NASFT announces winners of inaugural Leadership Awards

NASFT announces winners of inaugural Leadership Awards

See who took home honors for citizenship, business leadership and vision.

The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade Inc. (NASFT) is pleased to announce the winners of its first annual Leadership Awards honoring outstanding contributions to the specialty food industry and beyond.

The awards recognize NASFT members who have not only advanced food standards in society, but are making a significant impact through visionary social, economic and environmental efforts. There are three categories: Citizenship, Business Leadership and Vision.

The winners are:

  • Citizenship: Nasser Abufarha, founder, Canaan Fair Trade, Camas, Wash.
  • Business Leadership: Shawn Askinosie, founder and owner, Askinosie Chocolate, Springfield, Mo.
  • Vision: Karlene Hunter , co-founder and chief executive, Native American Natural Foods, Kyle, S.D.

"The specialty food industry is driven by passionate entrepreneurs who are seeking to make a positive impact on society, whether in their own community, or beyond. The individuals selected for our first annual Leadership Awards each demonstrate extraordinary efforts that go far beyond creating great food," says NASFT President Ann Daw.

The awards will be presented at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco on Jan. 22, 2013, following the keynote address by John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. Mackey will discuss his new book, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. The keynote is 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. at Moscone Center.

Nominations for the Leadership Awards were made by members of the NASFT and others in the specialty food industry. The NASFT is a not-for-profit trade association for food artisans, entrepreneurs and importers. A panel of specialty food professionals and industry influencers selected the Leadership Awards honorees from 67 nominations.

The judges included Haven Bourque, founder of HavenBMedia, Oakland, Calif.; Christine Bushway , Executive Director and CEO, Organic Trade Association, Washington, D.C.; Irene Hamburger , Vice President of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.; John Raiche , Vice President of Marketing, UNFI, Providence, R.I.; Erin Roach , director of recruitment and marketing, Social Venture Network, San Francisco, and Errol Schweizer , Senior Global Grocery Coordinator, Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas.

Honorable mentions went to the leaders of three specialty food companies. They are:

  • Citizenship: Amit Hooda , chief executive, Heavenly Organics, Fairfield, Iowa
  • Business Leadership: Allison Hooper and Bob Reese , co-founders, Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, Websterville, Vt.
  • Vision: Alex Whitmore, founder, Taza Chocolate, Somerville, Mass.

About the winners:

Nasser Abufarha – Citizenship
As founder and director of Canaan Fair Trade, Abufarha has worked to empower small farmers in the Palestinian olive oil industry and create economic opportunities in his native West Bank since 2004. The organization now works with 1,700 farmers and is the largest exporter of certified Fair Trade and organic Palestinian olive oil to the U.S. and Europe, and continues to expand education and micro financing to further the industry.

Shawn Askinosie – Business Leadership
Askinosie, a former defense attorney, has created a chocolate business that reaches far beyond single-origin bars to empower cocoa farmers and employees. Askinosie Chocolate sources all beans directly from farmers in Ecuador, Honduras, the Philippines and Tanzania, and shares profits. Locally, through Chocolate University, he engages young people to broaden their worldview and introduce them to entrepreneurship.

Karlene Hunter – Native American Natural Foods
A member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Hunter has spent more than 25 years working on educational and economic development on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She launched Native American Natural Foods with business partner Mark Tilsen in 2007 to produce Tanka Bars, a jerky with bison and cranberry that is made on the reservation providing economic opportunity to one of the most impoverished areas in the U.S.


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