Bhutan: What rings your dinner bell?

Bhutan Organic

I was excited to be trundling off to Washington DC again participating in the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) Policy Conference and Hill Visit Days at the end of May. As president of the board of the OTA, one of my responsibilities was to give the opening welcome address. I thought it prudent that I brush up on the guests of honor to understand the tenor and tone of the event. My heart was singing when I read that Kesang Tshomo, Bhutan’s National Organic Program Coordinator, was attending to share her nation’s commitment to organic agriculture. In fact the Kingdom of Bhutan is committed to measuring and thereby increasing Gross National Happiness as part of their strategic development plan. Converting 100% of their agriculture to organic production is one path to insure pleasure, plenitude and prosperity for their people and terrain. I was so delighted just hearing about the plan. It was like a bell going off inside me. Organic = Happiness!  Continue reading

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Tunisia

Lets make peaceWhen I was in my twenties I had a Jack Russell Terrier that was the love and (sometimes) loathing of my life. He was rambunctiously filled with energy and vigor, wreaking havoc most of the way. Despite being rather small in stature, his presence was as big as a house. Besides digging holes, killing varmints and crashing through the woods after coyotes, the little hellion used to win awards. I would travel hundreds of miles, along with other humans similarly taxed with over exuberant Russells, to race our little beasts against each other.  His name was Dylan Ferguson and not only was he fast but also competitive and would come home with multiple ribbons, cups and other kitschy items I cherished at the time. Looking back I realize it wasn’t about the ribbons or the awards but seeing the amazing way that dog was in his zone, doing his very best and outperforming. He was realizing his true doggy essence. That was his true reward.

That is why when I received the email notifying me that I had won the Frank Pace 2013 award for my volunteer work in Tunisia it made me reflect on the true meaning of earning an award.

The email read, “We are pleased to announce you were selected as one of two volunteers to receive the Frank Pace Award for 2013. The Frank Pace Award was established in 1989 to honor IESC’s first President, Frank Pace, Jr.  The award is given to volunteers who, in the judgment of the selection committee, performed the most outstanding project during the year.  You were selected for your work supporting the IESC Tunisia SME Project, for which you facilitated an organics buyers’ mission to Tunisia.    You were noted to have gone above and beyond…”

The Frank Pace Award was established in 1989 to honor the first International Executive Service Corps (IESC) President, who envisioned a partnership that would provide expert business advice to companies in developing countries.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognized organic agriculture as one of the pillars in enhancing food security, rural development and sustainable livelihoods.  I believe the international market for organic food exports is an example of an industry that can provide a unique opportunity. My work bringing knowledge and awareness to the organic businesses in Tunisia resulted in real economic benefits and was an excellent project within the IESC mission.

Not only was the work supporting the IESC Tunisia SME Project enjoyable, but I reaped many personal benefits facilitating the mission. This mission brought the wealth of history, culture and the flavor of Tunisia to me and to the prospect buyers from North America. I was so impacted by the rich culture and warm people that I was moved to pen several blogs entitled “Tunisian Diaries”.

Being able to share my business acumen with organic producers gave me a sense of purpose and helped me to realize I have something special to offer. In fact this volunteer mission allowed me to be my best self as a professional and as a human being. Even though I was not able to attend the award ceremony in Washington DC on May 14th 2014, I received the greatest gift of all.

Just as Dylan Fergusons’ award was being his true self, my true award is not material. Instead it is a gold nugget in my heart that says you are human, give so that others may thrive and in doing so you thrive as well.

Won’t you share your special gift, whatever it is because someone needs your expertise? Go for that award! Awards

Organic Citrus Greening Diaries: Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Citrus Organic colorA few mornings ago, as I sipped my freshly squeezed glass of organic orange juice, I contemplated the menu for a gathering of friends I was hosting. My mind went first to dessert, which is often the case, and I fantasized of a buttery lemon tart, often delicate and bold with its balance of sweet and sour tang.  I had a handful of Meyer lemons and could just imagine squeezing their sweet juices and grating their vibrant zest to fold gently into the cream and eggs. This tangy tartlet would pare well with orange and walnut encrusted quinoa cakes over lime cilantro wild rice.  A salad of arugula, pistachios and grapefruit would accompany the simple meal. Organic citrus figured heavily in this planning and also weighed mightily on my mind. Sweet succulent citrus is under attack and organic citrus is especially in peril. I want to make sure my future feasts always include their iconic flavors.

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Remember the Alamo? What happened in San Antonio?

AlamoMany of you may have seen the emails and headlines regarding the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting that was held in San Antonio at the end of April. The context of this biannual meeting was already askew as the fall meeting had been canceled because of the government shutdown. So there was old business and new business and changes on the agenda. The hot spring air felt ominous, like we were headed for some kind of showdown. Many activist groups and engaged individuals were very passionately opposed to some changes our National Organic Program made last fall. I pen this blog not to agree or disagree with the changes but to help engaged stakeholders understand what really changed and how this is affecting our community. Continue reading

11 Companies Making a Green Difference

The Future of foodIt has been quite a few years since the green movement of the 1960s and 70s gave root to the “back to the land” ethos that was the birthplace of organic foods. Global climate change is part of the daily discussion now, and there are very few naysayers willing to deny that we are changing the very ecology of our planet. Companies that make and sell organic products not only promote products that are good for the planet, they are also on the cutting edge of reducing the ecological footprint while doing business. Continue reading