The Organic Trade Association on Tuesday honored all of its members with its Member of the Year Award, applauding the resilience, commitment and community spirit shown by the entire organic supply chain in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We truly think our members are exceptional," said CEO and Executive Director Laura Batcha. "Our members have all stepped up during this global pandemic. They quickly moved into high gear to keep organic products flowing, they have taken care of their workers, and they have helped their communities. Organic Trade Association member companies are made up of so many dedicated individuals doing so much to adapt to this new reality, how could we recognize just one person at one company? In 2020, we'd like to recognize ALL members as our Members of the Year."
Batcha made the announcement during the association's virtual annual meeting. After the announcement, a video tribute to the trade association's members was shown, celebrating some of the extra steps that organic farmers and businesses have taken during the pandemic: donating nutritious food to food banks, hospitals and communities; providing protective face masks and gloves to health care workers and the general public; giving workers raises, time off and paid childcare support.
Accepting the award on behalf of the members was Mark Squire, president of organic grocer Good Earth Natural Foods. On the frontline in his community during the pandemic, Squire has made his stores in Marin County, California, a source of stability for his customers and community, while implementing new safety procedures and marketing strategies.
Squire said he was honored to accept the award on behalf of his fellow members of the trade association, and honored to be a part of the organic community.
"We are part of an industry that reacts to situations fast. Organic has not only been out there coping with things, but helping," said Squire. "Our industry, bottom line, has so many solutions to so many problems."
The Organic Trade Association's Member of the Year Award, a special recognition driven by staff and endorsed by the Board, was created in 2014 to honor and recognize engaged members who actively serve on member communities, participate in our events and serve as overall ambassadors for the trade association and the organic community.
Past honorees have been celebrated for their policy advocacy, programming support and fundraising outreach within the trade association. Award recipients have included Steve Crider of Amy's Kitchen, Jeff Rakity formerly with Natural Flavors/Elan, Carmela Beck formerly with Driscoll's, David Will of Chino Valley Ranchers and Tim Schultz of Lundberg Family Farm.
As the trade association staff thought about the recognition this year in light of the global health pandemic, it became clear that a different approach was called for. In order to shape its advocacy and programming to meet the shifting needs of its diverse membership, the association had begun hosting listening sessions early in the outbreak of the pandemic on the retail, dairy, grains, produce, farm and fiber supply chains, and spoke with many members one-on-one. It engaged with hundreds of organic farms and businesses, and it found a supply chain that— even as it was struggling with how to plan for something never before experienced—was adapting practices to keep pantries and refrigerators stocked and communities safe.
"Our members have been supporting their communities through donations, shifting their business models to produce essential supplies, retooling work processes to protect employees, enhancing employee benefits, and taking creative measures to keep supply chains moving," said Batcha. "They are true heroes."
Source: The Organic Trade Association