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The 13th annual Organic Farming Research Foundation luncheon raised nearly $100,000 to support the organization’s research and policy initiatives. It also raised the consciousness of luncheon supporters on a host of key issues facing organic farmers and the larger organic industry.
After filling their plates at the lavish buffet featuring the finest local organic ingredients prepared by top area chefs, attendees listened to an overview of OFRF’s latest work from Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the foundation since its inception 20 years ago. Scowcroft then ceded the microphone to Horizon Organic dairy supplier Paul Tillotson of Cottonwood Farms in New York, followed by an impassioned keynote address from Sue Baird, organic farmer and policy activist.
One of the messages was the lobbying power of industry groups working together on behalf of organics. “We’re collaborating with [the Organic Trade Association] on the Hill and using our resources together in wonderful ways,” said Scowcroft (pictured above with New Hope Natural Media president Fred Linder).
Raised by a Cherokee Indian grandmother on a dairy farm in northwest Arkansas, keynote speaker Baird has a lifelong connection to the land. After studying poultry science, she went on to establish the Missouri state program for organic agriculture. “I realized that I was finally doing what my grandmother had taught me—nourishing my environment, cherishing Mother Earth,” Baird said.
The program Baird helped establish in Missouri quickly grew from a few hundred acres to 30,000 acres under organic management. The state organic program was then abruptly terminated—under pressure, Baird suggested, from agri-giant Monsanto, the genetically modified seed producer based in St. Louis.
Despite that setback, Baird is a tireless advocate for the power of organic farming to keep small family farms in the black and help rural traditions survive. “We’re losing our family farms,” she said, “and if we don’t preserve our family farms, our environment is lost.”