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Award Honorees

Margaret Scoles, International Organic Inspectors Association

2018 : Growing Organic Industry Award

Margaret Scoles, who started out as training manager and coordinator in 1999 for the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) subsequently became Executive Director, a title she still holds. But she has been a tireless educator, advocate and ambassador for the organic world even before that.

Scoles’ involvement in agriculture and the organic movement began in the late 1980s. After graduating from the University of Arizona, she was an Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) reviewer and inspector. In 1991, she was a founding member of the then-named Independent Organic Inspectors Association.

“Any person on Earth who has taken an IOIA training has been affected by Margaret’s indefatigable efforts to improve the integrity of organic farming, production, distribution and sales. She has grown IOIA’s training, membership, programs and influence, such that graduates of these trainings are not only professional inspectors. IOIA students can be found among employees of major companies, certifiers, the USDA National Organic Program, members of the National Organic Standards Board, IFOAM and Organic Trade Association Board members. While not every certifier around the world requires their inspectors to be externally trained, IOIA is considered the highest achievement for inspector and certifier education,” her nomination letter explained.

It added, “It is not an exaggeration to say that most every certified organic product on earth is only a few degrees of separation from Margaret. Whether it’s food, textiles, beauty care products; whether it is Europe or Asia or the USA--the chances are that each item was inspected, certified and/or produced by someone who attended an IOIA training, or was trained by someone who attended an IOIA training. The reach of Margaret’s leadership has touched all sectors and corners of organic production around the world.”

The primary nomination and 67 additional letters of endorsement give testimony to how Scoles has affected their lives, both professionally and personally.

“This award is an extraordinary honor, and I feel all of the inspectors in my global community share it with me,” says Scoles. She adds, “Inspectors are the invisible but critical link between the operation and the consumer who wants their products. We strive to make sure that when the label says organic, it really means organic. Without inspectors, none of us would be here. IOIA exists to bring connectivity to the inspector community all over the world and to bring the collective voice of inspectors to the table. A big part of our mission is training, but that’s not all we do.  I believe my work is to continue to push on for more rigorous inspections by well-trained and qualified inspectors.”

Letters came from throughout the U.S. including a letter from Senator Jon Tester of Montana, as well as from such places as Australia, Germany, Guatemala, Nepal, and South Korea.