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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Audience Responds to Chef Dan Barber’s Statements

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Will Allen
Will Allen, CEO and founder of Growing Power. (photo: Growing Power/Flickr)

A movement starting with elites. Conflating the lower Hudson Valley and New England. Vegetarians have “blood on their hands.” Our show with chef Dan Barber clearly touched some nerves judging from listeners’ passionate responses, especially about Barber’s unapologetic answer to an audience question about the local food movement’s elitist underpinnings:

"I sound often defensive when I answer this because I feel defensive — it has been a movement that’s pretty much started with the people who can afford to pay for this kind of food. Do I think that’s unfortunate? I really don’t because, again, you mention Michael Pollan who’s on my mind now, but he often says that a lot of great movements in this country, including women’s suffrage, including the civil rights movement, started with elites and ended up becoming mass movements through powerful ideas. There’s nothing wrong with that. It takes a long time, especially in America, generally a generation. But those ideas can be quite powerful if they come in that sense from the top."

Reverend Jeremy McCleod in Ferndale, Michigan says that there’s a bigger story to tell about people living on the economic margins who are actively reinventing the local food landscape:

"Barber’s work seems not depend on touching the needs of communities of poverty and he even makes a case for a kind of trickle-down development of good ideas by elites becoming useful for others. I found myself wanting to hear, from Dan or from Krista, recognition that it’s not only the world’s elites who are rocking the food world’s assumptions and consumptions."

McCleod and other listeners shared examples of thriving urban agriculture projects in Denver, Chicago, and Milwaukee, citing Will Allen and his organization Growing Power. A former NBA player and a 2008 MacArthur Fellow, Allen inspires several listeners with his work transforming blighted urban spaces into thriving organic farms that provide practical, nutritious sustenance and job training to local residents. We discussed him as a possible conversation partner for Krista when we were planning the "Mindful Eating" event in Indianapolis.

Another listener from Muskegon, Michigan passed along a story about hobby gardeners in Newaygo County, Michigan who supply a local food pantry with 8,000 pounds of produce each year just by planting an extra row of seeds in their gardens. Here, quality food, grown locally, is made accessible to people who ordinarily couldn’t afford to purchase it off the shelf.

Others wrote about the tough economic realities faced by small family farmers who can’t compete with large agribusinesses and how U.S. agricultural policy undermines local food efforts. To our surprise, several people challenged Barber’s characterization of Blue Hill at Stone Barns as being based in New England (it’s in Westchester County).

What’s happening in your backyard that’s resonant with these examples of local food that’s accessible to us all? And what from the Barber show struck a nerve with you?

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Responding to the Feedback on “Inside Mormon Faith”

Kate Moos, Managing Producer

As Krista and I hop from meeting to meeting here in New York, we’re overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of listener response to our program on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’re receiving very positive responses from non-Mormons and Mormons alike, from those who know and have studied the church as well as those for whom this was an introduction; at the same time, some listeners have expressed concern that this program was not critical enough to be journalistically valid.

Speaking of Faith models a distinctive approach to journalism about religion. The ethic of the interview is informed by deep listening and informed questioning. That is purposeful, based on her sense that adversarial questioning simply puts the interviewer on the defensive and shuts down the possibility of authentic and genuinely revealing answers. There are many legitimate ways to approach the multitudes of subjects in the news. This approach works for matters as deep and sensitive as religion and what we believe.

In the case of this show, her questions drew out a great deal of information that was new to many listeners. Some drove to the substantive core of distinctions between Mormon thought and traditional orthodox Christianity. As we also stated throughout the script, there are numerous controversies surrounding this faith in historical, cultural, theological, and social terms.

We didn’t omit to mention these “hot button” topics, nor did we dismiss them. But we did and do feel they have been often reported and examined in the mainstream media. We wanted to cover some new ground. We wanted to explore the basic parts of this faith that make it distinctive, and that are little understood.

We had a journalistic goal — to provide a more basic theological and human context for non-Mormons to understand this faith of 13 million human beings globally — and a broad and basic human foundation on which they might navigate the controversies for themselves.

We tried to determine where to post a response like this — on the show’s reflection page, to each individual, in next week’s newsletter? — and then we had to check ourselves and ask: “Are we too defensive?” “Are we overreacting and should we just allow our listeners to air their grievances?”

What do you think?

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