told me when we last spoke that you know that the bison are considered your ancestors, and I think that's very appealing to folks right now. This idea of knowing where your food comes from and really understanding it, you know better than before. Can you talk a little bit about that? Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Eso as you said that you know, we were I'm also over the Lakota from the Pine Ridge reservation. Sorry. No, that's fine. We're Buffalo Nation, the buffalo, our ancestors. So when we speak to them, it's always an honor. Um, as you're raising them to, we're not really. Most of our producers consider themselves stewards or caretakers of the animals were there, you know, we're not, actually, you know, they're They're teaching us Justus Muchas. They're teaching them right, taking care of them. And, um as can you reward that again to repeat the questioning and make sure I'm hitting the right? Sure. I mean, the question of that is really about, you know, honoring the food that you're eating. And I you know, Paul was mentioning this idea of heightened awareness around quality of food. And people really want to know the story of their food and have a greater interest in it since cove it and I'm wondering, you know, how does that how does that translate into what you're doing? Sorry. Sorry about that. I lost track talking about No, no, no, no. Um, on our side as faras where we come from and then are people You're seeing a resiliency and food, sovereignty and local food systems. Uh, this is a practice that we have always done force, you know, foraging and harvesting and having our own food and, uh, sustaining us through the winter. So Tonka Bar, you know, is is a value added product of buffalo That is a minimally process that brings, you know, that healthy part two thio people into the community into our consumers. So that is, was a modernization of what we've practiced for thousands of years. And you're seeing that pivot in this where people really want to know where their food or where they're coming from. One thing also is what kind of like Michael said with the oligarchy is in these, uh, one crop, cultures is eating seasonally eating. You know, that's part of the forest. Harvesting is looking at seasonal. So you didn't always have broccoli available every 12 months out of the year or you didn't, you know, all that type of stuff. So, um, part of what we're doing is obviously bringing a voice to that, Especially in this time in this day and age. Thio with BIPAC and minority owned businesses. There is a huge movement out there to bring that knowledge back, not only just to our people and to the communities, but also as a nation. People are are pivoting in more gardens. You're seeing more producers also your bison producers and your cattle producers. And, you know, the pig, all of them trying thio quickly into these smaller places of, you know, sort of sending their animals to get into the local. Because as the meat came off of the shelf Native American Natural Foods or Tonka Bar, we were in a position. We have a shelf stable product saw meat, snacks, and the jerky is flying off the shelves. Also, because people were replacing that protein that they couldn't find on the shelves also with the grabbing goal. Uh, turkey sex that is out there. Absolutely. I want to get into this, um, sort of stigmatization of native communities. Often what we hear is, you know, the bad stuff, the poverty, you know, on on reservations, you know, just all of the bad things. And I think you know, this sort of changes that that story and, you know, showing how native communities could be resilient, used their knowledge both ancient knowledge and new knowledge to create something really wonderful and and that, you know, provides an opportunity for, you know, young people who are living on reservations who didn't see a lot of hope, you know, maybe in the past. And I'm wondering, you know how the company sort of views that, you know, creating that next generation of folks to become part of it. Yeah, as faras resiliency, I like what Michael said as faras able to restrict withstand shocks, American people, we've withstood a lot of shocks throughout his for sure. Um, you know, as soon as colonial came through and the diets and were put on reservations and to eat that type of food So we were able to withstand that Also, the shock of our economy going away with the bites and then with the buffalo that was our whole economy. So bringing that again, bringing that knowledge and you're seeing a lot of the younger generation in Indian country really grabbing that and having the voice. And in this day, in this culture, we have a voice right now in this history. Right now, in this time of of history, um, you're hearing those voices you're seeing the younger generation coming out saying We can do this. They're passing that knowledge down from from their elders, creating local food systems, looking at where the local food has come, forcing and harvesting and teaching that upwards on that side. So, I mean, what we're bringing is showing them that it can be done even in a place is isolated. As the Pine Ridge Reservation, Native American Natural Foods brought a value added product out of two needs. One was to address the health off our people because of the colonial diets we were on. And two was also the need that the Stuarts, the caretakers of the buffalo, came to us and said, We need somewhere to take this instead of to your local market. Eso That is where Tonka Bark was really born Addison community and those two needs. So sometimes the problem is the solution is what I see there. There were some problems, but the solution was right there. It was within our own economy, which was the Buffalo Andi. Every culture has that, you know, there that you know the problem is the solution. Sometimes when you're looking so it's just pushing that forward absolutely. And you and Michael have spoken a lot about the health, you know, aspects of of, you know, traditional diets versus sort of this industrialized diet. And I know you set up a fund as part of Tongkah Thio, not only restore the bison to the land and and create better, you know, uh, you know, bring better health to to the land itself, but also bring better health to to native communities. And I'm wondering if you can share with folks one what the Tonga Fund is, and two how they can donate to it. Yeah. Thank you. So what? Native American natural food that is, um, we actually creating a food system. So native Tonka Bar was created. And then as we went through, we saw these individual producers. And this is where the partnership with Nayman came in. And how important that waas they have a proven a successful model with multiple producers that use their supply chain. We saw the same need within our buffel, uh, caretakers. So as we grew, we saw that the these individual producers really needed some assistance in order for us to bring them into our supply chain full fully So we created a Tonka fund, which is our nonprofit, and they take direct donations, which you can go to Tonka, Fonda or GTA and donate directly. And those those donations go directly to those producers to help with their infrastructure and their technical assistance. We also have the Tonka resilient agriculture, which is, um, part of the tank of fun that as they get up to that point they come into and that that's the network of producers that will bring in that supply chain of the bison named grass fed cattle as we're moving forward. So we're actually creating food system, similar to as Niman Ranch has been doing. That's great when two companies who share similar goals can learn from one another and sort of share their philosophies. Um, I wouldn't This is really a question for you all, and I want to go back to this idea of how how cove it is, really, you know, exposed so many cracks in the food system. And and Michael you wrote in 2000 to that, maybe all we need to do to reformer or redeem industrial animal agriculture in this country is to pass a law requiring that the steel and concrete walls of Paphos and slaughterhouses be replaced with glass. And you know that idea of the right toe look And I'm wondering, you know what? You all think about that. You know, I feel like, you know, I've been Thio. Ah, a Diamond ranch farm. I've also been thio large industrial processing plants and slaughter houses and farms all over the world. These were very different, you know, forms of agriculture. So I I'm wondering if you know if if we can, you know, look through that glass. Do you think that will also help people change their their eating practices? Will that change? Companies practices? Paul, maybe you want to go first. Well, I was one of the things that I was talking about in the beginning. I wanted I wanted a new animal welfare certification. Uh uh, stamp of approval, if you will. And Diane Halverson helped me, and she actually was largely responsible for writing the standards in the beginning, to the end of the industry. Didn't want anybody Thio. They didn't really want that because they didn't want people to Really, I feel see what they were doing, and yes, if if everybody knew And a lot of a lot more people do know, Uh, you know, it's going to have an effect on what people are going to seek out when they're when they buy products. So let me add something to that. You know, when I was first reporting on food, there were two kinds of farms and two kinds of slaughterhouses. The ones that would let a journalist in to visit and the ones that wouldn't. And that was a pretty clear guideline to me. I remember spending a lot of time with Paul on his farms and meeting his pigs and walking his land and on. And then there were, you know, I wanted to go toe confinement operations, and it was always explained that these that these animals were so their immune systems were so compromised. And there were so delicate that, you know, if I could go in, I'd have to take a chemical bath first with the babies. And but in general, you know? No, I couldn't go. They didn't want me to see it. Um, I think that's that should tell you something. I mean, you should have food from farmers willing to have you come visit welcoming you. You know, as a visitor, transparency is very important. And there is a lot of secrecy in this system. And that's the reason that we're so out of touch with these so called essential workers. These people we depend on Thio eat. We have no idea who they are. We have no idea where they are. We have no idea of the working conditions that they labor under Andi. It's no accident. This is kept Franz. Absolutely. Don, do you think you know showing what Tonka is doing and showing what Native American Natural Foods is doing is helping consumers learn and and, you know, make different choices? Yeah, absolutely, Absolutely. You know, I, Paul and Michael, I I may make exactly what they're saying. If people were more aware, um, you know, come out to the Pine Ridge Reservation. It's beautiful. And these bison are Roman on, you know, thousands of acres. And, you know, they're giving the freedom to have their choice and eat and forage and, you know, live as buffalo, you know, live. So if people were more aware of that and, you know, saying with me, I've changed my buying habits, phone where I buy my local meat and things such as that even, um, as I travel it. You know, you just look at the shelves a lot different when you start walking through some of these places and I've been in both the same is you, Danny, is that I've been in both of those. And it does, you know, it awakens you and and shows you how important these local food systems really are. Makes your life a little bit harder to write, but it's definitely worth it. You know, don you You were talking before the call about, you know, honoring the animal in different ways. And, you know, we talked about the ancestor part. I I'm sure our viewers and listeners would like to hear a little bit about how you harvest the animals and how you continue honoring their legacy in their lives. Right? Right. So because their sacred animal to us, they they provided us with everything to sustain our life. So they were life givers. Um, you know, are we We do have one of them. A number one bison producers in the nation's is our partner as well. Yeah, as well as an equity holder of the company. Now, with this new change of partners with all the moment and everybody else come on board. So they're using them. Uh, there. Most of the bison are given choice, which means that they could either be on grass or they can come in and eat. So the majority of bison, and then a lot of our native producers actually just leave them out on grass and tell harvest time, and then they're taken to our harvesting plant. But everything is always done, you know, respectful, similar Thio, 19 ranches, model assed faras, humane bison, our species to this, uh, nations. So there are a little different as faras the treatment. You know, they're not allowed to have antibiotics or hormones or anything like that because they're still considered a wild animal. So, you know, some of those rules are a little bit different for bison as they are for other animals. So that's the nice thing. And plus, the other thing about them is because they're keystone. It's it's key to bring them. The more people eat them, the more we can bring them back. Um, you know, they help with the Great Plains. They help with the carbon sequestration any they eat and they forward as far as that goes, it's really important. Thio Key And we've seen a surge during this last time of offal eaters these last six months with Cove in, that's exciting. That's exciting. Um, you know, Paul, we we talked a little bit, and I'm interested to hear from both you and and Michael in different ways about, you know, the the next generation. So the next generation of farmers I know Nyman has set up a next generation foundation. Just support, um, not only farmers, but food educator, student agriculture, educators and and communicators. How you know, how important is that to the company to keep that going? Okay, well, I think it's important to Diamond Ranch, because it, uh it supports our farmers, which are the core of what Niman Ranch is all about. And 11 thing. I wanted to say that a lot of our farmers, our small farmers, we have a lot of Amish farmers and so on. And what Niman Ranch or Blockages? Access to market and all of these other support mechanisms, like the foundation scholarships for our kids, kids of our farmers that are going on for further education. All of these things, uh, just to help help these families and help people, uh, you know, sort of re establish themselves in agriculture. They provide an opportunity. And I think it's important to note that our our average farmer, I believe the average age is like 47 years old. That's the Niman Ranch farmer rancher. Farmers in general are but for almost 60 years old today. So it shows that we waive, sort of have ah, maybe a proof that there's opportunities for young people to get into agriculture, and that's kind of a rare thing. These days, it's hard to get going and this this is Ah, this is an opportunity that's open Thio people and they find it attractive. So all these things, they're important for the future generations. Actually, all of us. So, Michael, I mean, you and and others like you like Marion Nestle really started this. You know this trend of writing about food in a really accessible way that, you know, Ah, lot of folks could understand who weren't necessarily involved in agriculture, but as you know, newspaper shut down and journalism, you know, in general is declining. How do we support that? Next generation of you know, uh, muckrakers. You know, folks like Tom Philpott and others who can really expose what's happening in the food and agriculture world and also inspire and can, you know, give people, you know, unaltered native sense of what is happening, whether it's not Niman Ranch or Tonka Bar. Well, you're right. I'm journalism is really in crisis, and there's been some interesting responses to deal with it. You have thes nonprofit journalism institutions popping up because a lot of philanthropists and foundations realized that the press is very important Thio holding power accountable, whether it's corporate or political. And so in the food area, you have organizations like Fern, the Food and Environment Reporting Network that has been supporting some really good great coverage of the meat plant crisis. Last, for example. Um, and that's on, you know, they get grants, uh, to do that work. And they have, uh, nourished a new generation of food writers. Um, at Berkeley, we started a fellowship on. Every year we support 10 young journalists who want to write about food and agriculture. Uh, it has become a beat at many newspapers and magazines. I mean, Tom Philpott, you know, is an example. This is someone who was a blogger who now has a column in Mother Jones magazine. Aziz Well, Azaz his books. I mean, you know, there's there is a There is a generation of writers who write about food in a new way in a way that didn't exist 20 years ago. Food writing, then was recipes right in the Wednesday you know, supermarkets, supplements of newspapers. And now you have people who look a food and agriculture as one thing. Um, you know, as a writer, when I first started out, I would go to editors in New York and say, um I want to write about agriculture and they would like no one's interest in agriculture. And then I just slightly changed my pitch and I said, I want to write about food and where it comes from, and they were all ears because they didn't really understand that food and agriculture of the same story. That's how that's how out of touch we have become, Andi. That's how much we take food for granted that we have no idea where it comes from. So now there is a There is a market and information market for people who do want to know where their food comes from for people who want to feel good about their choices and realize that they have a vote. And they could buy a slim Jim or a taco bar and support a very different system. Onda. The more they know about those options and journalists help with that, the more they tend to make very good decisions. People want to feel good about the kind of farmers ranchers that they're supporting and they, but they need information to do it. And journalism is very important part of getting people that information. Yeah, and I agree. I think people want to feel good about what they eat, but on Lee, if they can afford it and have access to it. And I think one thing that I'm concerned about when I look at food journalism is inclusivity and whether you know the racial inequality that we've seen, you know, you know, throughout the the history of the US, if we could make sure that you know, we're making food and agriculture writing inclusive and including, you know, the BIPAC, the black indigenous people of color community in this revolution of how we write and think about food. Because those stories are very different in terms of access and affordability. I totally agree. And one of the most encouraging developments in the food movement and the food journalism sector is, um, much more attention to issues of race, of gender labor in general. When I started when I published Omnivore's Dilemma, nobody really talked very much about labor in food. And I didn't either. And I think, you know, you asked me at the very beginning of how would I do things differently. I would pay a lot more attention toe labor on, but I think that was just a no oversight Andi. But it's changed now and now you do have, um, some really important labor movements within food, like the coalition of a mockery workers, for example, on, Do you have much more attention to inclusivity? And I think that's a very healthy development. Absolutely. We have a ton of questions I need to turn to them from the audience right now. So my glad to put you on the spot again. Um Nathan writes. I'm wondering what Mr Paul in thinks about how much food choices are talked about by environmental groups and why they aren't talked about more. I have been around environmentalists who turned up their nose at a plant based meal, and I was flabbergasted. Yeah, so there seems to be some reluctance on the part of the environmental movement to deal with food on specifically the the choices around meat eating and climate change. Um, we know that be feeding in particular is has a very heavy carbon footprint. Um, and I think I don't know this for a fact, but I think a lot of environmental groups have made it have made a judgment that this is a political loser, that if you start encouraging people to change their dietary habits, people feel very strongly. It's very personal. I remember years ago having lunch with the president of Sierra Club and he had been offered a tremendous donation by a philanthropist to do a big campaign to reduce mediating, really put the Sierra Club on the map as a Z anti meat eating um, and he and he chose not to take it because he felt that that would hurt the organization in the long run. So that's a political calculation. I think that environmentalists are making. Um, I think that, you know, promoting plant based diets is it makes a lot of environmental sense in the same way. You know, we promoted recycling and promoted, not littering. And there's certain aspects of personal behavior. Um, I also don't think you have to be absolutist about it. I think eating less meat, but meat of higher quality is also a very good choice. But then it gets complicated. You're asking people to make distinctions about you know, that eating, you know, nine and pork is not the same azi eating, you know, industrial pork and Dido feedlot meet with, you know, pastured meat. I mean, and maybe some people don't want to make these distinctions or think it's impossible. But I disagree. I mean, I think it should be a central conversation in the environmental movement. Absolutely. I couldn't agree more either. Eso ian rights. According to the USDA, 35% of people below the poverty line are food insecure, reducing efficiency and the food supply will result in higher cost, he says. How do we create a more resilient food system without making it on ah without making food unaffordable. So this is for you all. I don't know, Paul. If you wanna weigh in on that. Well, I think there's a lot of food choices, their chips. There's soda. There's things that you buy in, uh, in convenience stars. They're people that eat, eat most of their food coming from these kinds of places. And those things are honestly expensive. Riel food is, in my opinion, cheaper in the long run. It z, you know, Would you rather pay more medical bills or would you rather eat better food? Great answer, Don. Any thoughts? We talked about how native communities have been disproportionately affected by, you know, colonial food sort of imposed on them. I'm wondering what your thoughts are. Yeah, I don't necessarily. It is a given a tape because, you know, some people are like when When you are in areas with poverty, you know you have everything that comes with it and by a lot living on, you know, living on food stamps or, you know, assistance and wikis and things such as that. But there's also thinking about how many miles. Your food has to travel to get to those places. So you know, whether you're buying the cheaper stuff or the good stuff for you, it the prices still higher that we're seeing in some of these rural areas. So try to get some of that world decay, and these local food systems will help having the local food hubs keeping your, you know, your food traveling less than you know, 400 miles from where you're living eso Then that way it's not going to 1000 miles by the time it gets to you. Um, it's a lot healthier for you, so you do give up a little bit efficient of efficiencies. But if you know, if we went to a more that micro system that you know Mike was Michael is talking about it actually does not become more expensive because you're not paying for that transportation. You're not paying for that. Have to get the food on the shelves. Absolutely. So, Dad, that you know, we don't have a free market in food in this country. Um, it is what is cheap, and one it's expensive is heavily influenced by government policy. We happen to have a system that subsidizes the least healthy calories in the supermarket. There's a reason those chips air so cheap. There's a reason that soda is so cheap. It's because we subsidize the corn that goes into it. And we could have a system that subsidized healthier food, and we could level the playing field that way. So I mean, I think we have to understand this all takes place in the context of a political choices that are being made in your name that you're not being consulted on. Absolutely, absolutely such a great point. So there have been, ah, couple of questions from different listeners about technology, and and one was about the use of APS to find local food. And the other is, you know, please ask the Panelists about software that you know virtual farmers markets are using, since there's so many great advantages to them, you know, and keeping farmers on the farm rather than taking time to market. And and we've seen so much of that grow during Cove it 19. But I I wonder what you all think about this, you know, sort of shift to, you know, um, you know, it's it's gone beyond C. S. A is delivering right to your door. But a lot of, you know, shipping of of these products straight to consumers. Anyone feel free to weigh in? Yeah, Mr. Willis, go ahead. Uh, I mean, there's probably there's probably no end to the new tools that can be used. Thio get access to food or defined food. I don't honestly know what what they all are, you know, But a lot of people through this Colvin situation have, you know, ordered or picked up curbside pickup, various kinds of things that I don't I'm not the one to ask about technology about how all of that works, but there are a lot of tools out there, right? Yeah. Yeah. And you know, this is that next generation, right? The millennials and the younger that having that access so it gives them more information. So not only are they walk into the shelves like we're used to and turning that turning around and try to read what's on it. They're actually saying All right, what am I buying and then even going further? What is this mind Who's making it? Where is it coming from? So, um, I see that that technology, even lifting and co vid really made gave us a fast jump into that because not everybody had the curve, you know, the curb and the door to door ordering and everything that we've had. We've seen a really uptick in the technology, and that's just I think it's a great thing because it informs everybody so they understand where that's where it's coming from. And I think you'll see it even a more uptick in that assed faras that goes and you know, in ours, you No way I can order from all local indigenous people that I have in the country and have it brought right to my door. Very cool. I think it's a mixed bag. There's a lot of, you know, opportunities on new businesses and innovation coming, you know, that that are arising. But I also think that there's a you know, another class of so called essential workers that's, you know, having living under pretty abusive conditions. Three insta cart workers are a heavily monitored and exploited and I don't know if you've had the experience of being in a supermarket where there are a lot of insta cart people shopping, but man will raise your blood pressure. I mean, they are just so freaked out as they raced through the aisles. It's just the whole new whole new reality. And the reason is that they could be fired for not producing. You know, a certain amount of of groceries and and And they have to shop at lightning speed, you know, running over Children in their cards. And so I think we have Thio. It's not just technology behind technology, there are still people, and those people are not always being treated properly and s So I think we have to pay attention to that as well. Absolutely such a great point. So, um, this might be the last question we're running out of time, so seed to savor Farm says we're in Colorado, where we have gone from 100 degrees yesterday to snow today with eight inches in the forecast. All of our local producers spent yesterday harvesting immature crops Were seed preservation farm attempting to adapt food crops to are challenging environment. But in early September, snowstorm does not allow time for seeds to mature to mature. How do you recommend small farms whether their livestock or, you know, produce farms to adapt to such extremes in weather and climate. That's such a uh, that's exactly what we're talking about. Though I think the more diversified you are, the more likely you are to withstand these. The's what we used to call freak weather events, but I think that word freak is gonna vanish from our vocabulary. E you know, it got to 120 in California. I mean that, you know, I'm sure that had a devastating effect on on some of our crops and not others. And I work, and not to mention the people who still had to go out and pick crops under those circumstances. Um, so I think that once again, the watchword of diversity I mean, that is that is how you create a farm that is can withstand those kind of shocked, amazing, and in ours is for us. It's more on the bison side by something. Like I said, there, Keystone species can adapt to these extremes. So, um, you know, they face the storm when they walk out of the storm. You know, I I use that analogy quite a bit because that's who we are is talk A as we face the storm and they know that facing the storm and walking through it that eventually you come out of it. But bison a really resilient obviously, you know, they still need water and things. But for example, we had that winter snowstorm back about six years ago, and South Dakota lost over half of its cattle, and there was only a handful of ice, and that had and we had lost in the state of South Dakota during that time. So, you know that shows the resiliency as far as you know, when you're having one of those large snowstorms, you know, they walk out of storm towards it, versus cattle will go with the wind and kind of go down in the gullies such as that. So on our side, you know, we we talked about how resilient bison are because they were, you know, they were made to be on this land. Absolutely. Paul, what are your thoughts? I'm so busy listening to everybody that e just this idea of how to to make small, more more resilient to climate change. I mean, you know, I think the facing the storm analogies is the best one in terms of, you know, Michael mentioned diversity, of course. Well, I I I like to think of the native prairie, the tallgrass prairie, which I've got some restored, reconstructed here as an example of that. And and and it's the picture of biodiversity. There's almost 300. You can probably find 2 to 300 species of plants and animals that live in this ecosystem, and they interact with each other. And some thrive in some situations and, you know, drought wet, whatever it ISS. But in my mind, it's kind of a model of what we should think about as in farming to Thio. Use that as a as a something to look to to it teaches a little bit more about biodiversity. Great point to end on. I want to thank all of our Panelists. I hope folks will check out michael Pollan dot com for links to his books and articles. Niman ranch dot com, as well as talk of our dot com. And please remember to sign up for other panels and speakers, including Diamond Ranch farmers talking about the challenges they face and what eaters can do to support them on September 10th at 1 p.m. Eastern time. And that same night, please tune in to the amazing Dr Temple Grandin. Give her keynote address. You can go to Niman Ranch H fat again. That's H f a d dot com for more information. Thanks to you. All again, thanks to those of you who listened and en joined us via the Livestream. This has been an incredible discussion and I want to thank you all again. Thank you, Danny. Thank you. Thank you, Danny. On. Uh, thank you. Thank you, Danny. This'll is Rob Pere food talks executive producer. Let Danny and I know what you think of the new podcast format. Send us an email at Danielle it food tank dot com. Please feel free to suggest future guests and anything you think we can improve. Thanks so much for listening. Tune in. Next time. Mhm.