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In a historic setting, Organic Trade Association honors leaders making history

Leadership Awards Celebration attracts hundreds to applaud organic visionaries

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
Washington , DC
September 18, 2019
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The site of the historic Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore once was part of the estate owned by one of America’s early visionaries, leaders and heroes, John Eager Howard. Howard, a Revolutionary War hero and one of our Founding Fathers, had a vision for a better world, and he lived his life following that vision.

On Sept. 11 in the grand ballroom of the hotel, the Organic Trade Association and more than 250 organic stakeholders honored three more visionaries, leaders and heroes who are working to make our world a better place: a native of Mexico who toiled in the agricultural fields of Texas as a child and now is a respected and innovative large-scale organic farmer, a self-described “wonk” whose dream more than 40 years ago was to reform America’s food production system and who has been working to advance organic ever since, and a young first generation farmer who decided at a tender age to pursue the organic way of farming and in doing so, is carving the path for more young people and farmers to enter the organic chain.

“We are truly fortunate to have such committed and impactful individuals in our world and, as members of the Organic Trade Association, devoting their lives to being organic stewards,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “We are honored to recognize them at our Leadership Awards Celebration for their accomplishments, and we thank our generous sponsors who made this incredible event possible.”

Doing it for the kids

Israel Morales Sr. was recognized as the Organic Trade Association’s Farmer of the Year. The Executive Director of Sustainability and Organic Growing for JV Farms Organic with more than 40 years of farming experience, Morales is dedicated to maintaining soil health and habitat diversity, and to reducing or eliminating organic pesticide use. He stressed to dinner attendees how important organic is to the future generation.

“We have to do organic for the future, and we have to do it for the kids,” Morales said as his two sons, one grandson and two great-granddaughters watched and listened to him from the audience.

“It’s so important to use the resources we have,” said Morales. “With organic, we have an ecological system, and we can use it and save it.”

Morales said that at 74, he’s still committed to sharing with others his vast knowledge of organic: “I’m 74, and I’ll retire some day, but if there’s one person who wants to learn, I’ll teach them.”

Making organic dreams come true

Lynn Coody was honored with the Growing the Organic Community Award. An organic consultant with Organic Agsystems Consulting, Coody has been a crucial voice for organic since the 1970s. Describing herself as “wonky” and an “organized hippie,” Coody said it has been her life’s privilege to make her dreams come true by devoting her work to organic.

“I have had the good fortune of working in the organic world for the past 45 years, and in each of those years, I really have been working on making my dreams come true,” said Coody.

“My dream was oh so reform the American food production system so that it would be based on the principles of the natural world and so it would provide real support for farmers,” said the Oregon native.

Coody said that after developing an organic garden for her friends and neighbors, she realized she needed to get involved in a much bigger sphere, and decided to devote herself to organizational development and infrastructure. That realization resulted in Coody playing a leading role in the development of the federal Organic Foods Production Act that made possible today’s thriving organic sector.

Showing that organic is the solution

Nate Powell-Palm was honored with the Rising Star Award. The young organic farmer, owner of Cold Spring Organics in Montana, who has proven to be a leader in organic agriculture in Montana as well as on the broader national stage, told the gathering that organic not only enabled him to become a farmer, but is the answer for all farmers and want-to-be farmers who aim to be good stewards of the land and make a decent living.

“Throughout the country…farmers are being forced to give up their agricultural heritage and profession. But we do have a solution that gives us the opportunity to use sustainable practices, earn premium prices for our crops and stay on the land. It’s certified organic farming,” said Powell-Palm.

Powell-Palm said as a young person in farming, organic is especially fulfilling: “How exciting is it that as young people we can make a living in agriculture again and stay in our home communities…and make our dreams of stewarding the land a reality.”

Powell-Palm ended his acceptance speech with a rallying cry to the enthusiastic crowd: “There is a fantastic amount of work to do before we get to see the world healthy, robust and whole again, so let’s fire up the tractors and make organic food the rule, not the exception!”

An organic thanks to the sponsors

The kick-off event to the Natural Products Expo East trade show, the Organic Trade Association’s dinner always features an organic menu. This year’s feast included grass-fed beef meatballs with harissa and yogurt sauce, apple blue cheese canapés, grilled cauliflower steaks, stuffed chicken breasts with golden raisins and organic ginger glaze, chocolate mousse cups, goat cheese panna cotta strawberries, and more.

Sponsors of the event were General Mills, New Hope Network, Organic Valley, Cal-Organic Farms, Lundberg Family Farms, MOM's Organic Market, Presence Marketing ǀ Dynamic Presence, True Organic Products, Whole Foods Market, Danone North America, Gallant International, The J.M. Smucker Company, Prairie Organic Spirits, Quality Assurance International, Shenandoah Valley Organic, and Stonyfield Organic.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 9,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect ORGANIC with a unifying voice that serves and engages its diverse members from farm to marketplace.