Farm Tank Hosts Inaugural Event, Cultivates Industry Conversation Around Critical Topics

Farm Tank Hosts Inaugural Event, Cultivates Industry Conversation Around Critical Topics

SACRAMENTO, CA - Last week, Food Tank held its first annual Farm Tank. The summit brought together leaders from every facet of the agricultural industry–academia, growers, retailers, technology, and associations–for tough conversations about critical topics.

Michael Dimock, President, Roots of Change“We can’t make the farmers our enemies. All of us have a very important place. We have to respect and trust each other,” summarized Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change, in his powerful closing keynote after a day of stimulating discourse on Thursday.

The first day got off to a lively start after impassioned opening comments by Karen Ross, Secretary of Agriculture for the State of California; Danielle Nierenberg, President of Food Tank; and other notable industry professionals. Among a sea of passionately invested attendees feverishly taking notes, the first days’ summit schedule was packed with thought-provoking panel discussions.

Food Transparency

Kicked off with a keynote by Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First, this panel touched on defining transparency, creating a shared language around it, and bringing that to consumers. Thomas Reynolds, Vice President of Program, Partnerships, and Learning of CARE International, pondered during the discussion; "When I see a piece of produce I wonder, 'who has touched this?'"

Panel members included:

  1. Nikiko Masumoto, Farmer at Masumoto Family Farm
  2. Thomas Reynolds, Vice President of Program, Partnerships, and Learning of CARE International
  3. Dave Kranz, Communication & News Manager at the California Farm Bureau
  4. Hannah Freeman, Director of Produce and Floral at Fair Trade USA
  5. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist at PANNA
  6. Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice

Food Tech

Michiel Bakker, Director of Global Food Services, Google

“How does technology close the supply gap?” was the question posed to the audience by Michiel Bakker, Director, Global Food Services at Google in his keynote to open this session. The remainder of the panel resulted in animated discussion about how solar panels, apps, genetic diversity, R & D, social media, food incubators, policies, and crop practices can resolve major industry issues in food waste, disease and drought resistance, scalability, and sustainability. Of particular interest was the way in which apps such as CropMobster, CropManage, and HarvestSacramento have created templates to solve the challenges that farmers are facing.

Education. Engagement. Access. Trust. Diversity. These are the words the panel aptly used to sum up their thoughts regarding what is necessary in order to promote innovation in technology.

Panel members included:

  1. Don Carlson, Vice President of Project Development of Sunworks, Inc
  2. Zachary Scott Dashner, Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) Alumni Association
  3. Nick Papadopoulos, CEO & Co-Founder of CropMobster
  4. Gabriel Youtsey, CIO of University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  5. John Purcell, Vegetables Global R&D Lead, Hawaii Business Lead, Vice President, and Distinguished Fellow of Monsanto
  6. Andrea Lepore, Co-founder of Hot Italian/The Food Factory


Keith Knopf, Senior Leader of Operations, Merchandising, Marketing, Omni Channel, Strategy, and Real Estate, Raleys

When asked about improving infrastructure, Keith Knopf, COO of Raley's Family of Fine Stores, said, “We create demand through education about better quality food. Shift the narrative around the quality, health, and impact that food has on your wellness and well-being. As people seek that out, that demand helps solve the problem.” The panel, after an opening speech by Robert Egger, Founder and President of L.A. Kitchen, continued on, discussing how to improve the inefficiencies in infrastructure, and how to effectively rewire it.

Panel members included:

  1. Mary Kimball, Executive Director of the Center for Land-Based Learning
  2. Oscar Villegas, Supervisor at Yolo County Board of Supervisors
  3. Thaddeus Barsotti, Co-Owner of Farm Fresh to You
  4. Keith Knopf, COO of Raley’s Family of Fine Stores
  5. Tom Chan, CEO of General Produce
  6. Blake Young, CEO of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

Food Business

In the final farming related panel, after ardent opening comments by John Church, Executive Vice President of Supply Chain of General Mills, the panelists explored the impact of various types of business models.

Soren Bjorn, Executive Vice President, Driscoll's

“We used to narrowly define our impact on the world. We must understand our impact when are successful,” Soren Bjorn, Executive Vice President of Driscoll’s, commented astutely. “We use our scale to help shape the future of farmers."

The panel members included:

  1. Nick Kastle, Director of Marketing and Business Development & Business Unit General Manager at The Morning Star Company
  2. Jennifer Maloney, Food Chain Sustainability Manager of Bayer CropScience
  3. Richard Waycott, CEO of the Almond Board of California
  4. Matt Wadiak, Founder & COO of Blue Apron
  5. Soren Bjorn, Executive Vice President of Driscoll’s
  6. Jon Bansen, Farmer of Organic Valley

Food Business Panel, Farm Tank Summit 2016

It was a long day of invigorating discussion from stakeholders from all areas of the industry, breaking down silos in agriculture. On the second day, attendees were given the chance to stretch their legs and engage directly in activities such as field tours, visiting laboratories, and more.

The event was a resounding success. For those interested in moving the needle on broadening industry perspectives, make sure to mark your calendars for next year!


Companies in this Story


Family-owned for over 100 years, Driscoll's is passionate about growing premium fresh berries. Our strawberries,…

Gen­eral Pro­duce

Gen­eral Pro­duce is a third gen­er­a­tion, locally owned and oper­ated fresh pro­duce com­pany. We dis­trib­ute and…