Organic Farmer of the Year Benny McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic says it makes him feel good to see his 12 grandkids work in the soil and learn how healthy food is grown. Growing the Organic Industry recipient Tom Harding of Lehigh Valley Organic Growers says after 30 years advocating for organic, he still feels like he’s just beginning the trek for organic. And Rising Star winner Michael Berger of Elevation Burger says his commitment to advancing organic and selling healthy fast food to American consumers has never been stronger.
Jeff Rakity of Natural Flavors/Elan received OTA’s 2015 Member of the Year Award at OTA’s Annual Meeting in September. This special recognition, driven by OTA staff and endorsed by OTA’s Board, was created to honor a truly engaged member—a dedicated volunteer, fearless leader and apt cheerleader for OTA while serving overall as an ambassador for OTA and the industry.
For the second year running, OTA was a sponsor at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting, which focused on states and their key role in creating diversity and organic options in agriculture.
Still a small portion of the organic fiber business in the United States, organic wool is starting to see some gains in the marketplace here. OTA member Jagger Brothers of Springvale, Maine, markets organic wool yarn certified to the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) which it spins from organic wool imported from South America. The yarn is organically dyed at the GOTS certified Saco River Dyehouse, also in Maine, and brought back to Jagger Brothers for distribution. It is then marketed as The Green Line from Jagger Spun, a division of Jagger Brothers, as hanks for hand knitting and as one-pound cones for machine knitters and weavers.
One of the most important ways that we can protect our farmworkers is by supporting organic agriculture. Because organic certified farming operations are prohibited from using most synthetic pesticides, organic farms ensure that farm workers, their families, and their communities are safe from the negative effects of toxic pesticide exposure.
From the day Amy’s Drive Thru opened on July 20, the turnout for the organic and vegan fast food restaurant in Rohnert Park, California, has been extraordinary. Although the new eatery began with a soft opening, customers waited hours its first days. The volume was many times more than Amy’s had anticipated.
Visionaries in the organic sector are investing in efforts to groom the next generation of organic researchers. Clif Bar Family Foundation’s Seed Matters™ initiative to fund four fellowships totaling $500,000 for four Ph.D. students studying plant breeding in North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin is designed not only to improve seed for today’s organic farmers, but is seen as investing in leaders for the future.
Located in a refurbished Verizon facility in Fairfax, VA, close to our country’s capital, OTA member company MetaWear has launched the first GOTS-certified ethical manufacturing and dye factory in the United States. This cutting-edge solar- and geothermal-powered manufacturing facility provides cutting, sewing, dyeing and screen-printing to produce certified organic cotton T-shirts.
For years, OTA has focused its resources on influencing the national policy debate around organic agriculture priorities—things like ensuring the National Organic Program has the tools it needs to fully enforce the organic regulations, appropriating federal funds for organic-specific research, and developing a proposal for an organic research and promotion program. These debates take place in the context of the Farm Bill and appropriations.
Sales of organic food and non-food products in the United States set another record in 2014, reaching $39.1 billion, up 11.3 percent from 2013, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2015 Organic Industry Survey. Despite tight supplies of organic ingredients, organic food sales posted an 11 percent increase to reach $35.9 billion, while organic non-food sales, at $3.2 billion, jumped almost 14 percent for the biggest annual increase in six years.