The organic sector is thriving. We need more farmers, research, and consumer education to keep it that way. GRO Organic check-off will help organic continue to grow. Nearly 1,400 organic stakeholders publicly support the GRO Organic Check-Off. Be sure to weigh-in this fall when the public comment period opens up in the Federal Register! Your voice counts!
In 1993, a group of farmers on the high plains of Texas planted thousands of acres of organic and transitional cotton. After finding a very underdeveloped market with only one or two potential customers, they formed the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (TOCMC).
With no paid staff, the organization worked out of co-founder Jimmy Wedel’s home trying to develop a totally unknown market.
Twenty-three years later, the farmers who make up TOCMC are receiving OTA’s Farmer of the Year Organic Leadership Award.
One of OTA’s strongest assets as an organization is the diversity and breadth of its membership.
Besides her many accomplishments in the organic sector, Kelly Shea of WhiteWave Foods majored in Ancient Japanese Theater. Samantha Cabaluna of Earthbound Farm, who plays guitar, used to be in an all-girl rock band called Amazon Mollies. Tony Bedard, CEO of Frontier Co-op, loves working on his 40-acre farm where he is restoring 20 acres of native prairie and taking care of over 800 trees that he has planted. Meanwhile, David Lively of Organically Grown Company is a comic strip aficionado.
Designed to convene organic farmers from across the nation and across sectors, OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) provides a forum for elevating the issues facing the farmers who create the foundation of the entire organic industry. This is no easy task, as the organic farming industry encompasses widely different geographic regions, crops, and political districts. However, when farmers come together, share their ideas, and advise OTA on its policy agenda, the results at a national level can be swift and profound, as illustrated by recently announced significant policy reforms in Risk Management Agency’s (RMA) crop insurance available to organic farmers.
Fact: You can eat organic on a budget. Fact: Organic agriculture can help feed the planet. Fact: There are proven health benefits of organic. These are three of the more than 30 research-backed facts that OTA and partners digitally disseminated each day in September as part of its highly successful “Myth-Busting Month” social media festival.
Organic Farmer of the Year Benny McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic says it makes him feel good to see his 12 grandkids work in the soil and learn how healthy food is grown. Growing the Organic Industry recipient Tom Harding of Lehigh Valley Organic Growers says after 30 years advocating for organic, he still feels like he’s just beginning the trek for organic. And Rising Star winner Michael Berger of Elevation Burger says his commitment to advancing organic and selling healthy fast food to American consumers has never been stronger.
From the East Wing of the White House to the Halls of Congress, organic is spreading its roots in the nation’s capital. Today’s crop of organic influencers is making a difference in agricultural policy, federal legislation, international affairs, food and health guidelines, public research approaches, and environmental issues. The number of organic advocates in Washington has probably never been greater, including individuals with genuine down-to-earth roots in certified organic agriculture. In this edition, we are profiling a handful of these folks who are making their voices heard. These hard-working and committed individuals show how organic truly is seeding changes—in the food we eat, the way we think, and the future of our world.
Jeff Rakity of Natural Flavors/Elan received OTA’s 2015 Member of the Year Award at OTA’s Annual Meeting in September. This special recognition, driven by OTA staff and endorsed by OTA’s Board, was created to honor a truly engaged member—a dedicated volunteer, fearless leader and apt cheerleader for OTA while serving overall as an ambassador for OTA and the industry.
Still a small portion of the organic fiber business in the United States, organic wool is starting to see some gains in the marketplace here. OTA member Jagger Brothers of Springvale, Maine, markets organic wool yarn certified to the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) which it spins from organic wool imported from South America. The yarn is organically dyed at the GOTS certified Saco River Dyehouse, also in Maine, and brought back to Jagger Brothers for distribution. It is then marketed as The Green Line from Jagger Spun, a division of Jagger Brothers, as hanks for hand knitting and as one-pound cones for machine knitters and weavers.