OFRF luncheon: inspired organic food, inspirational organic champions

The 2011 Organic Farming Research Association's annual Expo West luncheon featured sunny flavors along with sober yet hopeful words from featured speaker Philippe Cousteau of EarthEcho International.


The theme of this year's OFRF luncheon, "Think Spring!", proved particularly fitting. First, those of us attending Expo West this week have been greeted by the most gorgeous, golden-California weather; flowers and trees are budding, palm trees are swaying, and the sky is an endless, hopeful blue.

This explosion of life proved inspirational for chef Donna Prizgintas' OFRF lunch menu—cooked up by her team, including Akasha Richmond, Jesse Cool and Beth Miller—and even the table decorations. "People have come in from all over, where it's still winter," Prizgintas said, "so I put as much California in the food as I could; I used a lot of citrus!" Among my favorite dishes: tangy greens and seasoned walnuts with citrus vinaigrette; roasted root vegetable medley; cannellini bean cassoulet with preserved lemons; and an incredible dessert of lemon pound cake with grapefruit-reduction glaze and rose geranium whipped cream. (Yes, I almost licked the plate.)

Spring, as a symbol of new beginnings, also evoked OFRF's new leadership: Maureen Wilmot, who has recently taken the reigns following the venerable Bob Scowcroft. And in a lovely moment, Wilmot and the OFRF made a special tribute to Christine Bushway of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Joan Boykin of the Organic Center, and Peggy Miars from Organic Materials Research Institute (OMRI)—highlighting that women now head four of the major organic associations.

And finally, keynote speaker and ocean activist Philippe Cousteau of EarthEcho International offered a hopeful look ahead. His primary message: As his grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, often reminded the world, we are all connected. “What [the organic community does] is critical because the challenges facing us are unparalleled,” he said. “The stresses on natural resources are becoming more and more serious. We’ll have to increase food production by 70 percent or three billion people will go hungry by 2050.”

Rather than all “doom and gloom,” however, Cousteau believes there is much about which to be hopeful; in the same way that signs of spring seem to take us by surprise after every hard winter, the organic community should embrace that “seeing is believing” and continue to broaden the vision of what’s possible with organic agriculture, even in the face of daunting challenges.

He shared what he called “my favorite film of all the films my father or grandfather made,” from 1974: a young African man donning snorkel gear and looking underwater for the first time in his life, observing fish commonly caught by his tribe. Against this image, the narrator intones: “The man explores worlds which he has lived beside his whole life but never seen.”

That, said Cousteau, is what organic advocates do: help others to see the world all around  in a different way, and thus to care about protecting it. “The work you do here," he said, "the leadership you provide, will create a sustainable future for every man, woman, and child on the planet.”

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