Food Tank, in partnership with the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, Farm-to-Fork Program, and University of California, Davis, is excited to announce the 1st annual Farm Tank Conference at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento on September 22–23, 2016. This two-day event will feature more than 35 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for interactive panels.
The event will feature interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees.
Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Nick Kastle, Director of Marketing and Business Development & Business Unit General Manager at The Morning Star Company, who will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Nick Kastle (NK): I ended up in the food business by accident when I was 21, but I fell in love with it. It’s been 100 percent of my commercial focus ever since and, honestly, has been an exciting journey. I wish more young people leaving college could see the industry through my eyes. They would see continually innovative industry that has grown year-over-year, covers all continents, and is one of the only industries that impacts everyone in the world.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
NK: First of all, I don’t think the system is broken. Of course, it can be improved; however, it’s a misnomer to use the word “fix” as it implies that our current system is in need of repair when in fact there are approximately 320 million people in the United States eating (hopefully) three meals a day—that’s almost one billion meals per day. It’s the current food system infrastructure that enables this volume of food consumption. Further, the vast majority of the US population spends very little time thinking about food other than: What do I want to eat? Am I eating too much? Should I have food delivered or cook? When you add technology into this mix, the food system becomes truly fascinating. Think about it: we can open up the app Postmates on our iPhones from almost anywhere in Sacramento and have virtually any type of food delivered within 40 minutes. Now, extrapolate that to food production and the supply chain, and you quickly realize that everything being delivered began as raw material (grain, fruit, vegetables, protein, and packaging). When you look at the food supply chain with that in mind, the current system is actually pretty impressive.
In my opinion, one of the largest elements surrounding food that needs to be improved is the general populations overall understanding and knowledge base of the food system. This knowledge should be based on fact and science. The consumer should understand the full current food supply-chain and all moving parts, as well as the impact of input costs and down channel impacts on the population. In a world of Facebook and Twitter, information (often based on opinion, not fact) can spread quickly and become “true” in the mind of the consumer. Education about food is something food producers as well as the media should be better at.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
NK: Changes in packaging and distribution methods.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
NK: My friends, family, and primarily my two- and four-year-old boys, Caleb and Liam. It is my conviction that safe, nutritious food is a necessity for all human beings worldwide and should be available at the lowest, sustainable price possible. Typically what we see is that the lowest income families are the most negatively impacted by changes in the cost structure in food supply. A 10-percent change in a grocery bill for a family of four earning US$40,000 a year is more of a significant impact compared to a family earning US$300,000+ because our food consumption does not wildly vary based on income. Most of us are (hopefully) eating three meals per day. Our combined mission (as it relates to food) should be to decrease the total cost of a safe, nutritious “basket of goods” through technology and innovation so people can focus their time and resources on things other than the procurement of food.
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn't have to deal with?
NK: I grew up relatively low income in a rural area, so honestly, my parents just wanted to make sure my brother and I had food to eat that was as inexpensive as possible. If I was able to ask my grandparents, they’d probably laugh and say their biggest problem was “trying to catch the chicken to clean for Sunday dinner”—of course they were both from very rural areas in western Kansas, so their view of the current food system would probably be one of admiration. I think there is a contemporary food system problem that didn’t exist a generation or two ago which is unfortunately further alienation and unfamiliarity with where food comes from.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
NK: Read. And not social media…Read the science journals, read the actual study that you hear about on Facebook—go find it and sort through the abstract, find the data, and draw your own conclusion. Ask the food processor why and how they are doing what they are doing. Do not join a “food camp” just because—read, research, and hear all sides and opinions and develop your own opinion.
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
NK: Hunger from absolute poverty worldwide.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
NK: I’d like the President to stay out of agriculture, especially if it’s one of the two that’s up for election now.
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Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Sacramento include: Almond Board of California, Annie’s Inc., Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Blue Apron, Clif Bar & Company, Driscoll's, Fair Trade USA, Farmer’s Fridge, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Inter Press Service (IPS), Niman Ranch, Organic Valley, and VegFund. More to be announced soon.
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