Natural Foods Merchandiser

Organic Center Appoints CEO

R. Mark DavisAfter more than a year of searching, the Organic Center for Education and Promotion has named R. Mark Davis, former chief executive of a Rhode Island history museum, as its new chief executive officer.

The Organic Center, founded in 2002, is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Association. Its mission is to review and fund scientific research on organic food and promote the benefits of organics to consumers, policy-makers, researchers and the media.

Katherine DiMatteo, OTA executive director and former interim executive director of the Organic Center, said Davis was chosen because of his combination of for-profit and nonprofit experience. ?He has shown he can both fund-raise and produce a good product that is supported by customers. He?s also enthusiastic to work with a startup organization.?

Davis is the former CEO of Heritage Harbor Museum, a $100 million consortium of 19 historical and cultural organizations in Rhode Island. Prior to that, he was chief operating officer of the Earth Conservation Corps and co-chairman of U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater?s Anacostia Riverwalk Coalition during the Clinton administration.

Although he has no professional experience with organic food, Davis owns a 10-acre organic farm in Foster, R.I. ?My family has been into organics for many years,? he said.

Davis is planning to establish an Organic Center office near Foster. He is the only staff member but will be advised by the center?s board of directors, which includes organic food manufacturers and scientists.

Davis said his priorities within the next year include focusing on the ?further development and expansion of our State of Science reports, including funding new research and synthesizing existing research.? The center?s scientific and technical advisory committee is planning to have recommendations by the end of the year on which areas to research. Currently, the center is funding three projects for a total of $141,000: a Washington State University study analyzing the differences between organic and conventional strawberries; a World Vegetable Center study on lycopene levels in organic versus conventional tomatoes; and a Tufts University project analyzing the food quality between organic and conventional foods.

Davis will also work on fund raising and on formulating a communications plan for how best to present scientific information on organics to consumers and policy-makers.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 11/p. 7

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