Wah! Why Can't *I* be Michael Pollan??

The other day I was listening to Terri Gross on Freh-share, and her guest was Michael Pollan of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” (and Martha’s Vineyard hippie) fame. They were talking about his recent article in the New York Times Magazine, which was essentially about marrying agricultural policy to national health and community-wellbeing policy.

Below the fold: Ag Ec Rock Star!

As my two or three longtime & loyal readers know, I studied agricultural economics as a grad student at Purdue University. And then I went on to a long career in the computer biz that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with agricultural economics.

At the time when I was finishing up my degree, there were basically four career paths for people with advanced degrees in “ag ec”:

  • Work for agribusiness
  • Work for the USDA
  • Go into academia
  • Go overseas and work in developing countries

I had been planning to follow that last path, picking up where I left off in the Peace Corps, but then one day I met this hot chick who had a pretty smile and a lovely shape and a brain in her head, and the next thing you know, baby needs diapers, another baby’s on the way, and my plans to live the life of a lonely bachelor expatriot spending my days in remote, exotic agricultural research stations and my nights in forlorn, Graham Greene-esque watering holes of Africa and beyond are shot all to hell. So I took that job at Data General and started writing about bits and bytes instead of about disc harrows and yields per hectare, and that’s why I’m the man I am today, I digress.

But what I really wanted to do, I now see, wasn’t to be an ex-pat ag-ec existential hero. It was to be Michael Pollan: to write best selling books about food policy, to be worshipped by legions of NPR-listening liberals & feted as a hero at slow-food banquets, to go on celebrity radio shows and talk about farm policy for an hour, to have Barack Obama making thoughtful comments on my every utterance. To be an ag-ec rock star, in other words. What a sweet gig!

Too bad Pollan figured it out first! The ag-policy guy as Mick Jagger! D’oh! I shoulda thought of that!


  1. John, I would argue that the computer industry needs a Michael Pollan too – or several of them. Especially now that the economy needs major work we have a real opportunity to consider how ICT can be used to shape ethical, sustainable, carbon neutral economies. There is much work to be done to tie the information economy to a truly sustainable economy.

  2. Dharma,

    That is a very intriguing comment. It relates to some ideas that I’ve been carrying around in my noodle for some time now. I’m going to have to think about it.

    Thanks for chiming in; I appreciate it.

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