A long-time organic champion who has played a key role in creating today’s organic sector has been chosen by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to receive its 2015 Growing the Organic Industry Award.
Thomas Harding, President of Lehigh Valley Organic Growers, is being recognized by OTA for his outstanding work in advancing organic agriculture and the organic industry. The 2015 Organic Leadership Awards will be presented at OTA’s annual awards dinner on September 16 at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore as a kick-off event to Natural Products Expo East.
Harding has been involved with the organic industry for over 35 years, working directly with or as a consultant in business development, farm management, farming, and food distribution. He helped found the Organic Foods Production Association of North America (OTA’s precursor) and went on to become the founding president of the OTA Board.
Harding’s advocacy of organic has had a profound influence on the organic sector and on many organic farmers, including U.S. Senator Jon Tester, who farms an 1,800-acre certified organic farm in Montana and had this to say about Harding: “Switching to organic in the early 1980s allowed me to keep my farm when so many of my neighbors were selling off, and Tom’s advocacy for the industry has helped producers like me stay in agriculture.”
A tireless worker for the organic industry, Harding continues to be active in furthering organic’s role in the nation’s capital, with advocacy efforts on the Hill and development of OTA’s Organic Political Action Committee (PAC). He has been a constant monitoring force concerning standards and related regulations for organic, including the work of the National Organic Standards Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Organic Program, and Congress. He also has also been a leader at OCIA International, and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
Harding’s vision of success over the years has played a critical part in the maturation of organic as an industry. “For over 40 years, Tom Harding has been a constant force growing the organic movement globally,” said George Siemon, CEO and a founding farmer of Organic Valley. “His contributions in developing organic standards, forming our organic associations, building businesses, and working with various governments to birth organic production worldwide are unmatched in the organic community. His contributions are many and deep in every aspect of organic. I’ve admired and valued his mentorship.”
OTA is honoring three individuals this year for their contributions to organic. In addition to Harding, the other organic award winners are Michael Berger, Managing Partner of Elevation Burger, winner of the Rising Star Award and Benny McLean, Production Manager of Uncle Matt’s Organic, winner of the Farmer of the Year Award.