Organic Week conference zeros in on bold conversations for sector

Organic stakeholders will gather in D.C. to talk politics, trends, challenges, and more

Washington, D.C., May 08, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- From an insider’s look into the upcoming presidential race, to opportunities for organic with the legalization of industrial hemp, to how organic can be accessible and affordable for more of our changing population and still fetch a fair price for producers, the Organic Trade Association’s Bold Ideas + Critical Conversations conference later this month will challenge and energize participants during Organic Week May 20-23 in D.C.

The organic industry gathers in Washington every year at Organic Week to meet, network, and advocate for organic with congressional and agency representatives. This year marks the Organic Trade Association’s first-ever Influencer Program at Organic Week. Eight widely followed social media influencers have been chosen to cover the conference and other activities to get a behind-the-scenes look at organic advocacy in action.

To be held Wednesday, May 22, above the bustling Union Market in D.C., the Bold Ideas + Critical Conversations conference will be the centerpiece of the week of organic advocacy and collaboration. The list of speakers and leaders is impressive, from Naomi Starkman, founder and editor-in-chief of Civil Eats; to Rudy Arredondo, president and CEO of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association; to Jeff Huckaby, president and CEO of Cal-Organic/Grimmway Farms; Ambassador Darci Vetter and many more. Also participating will be government officials, including Bruce Summers, Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Political landscape

David Wasserman, one of the nation’s most influential political analysts who serves as U.S. House Editor and Senior Election Analyst for the non-partisan The Cook Political Report, will share his spot-on insights and deep knowledge of today’s political landscape as a keynote speaker.

Mainstage events will take place on Dock 5, a creatively repurposed open layout warehouse space at Union Market. Breakout sessions, meanwhile, will be at the Autoshop and Lab 1270--two locations just a block from Dock 5--in addition to Dock 5. 

In afternoon breakout sessions, participants will take part in critical conversations centering around how the industry is delivering access and equity for increasingly diverse shoppers, what it looks like to scale up with integrity, how political activism aligns with brand strategy, and how to set the stage for an Organic Label that evolves, grows and meets the needs of consumers today and the future.

Hemp legalization a hot topic

One timely topic will center on opportunities for the organic sector with the legalization of industrialized hemp through the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. A three-track series will sort through the marketing and regulatory details of this new market, and take a deep dive at opportunities for the organic sector to take an early leadership position in this fast-growing sector.

Sessions will help attendees understand the evolving regulatory framework, agronomic best practices, and infrastructure necessary to bring organic hemp to market.

Moderators and speakers include Gwendolyn Wyard (Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs for the Organic Trade Association), Rend Al-Mondhiry (Senior Counsel at Amin Talati Upadhye and an expert on ingredient and labeling issues for dietary supplements and the food industry), Steven Hoffman (Founder and Managing Director of Compass Nature), and organic hemp grower Chris Jagger of Oregon.

Scaling with integrity and organic values

How can organic scale up and maintain its integrity? This provocative question will be addressed in a keynote presentation and panel discussion around how the organic industry can earn and maintain shoppers’ trust even as it continues to flourish.

Ambassador Darci Vetter, former Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative who now heads Edelman’s Washington, D.C., Public Affairs practice, will present the findings of Edelman’s Trust 2019 Barometer that measures the levels of trust of thousands of consumers in dozens of countries in government, businesses, NGOs, and the media. Organic industry leaders will learn which institutions garner high levels of public trust--and why.

Civil Eats Founder and Editor-in-Chief Naomi Starkman will continue the discussion on how organic businesses can grow and expand without compromising values. She will talk with a panel of executives from the produce sector, the leading organic brand and a major food maker on the most challenging aspects of growing their organic businesses without sacrificing the core tents of the organic seal. The panel will include Jeff Huckaby (President and CEO, Cal-Organic/Grimmway Farms), Melissa Hughes (Chief Mission Officer and General Counsel of Organic Valley), and Carla Vernon (President of Natural of Organic for General Mills).

Access and equity issues

Meanwhile, there will be three sessions dedicated to examining accessibility and equity issues. How can organic be accessible and affordable for more of our changing population and still fetch a fair price for its producers? A distinguished group of national farm activists, organic producers, community leaders and advocates in the health and wellness sectors will address these and other questions and related issues.

  • The Changing Demographics of Organic

Featured  speakers will be Carlotta Mast (Senior Vice President of Content and Market Leader at New Hope Network), blogger Ari Adams (Executive Director of ShiftCon), Allie Mentzer, (Advocacy Specialist for National Co+op), and Maryellen Molyneaux (Managing Partner, NMI).

  • Urban Agriculture: Where does (and doesn’t) organic fit in?

Discussion participants will be Stephanie Jerger (Community Outreach Director of the Baltimore Urban League), Rudy Arredondo (President and CEO of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association), Xavier Brown (Director of Urban Agriculture, Soilful City), Katie Naessens, Professional Staff, U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee), and Cordelia June (Founder, Yon Vilaj).

  • Protecting Farmer Prices

Making up this panel led by Max Goldberg (founder of will be Doug Crabtree (owner/operator of Vilicus Farms), and Ariane Lotti (owner/grower of Tenuta San Carlo).

More breakout sessions

Additional breakout sessions include:

  • Finding your brand’s activism strategy--how to create an action plan in line with your company’s core values for catalyzing meaningful social and environmental change, and deeper engagement with employees and consumers. 
  • Strategies to Reward Farmers for Ecosystems Services and Climate Change Mitigation 
  • Investing in Organic Leadership: The role of capital in endowing organic’s future.

This dynamic program will offer attendees an inspiring day for learning and networking, while taking on challenging conversations. For more information or to register to participate, go to the conference website.

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.  






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