Gathering of Organic Pioneers at Organic Valley's Annual Festival
Five national thought leaders on organic, one common theme: Organic agriculture benefits not only our health, but our climate as well. And the more we embrace organic, the more we can foster change for good.
That was the primary theme shared by experts within the organic food movement who gathered on the grounds of Organic Valley Family of Farm's rural southwest Wisconsin headquarters Sunday to share their thoughts on the impact and future of organic agriculture and food. Organic Valley, which hosted the "Organic Heroes" panel as part of its annual Kickapoo Country Fair gathering this past weekend, is posting the symposium as a Webcast at www.organicvalley.coop/organicheroes and on Organic Valley's YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/OrganicValleyFarmers.
The "Organic Heroes" panel featured the Rodale Institute's Tim LaSalle, Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, Genya Erling, a graduate student at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at University of Wisconsin, and biologist and author Dr. Sandra Steingraber. Theresa Marquez, chief marketing executive for Organic Valley, moderated the panel. U.S. Congressman and organic champion Ron Kind (D-Wis.) joined to discuss the need for policy to address and support sustainable agriculture.
"Each of these dedicated individuals presenting here today are national recognized, talented leaders in the organic movement," said Marquez. "To have them together on one stage is a rare, special moment and reflects our deep commitment to the belief that only by working together can we achieve the changes required for a healthy and sustainable future."
Topics covered in the 90-minute presentation included the positive impact of organic agriculture on our evironment. Termed "ecosystem services," these benefits include establishing wetlands, safeguarding forests, providing habitat for endangered species, and protecting neighboring streams and rivers.
"I have looked long and hard at what restores and regenerates our ecological system, and it always starts with soil," LaSalle noted in his presentation. "That is where organic begins—restoring the soil."
According to the Rodale Institute, if 50 percent of American farmland were converted to organic practices, more than 240 billion pounds of atmospheric carbon would be removed from the atmosphere each year, equivalent to removing 42 million cars from the road. Furthermore, if organic agriculture were practiced on the earth's entire 3.5 billion tillable acres, 40 percent of current CO2 emissions would be removed from the atmosphere.
In addition, the panel discussed the future of organic agriculture and food, the health and economic benefits of sustainable agriculture, and how local food systems can both address urban and rural food deserts in America.
"So much of our food takes a 1,800 mile journey from California to central Illinois," noted Dr. Steingraber, referring to the region in which she was born and raised. "If only our states could begin growing our own food again, everyone would benefit. It's up to people like those at Organic Valley to promote local food, and help end food deserts."
Organic Valley's Kickapoo Country Fair, held in La Farge, Wis., is the Midwest's largest organic food and sustainability festival of its kind, and attracted more than 5,000 people to enjoy two days of food, music, bike and farm tours, cooking demonstrations, theater, kids' activities, dancing, author readings, and more.
In addition to Organic Valley, the Kickapoo Country Fair is sponsored by more than 75 local businesses and organizations, including Wisconsin Farmers Union's Kamp Kenwood, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES), Kickapoo Green Builders Guild, and Kickapoo Valley Reserve.
For more information about the event, visit www.kickapoocountryfair.org.
Organic Valley Family of Farms: Independent and Farmer-Owned
Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 1,332 farmers in 32 states and one Canadian province, and achieved $527 million in 2008 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice, which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. The same farmers who produce for Organic Valley also produce a full range of delicious organic meat under the Organic Prairie Family of Farms label. For further information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop, www.organicprairie.coop and the cooperative’s farmer website, www.farmers.coop. Organic Valley is also on Twitter, www.twitter.com/organicvalley and Facebook, www.facebook.com/pages/Organic-Valley/20674850824.