Sometimes credit needs to be given where credit is due—that's the mind-set behind the Spirit of Organic awards, which New Hope Natural Media has sponsored for the past five years. This year's awards, given to organic leaders nominated by their peers in the industry, go to four unsung heroes of the movement—four who have been movers and shakers, though maybe more behind the scenes than out in the headlines. Nominated for their various contributions to farming, distribution, production and international development, these winners have been making quiet waves in a sometimes not-so-quiet movement.
The Frey Family
"The Freys have done perhaps more in the United States to promote organic grape growing and organic wine making than any of the other [vineyards]," wrote Tim Redmond, co-founder of Eden Foods and Blue Horizon Seafood, who nominated the Freys of Frey Vineyards. "They have influenced a majority of the wineries in the region, and many in the United States, to move toward organic."
The Frey family began producing grapes in Redwood Valley, Calif., in the 1960s and started producing wine in the '80s. Throughout the process, the family applied organic and biodynamic principles and also began producing wine without sulfites. Jonathan and Katrina Frey, part of the second generation of the Frey family, will receive the Spirit of Organic award on behalf of the entire family.
"Through inspired hearts and souls and hard work, they have contributed hugely to the organic industry," Redmond wrote.
The Freys were selected by the Organic Farming Research Foundation to receive this year's grower/producer award.
A native of Ghana, Georgina Koomson finished her national service in 1996 with a challenge to become a role model in farming for business—and has risen to the challenge with Ideal Providence Farms, the largest Ghanaian exporter of certified organic shea butter. The farms, which have received no outside funding, have also become a source of financial independence for about 150 women in the area.
Koomson, who is the international nominee chosen by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, says, "In principle, I believe that organic agriculture might be an answer for some of the problems Africa is facing."
Though unassuming, Paul Repetto has left an indelible mark on several levels of the organic movement, from legislation to production. Having spent years pushing for the Organic Foods Production Act and helping construct the Organic Foods Alliance and the Organic Food Production Association of North America (now the Organic Trade Association), Repetto also co-founded Horizon Organic, where he still serves as senior adviser.
With a passion to make organics accessible to all, Repetto continues to contribute his knowledge of the industry as a mentor to entrepreneurs new to the organic scene. "I'm more than willing to take time to talk to people who are trying to get started," Repetto says. "I think it's kind of a responsibility."
Sylvia Tawse, founder and president of Boulder, Colo.-based Fresh Ideas Group, nominated Repetto, saying she appreciates him as a community leader and a cheerleader for women in business. "Paul is also a natural collaborator," Tawse says. "Connecting the farmers with the academics and both with environmental experts for the greater good, not just of the industry, but the planet."
For the past 20 years, Melody Meyer has made it her goal to make organic food more available and affordable for people in all geographic areas, which in turn means increasing the total number of organic acres farmed.
Starting as a 16-year-old working at an Iowa food co-op and moving on to work in retail and then distribution in Santa Cruz, Calif., Meyer's dream was to load entire truckloads of organic produce for distribution. Gradually, she has seen that dream come true. As founder of Source Organic, Meyer was able to increase distribution of organic foods to people in the Midwest and along the East Coast who previously had not been able to access the organic market. Now, as vice president of procurement for Albert's Organics, Meyer continues to see opportunity for growth.
"Melody is a true pioneer in the organic community," wrote Barclay Hope, president of Albert's Organics, in his nomination letter. "Universally well-regarded within a segment of the industry known for its 'rogues,' she epitomizes fair play and creative working solutions."
The Spirit of Organic awards will be presented to the recipients at the Organic Harvest Festival from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 4, at Natural Products Expo East/Organic Products Expo-BioFach America in Baltimore.