SAN FRANCISCO, CA (April 26, 2011) – Fair labor practices in the organic berry industry, environmentally-responsible biopesticides, a new crop of young sustainable farming stewards in the Midwest, and a lunch food revolution in schools – these are the winning innovations receiving recognition today by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s third annual Growing Green Awards.
“With the double whammy of rising food demand and growing environmental challenges, we need a food system that can produce more while using fewer natural resources,” said Jonathan Kaplan, Senior Policy Specialist at NRDC. “These Growing Green Award winners are providing the leadership needed to make that happen. They inspire all of us.”
An independent panel of prestigious sustainable food experts selected the four winners from a pool of 265 impressive candidates that included diverse growers, business leaders and activists across the country. The 2011 winners are:
2011 Food Producer winner: Jim Cochran, founder and co-owner of Swanton Berry Farm, started the first commercially successful organic strawberry operation in California and the first 100 percent unionized organic farm in the nation. Jim not only helped jumpstart the organic strawberry industry, but is also encouraging fair labor practices among sustainable growers. Jim’s unique employee benefits -- including an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), health coverage and a pension plan -- recognize the workers on his farm as vital partners in the operation. Jim is the recipient of a $10,000 cash prize for his achievements in sustainable food production.
“I applaud NRDC for bringing attention to the important, but often overlooked, role of farm workers in a truly sustainable food system,” said Cochran. “All of us at Swanton Berry Farm are doing our best to bring labor standards in agriculture into the 21st century.”
2011 Young Food Leader winner (**new category**): Molly Rockamann, founder of the non-profit organization EarthDance Farms in Ferguson, MO, won for her efforts to cultivate a new generation of sustainable farming stewards in the Midwest. Through Molly’s unique apprenticeship program, urban St. Louis residents -- with ages spanning five decades -- learn the complete cycle of organic farming from seed to market. Encouraged by Molly's leadership and vision, EarthDance apprentices have gone on to establish their own farms, initiate farm-to-table summer camps, start school and community gardens, and run Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Molly is the recipient of a $5,000 prize.
“I created EarthDance to preserve a small farm in my hometown of St. Louis, and consequently have watched it grow into a community of learners, growers, consumers and activists who are changing the foodscape of our region,” said Rockamann. “I am humbled and honored to be recognized as the first Growing Green Young Food Leader by NRDC, and I accept the award on behalf of everyone who has contributed to the making of EarthDance. Preserving healthy, bountiful farms takes many hands.”
2011 Knowledge Leader winner: Chef Ann Cooper is an outstanding leader in the national movement to ensure that all children have access to nutritious food at school. Known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady,” Ann started the Food Family Farming Foundation, which provides schools with the tools and guidance they need to transition from over-processed meals to healthy, fresh ingredients on a limited budget. Ann’s day job is in the trenches of the Boulder Valley School District, where she is transforming lunch menus in the entire 48-school district, just as she has done before on the east and west coasts.
“I am so honored to receive this award not only for the work of the Food Family Farming Foundation, but on behalf of all the school food advocates and professionals across the country who are working toward better school food for all children,” said Cooper. “This award showcases the fact that nutritious food in schools is becoming mainstream, giving our children a brighter and healthier future.”
2011 Business Leader winner: Pam Marrone is the CEO and founder of Marrone Bio Innovations, a leading developer of environmentally-responsible biopesticides based in Davis, California. MBI’s products use naturally occurring materials like plants and microorganisms to help growers control pests, maintain yields, and reduce risks to human health and the environment frequently associated with conventional pesticides. Having launched three successful companies to develop bio-based pesticide alternatives, Pam has created a strong business model in a rapidly growing industry.
“At Marrone Bio Innovations, we are providing the market with effective, sustainable and safe plant protection products with no sacrifice to yield, quality or economics,” said Marrone. “I’m proud to be recognized by NRDC, and appreciate this opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of biopesticides to plants, people and the environment.”
The 2011 Growing Green Awards panel of judges included Michael Pollan, New York Times best-selling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Maria Rodale, Chairman and CEO of Rodale Inc., Dan Barber, executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill Restaurant in New York, and Dr. Tom Tomich, Director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at the University of California, Davis.
The winners will be honored by Michael Pollan, Laurie David, award-winning producer and author of The Family Dinner, and Nicolette Hahn Niman, livestock rancher and author of Righteous Porkchop, at NRDC’s 2011 Growing Green Awards gala, “Food for a New Generation.” The event will take place at Yoshi’s Restaurant and Jazz Club in San Francisco on April 28.