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Talking About: Food for Tomorrow

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

Few places do autumn as they do in New England. Late October in Tarrytown, New York, is rich with fall-foliage “leaf peepers” and Halloween tourists making the pilgrimage to nearby Sleepy Hollow.

But I visited last month for the New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow conference, which drew chefs, policy makers, bloggers and entrepreneurs to the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, to discuss the future of food.

You’re likely to hear more from and about these influencers and literal tastemakers, so here are a few highlights:

Food Waste: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) spoke not only as a politician but as a farm owner herself and advocating for standards that would help reduce the estimated 40 percent of America’s food that ends up being wasted.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ Executive Chef Dan Barber, continued this theme by crafting a menu that was a celebration of waste: starting with a “Dumpster Dive Salad” made of vegetable scraps with rejected apples and pears, and chickpea–water foam. "Dumpster Dive Salad"Our main course, the “Juice Pulp Cheeseburger,” featured a repurposed bun and a hearty beet-not-beef patty. Dessert? A “Honey Debris Ice Cream.” Trash never tasted so sweet.

Future Farmers — and Eaters: “Food Policy” is a dry term for a topic that sparked so much passion. From Top Chef star and restaurateur Tom Colicchio to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, many spoke passionately about the need to provide nutritious — and delicious — food at an early age, and the need to give more young, female-owned and minority farmers a chance in an increasingly challenging landscape.

Sustainability: Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish and a Pew fellow in marine conservation, broke down the considerations of aquaculture, sourcing and the environmental impacts of fishing. Expect to hear more about the value of mollusks and kelp….

Just as insightful were 21st-century odd couple Will Harris of White Oak Pastures, and Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary. Will is one of Whole Food Market’s suppliers whose operation meets Step 5+ of the 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating. Gene, co-founder of the farm-animal rescue group and author of Living the Farm Sanctuary Life, visited our global office just this summer to talk about his organization and veganism. Their conversation was “agree to disagree” at its most amiable and engaging. I had spoken to Will the night before, and he was concerned he’d be a lone voice in the room. As he spoke about his farm as a living organism, it was clear he was far from alone in respecting the animals he raises. 

Even where there are fundamental differences, there is also agreement that there is a better way to think about, source and consume food. Whether that’s providing more nutritious school lunches to keeping seafood sustainable to discovering new ways to make it possible for the next generation of farmers to thrive.

As Jill Isenbarger, executive director at Stone Barns, said while kicking off the conference, “Good food grown well is powerful.” 

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