Belching cows, Food Inc. and campaign finance reform: My lunch with Stonyfield Farm CE-Yo Gary Hirshberg

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Last Thursday, I took a break from my usual routine of errands, school pick-up/drop-off, and playing peek-a-boo with my adorable baby to join a few other lucky Chicagoans for a lunch at Frontera Grill with Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm.

As a mother to three little yogurt-lovers (and a believer in healthy, sustainable food), I jumped at the chance to lunch with Gary and hear more about his successful business model and the organic industry in general.

Gary spoke about his commitment to running his company in a way that every participant wins -- the shareholder, the employees, the planet, our collective health, and the consumer. With nearly 350 million dollars in annual sales to back him up, Gary is an example that it is possible to do business in a way that is sustainable and responsible and make money.

The two-hour long conversation covered some serious ground. We talked about the need for campaign finance reform to eliminate the subsidies that pay farmers to grow cheap and unhealthy food. Gary spoke about the Greener Cow, his initiative to reduce methane emissions from cows. We discussed how even small increases in the volume of organic foods purchased will decrease the price premium and make organics more affordable for everyone.

As part of an effort to reach kids directly, Gary told us about the ways that Stonyfield is working to provide healthier food options in our schools -- like organic yogurt vending machines. And he wasn't shy about encouraging everyone to see the documentary film Food Inc. (he appears in the film discussing why he sells his yogurt at Wal-Mart).

All of this interesting conversation PLUS Rick Bayless's guacamole, ceviche tostadas and winter vegetable enchiladas with a guajillo chile sauce --- it was a good day, I tell you.

I walked away from this lunch resolved to do three things:

(1) Eat at Frontera Grill more often because the food truly is amazing.

(2) Continue to seek out more information about the complex issues surrounding agriculture and food in our country. The movie Food Inc. is a real eye-opener and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in better understanding that state of the food system in the U.S.. In fact, Gary gave my a copy of Food Inc. and I am happy to loan it to anyone who wants to learn more about the way in which food is made in the United States. Just send me an email and I will mail it to you. I also recommend having a nice vegetarian meal before your viewing. 

(3) Finally, I am going to continue to try to make the best food choices that I can for my family because it is quite simply -- important. The decisions I make for my kids matter for their current and future health and more importantly, for the collective health of our planet when my little eaters have long moved on from licking the lids of their YoKids yogurt containers.

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