Edible Institute

Edible 1 On March 16-17, Edible Communities hosted its Edible Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. The weekend was full of great speakers, panels and discussions, including an interview of our very own Paul Willis. The Institute touched on many aspects of our food system – from farming through consumption. Here are a few of the highlights of the two-day event:

Saturday morning started off with a bang with a presentation from the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU Professor and best-selling author. A dynamic speaker and personality, Dr. Nestle spoke about the increase in the American population’s consumption habits since 1980 and how advertising can affect our perception. She mentioned that as a country, we are consuming more calories per day and our portion sizes have increased. Additionally, she spoke about how the deregulation of health claims has allowed advertisers to target children more effectively. Dr. Nestle advocates social responsibility and is currently writing a new book about the food system for kids.

Later in the afternoon, we watched a documentary titled “Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields.” The movie introduced us to veterans of various armed forces operations and wars. The veterans spoke about some of their difficulties assimilating back into the workforce after their time in the army, and how farming gave them the outlet that they needed. It was inspiring to see these brave men and women put their leadership skills back into action as they managed and cultivated their farmland.

Sunday kicked off with an interview of Paul Willis, Niman Ranch’s founding hog farmer, by Gibson Thomas, publisher and editor of Edible Marin & Wine Country. Their conversation touched on how Paul became involved in raising his own hogs, why hebelieves in traditional raising practices and how his boar is named Walter (this got a chuckle). After the interview, Paul showed some slides of his farm, giving the audience a chance to see some of his farming methods in practice.


After Paul, Cecily Upton of FoodCorps and Barton Seaver, currently teaching at the Harvard School of Public Health, spoke about the school food system. The discussion was mainly focused on improving K-12, but Barton also gave some interesting facts from college campuses he’d visited. One school has been trying to lower “hard costs” (transportation, trash hauling, etc.) so they can increase the value placed on “soft costs” (food). With efforts such as reducing the number of boxes they take in to decrease the frequency of trash pickup and a renewed focus on composting, this school has been able to not only improve its food quality but also has hired 13 local workers.

These were just a sample of some of the fabulous content over two days at the Edible Institute. Thank you Edible Communities for a great event!

2 thoughts on “Edible Institute”

  1. You see it in the growing number of school gardens and the healthier choices in cafeterias. Sustainability in schools is sweeping the country. Administr@tor spoke with Lisa Bennett, coauthor of Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability and communications director for the Center for Ecoliteracy, a nonprofit group that guides schools through sustainability initiatives.

  2. A 6th grader from Willard Middle School was among many impassioned public speakers on the edible gardens issue. Zev Marx-Kahn, chair of Willard’s student cooking and gardening committee, said it would be “a national embarrassment” to cut the Berkeley schools’ cooking and gardening programs. He said the classes were both physically and mentally engaging and had significant value for special ed students. He added that if the $330 cost per student per year for the programs was not spent, it would ”come back to bite us later” in the form of illness and junk food consumption.

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