Lynn Coody on Making Her Dreams Come True Growing the Organic Community

OTA 09.11.19

On September 11thfriends and peers gathered at the Organic Trade Association’s awards dinner to celebrate Lynn Coody’s lifelong dream. On that evening, the OTA honored her with the Growing the Organic Community Award.

Lynn has been a crucial voice for organic since the 1970s. She was instrumental in the passage of Oregon’s Organic Food Law in the late 1980s and served as technical advisor to Kathleen Merrigan, (Aide to Senate Patrick Leahy) during the drafting of the federal Organic Foods Production Act.

She is the principal consultant at Organic Agsystems Consulting, focusing on education, standards development, management of quality systems for organic certification, advocacy and research.

Many describe her as a woman of vision, courage and know-how. She is viewed as a core expert with values based on integrity and transparency, as well as good science.

OTA 09.11.19

Lynn took the stage with her beaming smile and said to the audience,

“I am deeply grateful to OTA for selecting me for this leadership award. The honor is meaningful to me because the process starts with nominations from peers.

Recognition for Growing the Organic Community Award is a very special joy to me because it represents my personal goal of supporting the work of the others.

I have worked in the development of tools and organizations for the small yet very dedicated group of organic pioneers to evolve into the organic trade—now a significant sector of the US agriculture economy.

When I meet people, and they ask me what I do, telling them I’m a food analyst for the organic trade leaves them perplexed.

I should tell them my job is making my own dreams come true because, over my 45 years of work in the organic community, that’s what I have been doing.

My early dream as a back-to-the-lander was to reform the American Food Production system so it would be based on principles of the natural world—and to provide real support for farmers.

First, I developed a market garden; it was great to grow food for my friends and neighbors. But after a few years, I knew this was just a first step, and I would have to work within a larger sphere to realize my larger dream.

I have a strong wonky streak and a penchant for detail. I chose a path for social change that wasn’t very dreamy—I devoted myself to organizational change and infrastructure.

I was able to join with others in the Pacific Northwest who were laying the foundations for growing the organic community, and from that point on, Icould legitimately lay claim to that job description of ‘making my own dreams come true.’

Here are a few examples of how my dreams have come true:

Wouldn’t it be great if we had an organization that provided information for organic farmers but would actually advocate for policies that support organic farmers? That dream came true in the form of Oregon Tilth.

Wouldn’t it be great if farmers had a way to know if particular inputs meet the organic standards? That dream came true in the form of OMRI.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a mandatory certification system that merged the organic community’s certification experience with the enforcement activities that only the government can provide? This dream came true in the Organic Foods Production Act.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a way to create an information flow between the produce trade and the NOSB so that organic produce voices could be heard? Now we have the Organic Wholesalers Coalition, who I currently work for.

What did these efforts look like in practice? Most people wouldn’t consider it very dreamy to work on each of these projects for multiple years—many times without pay.

It definitely required dedication and persistence, and as soon as I saw that a project was on a firm footing, I looked for ways to make myself obsolete, in order to take the next step towards my next big dream.

The joy of this path has been working with the creative and innovative environments with incredibly thoughtful and dynamic colleagues.

The organic trade has come a long way, but there is an awful lot to do.

We have discouragement due to the inconsistent applications of standards of certification and accreditation, coupled with the NOP’s inability to advance new or improved standards.

These conditions are indicative of an environment where there are still many opportunities for each of us to make our organic dreams come true.

We still have chances to sort out some big topics that have lingered without resolution for decades

We still have opportunities to address issues related to the growth and evolution of the organic trade.

We have opportunities to tout the environmental and societal benefits of organic systems;a message that is much needed as we suffer the impacts of climate change.

We still have opportunities to improve a critical piece of organic infrastructure. That is the NOP’s accreditation system—which has been largely unexamined but a powerful tool for fostering fairness, promoting transparency, reinforcing excellence, and repairing the public-private partnership at the core of our relationship with the NOP.

There is still a lot to do, and I hope all of you will continue to dream on and dream big.

Make your organic dreams come true!”

The organic community is stronger because of Lynn Coody’s dreams.

OTA 09.11.19