Matt and I had a jammed packed agenda during the 37th annual Natural Products Expo West, the world’s largest natural products show, attracting nearly 80,000 attendees to the Anaheim Convention Center.
Tonya Antle, Organic Produce Network; Melody Meyer, United Natural Foods; and Laura Batcha, Organic Trade Association
On Thursday, we attended the Organic Farming Research Foundations (OFRF) 20th Annual Benefit Luncheon which offered up a delicious organic menu and thought-provoking discussion on the future of organic agriculture.
OFRF’s Executive Director, Brise Tencer, highlighted some of the innovative research OFRF funded in 2016 and the ramping up of policy work in Washington, D.C., where OFRF is working to help ensure funding for organic research in the 2018 Farm Bill. Then Tencer introduced our Keynote speaker, Kathleen Merrigan, an early OFRF Board member and the author of the National Organic Program. She is currently the Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University and was formerly the U.S. Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the USDA.
Merrigan began by looking back on the history of organic advocacy, beginning with OFRF’s work to secure funding for organic research in the 2002 Farm Bill. Charming the crowd with her savvy and humor, Kathleen left the guests with a rallying cry to watch for alerts to protect organic. "They are coming and we need to respond.” She added, “And we all need to work together.”
Brise Tencer, OFRF Executive Director with Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University
For the past 14 years, Thursday evening at the Expo has been capped off with the must-attend organic gala, OTA’s Organic Center benefit dinner. The Organic Center is a nonprofit that was founded in 2002 with the mission of convening and conducting credible, evidence-based science on the environmental and health benefits of organic food and farming and communicating them to the public. Todd Linsky, Chairman of the Center, spotlighted the latest science on the environmental and health benefits of organic food and farming to more than 500 organic visionaries and businesses, this sold-out gala raised more than $400,000 to help advance the projects of the non-profit research and education organization.
On Friday, before checking out new innovative trends in organic and natural foods on the gigantic show floor, I was asked to participate on a panel called “Organic Innovation Conversation.” The goal of this session was to astonish our audience with fast-paced, inspirational discussions that illustrate how innovation abounds in organic. My segment was called “Positive Organic Disruption,” which I have been known for, focusing on the need to gain new channels of distribution for fresh organic produce to be able to sustain continued growth and how OPN can help facilitate this through connecting community through information, education and live events.