Get Dirty and Get Involved!

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Is sustainable farming the key to restoring our planet? On this episode of Add Passion and Stir, American Farmland Trust President and CEO John Piotti and Chef John Mooney (Bell Book & Candle, NYC; Bidwell, DC) talk with host Billy Shore and producer Paul Woodhull about the far-reaching impact of building a more sustainable food system. “If we don’t get farming right, we can’t have a sustainable future,” says Piotti. Chef Mooney’s restaurants use aeroponic rooftop gardens, which combine hydroponics with vertical growing techniques to grow fresh, pesticide-free produce. “It really suits us well to be able to do what I want to do as a chef and have it on location. [Staff] also get to learn and maintain, which gives them a little better sense of where our food comes from, which translates into the guest experience,” he notes.

Preserving farmland is one of the most important functions of American Farmland Trust. “Farmland itself plays a huge role in environmental protection,” explains Piotti. “But you can’t think about only the farm. You have to think about the farming practices that occur on that land and you have to think about the farmers who are stewards of that land,” he says. Well-known for his commitment to sustainability, Chef Mooney also owns Kakele House, an organic farm and event space on the North Shore of Oahu. “For me it’s a lifestyle and not a job,” he says. Piotti touts the benefits that small, diversified farms like Kakele House have on communities.

Listen in as these two guests discuss the meaning of sustainability and its impact on environmental, social and economic vitality.

Resources and Mentions:

John Mooney

Executive Chef/Partner of Bell Book & Candle in New York City and Bidwell in Washington DC. His career has taken him on a winding, global culinary journey creating menus and overseeing kitchen operations everywhere from India to Ireland and ultimately back to the US. He focuses on promoting sustainability in the kitchens and on the aeroponic rooftop gardens of his restaurants. Mooney was named one of the Best Hotel Chefs in the US by the James Beard Foundation for his work at Heartbeat in the W Hotel NYC in 2004. In 2011, Bell Book & Candles received the Sustainability Award from Star Chefs. His latest venture, Kakele Hawaii, is a farm and event space located on the north shore of Oahu. Mooney attended Kendall Culinary School in Illinois.

John Piotti

Joined American Farmland Trust as President and CEO in July 2016, bringing more than 25 years of executive management and public policy experience to the organization. Prior to joining American Farmland Trust, John served as President and CEO of Maine Farmland Trust for 10 years. Under his leadership, Maine Farmland Trust became an award-winning statewide nonprofit organization, helping over 500 Maine farms remain viable and permanently protecting over 50,000 acres of Maine’s best farmland. Before becoming President and CEO, John helped found Maine Farmland Trust in 1999 and served on its board of directors. In 2005, John was one of only eight Americans awarded a prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship. He spent time in Sweden and Brussels exploring European agriculture and agricultural policy. From 2002 to 2010, when he termed out, John served in Maine’s state legislature, representing eight rural communities and serving as House Majority Leader, chair of the Committee on Taxation and chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. John holds three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in engineering, public policy, and management.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

Bell Book & Candle

Located in the West Village in New York City. The food program at BB&C revolves around local, organic, sustainable and overall responsible procurement. The menu cycles are seasonal and heavily influenced on production from the aeroponic roof-top tower garden. Finding inspiration in the regions of America and focusing on the contemporary aspect and eclecticism of the melting pot, BB&C’s food strives for an element of originality and individualism.

Bidwell

Gets its name from General John Bidwell, an Army general in the 1800′s and founder of Chico, California. An avid farmer, he developed the Bidwell heirloom melon, a gold medal winning flour, and California’s first commercial raisin crop. The Bidwell menu features Chef John Mooney’s signature dishes with Southern flair and flavor made from responsible sourced ingredients. Much of the produce served at Bidwell comes from a crop of fruit and vegetables grown in aeroponic planters on the roof of Union Market.

American Farmland Trust

Saves the land that sustains us by protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land. It began in 1980 after a small group of farmers and conservationists asked an important question: What will happen to the nation’s food supply if we continue to wastefully develop our best farm and ranch land? AFT is dedicated to preserving the nation’s farm and ranch land – and critical natural resources like soil and water. They also make sure to never forget that it is people – our family farmers and ranchers – who feed us and sustain America.

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