Organic Trade Association awards recognizes organic dynamic leaders

 “Each has proven that they have what it takes to inspire others and uphold the integrity and practices that make organic agriculture the standout way to manage our food system.”

-- Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association.


Two individuals and a farming couple receiving Organic Leadership Awards from the Organic Trade Association in September have the drive to make a difference, a strong belief that organic practices are the way to go, and a commitment to mentoring others.

One has touched all sectors and corners of organic production around the world because of her leadership in training certifiers and inspectors. Through persistence and adaptation, the second started a small organic farm, created a thriving business, and evolved into an influential role model for local small-scale growers. Meanwhile, the dynamic couple operates four grass-based organic dairies on 4,300 acres of irrigated pasture in California, an organic creamery, large-scale organic pastured poultry and egg operation, and pastured pork enterprise with their five children. 

Margaret Scoles, who started out as training manager and coordinator in 1999 for the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) subsequently became Executive Director, a title she still holds. But she has been a tireless educator, advocate and ambassador for the organic world even before that.

Scoles’ involvement in agriculture and the organic movement began in the late 1980s. After graduating from the University of Arizona, she was an Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) reviewer and inspector. At that time, she wrote the first draft of the OCIA Chapter Guide. In 1991, she was a founding member of the then-named Independent Organic Inspectors Association.

“Any person on Earth who has taken an IOIA training has been affected by Margaret’s indefatigable efforts to improve the integrity of organic farming, production, distribution and sales,” her nomination letter explained. Sixty-seven additional letters of endorsement from throughout the U.S. and other countries gave testimony to how she has affected lives, both professionally and personally. 

Rising Star Award

Immigrating to the United States in 1986, Javier Zamora worked in the service industry in southern California for 20 years before going back to school at the age of 43, earning his GED and a degree in landscape design before enrolling in the horticulture program at Cabrillo College. Sharpening his farming skills through the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), he started farming organically in 2012 on 1.5 acres. Today, as owner of JMS Organics, he farms over 100 acres on California’s Central Coast. He also is a mentor to other farmers and a leading voice in the local organic community.

He frequently speaks on farmer panels and at events. He is a strong advocate for beginning farmers and federal conservation programs. Zamora sits on various Boards, and is a member of USDA’s Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. He is an advocate for immigrant farmers and farmworkers in California, and is known for paying his workers a more than fair wage. 

Organic Farmer of the Year Award

Growing up on a dairy farm in Chino, CA, Stephanie Alexandre spent time with the cows as soon as she could walk. Soon, she was helping her parents with the chores. As a child, she loved showing her dairy cows in 4-H competitions, leading her to pursue an agriculture business degree at California Polytechnic. There, she met her future husband, Blake Alexandre, a fourth generation grass-based Northern California dairy farmer. They began dairying in 1988 in Southern California. In 1992, the couple bought an existing operation on the Northern California coast, and in the late 1990s, converted the operation, known today as Alexandre EcoDairy Farm, to organic production. CCOF has certified the organic operation since 2003.

Today, Blake, Stephanie and their five children operate four grass-based organic dairies with 4,300 acres of irrigated pasture. They grow most of their own hay on approximately 2,500 acres of organic cropland in Modoc County. Everything the family does is organic--an organic pastured poultry and egg operation, organic pastured pork and organic grass-fed beef, and most recently, an organic creamery where the family bottles their own milk. Alexandre EcoDairy Farm has a Farmstead Membership in the Organic Trade Association.//