Selected from a record-breaking 26 nominations, the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA’s) 2013 Organic Leadership Awards will be presented to a passionate couple who have dedicated their lives to organic for almost three decades, a professional farmer who has advanced practices for growing organic tree fruit, and two emerging leaders on a mission to create meaningful opportunities for military veterans in organic.
Awardees, nominated by their peers and chosen unanimously by OTA’s Board of Directors, are:
- Arran and Ratana Stephens, Nature’s Path Foods, The Growing Organic Industry Award
- Kyle Mathison, Stemilt Growers, The Organic Farmer of the Year Award
- Karen and Colin Archipley, Archi’s Acres/VSAT, The Rising Star Award
These leaders will be recognized Sept. 25 at OTA’s Annual Awards Celebration during Natural Products Expo East at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
Growing Organic Industry Award
Arran Stephens and his wife and partner Ratana Stephens have fearlessly and passionately devoted their lives to the growth and success of the organic food movement. In 1985, they founded Nature’s Path Foods Inc. based in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. In 1990, the company became one of the very first third-party-certified organic processors in North America. Nature’s Path employs over 500 team members across the United States and Canada, and is helping to grow green jobs in the organic industry. It continues to be a privately run, fiercely independent family business. Both Arran and Ratana believe that the organic industry needs to work together in order to achieve success. As such, Nature’s Path is actively involved in many industry associations and working groups in both the United States and Canada. The Stephens have focused their lives on environmental stewardship with the health of people and planet as their first priority. Their many contributions include purchasing 2,880 acres of organic farmland to partner with farmers on a crop-share basis, helping found the Non-GMO Project, donating $20 million in money and food items to food banks, establishing a one percent fund for conservation and environmental projects, and funding a scholarship through the Rodale Institute’s Your 2 Cents Program.
Organic Farmer of the Year Award
Kyle Mathison, a fourth generation farmer and co-owner of Stemilt Growers LLC of Wenatchee, WA, comes from a multi-generation tree fruit growing family. He began experimenting with organic production in the late 1980s. He subsequently became a certified organic grower, and currently farms with his two sons, growing apples, pears, and cherries. Kyle was one of the first organic growers to use an integrated organic program in his orchards. He applied liquid fish oil on his trees, which increased predator insect populations. He was a leader in inserting large numbers of reared insect predators into his practices to reduce sprays. He developed his own compost facility, and now converts area waste from many sources into a certified organic compost product, available to other area organic growers.
He served for many years on the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, and has helped advanced solutions in the areas of orchard weed control, organic fertilizer, integrated pest control, organic chemical bloom thinning, fire blight organic control, and organic foliar nutrient applications.
Rising Star Award
Karen and Colin Archipley founded the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program in 2007 at their organic hydroponic farm, Archi’s Acres, in Escondido, CA. Archi’s Acres and the VSAT program offer training and employment opportunities in the organic farming sector for military veterans, who otherwise face an unemployment rate twice the national average. The program at Archi’s Acres has trained over 200 active duty and veterans for careers in sustainable and organic agriculture and other sectors in the food supply chain. Karen is the marketing director for Archi’s Acres. Colin writes the curriculum for the VSAT program, and helps operate the farm. Both travel the country to give talks and promote their program for veterans and organic agriculture. They recently helped plant the First Lady’s organic garden at the White House.
Because Archi’s Acres and the VSAT program create a link between jobs for veterans and organic agriculture, they are helping organic reach a wider audience of policy makers while developing and encouraging additional organic farmers and entrepreneurs.
Celebrate with your colleagues and honor organic achievements past, present and future during OTA’s Annual Awards Celebration Sept. 25. Tickets are available for purchase online. Purchase early as this event generally sells out.