Natural Foods Merchandiser

Spirit of Organic Honors Activists

Natural Products Expo East will host the third annual Spirit of Organic awards dinner and the event will again feature the cuisine of Nora Pouillon, renowned organic chef and owner of two Washington, D.C. certified organic restaurants, Asia Nora and Restaurant Nora.

The awards dinner menu will feature themes such as Spirit of Harvest, Mediterranean, Asian Pacific and Latin, as well as dessert buffets. Frey Vineyards of Redwood Valley, Calif., and Perlage of Italy will donate organic wines—an important detail, says Scott Silverman, organic program manager for New Hope Natural Media. "If you're eating organic food, you have to drink organic wine."

Silverman says this year's awards will honor organic activists. "The point is to honor the unsung heroes of the organic movement, people who don't usually get recognition. They're behind the scenes, but politically active and working to protect organic integrity."

This year's recipients are:

William Lockeretz, Ph.D.
Nominated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Lockeretz is a professor at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, a board member of the International Society for Organic Agriculture Research and was on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Standards Board from 2000-2002. In 1974 he organized the first study of commercial organic farming in the United States. According to Bernward Geier, director of international relations for IFOAM, Lockeretz is a pioneer of the organic movement. "Decades ago his research work was already focused on the economic performance of organic agriculture," Geier says. "Willie not only has vision, but has shown great interest beyond 'the garden fence.'"

Zea Sonnabend
Sonnabend was nominated because she's "the kind of person who works in areas most people avoid," says Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. Sonnabend has been an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst and author for the past 22 years, and has been on the certification committee for California Certified Organic Farmers since 1985. She helped write the first certification handbook and materials list for organic farming in California, and worked as a contractor for the USDA and National Organic Standards Board to develop the allowed and prohibited substances list. She is a processor and farm inspector for CCOF, and sits on its certifications standards committee board. She also is a director of the Organic Materials Review Institute and the Ecological Farming Conference coordinator. "She's the kind of person who has never asked for the spotlight and doesn't give speeches," Scowcroft says. "She just goes and does it ... I don't know how one could get any deeper in the trenches."

Dave Vetter
Nominated by New Hope, Vetter has been an organic farmer since 1977 and was instrumental in creating the Organic Crop Improvement Association standards organization (see Legacy story). Silverman says Vetter's nomination was based on his decades of service to the organic industry, including his recent vocal criticism of genetically modified foods. "As a farmer he's experienced genetic pollution firsthand," Silverman says. "And he hasn't been passive about it. He's not sitting around watching it happen."

Suzanne Vaupel
The fourth IFOAM award will be given posthumously. Vaupel was active in issues pertaining to farm workers' rights in California, says IFOAM's Geier, and was associated with CCOF and the Organic Trade Association. She was elected to the world board of directors for IFOAM in 1998 and, until she passed away in February 2003, was vice president. Vaupel was known not only in North America, but all over the organic world as a very caring person. "She showed, in the way she related with people, 'organic spirit' at its best," Geier says.

For Silverman, recognizing these industry leaders and sharing a great organic meal is important, but it's more than just that. "We want to honor people, not products, and inspire the next generation of organic leaders to act locally, nationally and internationally."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 9/p. 24, 26

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