The CCOF Board of Directors recently selected Kelly Damewood to serve as the CEO of the organization succeeding Cathy Calfo. Kelly is currently CCOF’s Policy Director and spearheaded many key organizational initiatives during the past 4 years.
Kelley recently sat down with OPN to talk about her goals for the organization and her vision for the future.
OPN Connect: How has your past experience prepared you for this moment?
KD:Serving in this new capacity as CEO is the definitive moment of my career after years of hard work and dedication to helping organic farmers succeed. Over the last decade I have been working with one singular focus- how do I help farmers who farm in a better way? How do I advance organic agriculture - what role can I play? How can I help create a better food system?
My passion for organic agriculture began when I briefly helped run a small organic vegetable farm near Portland, Oregon. From the first day I stood in that field I understood what organic means for our economy, our environment and our society. My own experience on an organic farm inspired me to think about my role in our broader food system as I learned first-hand about the legal and policy challenges facing farmers.
I went to Vermont Law School determined to help organic farmers succeed. I chose Vermont Law School because it is the top-rated environmental law program. But I quickly realized that environmental law focuses on stopping bad actors. While that’s an important role, I personally wanted to focus on supporting good actors. I wanted to help farmers who farm in a better way. I wanted to help break down barriers for organic farmers and help create a thriving organic sector.
So I went on to study Food and Agriculture Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law where I gained an even better understanding of how our legal system and policies impact farmers and stakeholders throughout the organic supply chain.
Over the last five years, I have led CCOF’s policy and advocacy work. My experience working with CCOF members, my legal training, and my own farming experience has fortified an unwavering passion and commitment to advancing organic agriculture for a healthy world. I know first-hand how challenging it can be to make small, incremental changes and I know how far we have to go.
OPN Connect: What are your goals for CCOF? Where do you want to take the organization under your leadership?
KD: My goals are to ensure that CCOF is the organic certifier of choice under the NOP, a leading voice for organic producers in CA and beyond, and a charitable foundation with deep, lasting impact. I envision CCOF as a place of full of collaborative energy and mission-driven determination. I want our staff and members to be connected to and inspired by our mission to advance organic agriculture for a healthy world. I also want growers, processers, retailers, and handlers of all sizes and types to know that they can count on CCOF to provide them with reliable, service-oriented organic certification.
Most importantly, I want CCOF and the broader community to set and achieve high goals together. Organic agriculture is part of the solution to creating a healthier and more just food system, and it will take partnership and collaboration to achieve a world where organic is the norm.”
OPN Connect: What is your vision for the future of organic? How will your work at CCOF bring that vision to fruition?
KD: I envision a world where everyone has the right, opportunity, and resources to grow organically, to make and sell organically, and, not least of all, to eat organically. I am passionate about our work at CCOF because we advance organic agriculture from all angles. We provide personal accessible certification. We work at the local, state and national levels to represent the voice of organic producers. And we have a charitable foundation that provides educational grants, hardship assistance for organic producers, and training for the next generation of organic producers.”
OPN Connect: How does your millennial status help advance your goals and vision?
KD: “I truly understand what’s at stake- I represent the generation that’s the largest purchaser of organic food and the generation most responsible for passing on the knowledge and integrity long-established by the founders of the organic movement.
I feel called to serve our members, staff and the broader organic community in this new capacity because I feel a sense of responsibility to do my own part to achieve a world where everyone has the opportunity to grow, sell, and eat organically.
As Cathy Calfo steps down, she leaves CCOF well-positioned to achieve even more for organic producers and consumers. I am ready to lead the charge as CCOF ushers in its next era of success.”