CCOF hosted over 200 participants at our Annual Meeting and Conference, in Visalia, California on February 9 and 10. Conference attendees, representing a broad spectrum of the organic community, gathered to hear about innovations and inspiration in the organic sector.
Keynote speaker Gary Hirshberg gave an insightful speech about the are new opportunities for organic posed by this moment in our country’s history. He called upon those in the room to join with the larger organic community to champion organic with a unified voice. “Organic is about building the next generation of hope,” he said. For too long, according to Hirshberg, the organic movement has wasted valuable time on in-fighting amongst fellow advocates, and those in Washington will not be able to hear us without a unified voice.
Following the keynote, two “TED-style” talks were given by Michael Joseph of Green Chef and Paige Poulos of All American Hay and Grain. Joseph told his story of how the tech industry is tapping into a new audience of consumers who demand convenience as part of their organic food system. Poulos delivered a passionate speech addressing our need as a community to advocate for organic use of public lands and transitioning them into organic range land.
A panel focusing on the past, present, and future of organic trends from both growers’ and retailers’ perspectives was led by Robynn Shrader from the National Co+Op Grocers, John France from Homegrown Organic Farms, and Matt Rogers from Whole Foods Market, with Carmela Beck from Driscoll’s moderating the discussion. The afternoon was also filled with informative panels about family farms and their unique challenges, a panel on the state of organic in politics, another panel on distribution and retail, and a presentation with Q&A by Laura Batcha on the GRO Organic Check-off Program.
The end of the conference was a celebration with live music highlighting wonderful products from organic businesses in the Central Valley. CCOF Board of Directors Chairman Phil LaRocca led a toast to the retirement of Tom and Denesse Willey of T & D Willey Farms, honoring their contributions to the organic community and awarding them with an engraved bronze shovel.
Next year, CCOF’s annual meeting and conference will be held in Sacramento, California on February 22-23, 2018. Save the date and we’ll see you there!