Baltimore, MD —The Organic Trade Association annual awards dinner served up inspiration along with some delicious organic fare.
The Growing the Organic Industry Award went to Margaret Scoles. The executive director of the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), she brought her grandchildren with her and mentioned her first inspection, 30 years ago. She helped found the (IOIA) in 1991, with the goal of keeping organic organic.
In her acceptance speech, Scoles grew teary at times, alluded to some of the tensions within the organic ranks, and urged her colleagues to stay focused on the opportunities to do good, and to say yes even when it’s easier to say no.
Blake and Stephanie Alexandre received the Organic Farmer of the Year Award. They own the organic grass-based Northern California dairy farm Alexandre Family Farm. The couple has five children, and went organic with the hopes of passing it down to them one day. Both Blake and Stephanie were schooled in high-yield agriculture, and hoped to use their knowledge to create healthier food and healthier people.
Stephanie, like Scoles, urged the attendees to be a force for good change. Blake pledged to continue fighting the good fight, and thanked the OTA for fighting it, too.
The Rising Star Award went to the owner of JSM Organics Farm, Javier Zamora. His acceptance speech was particularly poignant as he described immigrating to the U.S. in 1986, working in hospitality, and then earning his GED at age 43 when it all fell apart.
Zamora went on to study horticulture, and became an organic farmer in 2012. He farms over 100 acres in California and produces organic strawberries.
He said that his mission is to educate people about the importance of healthy, sustainable farming. Rather than wanting to become big, he wants to create more people like himself: people who need a little help, but can make it happen, and can become someone who can help someone else.
The Annual Organic Leadership Awards Celebration was held at the Columbus Center in Baltimore. The OTA is a membership-based association for organic agriculture and products in North America. It represents over 9,500 businesses across 50 states.