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Three change-makers selected for organic leadership, innovation, and advocacy

Organic Trade Association Awards to honor three standout leaders

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8514
(202) 615-7997
Washington , DC
June 27, 2017
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An organic trade advisor who has worked for decades to open the global world of organic and act as an important organic ambassador both domestically and internationally, an organic grape grower and winemaker with unwavering commitment to organic advocacy and community, and an unlikely entrepreneur who has built a booming business around sprouting organic flours and grains to start a new trend for the organic industry will each be honored with a 2017 Organic Trade Association Leadership Award.

“These are three incredible change-makers who have helped shape the current environment for organic agriculture and trade, and I couldn’t be more excited to see their trade association—a place where they have each been actively engaged—recognize them for their vision and commitment to organic,” said Laura Batcha, CEO of the Organic Trade Association.

Growing the Organic Industry Leadership Award

Receiving the Growing the Organic Industry Leadership Award will be Robert (Bob) Anderson of Sustainable Strategies LLC—Advisors in Food and Agriculture, who serves as Senior Trade Advisor for the Organic Trade Association.

Bob first became active in organic by operating Walnut Acres Organic Farms, America’s first organic value-added food processor, for 30 years beginning in 1969. A long-time organic pioneer, he was the first chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board. Over his career, he has championed organic standards, helped grow organic businesses, and served domestically and internationally as an ambassador for organic. Bob believes in standards as the cornerstone of the organic marketplace. In policymaking circles, it is invaluable to have Bob at the table because he knows the organic business from soils to sales.

“We want him in the room, and organic growers—even those who have never met him—are fortunate to have him on their side,” wrote Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture, in nominating Bob for the award. “Bob helps his colleagues through Customs on yet another trade mission; he delves into the differences between the rules for exporting to Japan and Germany; he injects a timely bit of common sense into a discussion of certification paperwork—and a thousand other things, day-in and day-out. But most importantly, no matter the outcome, those who have the privilege of working with Bob end the day wanting to work with him again.”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding added his appreciation for Bob’s long tenure of service and expertise. “Bob has served Pennsylvania agriculture so well, as a charter member of the original Organic Trade and Marketing Board, as a founding member of the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture, and as an advisor and lecturer in Penn State University’s sustainable agriculture research and teaching curriculum. I am truly pleased to see him get this well-deserved recognition.”

Organic Farmer of the Year Award

Phil LaRocca of LaRocca Vineyards will receive the 2017 Organic Farmer of the Year Leadership Award. A tireless organic farming advocate and farmer for over 40 years, Phil has deep organic convictions that he puts into practice on his farm, in his winery, and in the wider community, particularly in California.

Phil became the first certified organic apple grower in 1975 and created the first certified non-sulfite wine back when most people said it was not possible to do either. Over the years, LaRocca Vineyards has sold over a million bottles of non-sulfite organic wine, and created an industry space for others to follow. He was an early member of CCOF and was active in creating the California Food and Production Act, and participated in formulating the national organic rule on organic wine.

As an organic wine grape grower and winemaker, Phil understands the challenges faced by small and mid-scale growers and processors. What sets him apart is his unwavering commitment to organic advocacy and community. He is chair of the CCOF Board of Directors, has been appointed to the California Organic Products Advisory Committee, and is a valuable long-time member of the Organic Trade Association. He currently serves on OTA’s Farmers Advisory Council.

Rising Star Award

Peggy Sutton of To Your Health Sprouted Flour will receive the Rising Star Organic Leadership Award. Before building one of the organic industry’s latest trends, Peggy was an innovator and health-conscious, family-focused home cook. Now, she is an expert in the field of sprouting organic flours and grains. In 2005, Peggy resurrected this ancient method in her kitchen. Today, her business employs 30 people, 28 of whom reside in Bullock County Alabama, where To Your Health Sprouted Flour is based, in one of the most economically poor counties in the state.

Peggy has demonstrated personal commitment and vision as an emerging leader in the organic sector through product innovation, community education, economic impact, and commitment to growing organic acres. Her company has committed to sourcing the grains from Alabama farmers. In doing so, she has taken on the challenges of helping long-time conventional farmers transition, creating a market for their organic grains, and compressing costs of businesses by helping farmers sell directly to processors. This has helped eliminate some of the anxiety transition brings.

“Peggy has been instrumental in educating thousands of people (including us at Kashi) about the benefits of organic sprouted grains for both people and the planet,” wrote David Uzzell of Kashi. He added, “She is not only a leader in spreading the word of organic sprouted grains, but also in her local community. Peggy is very intentional on sharing the growth of the organic industry with her community by keeping her operations local and supporting the constituents of Bullock County.”

Peggy’s company To Your Health Sprouted Flour is a long-standing member of the Organic Trade Association, and participates in export activities in Europe and Asia.

The Organic Trade Association’s 2017 Leadership Awards Celebration will take place Wednesday, September 13, at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, MD. Tickets will soon go on sale. Sponsorship opportunities are available now by contacting Amy Bovaird.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 9,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect ORGANIC with a unifying voice that serves and engages its diverse members from farm to marketplace.

The Organic Trade Association does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation or marital/family status. Persons with disabilities, who require alternative means for communication of program information, should contact us