Natural Foods Merchandiser

Ellen Straus, 1927-2002

Ellen Straus, co-founder of Straus Family Creamery, one of the country's first certified organic dairies, died at her Marshall, Calif., home in December, after a brief battle with brain cancer. She was 75.

Mrs. Straus served on many environmental and organic boards and committees, but will be best remembered for her work as co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, said her son Michael, president of Beyond Organic Communications.

"MALT has acquired development easements on 47 ranches and dairies covering over 32,000 acres—about a quarter of privately owned farmland in the country," Michael Straus said. "Due to their vision and success, MALT quickly became a model for scores of similar land trusts formed since across the country."

In her last days, Mrs. Straus asked that her work to raise $60 million over the next 10 years continue after her death. By Dec. 30, 2002, MALT had received donations totaling $82,000, including a $10,000 gift from Stonyfield Farm.

Ellen Tirza Lottel Prins was born Feb. 21, 1927, in Amsterdam. When she was 13, she and her family fled to New York, just ahead of the Nazi invasion. After graduating from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, she married Bill Straus, a German Jewish immigrant who owned a dairy farm in western Marin County, Calif. Together they founded Straus Family Creamery.

"Whether it was organic farming, community gardens, free-range ranching, cheese making, shiitake mushroom growing or fighting every massive development scheme that appeared before the planning commission, Ellen led by example," Michael Straus said. "Ellen's excitement for new ideas was contagious, giving her children and neighbors the confidence to live out their own dreams."

Ellen Straus is survived by her husband, Bill, sister Anneke Prins Simons, sons Albert and Michael, daughters Vivien and Miriam, four grandsons, and 270 milking cows. Donations in Mrs. Straus' memory may be made to MALT, P.O. Box 809, Point Reyes, CA 94956.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 3/p. 30

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