It was a good day last December when I was asked to join CCOF in Sacramento February 22nd to 23rd, 2018 to explore the factors that have made California a hotbed of organic hotspots activity.
I was to be honored at the CCOF Foundation Feast as this year’s Organic Champion Award recipient.
Last night I accepted the award surrounded by my friends and family in the organic community. I provide you, dear reader, with an excerpt of my thank you speech to let you know how grateful I am to have had such a long organic career. “Everyone in this room has played a part in shaping and growing what organic is today.
I feel incredibly humbled and grateful for the amazing opportunities I’ve had over the span of my career. Do I really deserve an award for doing the things I love?
I have had the opportunity to work with good organic growers across the globe, expanding the organic category in neighborhoods and tables across North America.
It may have started with my grandfather who grew a bounty of food each year in his oversized backyard.
Or perhaps it was my grandmother, standing at the ready in the kitchen with knives and pots and great earthen crocks, who fostered my connection of soil to food.
From those early days when I could only dig deep and smell and taste the connection of earth to sustenance my real career began.
I am grateful for those humble beginnings and for their love of food and farming.
I was to almost stumble into a lifelong career based on those values.
I was lucky to unload some of the first Molino Creek tomatoes and Swanton strawberries.
From Ocean Organic – Bud Capurro’s first organic “grower shipper” we cooled and shipped Danny Duncan’s carrots to stores in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Boston.
Building my own business, Source Organic, I linked farmers from California’s fertile valleys to receivers across the country.
I am grateful that I learned the corporate dance when my company merged with Alberts Organics – a division of UNFI.
Alberts sent me forth across North America to forge bonds and relationships with farmers in New England, Washington and Florida.
We were the first to make contracts with many like “Wholesome Family Farms.” These early contracts helped new organic growers establish guaranteed outlets for their produce, allowing them to expand, add acres and thrive.
I soon realized that we had no connection with the farmers who grew our largest selling item: bananas. So I was off to Ecuador and Peru to help small producers form coops, obtain their Fair Trade certification and export internationally.
Helping organic producers in the global south became a passion and my wanderlust set it.
I started an import company under the UNFI umbrella and was soon sporting off across the globe to work with organic farmers.
It was Michael Funk who brought me back home to the US when he created the role I now fill.
I have volunteered to work with organic growers in Tunisia and the Dominican Republic.
I finally found my voice in [the] Organic Matters Blog and continue to educate and titillate the organic audience.
I have been honored to serve as the ED of [the] UNFI Foundation which supports organic agriculture and organic farmers.
It was with that ED hat on that I once had the idea of supporting our future organic farmers with an industry consortium of funders.
Together we could fund something very grand to impact the next generation of organic farmers.
Cathy and her crew at CCOF ran with the idea and created the Future Organic Farmers Grant Fund which I urge you all to embrace today.
It provides grants that deliver financial support for organic education from kindergarten through college.
Why is this important? Because all of the major issues facing us today are impacted by food and agriculture.
Climate change, environmental degradation, the loss of biodiversity, the safety of our food, and the health of our children—organic plays a role in mitigating them all.
We need more organic farmers and more organic entrepreneurs to meet the demand for organic products that are healthy for people and good for the planet.
It’s been a fun and rewarding ride. There is so much more for us all to do so that organic is the norm in agriculture in the US and across the globe.”
I urge you, dear reader, to follow your heart and your passion to make a career that helps build a more sustainable future.