OTA's member companies are made up of dedicated individuals. In 2014, OTA announced its first-ever OTA Member of the Year Award. This special recognition, driven by OTA staff and endorsed by the OTA Board, was created to honor and recognize engaged members who actively serve on OTA task forces and standing committees, participate in OTA events, and serve as overall ambassadors for OTA and the industry. The OTA Member of the Year honoree will be announced at the Annual Membership Meeting.
2016 OTA Member of the Year
Carmela Beck, Annual Fund Host Committee Volunteer
Carmela Beck of Driscoll's received OTA's 2016 Member of the Year Award. This special recognition, driven by OTA staff and endorsed by OTA's Board, was created to honor a truly engaged member.
Over the years, Carmela has proven to be a world-class member of the trade association. Each year, she leads Hill Visit teams as part of OTA's Policy Conference and is an enthusiastic supporter of Organic PAC. She has been an Annual Fund volunteer, and a valuable contributor on the international front, joining an OTA mission to Mexico to educate the Mexican government, industry and consumers on the U.S. organic industry and the National Organic Standards Board. She has been an active participant in OTA-led trainings with the Mexican SAGARPA and SENSICIA agencies, and co-presented with OTA at Expo Orgánico, Mexico's largest organic-only event. Moreover, she is an incredible ambassador for OTA and organic, engaging on social channels like Twitter, participating in campaigns, and increasing the reach of our messages.
"Driscoll's has been a long-term OTA member and I have been an active member since 2010. Driscoll's Organic Program has grown to 15 percent of our business and will only continue to dramatically increase in the coming years. As OTA members we have relied heavily on the OTA for its leadership, expertise, advocacy, education, marketing and messaging capabilities," said Beck. "I am very honored by this recognition, and I look forward to continuing our collaboration and our life's work."
2015 OTA Member of the Year
Natural Flavors Inc.
Jeff Rakity, Chairman of Annual Fund Host Committee
An OTA member since 1999, Rakity joined the Annual Fund Host Committee in 2005 and in 2009, stepped up to the plate to become chair of the campaign. As chairman, he led the volunteer committee through thousands of “asks” to achieve a campaign that now brings in over $1 million per year.
Under his leadership, OTA’s Annual Fund has remained a meaningful source of revenue for the Association. In fact, Rakity is directly responsible for raising over $755,000 during his tenure on the committee. 2015 marks the last year that Rakity will be Host Committee Chair. However, he has agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity to provide guidance to a new set of volunteers.
“Jeff has been a tireless champion of organic and of OTA,” said Batcha. “He has made an immeasurable contribution to the association and to organic farmers and organic businesses through his unselfish devotion and commitment to organic. We congratulate him on this well-deserved recognition.”- Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director, OTA
Read OTA's Press Release
2014 OTA Member of the Year
Steve Crider, Liaison for Government and Industry Affairs
Steve Crider is the first individual to receive the OTA Member of the Year award for his strong and consistent voice and active commitment to organic. Crider doesn’t see a problem with being outspoken and tenacious, especially when it comes to getting things done in Washington to support the organic food and agriculture movement and to act as advocate and champion for the organic industry.
Crider has been with Amy’s Kitchen for ten years and has worked as that company’s Liaison for Government and Industry Affairs for the past three years. In this role, he has been able to support Amy’s passion and commitment to the organic food movement at the policy level.
“The deeper I get involved in this work, the more I see a need for people from our side to be outspoken, tenacious, tireless activists for organic. In the current political climate, it is no longer enough just to ‘support’ organic – we need to really engage with the political arena to help direct the systemic changes we need and want to see happen.”
--Steve Crider, Liaison for Government and Industry Affairs, Amy's Kicthen
Crider’s many contributions to the work of OTA have included co-chairing its U.S.-Asia Task Force, participating in its Mexico, Non-GMO and Food Safety task forces, serving on the Organic Political Action Committee (PAC), joining the Organic Research and Promotion Program Steering Committee, stepping up as a team leader at OTA’s annual Policy Conference and delivering letters to congressional offices.