Christopher Gardner. (Photo by Miles Traer.)

When you think about a professor at Stanford University’s prestigious School of Medicine, a laid-back dude wearing a tie-dyed shirt and socks with sandals probably isn’t the first image that comes to mind. But professor Christopher Gardner rocks his California casual. At Stanford, he conducts research on diet and nutrition in the med school, and teaches a wildly popular class on food and society. All this, while defying traditional sandal-wearing conventions.

Gardner is refreshingly down-to-earth, and optimistic about the sustainable food movement. And he practices what he teaches — he grows his own vegetables in a backyard garden, and also recently acquired five laying hens. He champions sustainable food on campus, and spearheaded the Stanford Food Summit in 2010, an annual event that brings together professors, students, and community-based food groups and organizations in a lively forum about food systems issues. Last summer, he also helped to organize a summer camp at Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale, Calif., where kids learned about vegetables. And then they cooked and ate them. And liked them.

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I caught up with Gardner recently to talk about the modern food movement, where it’s headed, and the incredible variety of reasons that sustainable food is an issue that hooks people. We also chatted about effective sustainable food writing, chickens expressing their chicken-ness, reincarnating home ec, and a single, glorious, blazing act of rebellion done through eating … pizza.

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Free MP3. (Right click, select “Save Link As.”)

This interview is part of the Generation Anthropocene project, in which Stanford students partake in an inter-generational dialogue with scholars about living in an age when humans have become a major force shaping our world.