FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Now, the anniversary issue looks at women who've broken the gender barrier over the last 35 years, one of them is Carol Moseley Braun. She became America's first black female senator in 1992, served Illinois in that post for six years. She later became ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.
A few years ago, Braun took a big interest in sustainable farming and she found it, and now had the company called Good Food Organics. The business stems from her passion for producing organic foods through a process called biodynamic farming, and it's a way of farming in close harmony in connection with the natural environment. Here to explain more is the former senator, Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun.
Ambassador CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (President and Founder, Good Food Organics): I'm delighted to be with you, and it's good to speak with you again.
CHIDEYA: It's great to talk to you too. It sounds you have been extremely busy, and Ms. Magazine is documenting your work with biodynamic farming. What is that?
Ambassador BRAUN: Biodynamic farming is really the resurrection of an ancient way of farming that respects the ground, the land in which food is produced. The water, the quality of the water that is used. The whole process encourages the development of nutritious food. It's the highest quality f organic - we call it the original organic, and it produces a food of singular quality and great taste, and we are just very proud to be part of propagating the message of biodynamics throughout the United States.
CHIDEYA: When you think about, for example, the African-American family farm, how that has suffered in recent years, family farms in general had been suffering. How does your work relate to the issue of who grows America's food?
Ambassador BRAUN: Well, actually, it grew out of that. We have a family farm in Alabama, and I started off attempting to restore the farm and as a biodynamic organic farm. And out of that grew this company, Good Food Organics.
Our products are marketed the Ambassador Organics line brand, but it really is part and parcel of an effort to help to restore the connection to the earth, the connection of family farms, the connection of local farm economies, the connection of nutrition and food, to help restore all of those connections. And we are very proud to be part of what is a larger movement in regards to improving the quality of food that the American people can access. And to make it more readily available - again, from the farm gate on the one hand, but also to make it available in communities that right now might not have access to quality food.
And so it's all of a piece(ph). And frankly, if I can digress for a hot second. It's all the piece in terms of what the Ms. community is about. I listen to Kathy Spillar a minute ago, and I have to tell you, I consider myself a part of that community and have been for a number of years since the days in working on passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
And these - the reason the Ms. Magazine has succeeded over the years is because of they get it and they give people some substantive, serious reportage that suggests that if we begin to break down the barriers of race and gender, and class, we can begin to have a more harmonious life here in this country, and around the world. And so, we're all one of a piece in trying to restore the humanity, if you will, to agriculture, restore in terms of our social order and restore in terms of our politics. It's all part of a larger vision of what we can be if we just come together and work on restoring some of the fundamentals that distinguish - that lifts us up, if you will, instead of tearing us down. And so, I'm proud to be part of their effort.
CHIDEYA: Well, ambassador, you, of course, also ran for president. Last time around, you've had so many different roles: senator, ambassador, presidential candidate. Now, you call yourself a recovering politician.
Ambassador BRAUN: Right.
CHIDEYA: What do you mean by that, and what did you learn from being a politician, if you don't consider yourself one anymore?
Ambassador BRAUN: Well, I'm a lawyer too, so this is actually my fourth career. Both as a lawyer - first, lawyer and then as an elected official, and then as a diplomat, and now as an entrepreneur. And what I learned from that is that at the end of the day, it comes down to people. You know, all comes down to people, and I believe that if I can continue to contribute in a public way, through my private sector endeavors, then that is a contribution that can be important as well. So this is really kind of a continuation of my public service as a private citizen, as an entrepreneur, helping to provide healthier food to the American people.
CHIDEYA: On another level, there has been a lot of discussion about recent economic statistics that talk about whether or not African-Americans are doing better now than before. When you think about all the different things that you have done, and all the different careers that you've had, how do go about inspiring people who might have an interest in doing some of the things you've done but not have a lot of opportunity to keep on - keeping on?
Ambassador BRAUN: I tell people that the one message I came out of all my years in public life was, is that every person makes a difference. Every individual can make a difference for good or not, by what they choose to do or what they choose not to do. If you are passionate about an issue, then the challenge is to engage, to do something with regard about it.
We are in a time of great challenge and, frankly, the widening gap between the rich and the poor is just having to do with the opportunities for women, opportunities for people of color, opportunities for whether or not our society will be a meritocracy, or we will spin off into a society who has very rich people and a whole lot of very poor ones. These are the kinds of things that are very much at issue right now, and the direction that it will go will depend on every individual, you know, engaging in the debate, in one way or another, doing what they can do, in their universe, in their world. And in the end, you know, only history will tell how it's going to come out, but I think that the more people who weigh in on the side of progress, who weigh in on the side of equality, who weigh in on the side of justice, that we will have a better chance of creating a world that we'll be proud to leave to the next generation.
CHIDEYA: Ambassador, we're going to have to keep this very short, but of course, this presidential race, is America ready for a black president, a female president, both, neither, briefly?
Ambassador BRAUN: Briefly, isn't it wonderful that we're even having the debate. I mean, I'm old enough to remember when women had to ask their husbands for permission to vote, and when black people had - that couldn't vote. When we had segregated, the (unintelligible). So the fact that we're having this debate, I think, is a real compliment to the people who's created the world that we are now dealing with, and that social progress is something that we want to continue and not lose sight of.
CHIDEYA: Well, ambassador, appreciate the time.
Ambassador BRAUN: Thank you. Delighted to be with you.
CHIDEYA: Carol Moseley Braun is a former U.S. senator and ambassador. She's also the founder and president of Good Food Organics.
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