Certified Organic 2023 Summer Magazine

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Guided by Integrity 50 years of Advocating for Organic

What You Need to Know About Strengthening Organic Enforcement Upgrade Your Small Farm Food Safety With USDA Assistance

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CCOF, Inc. Board of Directors

Phil LaRocca, Chair, LaRocca Vineyards

Malcolm Ricci, Vice Chair, Bolthouse Farms

Thaddeus Barsotti, Treasurer, Capay Organic and Farm Fresh to You

Ted Vivatson, Secretary, Eel River Brewing

Genevieve Albers, Traditional Medicinals

Steven Cardoza, Cardoza and Cardoza Farms

JoAnn Cherry, MAHA Estate

Wine/Villa Creek Cellars

Chad Crivelli, Live Oak Dairy

Andrea Davis-Cetina, Quarter

Acre Farm

Rich Ferreira, Side Hill Citrus

Esteban Macias Padilla, Groupo U

Liz Niles, Wise Ranch

Nickie Salyer, Lundberg Family Farms

Robin Taylor, Sun Grown Organics

CCOF Certification Services, LLC Management Committee

Kelly Damewood, Chair, CCOF, Inc.

Gina Colfer, Wilbur-Ellis

Charles Fowler, Fowler Ranch

Janning Kennedy (retired)

Tom Willey, T&D Willey Farms

CCOF Foundation Trustees

Kelly Damewood, Chair, CCOF, Inc.

Phil LaRocca, Vice Chair, LaRocca Vineyards

Genevieve Albers, Traditional Medicinals

John McKeon, Taylor Farms

Jess Newman, McCain Foods

Ted Vivatson, Eel River Brewing

Magazine Production

Editor-in-Chief Rachel Witte

Senior Editor Gaea Denker

Production Manager Jenefer Rojas

Art Direction/Design Christina Adams

04 First Words

Guided by Integrity

50 Years of Advocating for Organic

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Gaea Denker began her career in technology working for Google, but has dedicated the last decade of her work to the nonprofit world. She has guided communications for URI.org, a nonprofit working for peace in over 100 countries, and for JFCS East Bay, helping international refugee families begin safe lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A lifelong proponent of organic food, Gaea has admired CCOF’s work for years as she shopped for her family. Gaea joined the CCOF team in December 2022 as the marketing communications manager.


06 Member News

Members doing great things

10 Foundation Programs

CCOF Foundation at work

13 Feature Article

By Gaea Denker

18 Organic Advocacy

Supporting organic interests

19 Chapter Update

Staying active with your chapter

20 Certification News

Keeping you compliant

22 Member Listings

New CCOF members and supporters

Certified Organic magazine is published biannually by CCOF and serves CCOF’s diverse membership base and others in the organic community, including consumers and af filiated businesses. Letters to the publisher should be sent to marketing@ ccof.org . CCOF reserves the right to edit or omit submissions and letters received. For more information, contact CCOF, Inc. at marketing@ccof.org

For every pound of paper used to print this edition of Certified Organic, an equivalent number of trees are planted through Trees for the Future, an organization dedicated to planting trees with rural communities in the developing world, enabling them to restore their environment, grow more food, and build a sustainable future. Our American-made paper contains post-consumer recycled material.

ISSN 1940-8870

© CCOF 2023

OrganicCertified Summer 2023 | 3 IN THIS ISSUE

First Words

Fifty Years of Advancing Organic

As CCOF celebrates its 50th anniversary, I am nearing my decade anniversary with CCOF. I served as policy director from 2014-2019 before stepping into the role of CEO and in this time I have been humbled by the strength of our collective voice. It’s been an amazing experience not only to learn from, but also to help represent the people who dedicate their careers to cultivating organic food. I love knowing that our united efforts make a real difference in increasing the accessibility of nutritious meals for families and communities.

Community is everything. CCOF wouldn’t be where it is today without the advocacy of our membership and partners over the years. Organic policy encompasses many areas, from local regulations governing pesticide use to state-level water legislation to navigating the intricacies of federal programs and funding. Our impressive progress in shaping this landscape is due to the resolute advocacy of our members and partners who have fought for integrity and trust in the organic label and who continue advocating for improvement at every opportunity.

Farmers have always had to work hard to help lawmakers understand what they need to succeed, and organic farmers face even more complicated challenges. Regulations often fail to encompass the inherent and necessary stewardship integral to organic production. Our commitment to addressing this gap has been unwavering, which you will read about in our feature article this issue, “Guided by Integrity: 50 Years of Advocating for Organic.”

Your voice is necessary to this movement, and no action is too small. Making a small donation, signing a letter, or calling your local representative all add up

to create major policy changes. We are privileged to have many opportunities to advocate for policies, programs, and funding that support organic producers. The important part is that lawmakers hear from us. CCOF remains dedicated to getting out the word to our members whenever advocacy opportunities arise.

Remember, we are always learning and growing. Your feedback through participating in chapters, post-inspection surveys, and member surveys is critical to helping us understand how we can best meet your needs. We also always welcome inquiries to policy@ccof.org

As we look forward to the next 50 years, I’m excited for what we can do together. We’ve come a long way with your support, and your voices are what will continue to propel organic integrity forward.

With heartfelt gratitude,

CCOF Action Fund

In the past two years, CCOF has worked with lawmakers to achieve the following:

→ Prioritize organic food in schools

→ Secure $1.85 million for organic research and extension

→ Secure $5 million for emergency relief for small-scale producers

→ Secure $10 million for producers transitioning to organic management

Help us build on this success to grow the organic sector. The CCOF Action Fund is dedicated to advancing organic agriculture through support of elected leaders who want to help us grow organic. The fund is governed by a committee comprised of organic producers. Your investment translates into millions of dollars for organic. Join us by contributing to the fund today!

Contributions to the CCOF Action Fund are not deductible for income tax purposes. CCOF Action Fund is a registered California committee (ID# 1373142).

Contributions to the Action Fund are limited to $6,800 per calendar year.

Thank you for your support!

Have thoughts to share with us about CertifiedOrganic magazine?

Get in touch at ccof@ccof.org .

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Center Photo Liz Birnbaum @thecuratedfeast

50-Year Reflection

CCOF Board Chair Phil LaRocca Reflects on 50 Years of CCOF

“I got the farming bug in me,” Phil LaRocca says about going to his family’s ranch as a boy with his uncles to pick cherries. “I loved being out there, being with the trees.” All the while, his uncles talked to him about the importance of not having “a bunch of chemicals on your food.”

LaRocca’s first farm of his own was a leased apple orchard in Chico. He and his wife worked together to cultivate the first certified organic apple orchard in California, a few acres of organic Concord grapes, and some organic sheep. They’d heard about CCOF and got certified in the 1970s. “Back then, we inspected each other,” LaRocca explains.

Eventually, LaRocca transitioned to growing wine grapes. But making organic wine was complicated—and controversial. “I wanted to make an organic wine without sulfur dioxide, and you would have thought the end of the world was coming! I started to get the vibe that no one else was doing it,” LaRocca remembers. “The few people making organic wine stuck together, but the group was split in opinion on adding or removing sulfur dioxide. Meetings would start mellow and get heated quickly.”

In the 1990s, he was elected to the CCOF Board of Directors and eventually became the board chair. “I was there through the whole transition of the National Organic Program (NOP) coming in and running organic certification,” he recalls. “The one thing I was sure about was getting one standardized rule for organic. There were so many certifiers—all with different standards—and CCOF was the strictest one. If we

turned down an applicant, they would just go to another certifier and get certified!”

LaRocca helped write the regulations for organic grape growing and organic winemaking. The sulfur dioxide issue was a heated one. “I came up with the concept of ‘wines made with organic grapes’ as a compromise,” he says. Now, wines can be labeled as “organic wine” if they are made with organic grapes and do not contain sulfites. “Wine made with organic grapes” must contain 100 percent organic grapes but are allowed to include sulfites.

LaRocca was also involved in adjusting CCOF’s structure to meet NOP requirements and starting the CCOF Foundation.

CCOF has truly grown in the time since LaRocca first became a certified member. Even though many of the changes were unexpected, they’ve allowed CCOF to evolve into the powerhouse it is today. “I’m really happy with the structure we have now—the three divisions. I’m proud to be a part of the history and feel that I helped develop where we are today,” says LaRocca.

As for where he sees CCOF going next? “We have such a strong reputation as being the best—being honest and fair. I see the CCOF Foundation growing and see us branching out and running other programs still under the umbrella of strong organic standards. I see us being a more powerful force on the state level,” he says. “We’re gonna see a brighter future.”

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Member News

The Value of Organic Experiential Education

ChicoOrganicVegetableProjectProgramManagerScottGrist. PhotocourtesyofScottGrist.

As a student of animal science at California State University, Chico (CSU Chico), my time between classes was happily spent at the University Farm, and my semesters were full of a diversity of livestock experience. I would milk cows early in the morning before heading to organic chemistry class, check lambing ewes before heading to a plant science class, and feed pigs after an afternoon class in ecology. I engaged in hands-on production experiences alongside a close-knit group of students who would become lifelong friends and successful agricultural professionals.

This experience was invaluable to my future, and as I reflect on CCOF’s mission, I can’t help but think about how the future of organic depends on continuing to have places like CSU Chico where the next generation of farmers and agricultural professionals can learn about and explore organic production. Today, the CSU Chico Farm offers an expanded range of opportunities for students to learn about organic production. For this article, I spoke with the managers of CSU Chico’s Organic Dairy and Organic Vegetable Project (OVP) as they shared how these projects started, how far they’ve come, and what they envision for the future.

Darby Heffner is the herd manager at the organic dairy and oversees the day-to-day operations. Growing up in Petaluma, Darby fell in love with agriculture from a young age, and when she started her freshman year at CSU Chico she began working at the University Farm dairy unit. Darby’s love for dairying blossomed. Following graduation she continued to be part of the dairy and has played an integral role as it has gone through some significant changes. Most notably, in 2006 the dairy began a transition to organic. At that time, organic dairy production was less common and hadn’t been demonstrated in a setting like the University

Farm. In hopes of bringing a new model of dairying to the college environment, as well as making the dairy unit more sustainable long term, they moved to a pasture-based, organic system and never looked back. The organic dairy is now 17 years into shipping organic milk, with a seasonally managed herd of around 85 crossbred Jersey cows. CSU Chico is one of the few universities in the country offering experiential education in organic dairy management to college students.

The transition to organic wasn’t always easy as the dairy learned to operate and solve problems in new ways. They had to learn about rotational grazing and managing dairy animals on pasture. It took a philosophical shift in animal management, and through organic practices, they worked to create a holistically balanced environment where their cows thrive. Darby is very proud of how far they’ve come and the impact the program has had on student growth and education. Running the dairy takes an incredible amount of work, with an average of 10 to 12 students working and learning there annually. The student-led production team manages every aspect: They organize feeding, health care, milking, and the administrative work required to run a dairy. When asked what she is most proud of at the dairy, without hesitation, Darby talks about the students. They come from a variety of backgrounds, with open minds excited to learn about organic production. They take on the early morning milkings and the long shifts and work as a team to make the dairy successful.

Even in a collegiate environment, the organic dairy has not been insulated from the difficult realities facing the broader organic dairy industry today. High feed prices have driven up production costs, and the extreme drought, then flooding, of the last few years have created new challenges to pasture management and grazing. Darby notes that this offers an opportunity to teach students about resilience. They learn about the cycles of agriculture and how to move through these times of stress that all farmers will inevitably face. The unique hands-on experience students receive at the dairy gives them the opportunity to creatively problemsolve through these challenges and see the impact of their choices on day-to-day operations and production outcomes. This on-farm experience is an irreplaceable component of their education, as it allows them to put into practice the organic dairy production curriculum they receive in the classroom. Outside of the classroom and farm, there is also a Dairy Science and Industry Club, where students participate in educational, promotional, and service events. Cumulatively, this creates a well-rounded environment to foster future organic farmers and industry professionals.

A stone’s throw from the lush organic pastures of the dairy, other Chico students harvest fresh organic fruits and vegetables from the university’s Organic Vegetable Project (OVP). In 2008, not long after the dairy had started its transition, Dr. Altier was interested in developing organic vegetable production at the University Farm. At that time, the farm was primarily cultivating orchard crops, field crops, and livestock units, but there wasn’t any acreage dedicated to organic vegetable production. Dr. Lee Altier saw this as an opportunity to grow the experiential education offered at the farm. Now, this grant-funded project operates through student and community support. Today, Scott Grist manages the OVP. Scott is a CSU Chico geology graduate who has

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a deep passion for both farming and building community around locally grown food. He puts that passion into practice through the work being done at the OVP.

The OVP currently has three acres in production where they grow a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. These products are sold to local residents via a community supported agriculture (CSA) program as well as a weekly farm stand that is open to the public. The OVP offers many opportunities for student involvement: There are paid positions, internships to earn class credit, and a course specifically focused on direct work in vegetable crops. All in all, each semester the OVP has over 30 to 40 students helping run the operations. Many of these students are plant science majors, but the farm also attracts majors across the department of agriculture and other disciplines.

Beyond serving as an invaluable resource for advancing Chico students’ hands-on education, the OVP also sets ambitious goals around community outreach and involvement. The OVP works to accomplish these goals by offering public tours of the farm and providing technical assistance to local growers. Scott’s enthusiasm is contagious as he talks about sharing lessons learned at the OVP and practices that work well for them. Information sharing through OVP is a keystone of their communitybuilding work. Additionally, OVP collaborates with the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry, which is open to CSU Chico students and staff facing food insecurity. The OVP is one of the suppliers to the food pantry, with about 10,000 pounds of product from the OVP going to the pantry annually. Scott describes this as one of his favorite programs, as they get to provide produce to members of the CSU Chico community who may not otherwise have access to fresh, locally grown produce.

Like the organic dairy, the OVP provides experience to complement what students learn in the classroom. Classes in sustainable vegetable production, greenhouse management, and horticultural therapy are just a few examples of the courses that utilize the OVP to enrich the in-classroom learning experience. Additionally, student and faculty research on organic production practices is also carried out on the farm, helping build the knowledge base of peer-reviewed research on organic production as well as delivering valuable community education to local farms.

Experiential education is vital to the future of organic, and the CSU Chico Organic Dairy and Organic Vegetable Project are cultivating the next generation of organic industry professionals. Looking into the future, the dairy plans to continue working hard to improve their grazing systems and may pursue on-site dairy processing. The OVP is excited about their newest endeavor—growing organic mushrooms—and they hope to continue diversifying and expanding, working to institutionalize organic vegetable production at the University Farm. As demand for organic products continues to grow, it’s inspiring to see CSU Chico providing and expanding the educational foundation that aspiring organic farmers and professionals need.

information about the Organic Vegetable Project, visit csucag.wixsite.com/chicostateovp

The Power of Cereal for Breakfast: A Balanced and Nutritious Start to Your Day

For more information about the CSU Chico Organic Dairy Unit, visit www.chicostateorganicdairy.com , and for more


Breakfast is often hailed as the most important meal of the day, providing us with the energy and nutrients we need to kick-start our morning. Among the various breakfast options available, cereal stands out as a popular and convenient choice for people of all ages. Historically, options for a nutritious cereal, one you could feel good about eating, were fairly limited. Cereals loaded with added sugars and dyes were the norm, and the consumer demand for healthier options was not strong. The idea of a wholesome, delicious cereal made with the cleanest ingredients that is also beneficial to your health was almost beyond belief. However, times are changing. In a world where health-conscious

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consumers are increasingly seeking organic and nutritious options, Parker Brooks has made his mark in the organic food industry with Lovebird Cereal.

The inspiration for Lovebird Foods came from the birth of Parker’s daughter, Yuki, which fueled Parker’s ambition to begin a startup that produced a healthy, wholesome product while giving back to the community by helping children in need. As the pieces of Parker’s dream kept evolving, the idea of a nutritious cereal without all the dyes, artificial flavors, and preservatives soon became his mission. Parker decided he would add a healthier cereal option—an organic, refined grain-free cereal with no refined sugar—to the breakfast table: “After the birth of my daughter and my five-year health journey managing my autoimmune disease, I felt a calling to leave my Big Food job to clean up junk food that is negatively affecting our health. Seventy percent of our diet is junk food, and one in two people now have a chronic health disease. Food has the power to change our world, and I want to help drive that change.”

Parker believed in the power of breakfast and starting the day in a nutritious way, “cleaning up junk food with real food from the earth, lightly sweetened by nature, no weird stuff …. The hardest meal was breakfast as it became very repetitive. I love cereal and I could not have it [due to diet restrictions] even though my daughter was eating it all the time (well, half of it would wind up on the floor). Lightbulb! I should take the world's cleanest diet (the Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP) and use it to clean up junk food, starting with breakfast!” From this idea and mission, Lovebird Cereal began to take flight.

The journey from a wholesome cereal concept to a finished product was far from smooth. The journey started in Parker’s home kitchen, where he tested well over 50 recipes. Then the day came when the recipe turned out just right, and as Parker notes, “My wife did a silent fist pump as I vacated our kitchen and headed to the professionals.” Parker was ready to find the co-manufacturer that would truly bring his idea to life and to the masses. At this point in the journey, Parker had yet to give his cereal a name. After thinking it over for some time, Parker went back to his inspiration that started it all, his daughter. And the Beatles helped too: “It is the emotion I feel as a new father. I wanted to provide love, protection, and ascension for my daughter …. Also, I was listening a lot to ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles.” With an amazing recipe developed, a co-manufacturer selected, and a brand name that came from the heart, Parker’s vision was coming to fruition.

Parker was not done yet; he still needed to fulfill another purpose. He wanted to give back to the community, specifically to kids in need. Parker decided he would give 20 percent of his profit to fight childhood cancer: “There was still something missing. I need to live my purpose. I then made the decision to give 20 percent of my profit to fight pediatric cancer. Every single businessperson said, ‘You're crazy; that's too much!’ That's how I knew it was the right move!” Parker explains another reason that Lovebird is set apart from others in the industry: “Lovebird is 100 percent independently owned. I don't have some parent company or investors telling us how to run our business. I don't cut corners, and I put purpose over profit every single day. After working in Big Food, I wanted the autonomy to authentically live my purpose and fulfill my mission.”

Lovebird Cereal stands out today due to its exceptional quality and commitment to organic ingredients. From the crunch of ancient grains to the natural sweetness of dried fruits and honeys, every component of Lovebird Cereal is thoughtfully selected. With a wide range of flavors, Lovebird offers something

to please every palate. From the nutty richness of Almond Crunch to the tropical delight of Coconut Paradise, each flavor combination is carefully crafted to bring joy to breakfast tables.

From the beginning of the journey, Parker has remained steadfast to his original mission. With a loyal following of customers and an expanding line of products, Parker still remembers Lovebird’s Cereal's earliest accomplishments: “The very first order that wasn't from my mom or dad! It was proof that people care about their food as much as I do. It gave me the courage to keep flying, and every new family that joins our mission empowers us to make an even bigger difference, box by box.”

Lovebird Cereal by Parker Brooks represents the values that health-conscious consumers seek in their breakfast choices. With its dedication to organic ingredients, sustainable practices, and delightful flavors, Lovebird offers a wholesome and guiltfree way to start the day. As the brand continues to grow and evolve, it is sure to inspire others in the food industry to prioritize the well-being of consumers and their communities.

Find Lovebird cereal and more information at lovebirdfoods.com .

A Walk Through the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market

Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the oldest and highest elevation capital city in the United States (established in 1607 and 7,000 feet above sea level, thank you very much), as well as the country’s first UNESCO-designated Creative City. So it is not surprising that this rare gem also hosts one of the best farmers’ markets in the country.* The Sante Fe Farmers’ Market is a must for anyone visiting The City Different; luckily this is my local market, and I took a stroll through the market on a Saturday in early May to enjoy the ever-growing organic presence.

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*Source: Attractions of America at www.attractionsofamerica.com/ thingstodo/best-farmers-markets-us.php.

Just steps inside the LEED-certified building, a “CCOF-Certified Organic” sign hovers above an astonishingly colorful display of soaps, Swiss chard, and radishes. Beth Kleinzweig is vending today for Malandro Farm and says that yes, “the soaps are all certified organic. We have goats on our farm. The soap is made with goat milk, shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and then essential oils, and all of it is organic. I love the calendula one …. The lavender is always a win, and people really like the chai spice one.” The huge, beautiful radishes draw my eye. “Our pink radishes—which we’re not allowed to divulge the variety—those are a big seller,” says Beth. It’s early in the season; as the year progresses, heirloom tomatoes and carrots will be added to their bestseller list. While we’re speaking, Beth deftly handles sale after sale of radishes, the customers gleefully grabbing them up like a bounty of Easter eggs.

Stepping back outside, I quickly spot a white tent with a large USDA “Organic” seal hanging proudly next to the hand-painted sign for Mr. G’s Organic Produce. Natasya and Gary Gundersen are here selling crisp, fresh salad mixes. “We’re really known for our salad mix and salad bar display,” says Gary. “We make custom mixes for everybody on the spot. It takes more time, but that’s been very popular.” In the summer, they will add tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers into the mix. Gary kindly took a moment to chat with me about organic certification: “We got certified organic when we had our first farm in Hawaii in 1989, and we were over there for 12 years …. [We’re organic] to verify the standards that we all need to and should abide by, to give the public that assurance—safety, quality. There was never a second thought to not get certified. Some people just walk from certified organic sign to organic sign—it means that much to them.”

Simply walking around the market is a feast for the senses: long ristras of red chile peppers; a young man playing guitar with a dusky voice fit to put Ray LaMontagne to shame; the scents of cut flowers, worm compost, fresh bread from a booth painted with space aliens. Many people mistakenly believe that New Mexico offers only red and green chile—and while we do, and it’s excellent, and you absolutely should try them—the agricultural diversity of this area is astonishing. As the season progresses, the farmers’ market will be filled with apples, honey, beeswax candles, pears, grapes, strawberries and berries of all kinds, herbs, greens, lamb and bison (including whole bison pelts!), chicken and duck eggs, shallots and onions, peanuts, potatoes, pumpkins, tea blends, and so much more. No reselling is allowed at this market—the chile pepper wreaths, the intricately painted

alebrijes, the soaps and salad mixes were all crafted or grown by the people standing just on the other side of the table.

It's still quite early in the season, and some of my other favorites aren’t vending today—Freshies of New Mexico with their mushrooms and peaches; Romero Farms’ famous roasted chiles; Green Tractor Farm, Tesuque Natural Farms, Synergia Ranch Organic Fruits and Vegetables, Sungreen Living Foods. I wander outside but cannot find Camino de Paz School and Farm—so many breads, cheeses, and even desserts! But I do find Heidi’s Raspberry Farm, always with a large spread of raspberry jams to try—raspberry with lavender, with ginger, with red chili.** Heidi’s jam is a New Mexico staple and can be found in many local grocery stores, but I can’t stop myself from taking a taste of the raspberry jam with red chili and ginger. The Rail Runner chugs by—our commuter train, painted with a road runner and making the classic Looney Tunes meepmeep! sound when the doors open and close—and I join the crowd waving to the train.

Heading toward the Santa Fe Artists Market, conveniently adjacent to the farmers’ market every Saturday, I come across a wide selection of transplants. Weaving my way through row upon row of herbs, hot peppers, and tomato plants, I make the friendly acquaintance of Ric Gaudet of One Straw Farm. “This time of year, we sell tomatoes like crazy, basil plants and pepper starts, and we’re starting to get into a lot of flowers, zinnias and cosmos,” Ric says, as behind us several farmhands guide customers to the ideal transplants for their needs. Why did Ric choose to be certified organic? “In terms of plant sales—we’re one of the few certified organic nurseries in the state—it’s an automatic stamp of approval.” I’m astounded by the variety of vibrant transplants available from One Straw, from ‘Bangkok Thai’ and ‘Bhut Jolokia’ chiles to ‘Toronjina’ tomatoes and ‘Cupid’ mini bell peppers, photographs of each showing the promise of the colorful harvest to come.

Whether you’re a local or planning a trip to New Mexico, make sure to put the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market high on your list. The market is located in the Railyard Park and is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays; on Saturdays, it is surrounded by other artist markets and is a perfect addition to a day spent on the historic plaza or at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts or Meow Wolf.

** “Chile” refers to the pepper, while “chili” refers to a dish or spice blend that mixes chile peppers with other ingredients.

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Foundation Programs

A Bright Future for Organic Is a Bright Future for All

We all want a bright future for ourselves, our children, and future generations. It’s exhilarating and daunting to think of the ways we can effect change to progress, individually and as a society. As an organization, the CCOF Foundation advances organic because we know it’s helping to build a better tomorrow.

So, it’s exciting that the USDA is now investing in expanding organic transition and giving organic a chance to make the difference it has always promised by encouraging farmers to convert as much production land as possible into organic as soon as possible. It’s an ambitious, multipronged goal with enormous positive potential which you can learn more about at www.ccof.org/roadmap

Under the USDA’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP), the CCOF Foundation leads the West/Southwest region encompassing Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Hawaii. In concert with the other five regional leads across the United States, we are coordinating with dozens of partners to support organic transition through mentorship, technical assistance (TA), workforce development, and community building. From national organizations with broad reach to universities with statelevel reach to local nonprofit organizations, together we are bolstering capacity to support producers.

In some communities and for some farmers where organic transition is further on the horizon, a necessary first step is demystifying organic and building trust with folks who have historically been omitted from organic. We’re listening to different communities’ needs and adapting to best nurture their organic transition paths. This means offering and joining events where folks can learn more about organic and providing different diverse entries to engagement and commitment—because we know going organic can be challenging, not only in terms of production practices but also socio-culturally. Using different languages and visual, hands-on, and farmer-to-farmer learning, we can engage folks in many ways. The intention is to make organic accessible to all.

bolster organic knowledge and advisory capacity for agents in Resource Conservation Districts, university extension offices, Farm Service Agencies, Certified Crop Advisors, and other consultants and TA providers. We must support longstanding organic networks and conferences like EcoFarm, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), Marbleseed, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners (MOFGA) and others that have been instrumental in building the organic community, while embracing organizations and groups that are doing their best to push the needle forward with ecological practices but need support to go organic.

Through our research, we have identified myriad barriers to organic transition. That’s why we are customizing our approach to addressing these barriers. In some regions, a lack of organic inspectors and other workforce limitations present barriers; similarly, there are bottlenecks or fissures in the organic supply chain related to meat processing and organic feed hay for livestock and dairy producers. More producers need more markets, and while the Organic Market Development Grant centers on this scope, we’re boosting the effort by co-creating pathways for value-based supply chain careers and growth along the supply chain. We are also working on pathways on the demand side of the equation to provide for farmers in exchange for the valuable ecosystem services they provide for us and our planet.

Passing on knowledge must occur in a variety of forms, and few are as important as farmers teaching one another. That’s why we’re building an ambitious mentorship program inviting seasoned organic farmers to be mentors for transitioning farmers locally and across the West/Southwest region and in partnership with other regional leads across the United States.

Learn more about mentorship opportunities on the CCOF website at www.ccof.org/topp and www.organictransitions. org

Transition comes with risks as people learn new systems, markets develop, and soil regenerates; to mitigate some of those risks we need to streamline, diversify, and expand programs like the Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance Program and the Organic Certification Cost Share Program. These risks are particularly acute for underserved and smaller-scale producers, and—as we highlighted in our last Certified Organic magazine issue—that’s why the CCOF Foundation provides direct financial assistance for transition through our Organic Transition Grants program.

Learn more about our organic transition grants at www.ccof. org/organic-transition

To effectively support all who want to transition, we are harnessing and advancing the collective knowledge and capacity of veteran organic producers, technical assistance providers, researchers, institutions, certifying bodies, community organizations, and other stakeholders. While we applaud the initiatives through the National Resource Conservation Service that create positions for organic expertise in each of its regional centers, we also need to

To ensure a net increase in organic acreage, we need current organic farmers to thrive. At times, this means supporting them financially through hardship or disaster. The CCOF Foundation’s Hardship Assistance Fund continues to expand support for folks in need with almost $1.2 million awarded to date and plans to award at least another $2.7 million in the next two years. The hardship assistance grants make an enormous difference for farmers who are weathering tough times like the organic dairy crisis, fires, drought, and flooding.

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Learn more about hardship assistance at www.ccof.org/ hardship

Yet another fundamental consideration in transitioning more acres to organic is supporting the next generation of organic producers, which is why the CCOF Foundation created and continues to grow our Future Organic Farmers (FOF) grant fund. With almost $800,000 in awards, this fund is driven by individuals like you and businesses with the vision to invest in our bright tomorrow. As one of 2023’s FOF grantees, Angelina Oliva writes, “When I think of a future in farming, I see a family who works together, who is knitted with their local community and its needs, who advocates and fights for equity and environmental soundness, and who feeds people, both physically and with transformational knowledge.” She adds, “To my family, organic agriculture, distinguished by regenerative practices, is the only way to move forward in the field of agriculture.”

Learn more about these grants at www.ccof.org/fof

To reap the benefits of organic and amplify its healing capacity to all communities, we need to nourish it in many ways. This takes a collective effort, lifting the voices of all current stakeholders and inviting new ones to the table. It will take opening hearts and minds, more patience and compassion, and continued resolve and resilience. The CCOF Foundation is thrilled and honored to be one of the leaders in coordinating and propelling organic expansion through our programming and the collective efforts of all our partners.

See the list of all our current partners and national organizations involved in TOPP at www.ams.usda.gov/sites/ default/files/media/TOPPMap.pdf

Donate to the CCOF Foundation at www.ccof.org/donate

Summer 2023 | 11

The CCOF Foundation Welcomes Inaugural Endowment Gift From Becky Blythe

CCOF’s work has been rooted in community from the very beginning, when founding members gathered around a cause they cared about. Our community has grown into a network of thousands of organic producers across North America and dedicated CCOF staff who are passionate about making a difference.

Becky Blythe, one of the most tenured staff at CCOF, chose to carry forward that passion in her will, which bequeathed funds to the CCOF Foundation. The Becky Blythe Endowed Fund is the inaugural gift to the new CCOF Endowment, which will support current and future organic producers through the CCOF Foundation’s programs in perpetuity.

An endowed gift is special because it helps maintain a steady level of funding for the CCOF Foundation over time. This ensures that continuing support is provided to the community we serve. The CCOF Endowment will be used to support the programs of the CCOF Foundation. Programs benefiting current and future organic producers are integral to securing the future of the community, and Becky’s generosity ensures the long-term viability of these programs.

Becky was an environmentalist and advocate by heart. “Her wish was to create a better world—a world that had room for people to have healthy lives and coexist with nature,” explains Jim “JC” Cockrell, Becky’s husband. “She wanted to keep the natural part natural. Having a piece of wilderness was important to Becky.”

Before she came to CCOF, Becky followed this calling to environmental and community service through doing research in Canyonlands National Park, teaching fourth and fifth grades, organizing grassroots lobbying efforts in the Santa Cruz area, and graduating from the University of California, Davis Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Farming program. Eventually she found her way to CCOF in 2005.

She was known around the CCOF office as a joyful, patient, and wise colleague who was always available to help. She had an exceptionally deep knowledge of the complexities of organic certification and always knew where to find the best waterfalls and hot springs. She was particularly fond of bees. Becky was always ready to be delighted by tiny, perfect things in the natural world, and she shared that sense of wonder with the rest of the CCOF family.

“Even though CCOF has grown, it still maintains a value of camaraderie,” says JC. “When I would come visit for special events, it really felt like a family to me. People have a real fondness for each other. The intangible parts at CCOF were just as important to Becky as being a part of the organic food movement.”

Becky deeply believed in organic, which made her a meticulous and diligent certification specialist. So industrious, in fact, that when she retired, CCOF hired two new certification specialists to fill her one pair of shoes. “Becky brought a real sense of caring about the process, doing it because it was important to her,” JC explains. “I think that rubbed off on the people who worked with her—that what they were doing was important and it had meaning.”

Outside of CCOF, Becky filled her life with stewardship and joy. She volunteered at state parks, played music, told stories, cooked, danced, and adventured ceaselessly in wild lands. “Working for organic agriculture was her way of contributing towards that larger goal of creating a better world that leaves room for nature as well as people,” says JC. As she was remembered in her obituary, “She loved her friends, nature, and life. She wanted to help us save the world.”

Even after a lifetime filled with service and love for the earth, Becky’s dedication to “saving the world” will live on through her generous legacy donation that is seeding this new endowment. Future generations of farmers will continue feeling Becky’s gentle encouragement and guidance as her gift supports them paving the way to a more sustainable food system.

Join us in honoring Becky’s memory and her contributions to organic by donating to the CCOF Endowment. A fully funded endowment would enable the CCOF Foundation’s current programs to continue in perpetuity.

Will you follow Becky’s foot steps and amplify her generosity by contributing?

Please contact CCOF Development Director Willow Aray at waray@ccof.org with questions or interest.

12 | www.ccof.org

Feature Article

Guided by Integrity

50 Years of Advocating for Organic by Gaea Denker

“We have a strong reputation of being honest and being fair,” says organic farmer and two-time CCOF Board of Directors Chair Phil LaRocca. That reputation was hard won from CCOF’s 50-year history of uplifting unheard voices and crucial issues for organic producers that are often overlooked or under-prioritized by policymakers and other advocacy groups.

The Long Road to Enforcement

CCOF played—and continues to play—a critical role in state and federal organic regulations. Before federally recognized standards for organic food were even introduced, the CCOF community rallied to create and uphold a system of trustworthiness.

One example was the California Organic Food Act (COFA) of 1979, which legally defined organic practices in California, but made no provisions for support or enforcement. CCOF and similar organizations had to bring infractions to court in order to make sure the standards were upheld.

“From the mid to late ’80s, our advocacy was basically defensive,” recalls Mark Lipson, who started working at CCOF in 1985 as its first paid staff member. “We were just trying to get some enforcement of the health and safety provision, because there would be food labeled as organic, but it wasn’t under state law. Certification wasn’t required in the marketplace at that point.”

Consumers trusted CCOF standards. In 1989, when CBS 60 Minutes and TimeMagazine featured stories about unsafe food pesticides, the phones at CCOF rang loudly with reporters, retailers, and consumers all wanting to know where they could get safe, organically grown food. After CCOF’s tireless advocacy efforts, the state of California finally put programs into place to institutionalize organic enforcement.

Both the California Organic Foods Act (COFA) of 1990, which added enforcement to the state law, and the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990, which created the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), were passed the following year. “When we got it passed, it was an amazing moment,” Lipson recalls. “California was the de facto national standard because the national law took 12 years to be put into place, and in the meantime the marketplace basically relied on California law.”

Both acts were based heavily on CCOF’s organic certification standards. Developing the official organic standards that are recognized today has required a long road of advocacy—years of collecting data, energizing communities, and educating policymakers—and advocacy remains a core focus of CCOF’s policy work today.

Starting at the grassroots level 50 years ago, the initial 54 grower–members of CCOF did their best to fight marketplace fraud on a shoestring budget. They provided each other with community support, they democratically developed organic standards, and they conducted peer-to-peer organic inspections—all long before the USDA had an official organic program.

Now, half a century later, as organic enforcement standards not only exist at the federal level, but are being strengthened this year, CCOF continues to promote solutions to the unique set of challenges that organic producers face.

“We are not a transactional business,” explains CCOF Director of Policy Rebekah Weber. “At our core, we are of and for organic producers. We are in service to organic through education, through grant-making, and through advocacy.”

“What sets CCOF’s advocacy apart is that we remain a memberbased organization working with thousands of diverse producers across North America,” says CCOF CEO Kelly Damewood. “Today, we remain governed by organic producers who set our policy priorities based on the on-the-ground needs of our membership.”

For example, when the first draft of the National Organic Program (NOP) standards was released in 1997, the organic community was appalled to learn that it allowed the “big three” offenders.

“The NOP was going to allow genetic engineering, irradiation, and sewage sludge,” says LaRocca. “I wasn’t crazy about getting the government involved. They had never been too friendly towards organic before. Was it the wolf guarding the chicken coop?”

Summer 2023 | 13

The controversy fired up the CCOF community. “We asked ourselves, how can we be advocates for the organic industry?” LaRocca says. “We felt we had the right to speak up.”

CCOF rallied its community to join nearly 280,000 people nationwide in raising their voices until the “big three” were finally prohibited, five years later, when the NOP’s final rule of organic standards was implemented nationally.

Once the federal government was regulating and enforcing the use of the term "organic," producers and consumers became exponentially more aware of their marketplace options. “Becoming champions of a protected, regulated market wasn’t necessarily what the elder children of the ’60s thought was their desire, and we probably had some unexamined assumptions about capitalism and markets,” Lipson recalls. “Now, we know public policy is still the most important vehicle for change.”

Speaking Out Against Genetic Engineering

CCOF protects the integrity of organic farming against genetically engineered (GE) crops. As a member of the Californians for a GE-Free Agriculture (CGFA) coalition in 2004, CCOF fought the biotech industry head-on and won. The court overturned the state’s decision to allow genetically engineered pharmaceutical rice containing human genes in California. Two years later, CCOF also won a major victory against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) when Santa Cruz County supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a moratorium on GE crops, and SB 1056, a bill that would have revoked the right of local governments to impose bans on GE crops, failed to pass in the California Senate.

In 2008, CCOF, along with partners in the Genetic Engineering Policy Project lobbying coalition, celebrated the passing of the Food and Farm Protection Act (AB 541) in California— the first law to protect farmers against lawsuits linked to genetically engineered crops. Under this law, farms that are unknowingly contaminated by GE crops in California are protected from all kinds of liability. CCOF now proudly offers producers use of the “Organic is Non-GMO & More” seal to better communicate with consumers about the many benefits of organic.

“We were one of the first people to sign on against GMO,” says LaRocca. “We really put a strong fight there, and CCOF spread the word.”

Energized by its early big-picture wins, the CCOF community has continued to advocate for issues—both big and small— that help make organic food more accessible to producers of all sizes and to consumers in all communities.

The Roadmap to an Organic California Project

“The Roadmap to an Organic California project was a milestone in shifting our focus from reacting to issues as they arise and more proactively working on issues that matter to our members,” explains Damewood.

Wanting to ensure that all people have access to organic, CCOF set out to create the Roadmap to an Organic California. The Roadmap project convened stakeholders across diverse spaces, including justice, labor, climate, health, and education, to discuss how the benefits of organic have impacted different sectors and which sectors still face barriers to full adoption. CCOF paid close attention to where the gaps were and created data-driven policy recommendations to fill those gaps.

In 2019, as a culmination of the project, CCOF published two reports focused on the findings. The RoadmaptoanOrganic California:BenefitsReport synthesized over 300 scientific studies to analyze how organic agriculture impacts the United States, finding that organic provides evidence-based solutions to the nation’s most complex challenges. The RoadmaptoanOrganicCalifornia:PolicyReport built upon those findings to recommended concrete, science-backed steps to promote organic as a solution to climate change, economic instability, and health inequity in our communities.

Laetitia Benador, CCOF senior policy research specialist, adds, “After we developed the Roadmap, we shifted our advocacy approach from ‘support organic farmers’ to ‘support organic to solve economic, social, and economic challenges.’ We have been able to expand the organic tent of allies beyond those focused on agriculture to those focused on solving a variety of social, economic, and environmental issues.”

One example of those issues: Organic food has proven benefits, but not every consumer has access to organic food. Even as we work toward organic being the norm, for many communities, organic food is still out of reach. CCOF is working hard to expand organic food access in institutions like schools and hospitals to ensure that more communities have access to the proven benefits of organic.

“We work on policies so that a diversity of producers can go organic and stay organic,” explains Weber, “and so a diversity of eaters can eat organic. It’s one thing to know that what we’re doing is good for people and the planet. But it’s another to say, ‘Are we really capturing and extending those benefits to all people and all parts of the planet?’ We realized we have much more work to do.”

That work includes heavy policy and advocacy commitments, such as directing resources to small-scale producers who otherwise couldn’t take on the three-year risk of the transition to organic, or streamlining reporting requirements so organic producers can minimize the regulatory burden. In all its ongoing projects, CCOF builds upon the strong political advocacy foundation laid by the founding members.

Centerfold Photo Liz Birnbaum @thecuratedfeast 14 | www.ccof.org

Strengthening Organic Enforcement

The initial federal organic standards released in 2002 were inspired by CCOF’s strong example, and over the last two decades, CCOF’s influence has continued to shape policy decisions. This year, the USDA finalized the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) rule, which further protects integrity in the organic supply chain and builds consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label. As with every step in the process of protecting organic integrity, CCOF members have had an active voice in shaping the rule.

As CCOF’s Certification Service Specialists glean insights from certified members, Sarah Reed, CCOF director of handler certification, funnels this information to the CCOF policy team so the member community can be fully represented in comments on proposed NOP rulemaking. “We never let an opportunity go by to comment on proposed rules. If there’s a public comment, we’re going to comment. We always get the word out in our certification news posts to make sure our members know they can advocate for themselves. As a membership-based organization, we represent the perspectives and needs of our membership. And we have a very diverse membership,” Reed adds with a laugh, “so sometimes we represent multiple sides at once.”

In the summer of 2020, when the first draft of SOE was published, CCOF submitted a full 15 pages of comments advocating for its members. In one comment that was particularly impactful for handlers and producers, CCOF pushed for greater flexibility on import certificate requirements. CCOF recommended that, to avoid truckloads of produce left to spoil while physical paperwork is completed, a single certificate could instead be applied to entire shipments. This commonsense amendment was adopted in the final version of the rule. As Damewood puts it, “CCOF always works to balance the need for strong oversight with sensible and not-overly-burdensome regulations.”

CCOF’s focus has been and continues to be integrity in organic and maintaining consumer trust in organic products. As future policymakers continue to draft regulations around the enforcement of organic standards, CCOF members will continue to make their voices heard.

Streamlining Regulations

“A core component of CCOF advocacy is to ensure organic producers are not unfairly regulated or subject to duplicate regulations,” says Damewood. “Organic producers voluntarily opt into a robust certification process, and often states like California issue rules designed for inputs and practices that are already prohibited in organic systems or develop incentive programs that fail to recognize organic producers’ stewardship of soil and natural resources.”

CCOF has been at the forefront of breaking down regulatory barriers for producers who want to grow organic. For example, because California is the only state with its own organic program, producers in California face a double

burden of redundant paperwork and fees at the state and federal levels. CCOF worked with the California legislature to pass AB 1870, which streamlined reporting requirements, capped fees, and increased accountability of the program.

CCOF advocacy to recognize the value of certification also includes working on areas like nitrogen management rules and pesticide use fees and reporting.

Making Organic Accessible for All

CCOF created the Organic Transition Program, securing $10 million to provide direct and technical assistance as well as resources to producers in order to alleviate the financial burden of transitioning to organic. “There are barriers to organic that are particularly high for under-resourced producers,” says Benador. “But CCOF believes that organic certification should be accessible to everyone.”

A core component of CCOF's theory of transition is market readiness. "Our transition advocacy focuses not just on supporting producers through the three-year transition process to organic, but also on developing new or increasing access to current market opportunities,” says Damewood. “For example, we helped secure incentives for schools who source organic foods in California.”

CCOF’s policy team helped build a California program to support organic transition, which was modeled after the Organic Transition Program and CCOF’s theory of transition. Weber says, “We were successful because we connected with small-scale operations, BIPOC producers, beginning farmers, bringing everyone’s voices to the table and asking, ‘What resources do you need? What does success look like to you?’”

“It was a very collaborative process,” says Benador. “CCOF members showed up and testified in the legislature, which hadn’t been a big fan of organic before that. They brought their stories and changed some hearts.”

Summer 2023 | 15

Feeding Kids Organic Food

CCOF is connecting farms and schools so kids can eat organic lunches—but this simple goal had to overcome many hurdles.

“I had a farmer call me and say, ‘I’m watching the big Sysco truck pull up to the school right now, but I can’t figure out how to give them my crops that are grown literally in the lot next door to that school,’” says Benador.

In response, Benador worked closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to make the connection between schools and organic producers. “There were so many barriers,” she recalls, “from insurance to needing refrigerated trucks for transport to schools wanting the produce cut in a certain way. The barriers were there simply because supply chains have not been built for this.”

CCOF connected organic food producers with the CDFA to understand exactly what they would need to do to be able to sell to a school. They discussed the climate benefits of organic farming and how using organic food could allow schools to become eligible for climate grants. The connection was a success, and the Farm to School Program is now entering its third year.

Helping Dairy Producers in Crisis

Last summer, CCOF-certified dairy members, along with organic dairies across the country, were in severe financial distress. There were preexisting supply chain issues, but when the pandemic, trade wars, and drought arrived together, the disruption was immense. The price of milk was far less than what it cost to produce that milk, and producers were in the red.

“We knew we had to do something,” says Benador. “We created a task force through the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and asked Congress for emergency support.” In response, Congress added funds for organic dairy emergency relief in the Appropriations Bill, which was passed in December 2022. The bill directed the USDA to create the first organic-specific commodity emergency relief program—a decisive win for CCOF dairy producers.

“Our task force worked closely with USDA to create that program. There’s such a lack of data around organic dairy and the cost of production and marketing that the USDA didn’t understand the scope of the problem,” Benador explains. “We demonstrated, with a data set, the depth of the need to the USDA and where assistance would be most useful.”

provide faster support. The CCOF Foundation team worked together with CDFA, which runs the California Underserved and Small Producer Program (CUSP) to create an specific emergency relief grant for organic dairy producers.

“Again, we had to educate the CDFA with numbers to show that organic dairies are different than other small, cropproducing farms,” says Benador. The hard work paid off: More than $400,000 was distributed to dairy farmers, allowing them to keep their farms running during the crisis until additional assistance came through. CCOF is now promoting long-term reforms through the upcoming farm bill that will make the organic dairy sector more resilient to future shocks.

Keeping Small California Ranchers in Business

In the last 50 years, California lost half of its USDA-inspected meat processing facilities due to industry consolidation. Small local shops, as well as ranchers looking to start small and grow their production, simply can’t compete with the existing industrial ranchers for access to the facilities. Without access to certified organic facilities, ranchers cannot sell their meat with an organic label, even if all other organic standards were upheld in raising their animals. Therefore, many small producers are being forced to sell their meat as conventional and lose profit.

“Back when I had 400 head of sheep, I had access to three different processors that were USDA approved that I could use and be CCOF certified,” recalls LaRocca. “Now they’re all gone. Only the big guys are left. Some of our chicken guys have to go 200 miles to get their stuff processed.”

When the COVID pandemic hit, many of the small ranchers who remained were pushed out of business. Workers became ill and supply chains slowed; in response, many large processing facilities scaled back and almost entirely stopped serving small U.S. ranchers. There was no way for these producers to get their meat onto shelves or plates. “Meat processing is the bottleneck right now in getting meat from ranch to table,” says Benador. “It’s the top challenge facing our producers.”

The loss of facilities serving California’s small ranchers has led to a decrease in small ranching operations. This heralds another, ecological problem: losing these ranchers also means losing the environmental benefits they provide for our planet, because integrating farms and livestock is one of the best ways to build organic matter, sequester carbon, and reduce energy use.

Of course, change at the government level moves slowly, so in the interim nine months before the commodity relief was available, CCOF examined more immediate options to

Seeking a solution to the crisis, CCOF partnered with Roots of Change and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Food Systems Lab to create the California Meat Processing Coalition by convening academics, researchers, and producers. Together, we embarked on a research project, led by UC Davis, to map out the scope of the need for meat processing in California. After statewide assessment and extensive stakeholder interviews, we

Centerfold Photo Liz Birnbaum @thecuratedfeast 16 | www.ccof.org

came up with recommendations to address the gaps. One recommendation was expanding on-farm meat processing.

Our coalition worked with California State Assemblymember Marc Levine’s office to create the bill AB 888, which expands ranchers’ ability to have a mobile slaughter operator come to the farm and harvest animals on site.

Not only does this bill benefit small ranchers and family farms, but it also decreases carbon emissions from hauling heavy livestock to increasingly remote facilities and reduces the transport stress livestock animals experience. In a big win for CCOF members, the bill went into effect on January 1, 2023.

Connecting Communities, Moving Forward

“CCOF’s core values are integrity, courage, community, and representation of and for organic producers,” says Damewood. “We strive to live these values through our member-focused advocacy and by promoting policies that help a diversity of producers go organic and stay organic.”

CCOF’s biggest wins come not from acting alone, but from bringing communities together. “We’ve stepped into a number of coalitions and deepened partnerships with farmworker groups, pesticide fighting groups, and environmental groups. Through collective action, we inserted for the first time, unprecedented, an organic target into California’s climate strategy,” says Weber. “We bring together different stakeholders with the same message.”

“Organic can be a bridge builder because it connects so many issues that people care about,” observes Benador.

“What I find most exciting about organic policy and advocacy is the scope of work—every step of the supply chain, from farm to eater, needs policy support,” Damewood says. “Some days you are working to reduce paperwork burdens on small farmers and other days you are building out a complex funding program to develop new organic markets. Even small policy wins can make big impacts.”

“I think our influence in governance is going to grow,” LaRocca observes. “We are going to become even more active in state politics and reach our goal of 30 percent of California ground being certified organic by 2030.”

“We’ve had some monumental wins,” says Weber. “I’ve been in policy work for over a decade, and I know that change is slow. We’re living through a shift in California policy right now that is uplifting organic in an unprecedented way. That’s happening because of our collective action—leveraging our collective power.”

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Organic Advocacy

How CCOF Nourishes

A good meal is transformative. The light crunch of a fried latke smothered in tangy applesauce roots me in my cultural inheritance and branches me outward. Preparing this salty–sweet comfort food, I get to know local growers at the farmers’ market and appreciate each season’s bounty. Growing potatoes and apples organically regenerates soil and water health and safeguards against harmful pesticides. Good food grounds us in our bodies and connects us to the people and world around us. As a good meal unites eaters with farmers and nature, nourished communities listen more honestly, deepen self-awareness, and build empathy. We need nourishment to dismantle systems of oppression, restore the environment, and imbue equity into our democracy.

I shape policy to nourish. I have expanded access to good food, invested in clean water, and anchored policy solutions in lived experience. I center relationships in my work, integrating the knowledge and needs of communities most affected. I listen deeply and uplift the ideas of community partners. My magic is strategy and heart. I see where and how I can be most impactful, and I advance policy with integrity and in coalition. I understand that good food, clean water, and self-expression are all branches of nourishment, and my passion is nourishing policy for a just future.

At CCOF, I work on a team of brilliant advocates.

• Laetitia Benador is a truth-seeker. She dives deep into research, analysis, and self-reflection to understand the members we represent and the structural systems we live in. Her leadership is grounded in analysis, creativity, and the courage to look inward. Laetitia artfully develops policy ideas into successful campaigns by scouring the scientific literature and building bridges between producers, legislators, and partners. To this she adds her secret sauce—a blend of her own farming background, her eternal curiosity, a steadfast purpose to improve the food system, and the imagination to envision a more nourishing world.

• Jessica González is a change-maker. Her thoughtful probing drives discourse and intentional outcomes. She inspires the team to think more expansively, question traditions, and uplift transformational policy. Jessica weaves community organizing into every facet of work, grounding our policy in the lived experiences of farmers, farmworkers, and rural communities. Attuned to the needs of our members, she shows up at farmers’ markets to deepen relationships and texts our members who are out in the field to ensure their voices are at the policy table. Jessica leads with authenticity, courage to take risks and adapt, and systems thinking that draws on foresight and seeing connections across the food movement.

Together, we advance nourishing policies. Here are our wins in 2022.

1. Organic Acreage Goal

The first state in the nation to do so, California established the climate goal of transitioning 20 percent of farmland to organic by 2045. This represents a significant win for the organic community, both acknowledging the climate benefits of organic agriculture and driving more support for organic producers moving forward.

2. Organic Food in Schools

California now incentivizes schools to buy food from organic and transitioning growers. Prioritizing organic in the Farm to School Program helps schools and farmers overcome the longstanding challenges of tight margins and limited flexibility. This work opens the doors to nourishing more children and providing greater opportunity to organic producers.

3. Organic Transition Program

With an initial $5 million investment, California is developing a new Organic Transition Program to provide financial and technical assistance to growers to transition to organic. At least 50 percent of the funds are prioritized for underserved producers. This investment ensures that all California producers have access to organic certification.

4. Support for Livestock Producers

California launched an expanded On-Farm Slaughter Program to include cattle, goats, sheep, and swine and to remove restrictions on the number of animals harvested per month. With rising consumer interest in how and where meat is produced, demand for organic meat and poultry grew an impressive 25 percent in 2020. This program supports small and organic livestock producers to meet this consumer demand.

5. Organic Research and Technical Assistance

California invested $1.85 million in organic research, economic analyses of organic production and markets, and technical assistance to support organic transition. This funding helps meet the growing need for organic research and extension support as demand for organic products increases and more producers look to implement organic practices.

We continue to build on these wins and engage our members to solidify and deepen the unprecedented investment in organic—from USDA’s $300 million Organic Transition Initiative and the $104 million Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance Program to the finalization of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Rule.

CCOF shapes policies that nourish because good food is transformative.

18 | www.ccof.org

Chapter Update

CCOF Chapters in the Limelight

The CCOF chapters have been on the move this year, diligently overseeing member meetings and conducting elections. Most meetings featured delicious food and drink for participants.

Pacific Southwest Chapter

Let's start our review with the Pacific Southwest Chapter, where Robin Taylor of Sun Grown Organic Distributors was elected as the new board representative, while Soleil Develle of Pan O'Rama Farms in Fallbrook assumed the role of treasurer. Soleil has previously served as a chapter leader. Karen Archipley of Archi’s Acres, Escondido, was re-elected chapter president. We extend our gratitude to Karen for her dedicated 12 years of service on the CCOF Board.

The Pacific Southwest Chapter has been holding regular meetings, and members residing in Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and south Los Angeles counties should keep an eye on their email for invitations.

Central Coast Chapter

Turning our attention to the Central Coast Chapter, the leadership baton passed to Lily Nugent of Coke Farm, who was elected as board representative. Patricia Prieto, also hailing from Coke Farm, took up the position of treasurer. Chapter leaders orchestrated a well-attended meeting in Watsonville that will go down in CCOF history as the first fully bilingual chapter gathering. The meeting featured enlightening presentations, including a certification update by CCOF Farm Certification Specialist Viviana Renteria Quintero and a discussion on nitrogen challenges in organic no-till farming by one of organic’s early innovators, Tom Willey, and Tim Stemwedel of California Organic Fertilizers.

Kern Chapter

The Kern Chapter commenced the year with a hybrid online/ in-person meeting under the leadership of chapter president Kim Dixon, representing Bolthouse Farms in Bakersfield. Numerous CCOF staff presented updates, including Caitlin Slay on the Regenerative Organic Certified® program, Laetitia Benador and Jessica González with a policy update, and April Hammerand Jones with a certification update. Cassandra Christine of the Organic Trade Association provided valuable insights into organic fraud prevention training. Board representative Malcolm Ricci of Bolthouse Farms delivered an update on the board's activities.

Humboldt-Trinity-Mendocino Chapter

The Humboldt-Trinity-Mendocino Chapter chose the charming Eel River Brewing Company in Fortuna as the

venue for their meeting. This delightful gathering, hosted by Ted Vivatson, owner of Eel River and chapter board representative, offered attendees a sumptuous dinner and refreshing beverages. Members participated in a lively discussion of challenges they face, including losses from both drought and snow and increased energy and propane costs. The CCOF Foundation’s Chief Program Officer Jessy Beckett Parr attended and shared valuable information about the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP).

Sierra Gold Chapter

The Sierra Gold Chapter invited members to a meeting at Twin Peaks Orchards in Newcastle that started with a tour of the orchards followed by a program that featured a presentation on the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Farm to School program. CCOF’s Education Manager and Owner of Dinner Bell Farm Molly Nakahara provided information on the forthcoming farmer mentorship program as part of TOPP. Randy Hansen, the chapter's president and treasurer, diligently organized the meeting and offered a comprehensive financial report.

Yolo Chapter

Yolo held a meeting hosted by chapter secretary Christopher “Landy” Landercasper at his Vacaville farm, Landerosa. Landy, brimming with enthusiasm, shared news of the grand opening of his new slaughter facility in Sonoma, capable of processing an astounding 100,000 poultry per year. Furthermore, he revealed his plans for future expansion to accommodate sheep, hog, and cattle processing. Ed Sills of Pleasant Grove Farms and longtime treasurer for the chapter provided a financial update.

San Luis Obispo Chapter

San Luis Obispo once again chose the stunning Avila Valley Barn as the venue for their meeting. Amidst the pleasant ambiance, participants indulged in a delectable dinner while listening to a series of captivating presentations. CCOF Farm Certification Specialist Adriana Chavez presented a certification update, and District Conservationist Emma Chow from the Natural Resources Conservation Service offered information on conservation funding. Oliver Mikkelson, the chapter's secretary hailing from MAHA Estate Wine/ Villa Creek Cellars, delivered insightful remarks on organic wine grape production. Matthew Grieshop, director of the Grimm Family Center for Organic Production and Research at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, concluded the program with comments on climate change. Kudos to chapter president Ande Manos of Babé Farms for ensuring the meeting’s success.

At-Large Chapter

The At-Large Chapter opted for an online gathering with an intimate conversation with none other than Jennifer Tucker, the National Organic Program deputy administrator. This exclusive session provided members with a unique opportunity to engage one-on-one with Dr. Tucker. CCOF Chief Certification Officer April Vasquez presented a certification update, and board representative Andrea DavisCetina offered remarks. A recording of the meeting is posted on CCOF’s YouTube channel.

Summer 2023 | 19

Certification News Strengthening Organic Enforcement

New Rule From USDA

The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) Rule put forth by USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was published on January 19, 2023. This is the most significant change to the national organic regulations since the creation of the NOP. The rule is intended to safeguard confidence in organic products and minimize fraud throughout the organic supply chain. All operations, including handlers who are currently certified and those who will be newly affected by the rule, must meet all of the requirements in the rule by March 19, 2024.

Changes to exemptions require that many uncertified operations achieve organic certification by March 19, 2024. To implement this requirement, CCOF sent a letter to every CCOF-certified operation in mid-June 2023 asking about uncertified handlers. This includes all operations currently covered by an Uncertified Handler Affidavit (UHA), storage facilities, private label brand owners, brokers, traders, wholesalers, distributors, importers, exporters, and more. The letter included a certification self-assessment tool for uncertified handlers as well as an Exempt Handler Affidavit for uncertified handlers to complete.

Other major impacts of SOE include the following:

• Nonretail containers used to ship or store organic products will be required to identify the product as organic and display the lot number or shipping identification to link the container to the audit trail documentation. Audit trail documentation for nonretail containers must identify the last certified operation that handled the organic product.

• Standardized organic certificates will be required and will be available in the Organic Integrity Database at organic.ams.usda.gov/integrity. Certifiers will be required to update the Organic Integrity Database more regularly, making this database a critical tool for verifying that a supplier is certified. Certified operations do not need to take any action to fulfill this requirement.

• Certified processor/handler operations will be required to develop monitoring practices to verify suppliers in the supply chain, confirm the organic status of products received, and prevent fraud.

• NOP Import Certificates will be required for all organic products entering the United States, even for product certified to USDA NOP standards. NOP Import Certificates must be maintained by importers, who must be certified. CCOF strives to process import/export certificate requests within two business days and is a leader in the industry.

If you work with an uncertified operation that will need to be certified, encourage them to apply early. Thousands of operations will be affected and need to be fully certified by the deadline on March 19, 2024, to maintain their products’ organic integrity. Operations in need of certification should contact getcertified@ccof.org or call (831) 423-2263, ext. 1 to learn more about our 2023 SOE discount.

YouTube SOE Playlist: https://go.ccof.org/SOEVideos

SOE Video Playlist 20 | www.ccof.org

USDA Financial Assistance for Food Safety on Small Farms

In 2022, the USDA announced that there would be financial assistance available for small farmers to put food safety programs in place. Fortunately, this program is being continued for the 2023 season, and CCOF encourages small producers to take advantage of this opportunity to expand their markets by obtaining food safety certification.

Through the Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program, small farms can apply for reimbursement of food safety-related expenses incurred in the prior year, for between 50 and 75 percent of costs for eligible expenses.

Food Safety

Reimbursement rates:

• Fifty percent of eligible expenses for all applicants.

• Seventy-five percent of eligible expenses for historically disadvantaged farmers, including beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged, veteran, and limited resource farmers.

Eligible Expenses and Reimbursement Rates:

• Development of a food safety plan for first-time certification: 50–75 percent, no maximum.

• Maintaining and updating an existing food safety plan: 50 percent up to a $250 maximum and 75 percent up to $375.

• Food safety certification: 50–75 percent up to a $2,000 maximum.

• Microbiological testing: 50 percent on up to five tests per year.

• Training: 100 percent up to $200.

• Certification uploads: 50 percent up to $250 and 75 percent up to $375.

Applications are being accepted either at your local Farm Service Agency office or via an online FSCSC Application Portal at apps.fsa.usda.gov/fscsc/index.jsp. The period for calendar year 2023 runs from February 1, 2023, through January 31, 2024.

It is unclear how long this program will run and/or how much it is being utilized, but strong enrollment can demonstrate an industry need and can help spur additional resources in future farm bills or legislation. Small farmers were hit hard at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many restaurants and retail accounts closed. Turning to wholesale markets (and increasingly, restaurants) generally requires that a food safety plan and certification are in place, and the FSCSC funds are meant to help growers make that pivot, expanding market access.

Who is eligible?

• Be a specialty crops producer (fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture).

• Have obtained or renewed a 2023 food safety certification issued during the calendar year 2023 and have paid eligible expenses.

• Meet the definition of a small business or very small business.

→ Small business: An average monetary value of specialty crops sold during the three-year period preceding the program year of $250,000 to $500,000.

→ Very small business: Specialty crop sales during the three-year period prior to program year of $0 to $250,000.

Please contact CCOF’s food safety team at fsdepartment@ ccof.org if you require assistance obtaining invoices for eligible expenses, if you would like more information on food safety certifications and resources, or if you'd like help finding a consultant and building a plan.

Summer 2023 | 21


O'Crowley Farms

Opal Creek Farm

Organic Andean Grains Inc.

Paradise Wine Country, LLC dba Saltiel Family Vineyard

Paradox Foods, LLC

Parasol Mycology

Paul DeBusschere Ranch

Peggy Chiu dba AMT Vineyard

Poole Family Farms, Inc. dba Poole Family Farms

Premium California Foods

Produce Marketing & Consultancy, Inc. dba Lake Glenn Farms

RAEN Winery dba CADA LLC

Rancho del Avo

Richard Hendricks Grove

Roderick Ranch Farms

Rodnick LLC dba Rodnick. farm

Russian River Lavender Salt Point Seaweed Company,

6th Street Cooling ACMII California 2, LLC dba Richgrove Ranch ACMII California 4, LLC dba Victory Farms ACMII Oregon 3, LLC dba Flying Hills Farm ACMPC California 1, LLC dba Fowler Ranch 5 ACMPC California 4, LLC dba Phoenix Ranch 6 ACMPC California 9, LLC dba Sanger Ranch 4 Agroproductores La Yunta S.P.R. de R.L. Alsanea Transportation Services, Inc. dba Green Life Amphora Nutritional Manufacturing dba Amphora Mfg. Apolinar Miranda dba Rancho Las Ranas AppHarvest Operations, Inc. Bacteria Powered LLC dba Kombucha Kamp Barton Farming Beber Inc. dba Beber Bennett Organics OpCo LLC Betsy's Yaupon Tea LLC Birdsong Farm Black Bicycle Farm LLC dba Great Bear Vineyards Black Hills Livestock, LLC Blue Gem Farms, LLC Bluebird Farm LLC Broadleaf-Hackman LLC Bushwick Commission Co. Inc. California Stone Milling, LP Cassidy Ranch LLC dba Cassidy Ranch CDS Distributing, Inc. Citrus Argentina Corp. CLS Farms, LLC Coffee Resources, Inc. Corison Winery, Inc. Crow Song Farms LLC dba Crow Song Farms Cunningham Family Farm Daryl Germann Farms LLC DaVero Farms and Winery David and Rebeca Roderick David Bishop Dean Hash Farms Deep Medicine Circle Deniz Dairy Derco Associates, Inc. dba Derco Foods Desert Coastal Farms, LLC Dickerson Vineyards - Wilson Kimoto LLC dba Dickerson Vineyards DJNR Cosmeceuticals LLC dba Bella Lumineux Dolan and Sons, LLC dba Dark Horse Farming Co. Ella Bella Farm, LLC dba Ella Bella Farm Evermill Inc. F and A Cattle Company Inc. FDA Farms Ferrari Ranch Field HD, LLC FPC Farms Fresas Don Antonio S.P.R. del R.L. de C.V. Fruit Growers Supply Galea-Ag GLF Management Company LLC dba GLF19 - Valpredo Road Gonzales Siemens Family Farm Googins Biotech LLC dba Fallen Oak Mycology Gore Farms dba Caney Fork Farms Grandpappy's Kitchen dba Grandpappy's Greens Greenline Organics, LLC Grimm Estates LLC dba Grimm's Bluff Grindstone Bakery, Inc. Ground Up Coffee & Tea, LLC dba Ground Up Coffee & Tea Grupo Zarpat S.A. de C.V. dba Clean Brands Hand Shake Farms, Inc. Happy Growers, Inc. Hawk Hill Farm Impact Products, LLC Innovative Products Unlimited LLC dba Delicia's Date Delights Invernaderos Apatzeo dba Invernaderos La Labor J.D. Heiskell Holdings, LLC dba J.D. Heiskell & Co. Jason Bowen Farms Joe & Maria Carrancho Farms John and Edith Ledbetter dba Vino Farms John Potter Specialty Foods, Inc. dba Innovative Sales International Division Kamterter Products, LLC Katie Palla Keegan Vineyard dba Thirsty Boots Kelham Oakville Vineyard dba Kelham - Oakville Kelham Winery (JNS) St. Helena KHUVA, LLC La Granjita Organica Larry Burrows Farming Lily of the Valley Group Inc. Little Roots Farm Logan Pearson Lola's Lemons Loma Seca LLC dba Loma Seca Vineyards Luz Estrada Farms La Tribu dba Luz Estrada Maplegrove Foods LLC Marin Kombucha Company, LLC Marv Coit Farms, L.P. Mendocino Beverage Company, LLC Mendoza Berry Farms, LLC Mendoza Growers, Inc. Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee USA, Ltd. Natural Milk Too LLC dba Cliffhaven LLC New Excelsior Farming, LLC dba New Excelsior South New Generation Organics Nutz
LLC dba Daybreak Seaweed Salvatierra Berrys S.A. de C.V. Santa Vista Orchards Vacaville Scott Niegel Farms Semi Tropic Cooperative Gin and Almond Huller Signature Mobile Bottlers Inc. Silver Canyon Sales, Inc. Sky Ranch Family Farm Smith's Farm and Ranch Sojo Industries, Inc. Soofer Co. Inc. dba Sadaf Foods Sophie James, LLC Stella Salina Vineyards Tate Orchards Taylor Farms de Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V. Taylor Farms Illinois, Inc. Taylor Farms Texas, Inc. Team-Koch LLC dba Koch Coffee Roasters The Ichiban Companies Inc. dba Ranjiv Purewal Tibbitts Farming Company Tira Nanza Ranch, LLC Transloading Express, Inc. Treasure8, LLC Valley View Dairy Van & Laila's Farm, LLC VBC Bottling Co. dba Varni Brothers Corp. Vega Farm Vida Imports LLC dba Avohass Vincent Marshall Organics dba Vincent Marshall Vino Farms, Inc. dba Vino Farms Viserion Grain LLC Wegis & Young Property Mgmt, LLC dba Houghton High Ranch Westside Harvesting LLC/ Mary Welch Farms Whispering Ridge Vineyard LLC William H. Kopke Jr. Inc. Willow Wind Farms LLC Willyums Nursery, LLC Windy Hills Farm, LLC dba The Mobile Chicken by Windy Hills Farm Wise Goat Organics LLC dba Wise Goat Organics Holtville, CA Richgrove, CA Richgrove, CA Amity, OR Fowler, CA Sanger, CA Sanger, CA Santa Cruz de Juventino Rosas, Mexico Anaheim, CA Quitman, TX Fallbrook, CA Berea, KY Gardena, CA Sebastopol, CA Chico, CA Arvin, CA Groesbeck, TX Bangor, MI Davis, CA Petaluma, CA Benton City, WA Nevada City, CA Dixon, CA Davie, FL Denair, CA Sonoma, CA South San Francisco, CA New York, NY Wapato, WA Miami, FL Saint Helena, CA Grass Valley, CA Fallbrook, CA Onalaska, WA Healdsburg, CA Temecula, CA Valley Center, CA Visalia, CA Oakland, CA Petaluma, CA Fresno, CA Roll, AZ Saint Helena, CA Irwindale, CA Ukiah, CA Talent, OR Los Angeles, CA Maricopa, AZ Hollister, CA Acampo, CA Bakersfield, CA Hanford, CA Purepero de Echaiz, Mexico Exeter, CA Dunnigan, CA Bakersfield, CA Wasco, CA Del Valle, TX Carthage, TN Alpena, MI Wellton, AZ Santa Ynez, CA Rohnert Park, CA New York, NY Tlalnepantla de Baz, Mexico Monterey, CA Bakersfield, CA Sebastopol, CA Orem, UT Hayward, CA Apaseo El Grande, Mexico Tulare, CA Colusa, CA Maxwell, CA Victor, CA Modesto, CA Waverly, NE Buttonwillow, CA Dundee, OR Napa, CA Saint Helena, CA Grants Pass, OR Hollister, CA Kerman, CA Irvine, CA Truckee, CA Colusa, CA Encinitas, CA Paso Robles, CA San Juan Bautista, CA Ontario, CA Novato, CA Firebaugh, CA Hopland, CA Salinas, CA Castroville, CA Fort Worth, TX Stanwood, WA Porterville, CA Aromas, CA Los Angeles, CA Merced, CA Davenport, CA Miami, FL Napa, CA Oceanside, CA Paradise, CA Oxnard, CA Ukiah, CA Hood River, OR Winton, CA Vernon, CA Sebastopol, CA Fallbrook, CA Oceanside, CA Philo, CA Soledad, CA Sebastopol, CA San Diego, CA San Quintin, Mexico Vacaville, CA Pleasant Grove, CA Wasco, CA Clackamas, OR Bakersfield, CA Los Gatos, CA Tuskegee, AL Bristol, PA Los Angeles, CA Petaluma, CA San Jose, CA Palisade, CO Doctor Mora, Mexico Chicago, IL Dallas, TX San Marcos, CA Fresno, CA Arbuckle, CA Carmel Valley, CA Perris, CA Vacaville, CA Petaluma, CA Bonsall, CA Modesto, CA San Juan Bautista, CA Costa Mesa, CA San Joaquin, CA Acampo, CA Denver, CO Bakersfield, CA Fresno, CA Temecula, CA Great Neck, NY Palisade, CO Bonsall, CA Touchet, WA Hollister, CA New Member Listings 22 | www.ccof.org
Friends Advocates Champions Ancient Nutrition Anerobe Systems Bolthouse Farms CAFF CCOF Fresno-Tulare Chapter Chino Valley Ranchers Erewhon Natural Markets Fagundes Brothers Dairy Frey Vineyards Front Porch Farm Gaia Fund INFRA Joe Edmonds and Linda Smith Family Fund Lundberg Family Farms Mercaris New Hope Network Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery Sun-Maid Growers TRUE Whole Foods Market Visionaries AgroThrive Associated Feed & Supply Co. Bejo Seeds CCOF Pacific Southwest Chapter CCOF North Valley Chapter Farmer and the Cook Feed Earth Now Good Earth Natural Foods Green Hope Vodka Heath and Lejeune Lakeside Organic Gardens Organic Farms Fertilizers Organically Grown Company Raw Farm LLC Seed Dynamics Sheppard Mullin Sunbasket SunRidge Farms Taylor Brothers Farms, Inc. Terreplenish Traditional Medicinals Val-Mar Farms Vitalis Founding Partners Thank You, Foundation Sponsors! Summer 2023 | 23
CCOF 2155 Delaware Avenue, Suite 150 Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 423-2263 • fax (831) 423-4528 ccof@ccof.org • www.ccof.org Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage Paid Permit #262 Santa Cruz, CA Each year, farmers like Alejandro recieve grants from the CCOF Foundation that help them learn about organic agriculture. Help us fund organic futures! Make a tax-deductible donation today at www.ccof.org/foundation.
Photo by Adam Perez
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