Organic Business Leaders Celebrate Future Organic Farmers at Expo East

From left to right: Jessy Parr, Assistant Director, CCOF; Jonathan Houser, CCOF grant recipient; Melody Meyer, VP of Policy and Industry Relations, UNFI; Akello Karamoko, CCOF grant recipient; Phil LaRocca, LaRocca Vineyards, CCOF Board Chair and OTA Farmer of the Year; Emily Musgrave, Organic Specialist, Driscoll’s

At this year’s Annual Natural Products Expo East, CCOF and UNFI gathered supporters to celebrate the Future Organic Farmer Grant Fund, CCOF Foundation’s program to advance organic agriculture through young organic farmers. At an intimate luncheon at Forno, organic business leaders including Driscoll’s, Organic Valley, National Co+op Grocers, Independent Natural Food Retailers Association, Forager Project, Hilary’s, Luke’s Organic, Wendel Rosen, and New Resource Bank celebrated the impact of grant funds that support aspiring farmers to pursue careers in organic agriculture.
Two grant recipients, Akello Karamoko and Jonathan Houser, came to share the deep impact grant funds have had on their education and careers. After being introduced by CCOF Board of Directors Chair Phil LaRocca of LaRocca Vineyards and Melody Meyer of UNFI, Houser and Karamoko shared their stories with luncheon attendees.
Karamoko is an urban farmer from Detroit, Michigan who received support from the Future Organic Farmer Grant Fund to complete Michigan State University’s Organic Farmer Training Program in 2016. Since graduating, Karamoko has been farming with Keep Growing Detroit, continued his work as a good food ambassador with City Food Community Concepts, won the Detroit Food Policy Council’s Golden Beet Award for outstanding individual working to build a healthy food system, and traveled to Paris to speak with other youth from Europe and North America about food sovereignty with Eating City Summer Campus. Just before our lunch celebration, Karamoko learned that he had been awarded a home and land to farm through the City of Detroit’s Fitzgerald Revitalization Project. CCOF is proud to be part of Karamoko’s path to his goal of starting the largest black-owned, certified organic, for-profit farming operation in Detroit to give youth the opportunity to experience farming and grow good food to support their community.
Houser is a rural farmer from Sparta, North Carolina who grew up on his grandfather’s tobacco farm. After serving in the Navy, Houser was inspired to return home to Sparta and begin farming. In 2016, he received support from the Future Organic Farmer Grant Fund to attend Appalachian State University and complete a degree in Agroecology. Houser credits the support from CCOF as crucial to his ability to attend the program, not take on student debt and start his farming operation soon after graduating. Houser and his wife, Hannah, now own, operate, and are working towards organic certification for Blue Feather Creek Farm, a 30-acre farm with sheep, chicken, turkeys, rabbits, and seasonal produce, in addition to raising two young daughters and a pet potbelly pig. Houser also coordinates a local food hub for the Alleghany County Food Initiative to support local and organic growers in the area. CCOF was delighted that Houser’s father, Stan Houser, traveled from North Carolina to celebrate his son’s hard work and success. Houser shared that it was important to him to acknowledge his dad’s support at the lunch, because “telling your dad you’re going to be an organic farmer is kind of like telling your dad you’re going to be a rock star.” Well, Jonathan, all of us here at CCOF think that you are a rock star of an organic farmer!
To hear more stories of our Future Organic Farmer Grant Fund grantees, follow our blog or sign up for the weekly CCOF Newsletter. Without your support of CCOF Foundation programs, these stories of success and the growth of a robust new generation of organic farmers would not be possible.
The CCOF Foundation is led by organic farmers who understand why organic is the future. We invite you and your organization to join us—support organic producers and help us advance organic for a healthy world!
The CCOF Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (tax ID #30-0106255). You can also make your donation via check and mail to: CCOF Foundation, 2155 Delaware Ave., Suite 150, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.