A new podcast promises honest conversations about food, farming, and the future of eating
The very definition of a food movement mover and shaker, Dimock recently made the leap into the world of podcasts with Flipping the Table: Honest Conversations about Food, Farming, and the Future. Produced by Patrick Sexton, the show features in-depth, engaging conversations with the some of the smartest people in the food world. Past guests have included Naomi Starkman, the founder of Civil Eats, and Anya Fernald, CEO of Bel Campo Meat Company. Upcoming guests include Miakoda Taylor, founder of Fierce Allies; Dan Imhoff, author of The Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide, Paul Dolan, an expert in biodynamic agriculture; and Nicollete Hahn Niman, a rancher and author of Defending Beef.Michael Reid Dimock is the program director at Roots of Change (ROC), a California-based project of the Public Health Institute. A leader in the Slow Food Movement, Dimock established ROC in 2002 with the goal of catalyzing thinking and legislation around the production of food and management of farms in California and beyond. In 2019, ROC’s primary work is in introducing legislative initiatives like the Small Poultry Producer Protection Act, funding for Farm to School programs, and getting a sugary beverage tax passed in California.
I sat down with Dimock at his home in Santa Rosa, as his scrappy, miniature chicken Henny Penny pecked and scratched around our chairs, to learn more about the new show and why he decided to host a podcast.
Made Local Magazine: Roots of Change has long been influential in the world of food policy and food systems. Why have you ventured into podcasts?
Michael Reid Dimock: We’ve taken on a podcast for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a mode of communication that more people find convenient. We want to reach a larger audience. We are an educational organization. Our job is to advocate and educate. Podcasts are a good platform for getting the word out about what’s going on in the world. The thing I’ve loved most about my job is that I’ve had great opportunities to meet lots of interesting people and deeply connect with them. Now, I get to share these conversations that I have all of a time. I’ve learned everything through my engagement with people—this is the most exciting learning. I’m hoping that people who have an interest in food systems, personal health, the environment, food justice, will find the conversations interesting. I also wanted to do something different. I’ve been in this business for 25 years now. You have to keep evolving and doing things to keep it interesting and fresh. Two or three years ago, I entered a period where I was really struggling. What did I want to do in the future? I came to the conclusion that I did want to stay with it, but I wanted to mix it up a little. I’d also like to say that we need more Americans, more Californians, weighing in and creating change with the law.
MLM: What are the most pressing issues in the food system and how will the podcast address them? Are you honing in on particular issues or letting the conversations drive the focus?
MRD: The people I am speaking to are focused on the big issues of the day. Regarding food justice, I am going to have a conversation with Miakoda Taylor, an African-American leader who helps people cross the divides of race and privilege. She has worked extensively with folks in the food movement. Obviously, talking to Naomi Starkman of Civil Eats is really about her 10 years of observations of what’s going on in the food movement. The episode with Anya Fernald was about meat, which is hugely controversial. In the future, I will speak with someone who is a critic of meat. I’m doing another one with Paul Dolan about biodynamic and regenerative agriculture. I also did an interview with Dan Imhoff about his new book on the farm bill. Because of the work that ROC does, there are natural linkages to people who are on the cutting edge of the different fights. I’d like to interview politicians eventually. I want to get the perspective of legislators, to ask them why the food movement is so weak politically. It’s gaining strength, but what more does it need?
MLM: Who are a few of your dream guests?
MRD: I’d love to interview the Secretary of Agriculture for the United States. We’re in pretty broad opposition about what we think of the future of food. It would be interesting to talk with him. There are also some business leaders I’d like to talk to, like the founder of Beyond Meat. Is he aware of the need for animals on the land? There are some chefs I’d like to interview—Tom Colicchio, Dan Barber. And then there are about 50 growers and ranchers I’d like to speak with. Wendell Berry would be interesting. I want to do a conversation with the next generation of food advocates: people in their 20s and 30s who are seeking change. I think there is a new energy emerging. More anger, which fuels a willingness to be radical, kind of like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I really like her energy. She’s done her homework. There are people in the food movement like her. Navina Khanna from HEAL Food Alliance. I really want to interview her. I’m focusing a lot on women. I’ve always said and always believed that women are at the heart of the food movement, starting with the original funders. In California, the women that I work with on agriculture and food policy, man! Sharp, thoughtful, and willing to get in there with their elbows and make sure they are at the front of the line.
MLM: How would you like to see the podcast move the conversation about the future of food forward?
MRD: There aren’t yet enough people that understand the complexity of the food system. It’s kind of like what’s going on with politics because of the president. He’s actually teaching Civics 101 to the American people by the controversies he’s creating. People are thinking about how we have three branches of government, how they are equally powerful. People haven’t thought about that. They haven’t thought about the implications of voting or not, and the last few elections, the importance of voting, has come to the surface. In a similar way, these conversations are meant for the person who is interested in food and health but realize that they want to know more so they can make informed decisions. I really believe we need more information. People need more detail about what’s going on [in the food system world].
Subscribe to Flipping the Table with Michael Reid Dimock at iTunes or Spotify.