Everybody Eats News Names Top Five Visionaries in Sustainable Food Movement for 2012

By on December 21, 2011

Everybody Eats News Names Top Five Visionaries in Sustainable Food Movement for 2012

 While the Sustainable Food Movement has moved from understudy  to the starring role in the Food Pantheon, there are certain Visionaries who have worked tirelessly for years to make this moment happen.


The people chosen here, have spent their entire working lives improving the food landscape for Americans. In fact, these awards could easily be called Lifetime Achievement Awards.   And the people named here, who have been, in the past called crack pots, lunatics, fools, and other such names by those who could not see as clearly as they, have finally found their place in the Sun.


In the past 50 years, as food production has gone Industrial, and developed a model that depended on chemical intervention, ever enlarging farmscapes, corporate ownership and management, and ever more invasive tinkering by Agricultural Scientists to create seeds, herbicides, and pesticides, that, while they might produce bigger crops in the short run, deplete the land, rob the food of its basic nutrients, and threaten mankind’s very existence.

These are the Visionaries who said STOP.  We must go BACK TO THE FUTURE.

Everybody Eats News wishes to honor these hard working food professionals, who exemplify the venerable Farm to Table Movement that Sustainable Food has come to be.


  1.  Joel Salatin, a Virginia Farmer, the high priest of the pasture, is first on our list. http://www.polyfacefarms.com/.

As a man who “thinks different”, Salatin has influenced a generation of farmers to understand that their first crop is the earth itself.

Salatin says, “It’s not normal for a culture to eat things it can’t pronounce and that it can’t make in its own kitchens. Ever try making corn syrup? Or red dye 29?

“If we quit feeding cows corn, and practiced mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization, 70 percent of the world’s arable land could return to perennial prairie polycultures building soil and sequestering carbon.

“That would completely destroy the power of the grain cartel, the multi-national corporations, petroleum usage. If every suburban–or urban, for that matter–lot and mega-yard became an edible landscape, supermarkets would be gone.”

Yes, Salatin sounds radical, because he is.  He understands the power of the land to become more fertile, more productive, and more valuable, not through chemical poisoning, but through carefully managed crop and animal management and rotation. Joel Salatin is a true steward of the land, and a Visionary of the first water.


2.     Alice Waters, A California restaurateur, a self-proclaimed hippie, who changed the way America eats by sourcing organic produce from local farmers beginning in 1971 for her fabled Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. Then, when Mz. Waters own daughter, Fanny, got into school, she realized that children needed to be more connected with the land and with their food.



And she started the Edible School Yard movement. http://www.chezpanissefoundation.org.

What began on the grounds of public schools in Berkeley, California, has grown, until edible school yards can be found in every state and every place from vacant lots to rooftops. Thanks to Mz. Waters tireless efforts, school menus are under eagle-eyed scrutiny by ever more vigilant parents who want their children to be offered real foods in school lunchroom programs.  Mz. Waters intends to bring her market fresh cooking principles to school lunch programs from coast to coast.


3.     Will Allen, a 6’7” retired professional basketball player who moved to Milwaukee, to be near his wife’s family, and noticed, more than 20 years ago, that the people in his close-to-the- projects neighborhood had no access to fresh foods.     

 Mr. Allen’s parents had begun as share croppers who bought a small Maryland vegetable farm.  Then, upon his retirement from basket ball, Mr. Allen went to work for Proctor and Gamble in Marketing.  But he soon found a derelict plant nursery in foreclosure in North Milwaukee and bought it, along with a 100 acre farm belonging to his inlaws and thus was born Growing Power.http://www.growingpower.org/

 What started as a single urban garden, has grown to a national movement known for improving food security for participants as well as growing the Urban Food Movement itself. Mr. Allen was awarded a Macarthur genius grant in 2008 for his foundation’s work finding unused urban and suburban lots and transforming them into gardens.

 In the process,  he teaches people to grow their own food, and earn a living at the same time. And thus, Growing Power strives for food justice in towns and cities coast to coast.

 One important offshoot of Mr. Allen’s vision, has been to help immigrant groups in this country, who may have come from rural roots and have all the tools they need to grow their own food, except the space.  From Hmong refugees to Mexican nationals, Allen’s vision has helped these newcomers to get a leg-up in the American Dream, through urban farming.

 4.     Dan Barber,  a New York City restaurateur who, singlehandedly, showed a growing cadre of fine diners, that locavore foods were the best.  Mr. Barber’s signature restaurant, Blue Hill, http://www.bluehillfarm.com/food/blue-hill-new-york,  and its suburban cousin in Westchester County,  Stone Barns at Blue Hill, http://www.bluehillfarm.com/food/blue-hill-stone-barns,have taught diners to taste their own locale, and to crave it.

 Mr. Barber, an English major, has used his passion for locally grown food to demonstrate that every day food choices can affect food sustainability. He is author of a number of books which make these principles clear.

 Mr. Barber gave a TED lecture in 2010,  http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_barber_how_i_fell_in_love_with_a_fish.html, showing how farmed fish could be healthy and desirable.  He works tirelessly to promote sustainability.

 5.      The James Beard Foundation, http://www.jamesbeard.org,which nearly collapsed under the weight of its own hubris, has risen from the ashes to become the most relevant organization to honor Sustainable Food Movement leaders with its James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards.

 As holder of a James Beard award, I can tell you, I have never been more proud than to see this organization, begun by one of America’s original visionaries, James Beard himself, when it held a celebration of America’s sustainability movement.

 According to the Beard Foundation mandate, they recognize the need to create a healthier, safer, and more sustainable food world for all.  Amen to that.



About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”