Can the Guy From Stone Barns Be Secretary of Agriculture?

Dan Barber wants the president of the Stone Barns Center to head the USDA.
Dan Barber wants the president of the Stone Barns Center to head the USDA. Photo: Getty Images

Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Dan Barber, and 80 other food luminaries sent Barack Obama a letter today with several suggestions for a sustainably minded secretary of Agriculture. Fred Kirschenmann, the president of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, made the short list. The food at Stone Barns is fantastic, but it’s expensive and not accessible to much of the population. So what does a guy who produces food for an upscale restaurant know about being a secretary of Agriculture? We did some research, and here’s what we found.

He’s a farmer. In addition to his work at Stone Barns, Kirschenmann oversees a 3,500-acre organic farm in Windsor, North Dakota. The land has been farmed by his family since 1930.

He’s a scholar. Kirschenmann is a distinguished fellow and former director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago and is a professor at Iowa State University.

He’s familiar with the Feds. He’s already served on the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board and the National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. In an interview with Grist Magazine last October, Kirschenmann talked up the federal “Community Food Security Grant program. On a competitive basis, communities can come up with their own creative solutions to solving [local] food security problems and apply for small amounts of money to help solve them.”

He’s not cult-champion Pollan, but it’s a start!

A Pitch to Obama on Food and Farming [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
More about Fred Kirschenmann [Leopold Center]
Menu for the Next Prez [Grist]