Policy Matters as the Organic Industry Grows

I trundled to Washington DC on my annual pilgrimage to attend OTA’s Policy Conference & Hill visit days. Dubbed “Organic Week” in Washington, it’s a 4-day extravaganza of organic industry leaders gathering to confirm our priorities and take action on the hill. This year the climate in DC was unique, awash with new leadership and new philosophies. It became apparent that as the organic sector continues to grow, it’s important that we pay attention to federal policy and show up for our fair share of funding. Continue reading

Farm Bill 2018: An Omnibus For All?

There is a little known yet enormous slice of legislation that gets passed every 5 years or so that literally affects everyone who eats. This mighty omnibus of a Farm Bill wields a trillion dollar budget and touches every aspect of food and agriculture in the US. In Latin omnibus means “for all” and current deliberations on the 2018 Farm Bill have the opportunity to represent organic and sustainable food and farming “for all”—but only if we get involved. Continue reading

The Bioponic Debate – Are There Bigger Fish to Fry?

I can smell it; spring is just around the corner. While some areas of the country are still under winter’s frigid grip, elongated English cucumbers are flourishing in shade houses near the Mexican border. Tantalizing heirloom tomatoes, curvaceous eggplant and thick zucchini are growing in various mediums of soil and soil-less technologies. They fill our winter plate. Innovative farmers have figured out how to maintain vigorous populations of microbes using natural fertilizers to cultivate food in containers and other soil-less conditions (sweepingly named Bioponics). For the time being, they can market their produce as certified organic if they follow the organic regulations. All this could change in 2017.

While the “to soil or not to soil” debate rages on, does the organic community not have bigger fish to fry? Continue reading

A Political Sea Change for the Good Food Movement

WaveIt’s been just a few weeks since our political world took a turn into uncharted seas. We had been progressing along swimmingly, making progress on the likes of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, local organic food hubs and vibrant conservation programs. We had the luxury of squabbling over the recommendations of the NOSB wrangling over every nuance of organic production. We took the National Organic Program for granted as an institutional “holy maceral” that would carry us someday into regulatory utopia.

All of that came to an abrupt halt last November when the new political tide rolled in. These uncharted waters are like nothing we have navigated before, and the good food movement should take heed and consider rowing with a united stroke if we are to remain afloat.  Continue reading

A Glimmer of Hope in Organic and Sustainable Agriculture

The Organic JourneyI’m writing this from the Sustainable Ag and Food System Funders (SASFS) policy conference in Sacramento, California. I sit amongst a group of foundations and philanthropic funders who envision a world in which food and agricultural systems enhance and sustain the well-being of people, animals, and our planet—now and into the future. I am here as the executive director of the UNFI Foundation whose mission is to advance organic agriculture in North America. As I participate in the discussion, I realize there is much to be hopeful for as we move forward into an era of great political change.  Continue reading