FERN Talks & Eats: Provocative conversation, delicious food

FERN tells great stories. Stories with bite. Stories with drama. Stories that make a difference. We dig deeply into the facts about our food and into what industry and government are doing to agriculture and the environment.

But reading an article in a magazine or online isn’t the only way to get that depth and perspective. FERN Talks & Eats is about digging into the most important issues facing our food system today. In November 2014, our sold-out Brooklyn event combined storytelling, performance, and food prepared by top chefs. It was a huge success and offered a multi-sensory experience of our work.

FERN Talks & Eats opens our stories to new audiences and fosters an intimacy that is hard to replicate on the page. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

2018 Brooklyn, New York

The #MeToo movement revealed allegations of abusive behavior by several high-profile chefs and restaurateurs, sparking a national conversation about sexual harassment and gender inequity in the restaurant industry. But for many women working in that industry, the revelations came as no surprise. On October 1, 2018, FERN hosted a panel in Brooklyn of top woman chefs, writers and food activists to discuss the problem, and how to work toward a more equitable and inclusive future.

Watch the 2018 Highlights

Watch the Full Panel

Tracie McMillan – Moderator


Tracie McMillan is the author of the award-winning, New York Times bestseller, The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table. She writes about equity, the safety net and food for publications including National Geographic, The New York Times, NPR’s The Salt and FERN. She currently teaches a writing class, “Intersectionality on Your Plate,” in the food studies department at New York University. Follow her at @tmmcmillan.

Ashtin Berry

Bartender and Activist

Ashtin Berry is a food and beverage activist committed to creating equitable spaces within the hospitality industry. She focuses on creating hospitality trainings that implement inclusive language that can be applied to everyday work.In 2018, she joined Bacardi to headline the inaugural Women in Leadership Tour, and has spoken at a number of conferences including Chicago Style, Toronto Cocktail Conference, and many more. Berry’s work has been featured in top industry publications including Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Chefs Feed, and Star Chefs.

In her forthcoming podcast Family Meal, Berry unpacks the systemic issues facing the hospitality industry alongside experts–which includes social workers, sociologist, professors, and researchers. This fall, Berry is taking her experience of conceptualizing bar programs and directing beverage programs, to open her very own establishment in New Orleans, LA.

Amanda Cohen

Chef, Dirt Candy

Amanda Cohen is the chef and owner of Dirt Candy, the award-winning vegetable restaurant on New York City’s Lower East Side. Dirt Candy was the first vegetable-focused restaurant in the city and the leader of the vegetable-forward movement. The restaurant’s original location only had 18 seats and was open for seven years, during which time it became the first vegetarian restaurant in 17 years to receive two stars from The New York Times, was recognized by the Michelin Guide five years in a row, and won awards from Gourmet Magazine, the Village Voice, and many others. Its new location opened in January, 2015 and it was the first restaurant in the city to eliminate tipping and share profits with its employees. Amanda was the first vegetarian chef to compete on Iron Chef America and her comic book cookbook, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, is the first graphic novel cookbook to be published in North America. It’s currently in its seventh printing. She is also a Canadian. In 2018, New York Magazine named Dirt Candy “The Absolute Best Restaurant on the Lower East Side.”

Alana McMillan

Co-founder, JaynesBeard

Alana McMillan is one of the co-founders of JaynesBeard, a next-level culinary experience for lesbian and queer women in New York City. JaynesBeard produces private, pop-up events that range from cocktail parties to multi-course, plated meals (and everything in between.) These dinners highlight up-and-coming, mostly queer and female chefs and bartenders. JaynesBeard has been featured in The New York Times, Cherry Bombe and Jarry Magazine.

Ruth Reichl

Author, former The New York Times dining critic and Gourmet editor

Ruth Reichl is the author of My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, a cookbook published in September 2015. She was Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine from 1999 to 2009. Before that she was the restaurant critic of both The New York Times (1993-1999) and the Los Angeles Times (1984-1993), where she was also named food editor. As co-owner of The Swallow Restaurant from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California. In the years that followed, she served as restaurant critic for New West and California magazines. Reichl began writing about food in 1972, when she published Mmmmm: A Feastiary. She is the editor of The Modern Library Food Series, which currently includes 10 books. She is Executive Producer and host of the public television series, Adventures with Ruth. She is also a producer on the Fox 2000 movie, Garlic and Sapphires.

2017 San Francisco, California

On November 9, 2017, leaders in the anti-hunger movement in California gathered in San Francisco for a discussion, co-hosted by the Food & Environment Reporting Network and the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, of what it takes to fight hunger in the age of Trump.

Watch the 2017 Highlights

You can dig in to some of the issues we covered in these extended segments:

What is California doing to protect nutrition benefits?

How do you balance animal welfare and hunger?

What can individuals to do help?

Sam Fromartz – Moderator

Editor-in-chief, FERN and Author, In Search of the Perfect Loaf

FERN’s Editor-in-Chief Sam Fromartz provides the welcome to our event and a brief explanation of what it’s all about. Fromartz is also the author of the award-winning book In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey (September 2014, Viking). He is a veteran journalist focused on the intersection of the environment, food, and sustainable business.

Jessica Bartholow

Policy Advocate, Western Center on Law and Poverty

Jessica Bartholow is a Policy Advocate with nearly two decades of experience in anti-poverty organizing, advocacy and program development at the local, state and national level. Jessica has co-authored several advocate and program guides and led a coalition to support the passage of several pieces of signed legislation that improve public benefits delivery, consumer protections and financial empowerment for low-income Americans. Jessica holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science and is the 2012 recipient of the Wellstone -Wheeler National Anti-Hunger Advocate of the Year Award.

Elizabeth Gomez

Associate Director of Client Services, Alameda County Community Food Bank

Elizabeth Gomez is the Associate Director of Client Services at the Alameda County Community Food Bank, Oakland, CA, where she works with a team of 15 bilingual outreach associates and supervises SNAP outreach subcontracting agencies’ activities throughout the county. She has over 20 years’ experience working directly with low-income communities to improve their health and well-being. She has designed and developed outreach programs to increase access to healthy food for Alameda County’s low-income populations; including outreach for CalFresh/SNAP, Summer Lunch, School Meals, Food Helpline and most recently, the FoodNow.net website.

Alexis Guild

Senior Health Policy Analyst, Farmworker Justice

Alexis Guild is the Senior Health Policy Analyst at Farmworker Justice, a national farmworker advocacy organization in Washington, DC. She works with community/migrant health centers, farmworker community-based organizations, and legal services organizations to ensure access to healthcare for farmworkers and their families across the U.S. She provides analysis and training on federal health policy issues affecting farmworker communities, most notably the Affordable Care Act. Alexis has extensive experience in public health and community organizing. Prior to graduate school, she served as a Health Education Volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in Guatemala. She has a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan.

Ricardo Salvador

Senior Scientist and Food and Environment Program Director, Union of Concerned Scientists

As the senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ricardo Salvador works with citizens, scientists, economists, and politicians to transition our current food system into one that grows healthy foods while employing sustainable and socially equitable practices.Before coming to UCS, Dr. Salvador served as a program officer for food, health, and well-being with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this capacity, he was responsible for conceptualizing and managing the Foundation’s food systems programming. He partnered with colleagues to create programs that addressed the connections between food and health, environment, economic development, sovereignty, and social justice.

2016 San Carlos, California

In 2016, we held a fascinating evening of panels in the heart of Silicon Valley, CA with an incredible and diverse group of entrepreneurs and investors who considered how sustainability can become more than just a buzzword for the “new food” and ag tech businesses of tomorrow.

Watch the 2016 Highlights

“Can New Foods and Ag Tech Truly be Sustainable?”
After decades of negative public health consequences and high environmental costs, it’s clear that urgent work is needed to reshape the food system. But are “new foods” and ag tech the answer? And if so, what needs to be on the agenda? Led by FERN Editor-in-chief Sam Fromartz, two panels discussed how and if food start-ups can truly transform the food system, rather than simply offer the latest food or farming fad.

FERN framed the issues facing entrepreneurs and investors, and looked to offer comprehensive solutions to these questions: How can sustainability be a core principle in a disruptive venture and what measurements can be used to track success? How can investors ensure that sustainability is a mandate? How can these metrics become more than just marketing? And how successful will these sustainable models likely be?

Sam Fromartz – Moderator

Editor-in-chief, FERN and Author, In Search of the Perfect Loaf

FERN’s Editor-in-Chief Sam Fromartz provides the welcome to our event and a brief explanation of what it’s all about. Fromartz is also the author of the award-winning book In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey (September 2014, Viking). He is a veteran journalist focused on the intersection of the environment, food, and sustainable business.

Rob Trice – Moderator

Better Food Ventures

Rob Trice is the Founder of The Mixing Bowl & Better Food Ventures. He is leveraging his experience in mobile, internet and telecom venture capital to pursue the application of IT to the food and agriculture sectors. The Mixing Bowl is a forum to link food, agriculture and IT innovators.  Better Food Ventures makes seed-stage investments that harness the power of information and communications technology to improve food and agriculture. Rob previously worked at Swisscom Ventures, SK Telecom Ventures, Nokia Growth Partners and Nokia Venture Partners (now BlueRun Ventures). Prior to his days in venture capital, he worked at DIRECTV in LA and at a DC-based think-tank, The Center for Strategic & International Studies.  He also founded the non-profit Corporate Innovators Huddle, serves on the board of San Francisco-based engaged philanthropy organization, Full Circle Fund, and farmer business support non-profit Kitchen Table Advisors. He splits his time between Menlo Park and Pescadero, CA.


Stephen DeBerry

Bronze Investments

Stephen DeBerry makes and manages investments that align strong financial returns with positive social impact. He is the founder of Bronze Investments and formerly a partner at Kapor Capital, Investment Director at Omidyar Network and Trustee and Member of the Investment Committee at The California Endowment. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with highest honors from UCLA as well as a Master’s in Social Anthropology and MBA degrees from The University of Oxford. He is a Marshall Scholar and Aspen Institute Crown Fellow who Ebony Magazine and The Root separately named one of the 100 most powerful African Americans in the US.

Anya Fernald

Belcampo, Inc.

Anya Fernald is the co-founder and CEO of Belcampo Inc., a group of innovative, agricultural ventures in California and Belize, which strives to make good food both the old fashioned way and on a larger scale than ever before. Belcampo employs over a hundred people in total, with plans to grow awareness, availability, and production of sustainably farmed food through its operations of organic farms, butcher shops and restaurants, as well as unique, luxury agritourism destinations.Anya developed her expertise in sustainable food and business management with over a decade of hands-on experience. As a Watson fellow in Europe and North America, her career in food began as an itinerant cheesemaker. In 2000 and 2001, Anya gained knowledge of the business side of food making by developing and implementing business and marketing plans for small-scale cheesemakers in Sicily for a European Union rural development initiative. She then moved on to direct the International Presidia program at the Slow Food Foundation in Italy, where she devised and instigated a micro-investment program that managed business planning and marketing for small-scale artisan food producers in countries such as Madagascar, Sweden, Ecuador, and Bosnia between 2001 and 2005. After returning to her home state of California in 2006, Anya directed a statewide Farm-to-School initiative in over 100 low-income schools, and launched the California Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign. In the summer of 2007, she became the Executive Director of Slow Food Nation, and soon founded Live Culture Co., a business and marketing consulting firm that advised, supported, and further developed over two dozen profitable, values-driven food businesses in its three years of activity. In 2011, Anya founded the non-profit Food Craft Institute – which hosts the annual Eat Real Festival in Oakland – and currently serves as its board chair.

Kat Taylor

Radicle Impact

Kat Taylor is intent on changing the food and banking systems for good through business models and philanthropy. She believes that agriculture represents the dominant way we tend the planet, for better or for worse. To find and de-risk animal agriculture management practices that optimize for greatest societal value, Kat founded TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation on her family’s cattle ranch. With science partners Point Blue on site and broader science-based collaborative experimentation, TKREF hosts a learning lab for strategies to re-sequester carbon into soils, enhance water quality and retention, and restore biodiversity, all while producing a healthy food product. TomKat Charitable Trust, the family charitable vehicle, grant funds a robust ecosystem for food system change to complement the working ranch activities. Among the Trust’s priorities are big buyer strategies to shift supply chains beneficially (like California Food for California Kids), empowerment of eaters from all settings (from basic agro-ecology research to protection of transparency in food markets), and food movement-building.

Kat also believes that banking is our original and most powerful form of crowdfunding so it’s important to get it right. To gain insights for aligning banking with benefit to all and harm to none, she and her husband started Beneficial State Bank in 2007. Beneficial State Bank is owned in the public interest, reinvesting profits into the low-resourced communities it serves and the earth upon which we all depend. BSB adheres to a lending practice that preponderantly supports (with 75% or more of the loan dollars) a just and renewable economy and eschews contra-mission activities. BSB also broadcasts to its stakeholders all financial and non-financial performance results, from BCorp and JUST assessment ratings to greenhouse gas, landfill and water footprints. Kat serves as Co-CEO of the bank and Co-Chair of the bank and bank holding companies. Kat also supports all efforts to avert climate disaster and restore broad-based prosperity. Kat graduated from Harvard College in 1980 and earned a JD/MBA from Stanford University in 1986. Her husband and four grown children are all also pursuing their own wild and precious lives and love gathering over food, playing sports and communing with the great outdoors.

Josh Tetrick

Hampton Creek

Josh Tetrick founded Hampton Creek, Inc. in 2012 and serves as its Chief Executive Officer. Josh– a social entrepreneur, writer, and speaker — has led a United Nations business initiative in Kenya, worked for both former President Clinton and the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and taught street children as a Fulbright Scholar in Nigeria and South Africa.

Sarah Vared

MissionPoint Capital

Sarah Vared focuses on investments related to sustainability, agriculture, efficiency and resilience. In her role at MissionPoint, Sarah currently serves as the Interim Director for ReFED, a multi-stakeholder collaborative of foundations, investors, nonprofits, business and government to develop a first ever national roadmap to reduce food waste at scale in the United States. Previously, Sarah worked for Pacific Gas and Electric Company where her work included the development of innovative programs to reduce energy consumption through analytics and automation. Sarah has an MBA from the Presidio Graduate School and a BA from University of California, Santa Barbara.

Vishal Vasishth

Obvious Ventures

Vishal Vasishth is the co-founder of Obvious Ventures with Evan Williams and James Joaquin. Obvious Ventures invests in world positive technology companies across three themes: Sustainable Systems, Healthy Living & People Power. Most recently Vishal was the founding partner of SONG Investment Advisors, an India- based fund backed by Soros Economic Development Fund, Omidyar Network and Google. He also served as a senior executive at Steve Case’s Revolution, LLC and as Chief Strategy Officer at Patagonia, a leading multichannel retailer of outdoor and active lifestyle products in the US.Vishal has demonstrated track record of operating and investing both in USA and Asia and creating value across diverse consumer oriented businesses. He was selected as a Henry Crown fellow of the Aspen Institute and a Next Generation Fellow of the American Assembly, both fellowships that recognize value-based leaders. Vishal earned a B. Tech degree in India, a Master’s degree in Sciences from North Carolina State University and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.Vishal grew up in the fast growing city of Chandigarh, India.

2014 Brooklyn, New York

Watch the 2014 Highlights

Sam Fromartz – Moderator

Editor-in-chief, FERN and Author, In Search of the Perfect Loaf

FERN’s Editor-in-Chief Sam Fromartz provides the welcome to our event and a brief explanation of what it’s all about. Fromartz is also the author of the award-winning book In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey (September 2014, Viking). He is a veteran journalist focused on the intersection of the environment, food, and sustainable business.

Bread Basket of Freshly Baked Breads​: Rye Ciabatta, Spelt Ciabatta, Buckwheat Baguette​ offered with an assortment of Organic Valley Pasture butter and Grassmilk cheddar, housemade ​ricotta and smoked bluefish spread by Chef Peter Endriss, Runner and Stone

Watch a full-length version of Sam Fromartz’s comments.
Dan Barber – “A Conversation

Chef and Author, The Third Plate

Dan Barber, co-owner and executive chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, sits down with FERN Editor-in-Chief Sam Fromartz to talk bread. Not just bread, but the vanishing diversity of bread flours used by chefs and farmers, who once relied on ancient varieties like rye and farro to nourish their loaves and their soil. Barber is the author of the book, The Third Plate (May 2014, The Penguin Press). He has received multiple James Beard awards including Best Chef: New York City (2006) and the country’s Outstanding Chef (2009). In 2009, he was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Eat the Whole Farm: Farro Cracker with Fall Vegetables and Herbs, by Franny Stephens and Jonathan Adler of Franny’s

Watch a full-length version of Dan Barber’s performance.
Lisa Hamilton – “Fresh Rice”

Writer and Photographer

Writer and photographer Lisa M. Hamilton sends a hush over the room as she tells the story of Hmong gardeners caught between diaspora in their mother country and drought in Fresno, California. Hamilton won a James Beard Foundation Award for her story with FERN and Harper’s on quinoa in Bolivia. She is the author of Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness (Counterpoint, 2010). Her work has also been published in Harper’sThe AtlanticMcSweeney’sOrion, and Gastronomica.

Arroz Con Leche by Chef Seamus Mullen of Tertulia

Watch a full-length version of Lisa M. Hamilton’s performance.
Maryn McKenna – “Meeting Your Dinner”

Journalist and Author

Maryn McKenna transports listeners to a poultry kill floor in rural Georgia, where she examines her own relationship with meat at one of the country’s most progressive ranches. Known for her coverage of antibiotic resistance, McKenna was the recipient of the 2013 Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences, and was a finalist for a James Beard Foundation Media Award for her article written with FERN on “the post-antibiotic future.” McKenna is a blogger for National Geographic’s The Plate, a columnist and contributing editor for Scientific American and the author of SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA (Free Press/Simon & Schuster 2010).

Coq au Vin with Celery Root Puree and Braised Greens by Chef Jason Weiner of Almond

Watch a full-length version of Maryn McKenna’s performance.
Tracie McMillan – “The Secret World of Garlic”


After going undercover in the garlic fields of California, Tracie McMillan tells the audience of the families she met, as they labored to fill 5 gallon buckets for $1.60 each. McMillan is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table. In 2012, Whole Living magazine named her a “Food Visionary,” and she won a James Beard Journalism Award for her feature on farm labor produced with FERN and published by The American Prospect. She has written about food and class for a variety of publications, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, Saveur, and Slate.

Garlic Soup and Garlic Grissini by Mary Cleaver of Cleaver Co.

Watch a full-length version of Tracie McMillan’s performance.
Michelle Nijhuis – “Murder in the Ozarks”


In this true crime story, Michelle Nijhuis tells the strange tale of sturgeon poachers stealing caviar eggs from the Ozarks and the authorities determined to stop them from destroying a species. A self-described “lapsed biologist,” Nijhuis is a longtime contributing editor of High Country News and a contributing writer for Smithsonian. Her work has also appeared in National Geographic, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, OnEarth, Nature, Audubon, Orion, Parade, and The Christian Science Monitor, and her commentaries have aired on NPR’s All Things Considered. She has won several national journalism honors.

Snapper Crudo with Paddlefish Roe by Chef Richard Kuo of Pearl & Ash

Watch a full-length version of Michelle Nijhuis’s performance.

2013 New York, New York
“Salt, Sugar, Fat”

Michael Moss


Michael Moss

Michael Moss is author of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us and has been a reporter with the investigations group since joining The New York Times in 2000. Before coming to The Times, Mr. Moss was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Colo., and the High Country News in Lander, Wyo. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for his reporting on the lack of protective armor for soldiers in Iraq, and in 1999 for a team effort on Wall Street’s emerging influence in the nursing home industry.

Ruth Reichl


Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl is author of Delicious!: A Novel, Editorial Advisor to Gilt Taste and Editor-at-Large at Random House. From 1999 to 2009 she was Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine. She began her career as restaurant critic for New West and California magazines and went on to be the restaurant critic and food editor of the Los Angeles Times. From 1993-1999 she served as restaurant critic for The New York Times. She has authored four memoirs, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, and For You, Mom, Finally.

Watch a full-length version of Michael and Ruth’s performance.

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