Nine Questions with Juliette Majot, Executive Director at Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Marisa Tsai

Food Tank, in partnership with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, is hosting the 1st Annual Chicago Food Tank Summit on November 16, 2016. 

This event will feature more than 40 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for interactive panels, 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 Juliette Majot, Executive Director at Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, who will be speaking at the summit.

Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?

Juliette Majot (JM): A lifetime commitment to human rights, including the rights to food, water, and environmental integrity. Those rights are paired with responsibilities related not just to our local communities, but also as part of global civil society in which all people should have voice in determining how, as a global community, we govern ourselves to provide for all.

FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?

JM: Recognizing the essential political nature of the food system and not backing away from the revolutionary changes that must take place regarding the growing gap between the haves and have nots, on a global level – (a system in which, ironically, farmers are among some of the most marginalized have-nots in the world when it comes to poverty, land-rights and water rights) and that means making a u-turn, away from highly centralized industrial agriculture.

FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?

JM: Agroecology.

FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?

JM: Farmers are my food heroes.  I’ve worked with many farmers in the world fighting for their land, for their rivers, for their cattle, for the right to be farmers. They are my heroes.  And another hero. John Steinbeck, for the courage to tell the story of industrializing agriculture in the voice of the farmer, Tom Joad, in the Grapes of Wrath, a book that is as fresh and as true today as it was in 1939.

FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?

JM: Understanding that it touches everything and everything touches it. Food is not a single issue – it is all issues. When I think about a food and agriculture systems that are good for farmers, good for food system workers, good for ecosystems, and good for social justice, I see a whole society where justice and equality are defining elements.

FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn't have to deal with?

JM: My grandparents owned the mill and ran the local feed and seed in Michigan City, Indiana; Majot Feed and Seed. Corporate consolidation and corporate influence over policy, domestic and global was probably not readily apparent at the local level in northern Indiana. For family farms in the U.S. the coming of industrialized farming spared the farmer from backbreaking labor, but then became itself, the end of the family farmer. And my parents lived through the dustbowl, must have lived through the spring day in 1934 when 12 million tons of soil fell on Chicago, must have seen it and felt it.  And there was little doubt at that time the dustbowl was manmade. I would like to think that my grandparents would have been among those who saw the way in which, even then, the farmers themselves were not to blame – but were following an economy built on overproduction and overworking the soil.

FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?

JM: Agricultural adaptation to, mitigation of, and resilience to climate change.

FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?

JM: First and foremost, identify our own food system myths.

FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?

JM: Do whatever it takes to ensure that current free trade agreements under negotiation do not go forward, and that new agreements are designed for a new set of trade objectives that include food security, food safety, and climate change objectives. 


To find out more about the event, see the full list of speakers, and purchase tickets, please click HERE. Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the live-stream HERE.

Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please email Bernard at

Want to watch videos from previous Food Tank Summits? Please click HERE

Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Chicago include: Almond Board of California, Annie’s Inc., Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Blue Apron, Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Clif Bar & Company, Driscoll's, Elevation Burger, Farmer’s Fridge, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Inter Press Service (IPS), Niman Ranch, and Organic Valley. More to be announced soon.

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