This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready
copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers
or use the "Reprints" tool
that appears next to any article. Visit
for samples and additional
Order a reprint of this article now.
March 22, 2009
Is a Food Revolution Now in Season?
AS tens of thousands of people recently strolled among booths of the nation’s largest organic and natural
foods show here, munching on fair-trade chocolate and sipping organic wine, a few dozen pioneers of the
industry sneaked off to an out-of-the-way conference room.
Although unit sales of
have leveled off and even declined lately, versus a year earlier, the mood
among those crowded into the conference room was upbeat as they awaited a private screening of a
documentary called “Food Inc.” — a withering critique of agribusiness and industrially produced food.
They also gathered to relish their changing political fortunes, courtesy of the Obama administration.
“This has never been just about business,” said Gary Hirshberg, chief executive of Stonyfield Farm, the
maker of organic yogurt. “We are here to change the world. We dreamt for decades of having this moment.”
After being largely ignored for years by Washington, advocates of organic and locally grown food have found
a receptive ear in the White House, which has vowed to encourage a more nutritious and sustainable food
The most vocal booster so far has been the first lady,
, who has emphasized the need for
fresh, unprocessed, locally grown food and, last week, started work on a White House vegetable garden.
More surprising, perhaps, are the pronouncements out of the Department of Agriculture, an agency with
long and close ties to agribusiness.
, the new secretary of agriculture, took a jackhammer to a patch of pavement
outside his headquarters to create his own organic “people’s garden.” Two weeks later, the Obama
administration named Kathleen Merrigan, an assistant professor at
and a longtime
champion of sustainable agriculture and healthy food, as Mr. Vilsack’s top deputy.
Mr. Hirshberg and other sustainable-food activists are hoping that such actions are precursors to major
changes in the way the federal government oversees the nation’s food supply and farms, changes that could
significantly bolster demand for fresh, local and organic products. Already, they have offered plenty of
For instance, the celebrity chef
recommends that the federal government triple its budget for
school lunches to provide youngsters with healthier food. And the author
has called on