Annual dinner raises just over $400,000 to support organic research projects
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 10, 2017) – Stimulating conversation, scrumptious food, a sparkling mix of guests: the combination for a perfect dinner party and – in the case of The Organic Center’s 14th Annual Benefit Dinner – also the secret to a successful and inspiring fundraiser.
Spotlighting the latest science on the environmental and health benefits of organic food and farming during an all-organic feast for more than 500 organic visionaries, activists and businesses, The Organic Center’s gala Thursday night raised just over $400,000 to help advance the projects of the non-profit research and education organization.
“The work of The Organic Center is critical, and it can’t be done without our help,” said Todd Linsky, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Center. “Our fundraiser not only celebrates the accomplishments of The Organic Center, but it celebrates the vision of everyone who supports this important work to empower farmers and consumers to make well-educated decisions based on sound research. Supporting The Organic Center is truly a win-win for all.”
With the theme of “Science Says So,” the event—the single biggest fundraising event for The Organic Center and the largest business networking dinner at Natural Products Expo West—explained organic science to the dinner attendees in a unique and entertaining way. Marking a first for the dinner, The Secret Ingredient podcast team from National Public Radio affiliate Austin, Texas, based KUT live-taped on stage a podcast episode featuring The Center’s Director of Science Programs Dr. Jessica Shade and the chef and creator of the all-organic dinner, Chef Matthew Raiford.
Marking another first, The Organic Center also debuted two short films about the work of The Center and soil health that highlighted organic’s role in fostering healthy soils and the role of The Center in promoting research priorities critical to organic production.
The science behind 160 organic ingredients
The Secret Ingredient hosts Raj Patel, Tom Philpott and Rebecca McInroy dined on center stage with Dr. Shade and Raiford, while attendees at the benefit also enjoyed dinner. During the dinner, Dr. Shade discussed the work of The Center and some of the specific science behind the 160 organic ingredients used to create the organic menu. A dish of grilled flank steak with a Brazilian-style bean stew and rice, for example, encouraged a discussion of a study on the nutrient profile of meat and dairy, and a wide scale research project now underway with Texas A&M University on organic rice production.
The regional diversity of the menu, ranging from the Brazilian feijoada to a desert dish of South Asian fried dumplings soaked in rosewater syrup drew the observation from Dr. Shade that The Organic Center is increasingly being asked to participate in international conferences as global interest in organic and organic’s benefits is building.
Raiford of Gillard Farms in Georgia shared his journey as an organic farmer and chef. Raiford is the sixth generation to farm his family’s land organically. The executive chef and owner of The Farmer and The Larder and associate professor of culinary arts at the College of Coastal Georgia, said that a childhood with influences from a variety of cultures and later military service in Asia and other parts of the world helped create his menu of “soul food from around the world.”
Support from Capitol Hill
Organic farmer and U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine spoke to the crowd via video, strongly supporting the work of The Organic Center and pledging to continue her role as one of Capitol Hill’s strongest advocates for organic.
Pingree cited her grounding as an organic farmer and small business owner over the past 40 years and her work since 2008 in Congress in support of Farm Bills that include provisions for organic agriculture. Noting that agricultural appropriations for organic research currently is a “very disappointing one-tenth of one percent” while 13 percent of produce sold in the United States is organic, she added, “We need to increase that to at least organic market share so that organic production can keep pace with consumer demand.”
“This disparity is something I want to see addressed,” she said, promising to continue advocating support for organic transition and other measures in the next farm bill to increase funding for organic.
Wide and deep sponsorship
Event sponsors included National Co+op Grocers, Annie’s, Inc., Horizon Organic, Josie's Organics and Braga Fresh Family Farms, Nature's Path Foods, Inc, New Hope Network, Organic Valley, Aurora Organic Dairy, Blue Apron, Cal-Organic, Foster Farms, Frontier Co-op, UNFI, BPM LLP, Garden of Life, Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss, KeHE, Driscoll's, Inc., Stonyfield, and Whole Foods Market.
Furthermore, Applegate, Clif Bar, DSM Nutritional Products, Environmental Working Group, Honest Tea, Lundberg Family Farms, Presence Marketing, and Quality Assurance International supported the benefit dinner through reserved tables.
The Center will also be holding its second Organic Confluences Summit in May in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with Organic Week. The summit will review the latest research on the benefits of organic agricultural practices and assess the available public programs that help farmers adopt those practices.
For more information on The Organic Center and the science behind organic food and farming, visit www.organic-center.org.
The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming and to communicate the findings to the public. The Center is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association.