The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has just announced the winners of the prestigious Organic Leadership Awards for 2011!
And this year's winners? Michael Funk, Chairman of the Board of United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) will receive the OTA Organic Leadership Award in the "Growing Organic Industry" category, while Mark Lipson, Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor in USDA's Office of the Secretary and Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, will receive the award in the "Growing Organic Agriculture" category.
Christine Bushway, OTA's Executive Director and CEO, says:
"Both Michael Funk and Mark Lipson have had a long commitment to the organic movement. Michael has been instrumental in the growth and advancement of the natural and organic industry for over 30 years, while Mark has demonstrated personal commitment, leadership and vision with regard to advancing organic farming since the early 1980s."
Mark Lipson is a great winning choice in my opinion. He only recently joined the USDA team (June 2010), where he's currently responsible for organic farming policy coordination issues, including helping with the awesome "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, but his history with organics is nowhere near that new.
Libson is old school; meaning her's not all administration. His hands are dirty (in a good way) having been involved with many aspects of farm operations and farm management. Libson's organic past is huge, but following are a few highlights. He's been a member of the Molino Creek Farming Collective in California and in the 1980s he established the statewide office of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and became CCOF's first paid employee (cool beans). Libson also assisted with the passage and implementation of the California Organic Foods Act of 1990 and the national Organic Foods Production Act and in 1997 he authored the study "Searching for the O-Word," which documented the lack of USDA research support for organic farming systems.
This year's other winner, Michal Funk, became involved with the organic industry in the mid-1970s, in the Sacramento Valley with a grassroots organic food business. OTA notes that Funk formed Mountain People's Warehouse (MPW) in 1976, a company that eventually combined forces with another regional distributor in 1996 to form United Natural Foods Inc. Currently, due in large part to Funk's guidance, UNFI and its subsidiaries have grown into an estimated $4.5 billion organization that employs over 6,500 associates, and distributes approximately 60,000 products to over 23,000 customer locations. Funk maintains some grassroot ideals though and works to educate consumers about non-GMO products, pesticide avoidance and supporting local and organic agriculture. He also is an active member of OTA and provides support to the organic farming industry with grants, lobbying and outreach.
Good choices this year - congratulations to both Mark Lipson and Michael Funk! The 2011 Organic Leadership Award recipients will be honored at the Sept. 21 OTA Awards Gala during OTA Member Day activities at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD.
Photos courtesy Organic Trade Association