Spirit of Organic Awards Dinner during Natural Products Expo East Featured Organic Menu Prepared by Nora Pouillon
The achievements of America’s most celebrated organic farmers were honored with the Spirit of Organic Awards presented on Thursday, October 3rd at a gala dinner co-hosted by New Hope Natural Media and the Organic Farming Research Foundation during Natural Products Expo East in Washington, D.C.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was among the dignitaries who attended the awards dinner at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The dinner was prepared by D.C.-based restaurateur Nora Pouillon, whose Restaurant Nora and Asia Nora are the country’s only certified organic restaurants.
The award-winning farm families are Phil and Katherine Foster of San Juan Bautista, CA., Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens of Penn Yan, N.Y., and Tom and Irene Frantzen of Nashua, Iowa. The award recipients were selected from nominees presented by organic and organic-related groups throughout the country to the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF).
At the event, Wild Oats Markets, Inc. presented a donation of $82,500 to the Organic Farming Research Foundation. This donation, the largest industry contribution ever received by OFRF, was raised through a national 5% day in all Wild Oats and Nature’s Stores across the country. The money raised will allow OFRF to help local organic producers become better farmers through research and educational initiatives.
“The dedication and integrity of these farm families is inspiring,” said Scott Silverman, organic program manager for New Hope Natural Media, co-presenter of the award.
“Their contribution to the growth of organic farming, as well as to their own communities, is an outstanding achievement in a field where everyone is a pioneer.”
“We hope these awards raise awareness of the unsung heroes of the organic farming community,” said Bob Scowcroft, executive director of OFRF. “These honorees are distinguished in their communities for their exceptional level of involvement in local and regional farming organizations, as well as their good organic farming practices. Their primary motivation –a genuine desire to make the world a better place- is something they share with organic farmers everywhere.”
Phil and Katherine Foster farm 250 acres of certified organic land, including their own 30-acre Foster Ranch near Hollister, CA., raising more than 40 crops including fruits, lettuce, onions, peppers and garlic. They sell their produce under the brand name of Pinnacle to wholesalers and local farmers’ markets and grocers in northern California.
As volunteers with the nonprofit Community Alliance with Family Farmers, the Fosters do field demonstrations and give tours of their organic farming operation, which started as five acres in 1989. They also work with field advisors in their area on field trial work. Phil was a board member of the California Certified Organic Farmers from 1992 to 1997, including two years as president, and he served as an OFRF board member for six years.
Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens have 1,000 certified organic acres in the Finger Lakes region of western New York on which they raise mixed grains. They have been active supporters of their community ---at least six neighboring farms have become organic---while demonstrating how organic agriculture can be successful and profitable in a large, commercial-scale operation.
A former genetics researcher, Mary-Howell teaches plant structure and function at Finger Lakes Community College. She serves on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology, and also writes for Acres USA magazine.
Tom and Irene Frantzen of Nashua, Iowa, maintain about 100 organic pigs in addition to raising organic soybean, corn, barley and other crops on their 335-acre organic farm. The Frantzens, who began farming 28 years ago, started transitioning to organic production with the help of their three sons in 1995. They sold their first organic crop in 1998 and their first organic hogs in 1999.
Last year’s Spirit of Organics Awards went to four women: Elizabeth Henderson, a founding member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association in Massachusetts; Jesse Singerman, CEO of Blooming Prairie Warehouse in Iowa City, Iowa; Yvonne Frost, former executive director of Oregon Tilth; and Mary Jane Evans, chief executive officer of Veritable Vegetable in San Francisco.
Natural Products Expo East , which took place October 3-6 at the Washington Convention Center, featured 1,573 exhibits including organic foods, dietary supplements, natural living and personal care products. A total of 19,842 retailers, manufacturers and media attended the annual industry trade show.
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