Ep. 20: Robyn Hannigan, Founding Dean – School of the Environment at UMass Boston & Micheal Tlusty, Prof. of Sustainability & Food Solutions at UMass Boston ||

There’s been a citizens awakening to Ocean Health.  It’s a macro trend in the US, much instigated by an awareness of a younger generation to the problems we have on a shrinking planet.  On Episode 20 we welcome Drs Hannigan and Tlusty of the UMass Boston School for the Environment to discuss in detail.

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Over 70% of our planet is blue.  Unfortunately, these oceans have become a trash receptacle over the past 50 years, and it appears we’re running out of never-never-land to throw-out our growing waste stream.  You see, in that same half century time period – human population has skyrocketed from 3.5 billion to 7 billion.  Single-use non-biodegradable plastics are now everywhere; even forming its own landmass!  And, that’s just the beginning…

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During our discussion I learn about what’s going on at the new state of the art UMass School of the Environment campus on Boston Harbor.  Hannigan & Tlusty share how this New School Ocean Campus was “created out of a series of modified environmentally Ocean focused programs that we specifically designed to solve a Marine or Ocean health problem.”  Michael discusses his innovative background and past initiatives with the New England Aquarium, and now his goals within blue food economies. Robyn has great perspective on jobs creation throughout ecological & environmental markets.  We discuss solutions to funding, policy, practice, and awareness to problems local and abroad.

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@EnvSchool

@TlustyM 

 

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photo source: 


 

Ep. 19: Michel Nischan – CEO & Founder at Wholesome Wave ||

On Episode 19 of Sourcing Matters we welcome well known chef, and SNAP reformer Michel Nischan to the show.  This 4-time James Beard award winning chef is founder and President/CEO of Wholesome Wave.  As a long-time advocate of better food and proper production, Nischan has dedicated most of his career to fixing a broken system through transitioning intrinsic domestic focus from energy production to nutrient dense sustenance for more.  Nischan’s efforts have been nothing but transformative in enacting lasting change throughout the US food system, and in the mind’s eye of its consumers.
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Through the creation of successful programs like the doubling of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/ food stamps) benefits on healthy & nutritious foods, and the Produce Prescription program – Nischan has taken firm control of a political football and is now responsible for reforming a significant part of our national farm bill policy.  Additionally, in conjunction with the James Beard foundation, Nischan worked extensively with Eric Kessler to spawn the “Chef’s Boot Camps”.  Another successful venture which promotes ongoing reform, this initiative encourages civically and politically minded chefs to become more effective leaders for food-system change.  With a thousand of tomorrow’s food leaders waiting at the door to gain access to the boot camps, Nischan’s impact will persist for generations to come.
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The entire hour of our conversation is well worth a listen.  But, if you have only 10 minutes to lend an ear – tune-in to hear the power of Michel’s words and the emotional description of his dear friends Paul Newman and Gus Schumacher.  Both influential allies; both impressive leaders; both iconoclasts who’ve have disrupted by leaving this place much better than they had found it.
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During the conversation Michel Nischan defines food as the “silver bullet” needed to engage more folks into their environmental footprint, and to the negative consequences of shortcuts used in production have on human and public health.  He explains that the food we eat is an unparalleled opportunity to democratize complex conversations in systems thinking.  As we’re all eaters, and eating is an agricultural act – we can all connect by breaking this bread together.
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A inspirational leader, and an agent of change – Michel Nischan has levered his stardom to change the world for the better through his medium of food. And, what’s even better – he’s only just begun.
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@michelnischan

@wholesomewave

 

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photo source: William Taufic


 

Ep. 18: Jill Isenbarger – CEO of Stone Barns & Wendy Millet – Director at TomKat ||

Today I’m joined by two knowledgeable thought leaders pioneering a better food movement sprawling from coast to coast, and everywhere in-between.  On episode 18 of Sourcing Matters Wendy Millet – Director of Tomkat Ranch research center, and Jill Isenbarger – CEO of Stone Barns Center discuss all important topics ranging from circular economies, holistic management, food & Agtech, and more which have begun casting a long shadow over a quickly changing domestic food landscape.
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Over the last decade, TomKat Ranch and the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture have materialized into the tip of the spear of domestic regenerative agricultural reform.  Through convening gatherings of industry expertise and consumers alike these unique epicenters of future food have gained a finger on the pulse of what it’ll take to return values back to food, and how to engage tomorrow’s workforce into the diverse rewards and opportunities of reconnecting with the land.
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Supremely humble and approachable, Millet & Isenbarger are great friends who’ve accepted their leadership roles in this evolution of domestic expansion inevitably more holistic.  A 21st century revision that systematically works to clean-up the wake of failed experiments which range from Manifest Destiny to Earl Butz – a new script for agriculture is now being penned by leaders with focus on living within the rules of natural order and harmonizing interests for greater good on a shared and shrinking planet.  The ingenuity teeming from these bookends of regenerative reform are a significant part of this new playbook for future agricultural models which enhance instead of deplete regenerative natural resources.
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Now, leveraging an innovation economy which spawns creatively and engagement into future food as an agent of change to crack the nut of more complex systems like human & public health, environmental impact, community engagement and sustainable jobs – the anchor industry of agriculture is establishing a new cost basis for future economies becoming ultimately more circular.   Have a listen to what these folks have to say.  Ultimately, they’re defining a succession plan for us all.

@StoneBarns  ||  @tomkat_ranch

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Ep. 17 Monica Jain: Fish2.o founder & Executive Director ||

Today on Sourcing Matters we explore the oceans with an expert and innovator redefining how we’ll manage this essential regenerative natural resource.  Architected out of an online business competition, Monica Jain founded and is Executive Director of Fish2.0, an ecosystem “where seafood businesses & investors meet”.  Perpetually coaching and facilitating founders amongst her wide net, Jain evaluates a diverse spectrum of concepts ranging from supply chain transparency & traceability – to- next gen gear tech – to- smart and biomimetic fish meal for aquaculture – to – big data efficiencies reducing waste and deadloss.  Now, traveling the globe to instigate innovation throughout future fisheries, Jain uses regional think-tanks and gatherings of industry experts with entrepreneurs to foster growth in a stagnant and often detrimental industry. Culminating with an annual onsite business competition at Stanford – Fish2.0 has quickly become the hub of innovation economies for the best-of-the-best in global fisheries, ocean farming and aquaculture.

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With three billion people around the world reliant on sea protein for their main caloric intake, and over 90% global fisheries currently stressed or overstressed – Monica Jain works diligently to draft a new model for transformative change in arena teeming with catastrophic problems set to plague humanity and the planet.  It’s estimated that by 2025 China will be consuming nearly 40% of all seafood. In that same time horizon the South China Sea is expected to be fished out, and exhausted of much of its biodiversity. During our discussion Jain shares a multi-pronged approach which will use free-markets, policy, NGOs, and ingenuity to reevaluate this problem through deeper understanding of natural systems and health to manage this essential food supply.  Through a nimble team Jain has established a framework to positively impact the stability of a shrinking  planet.

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You must have a listen to what this change agent has to say.

@fish2.0

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Ep. 16 Jack Algiere: Farm Director at Stone Barns Agricultural Center ||

On Sourcing Matters episode 16 we welcome Jack Algiere, farm manager at Stone Barns Agricultural Research Center.  An insightful guide who has taken the reins in shepherding the future food system more regenerative, Algiere takes great pride and responsibility in his work.  Through a well endowed 80 acre central farm, and an additional 350 acres of pastural lands – Jack and his team manage a multidimensional farm of diverse outputs that fields 150,000 guests a year at their working hub. The goal of this agricultural research and educational epicenter in West Chester NY is to cast a large shadow on consumers and producers alike through better connecting more to natural order through the food we eat.  There are many challenges of this type of agritourism on a working farm, but Jack takes them all in stride – stating: “We can only look ahead.  If people engage in food; if they ask for, and demand more – we can change the food system together.”  Algiere continues, “Where do we learn this stuff?  On the small, beautiful farms we can all access.”

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Algiere defines regenerative agriculture as land and natural resource conservation beginning from the soil up.  This new, but fundamentally old-school of thought in feeding ourselves on a shrinking planet is vastly different than nearly every conventional agricultural model currently using an extractive and/or input-based approach. This too is changing. Algiere states that he welcomes scientific advancements.  Seeing the broad-reaching potential to have a seat at the table, to embrace these current conventional models based on yesterday’s science as essential but tricky – Algiere is equal parts pragmatic farmer, and systems thinking philosopher set on harmonizing man’s role in these systems.  He explains – “there are very few things we inherit in this world, and (planet & animal) genetics is one.  We must guard that responsibility.”  His Young farmers program which teaches and spawns tomorrow’s guardians of biodiversity with the skills and access to properly manage these interconnected natural systems essential for future planetary, economic and political stability is something we must more broadly evaluate, and thus replicate.   What’s most incredible for any of us – from getting your hands dirty – to witnessing transformative change – to consuming world class food – the entire immersive experience at Stone Barns Agricultural Center is accessible to all.
So, have a listen to what Jack has to say.  Better yet, go visit, and you’ll forever understand the many values good food can have on us all.

@StoneBarns

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*photo source: Stranded on Land


 

Ep. 15 Brett Brohl: Managing Director of TechStars farm-to-fork accelerator ||

Today on episode 15 we welcome Brett Brohl, Managing Director of TechStars farm-to-fork accelerator.  Brett is an experienced entrepreneur, investor, and mentor who is driven by making a difference in the world through helping entrepreneurs succeed.  Spawned by the influence of his wife, Brett’s interest in food and agriculture has percolated into the creation of this TechStars vertical dedicated to the future of food and proper resource management in feeding ourselves on a shrinking planet.  New England’s facilitator of a new Food Economy, Lauren Abda joins the conversation as a first time co-host.

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Over the past five years an innovation economy has been amassing in food & ag-tech.  Despite maturity and complexity, food systems and agriculture are one of the last giants to remain analog and antiquated.  From last mile delivery, mobile animal processing, big data accurately tracking global fisheries, or provenance of food, on new metrics & KPIs monitoring food values and production externalities, and even Blockchain on tomatoes – change seems to be enveloping at Moore’s law.   Leveraging their impressive linage in tech start-up success, TechStars received 2500 applications for only10 slots available in their inaugural Minneapolis program beginning in July.  As Abda has been doing throughout the Northeast over the past few years, Brett and his team at TechStars farm-to-fork accelerator are trying to make sense of all the bluesky opportunity around the country, and deliver a valuable initiative becoming increasingly crucial to us all.

 

@techstars

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Ep. 14 Ayr Muir: CEO & founder at Clover Food Lab ||

Spawned from a food truck in Kendall Sq, Ayr Muir has been advancing food systems for the last decade. Now, with 12 restaurants and zero food trucks around Boston & Cambridge – Muir has his sights set on refining a process that can continue to scale without sacrificing commitment to quality. In our chat we cover supply chain integrity and transparency, Clover’s open kitchen concept where food deliveries come through the front door, the diverse values of the whole wheat berry, the experience of finding good coffee, and more innovations Clover has unearthed throughout the years.

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18 months ago Ayr Muir made a commitment to his employees. National minimum wage is $7.25, and MA today is $11 pr/hr. Ayr commitment to a fair living wage of at least $15 per, and now has upped the challenge again – explaining “if it’s right for the employees, it’s worth fighting for.”  Muir has monitored similar key metrics of success from day one.  Now, with many lessons under his belt – these sound business decisions seem to be second nature as Ayr’s commitment to quality & flavorful ingredients, to good people and to the planet push forward each informed strategy.
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Throughout the conversation Ayr offers insights to the many values of well source food from responsible and progressive agriculture.  With regards to plant-based meats – and how progressive we become “is still something we’re all trying to figure out” according to Muir.  You can’t fake quality with their approach.  Have a listen:

@cloverfoodlab

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*photo source: BostonGPS


 

Ep. 13 Arion Thiboumery: General Manager, Vermont Packinghouse ||

For the past four years Arion Thiboumery has been progressing the regional food movement of the Northeast. Offering services that range from an advanced kill floor -to- full carcass utilization preserving elevated production standards up & down the value chain -to- value-add sausage, bacon, hams and more – Vermont Packinghouse is a full service provider establishing a new niche in domestic production. Through commitment to unparalleled transparency in their process and products coming through their facility, Arion and his team of 60 are defining new expectations in food provenance through their approach to food animal processing.

 

During a 35 minute chat, host Aaron Niederhelman discusses with Thiboumery a wide variety of subjects including the current state of the industry, bioregions for economic growth, new competition from plant-based cellular meat products and growth plans to scale Vermont Packinghouse’s honed process. Thiboumery  explains that he’s “a recovering academic who decided to get my hands dirty in meat processing”.  A deep thinking student of the game, Arion has a vision for the future of the American food system with a more engaged consumer who eat less meat, but better of it.  Have a listen, and learn why modern processing committed to transparency and provenance is cornerstone to feeding a shrinking and resource challenged world.

 

www.VermontPackinghouse.com

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*photos of Arion Thiboumery by Everett Meissner 


 

Ep. 12 Bill Buckner: President & CEO of Noble Research Institute ||

On episode 12 of Sourcing Matters we welcome Bill Buckner, President and CEO of Noble Research institute.  As the largest independent private agricultural organization in the US, Noble has recently focused on bridging the worlds of conventional and Organic production through a commitment to land management and soil health that will provide solutions to the vast challenges facing Agriculture, and humanity as a whole.

 

Founded in 1945 in response to the dust bowl, the core competencies of land stewardship and proper resource conservation to prevent future disaster is part of Noble’s linage.  Earlier this year they’ve launched a market exchange for natural resources currently not even given a commodity value. It’s the hope of Buckner and his team of 400 at the Noble Research Institute that by adding a new cost basis to soil health, carbon and water – we’ll be able to decommoditized food and promote the differentiated values from elevated production models – while furthering commitment to regenerative natural resources.  Collectively, that’s a competitive advantage for all domestic producers.  Raising this minimum market threshold seems an essential next step in on-ramping more farmers to evolve production models often inherited with succession of a farm.  As more consumers appreciate those values of the food sourced with any and all aspirational standards it’ll continue to become increasingly more mainstream in the marketplace.

 

What I learned in our discussion was that Bill Buckner is a practitioner of change.  Gracefully handling language that is often alienating and ostracizing for different sides of the fence, you must listen to our chat as he explains how it’s the farmers who’ll elevate the conversation and transcend much of the infighting that has put us in such polarized position.  I think there are some lessons to be learned in our discussion by our brethren in DC.  For food and managing our resources – it’s the farmers and the consumers that will meet in the middle to balance a system that must become more harmonious, and just.

 

www.Noble.org



 

Ep. 11 Tim Joseph: Founder and owner of Maple Hill Creamery ||

Through the creation of a world-class creamery in upstate New York, Tim Joseph has seen his fair share of learning experiences. Joseph and his growing aggregation of dairy farms have become the tip of the spear in testing and evolving best holistic management practice to maximize the many values of a grassfed production model to benefit animals, land and consumer health.

Beginning with the quality of taste of their products, Tim Joseph has become more than just a student of the game in differentiating their products through elevated production standards.  Maple Hill Creamery has become a market leader in advancing consumer awareness in all food animal production. Simplifying the messaging that focuses on the personal benefits of investing in the animals and their living environments has seemed to resonate with more.  Now, leveraging that with extensive research into growing consumer’s interest in their food and the mirroring of the success witnessed in other products categories like beer, wine, coffee, sweets and savories – Joseph and his growing but never compromising dairy believe they’ve just scratched the surface on an increasingly crowded yogurt shelf.

www.MapleHill.com