Laura Batcha, CEO/Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association, has done all things organic—from raising organic crops, selling at famers’ markets and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, having her own small organic business, working for a multinational organization, and now serving as the head of the leading organic association in the United States. And she’s had a great time.
“I love it all—the good guys doing the good stuff,” Batcha told the Organic Report.
When Batcha was fresh out of college, she went to work on a certified organic farm in Santa Cruz, California. It was one of the first organic farms in the area—about 20 acres of vegetables. She worked in the fields. She also managed field harvesting in the morning, field planting in the afternoon, and green house planting. Every day she and the dozen employees on the farm—other young adults from all over the world—would sit down, have lunch together and talk about the emerging organic movement.
“When I started out in organic, we had to figure out infrastructure, and how to ship organic products safely-how to manage the organic supply chain and maintain the integrity of organic.”
- Laura Batcha
“From that point on, I’ve worked in the organic industry in one way or another,” said Batcha. “The actual farming was really fun, very hard work but very rewarding. Organic is the only kind of farming I know.”
Batcha eventually moved back to the East Coast where her family had roots, and she ran a small certified organic herb botanical farm, Green Mountain Herbs, in Vermont. She became an expert in medicinal herbal extracts and processed her products on the farm, thus obtaining both an organic producer certificate and an organic processor certificate. Her business grew from local markets to local stores.
Then she debuted her products on the national scene at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore in the mid-1990s, and it was a game-changer. Business exploded, and the company grew to become one the largest certified organic producers of medicinal herbs and extracts on the East Coast. Batcha sold the company to Tom’s of Maine in 1999, where she then worked for a decade in various positions in product and business development and strategic development. But she still kept her toes in the dirt, splitting the farm off when she sold to Tom’s and transitioning it back to organic vegetable production.
"When I started out in organic, we had to figure out infrastructure, and how to ship organic products safely—how to manage the organic supply chain and maintain the integrity of organic,” said Batcha. “Organic was definitely growing in popularity, but the industry was still developing the federal regulations that now guide the sector.”
In 2008, Batcha joined the Organic Trade Association as Director of Marketing and Public Relations, was promoted to Executive Vice President, and named CEO and Executive Director of OTA in January of 2014. “This was my first foray into the organic policy side, but that being said, I lived through and experienced first-hand the maturing of the industry and development of many of today’s organic regulations and policies.”
Under Batcha’s tenure as head of OTA, the association has increased its presence and advocacy for organic in the nation’s capital, the Farmers Advisory Council has enlarged and strengthened, consumer education efforts about organic have been boosted, new resources to help U.S. organic producers connect to the global marketplace have been developed, and OTA membership has increased as demand for organic continues to break new records every year.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for all of us in the organic industry,” says Batcha. “There are lots of challenges ahead for organic, but also tremendous opportunity. I’m proud to be leading this great group, and I’m glad that all my organic experience can translate now into my work with organic producers, companies of all sizes, and critical policy issues.”