Tom Philpott is the food and agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones, where he writes the "Food for Thought" blog online, and contributes features and editorials to the bi-monthly print magazine. In Fall 2018, he is on book leave while completing a manuscript under contract with Bloomsbury USA.
He was a cofounder in 2004 of Maverick Farms, a small organic vegetable farm and center for sustainable food education in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, and he serves on the advisory board. Philpott has worked as a professional journalist for over twenty years, and is currently based in Austin, Texas.
Philpott started writing and cooking in high school. For a decade, throughout high school and college, he worked at Austin's famed Nighthawk Steakhouse, first as a busboy and then for many years as a line cook. In high school, he was the co-editor of LBJ High's The Liberator (1983-84). As an undergraduate at UT-Austin, he was a columnist and editorial page editor for The Daily Texan (1987-1989) and co-founder/co-editor of The Polemicist (1989-1992). He was a summer intern at The Nation in 1989. He wrote restaurant reviews for The Austin Chronicle in the mid-1990s, while also working as a teacher at Austin Community College. He transitioned to financial journalism, working as a writer and editor at The News and El Financiero in Mexico City in the late 1990s. He moved to New York City in 1999 and worked as an editor at several financial trade publications (Ticker, MulTex). In early 2003, he spent several months writing a travel guide to Slovakia (excerpt here). He returned to Reuters.com, where he was the equity research editor (2003-04).
After moving to a small family farm in North Carolina, Philpott combined his financial journalism experience with his commitment to politics, food and agriculture to launch a blog called Bitter Greens Journal in January 2005, designed to be "a running critique of industrial agriculture, a clearinghouse for info on sustainable farming, and a working manifesto for a liberation politics based on food."
He transitioned this blog to the online environmental website Grist in 2006, where he served as columnist, food editor, and senior food writer between 2006-2011, writing a weekly column called "Victual Reality."
Maverick Farms has been featured in Gourmet and The New York Times, and in September 2008, Food & Wine named Philpott one of "ten innovators" who "will continue to shape the culinary consciousness of our country for the next 30 years." In 2011, Utne Reader named him one of "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World."
Philpott's work on food politics has appeared in The New York Times "Room for Debate" column (here in 2010 on the need for improved infrastructure in the food system, expanded in this Grist column; here in a 2012 piece addressing the cost of organic agriculture, and here in a 2015 call to "De-Californify" agriculture); in Newsweek, book reviews for Orion, OnEarth, Gastronomica, and The Guardian, Mother Earth News ("How Farm Policy Affects Us All," 2007), and Sojourner's ("Why Voting With Your Fork Doesn't Cut It," 2009), among other places. He was a board member of the Chef's Collaborative from 2009-2013, a national group that seeks to push the restaurant business in more sustainable directions. He is currently on the advisory council of the Austin-based Sustainable Food Center.
Philpott has led or participated in panels at the Farm Tank Summit (Sacramento, 2016), Monterrey Bay Aquarium's "Cooking for Solutions" conference (Monterey, Calif. 2009-2012), South by Southwest Interactive (Austin, 2012, 2013, 2016), South by Southwest Eco (Austin 2012-2014, 2016), Edible Communities (Santa Barbara, 2011, Santa Fe, 2013), and the Chef's Collaborative Annual Summit (Chicago, 2012; Boston, 2013; Charleston, 2014), and the Chicago Humanities Festival (2013). He has key-noted three major state-level sustainable agriculture conferences, each drawing thousands of influential attendees: California's EcoFarm (2012); the Pacific Northwest's Organicology Tilth Producers (2013); and the Texas Organic Farmers and Growers (2015). He has spoken at numerous colleges and universities, including Warren Wilson College (North Carolina), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University, Appalachian State University, SUNY-Oneonta, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, University of California-Berkeley, Cornell University, and Washington University in St. Louis.
Philpott's work has garnered several awards. In 2015, he won a Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, in the Feature Category, for the story “California Goes Nuts,” along with photographer Matt Black. In 2014, Philpott’s Mother Jones blog “Food for Thought” was named “Best Food Blog” by the Association of Food Journalists. He has twice been a finalist for a James Beard journalism award (2011, 2015). In 2013, "Food for Thought" got a Maggie Award for Best Web Publication Blog/Trade & Consumer. He was the Michael Pollan Journalism Fellow at the Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes Station, California in October 2018.
The Columbia Journalism Review interviewed Tom in 2010, focusing on his long-standing interest in the intersections of food and class.