The Changing of the Guard at Cornucopia

May 24th, 2011

Economic Justice Watchdog in Agriculture Announces New Leadership

CORNUCOPIA, WIS: The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group dedicated to promoting economic justice in the Good Food Movement, recently announced the appointment of several nationally prominent leaders to their Board of Directors and Policy Advisory Panel.

“From the beginning, Cornucopia has endeavored to build a bridge between its key constituency — family farmers — and their urban allies and supporters in the marketplace,” said Steve Sprinkel, a California certified organic farmer and Cornucopia’s Board President.

“With less than 2% of the nation’s population engaged in production agriculture, Cornucopia has always endeavored to engage and empower the passionate consumers in this movement,” according to Sprinkel. “Our secret weapon is that, unlike conventional agriculture, millions of families passionately care about protecting the authenticity of safe and nutrient rich organic and local food sources and the family farmers who are their heroes.”

Will Fantle, one of Cornucopia’s cofounders, added, “We are pleased to continue the tradition of a diverse leadership within our organization reflecting the important stakeholders in the community promoting positive changes in our food and farming infrastructure.”

New members of Cornucopia’s Board of Directors include:

Kevin Engelbert—New York

Kevin Engelbert is the owner/operator of Engelbert Farms, the first certified organic dairy farm in the U.S., certified since 1984. He farms about 1,800 acres with his wife Lisa and three sons, and produces organic milk, veal, beef, pork, pasture, hay, corn, soybeans, and vegetables. Kevin is a fifth-generation dairy farmer in New York State, and recently completed a five-year term on the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Kevin was involved with NOFA NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York) from the early 1980s until the late 1990s, and helped with the development of NOFA NY’s organic standards. He has hosted many on-farm tours and seminars dealing with organic crop and livestock practices and management intensive grazing, and has spoken at numerous organic farming conferences and meetings around the northeast over the last 30 years. Kevin graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with a minor in Mathematics. He and his family reside in Nichols, New York.

Dave Minar—Minnesota
Dave and his wife Florence live on the farm that Dave’s grandfather bought 85 years ago. Dave is a third-generation dairy farmer who stopped using agricultural pesticides in 1974, after a reaction to an herbicide he was using.

The farm was converted to a grass-based dairy farm in the early ’90s. The Minars then began a direct marketing meat business with grass fed and finished beef, pork, turkeys, and chickens. This evolved into an on-farm creamery and retail store where extra value was added to the milk. Currently, Cedar Summit milk is distributed throughout the Upper Midwest.

Dave has served as board member of Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Agriculture—Minnesota Grown program, Scott County Farm Advisory Task Force, and the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center.

In 2007 Dave and Florence were chosen the Farmers of the Year by Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).

Amanda Love—Texas

Amanda Love, also known as “The Barefoot Cook,” is a Certified Healing Food Specialist, Natural Foods Chef, Nutrition Educator, Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) Conference Chef, and recent recipient of the Weston A. Price Food Activist Award. She emphasizes eating fresh, local, seasonal, organic, and nutrient rich food. Amanda knows food from the seed to the table intimately. All over the United States, farmers, growers, educators, food vendors, and chefs know the committed and passionate Barefoot Cook, and appreciate her as someone who also advocates politically for organic growers and consumer rights.

Amanda teaches cooking classes and workshops where she empowers others to take healing food into their own hands. She also has a line of organic, herbal iced teas called “Soothin’ Infusion.” Amanda currently resides in Austin, Texas.

New members of Cornucopia’s Policy Advisory Panel include:

Francis Thicke—Iowa

Francis Thicke and his wife Susan own and operate an 80-cow, grass-based, organic dairy near Fairfield, Iowa. They process their milk on the farm and sell bottled milk, cheese, and yogurt through local grocery stores and restaurants. Francis grew up on a dairy farm and began farming organically in 1975. He has a Ph.D. in soil fertility and has served as National Program Leader for Soil Science for the USDA-Extension Service in Washington, D.C.

Francis has served in many leadership positions, including on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Iowa Food Policy Council, the USDA State Technical Committee, and the Organic Farming Research Foundation Board. He has received many awards, including the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award from the Practical Farmers of Iowa, Steward of the Land Award from the Iowa Sierra Club, and Friend of Extension Award from the ISU Extension Service.

Francis has been a Fellow of the Kellogg Food and Society Fellows program (2002–2004) and a 2010 candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. His recent book is titled A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture.

Michael James—Illinois

Michael James was born in New York City in 1942. He was raised in Connecticut on an old onion farm, and while growing up he helped old man Burtche around the farm down the road, feeding livestock and helping with harvesting. He was a member of the 4-H club and raised rabbits, muscovy ducks, King pigeons, African Tumbler pigeons, and Bantam chickens.

James was active in sports, playing football at Lake Forest College where he took an interest in politics and social justice issues. James graduated in 1964 and received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, going to the University of California, Berkeley where he studied sociology. There James was involved in the Free Speech Movement, and joined Students for a Democratic Society, of which he became a national officer.

James left school in 1966, heading to Chicago’s Uptown to organize poor Southern whites in an attempt to build an interracial movement of the poor with an organization known as JOIN Community Union (Jobs or Income Now).

In 1976 James founded the now legendary Heartland Cafe, a wholesome foods eatery and community center. The Heartland Cafe is about serving up Wholesome Food for Mind and Body. In addition to the Heartland Cafe, the enterprise now includes the Buffalo Bar, Heartland General Store, Redline Tap, No Exit Cafe, and Heartland Cafe on the Lake. Through his work at the cafe, he recently won an Illinois Stewardship Alliance “Golden Beet” award for bringing local food to Illinois communities. He is married to Paige James, a “helluva cook,” and is the father of seven wonderful kids.

Judith McGeary—Texas

Judith McGeary is an attorney, farmer, and activist. She has a B.S. in Biology from Stanford University and a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Following a clerkship with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, she practiced as an attorney in administrative law, litigation, and appeals.

After seeing how government regulations benefit industrial agriculture at the expense of family farms, she left her legal practice to form the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance in 2006. Since then, Judith has spearheaded national coalitions fighting to stop the National Animal Identification System and to protect local foods, and was recently appointed to the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health.

These respected deep thinkers in the Good Food Movement join Cornucopia’s existing leadership:

BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Steve Sprinkel—California (board president; organic vegetable producer, restaurateur), Roger Featherstone—Arizona (board treasurer; environmentalist), Bill Heart—Wisconsin (board secretary; conservationist), Helen Kees—Wisconsin (board vice chair; organic vegetable and beef producer), Goldie Caughlan—Washington (board member; cooperative retail educator and former NOSB member)

POLICY ADVISORY PANEL: Tom Willey—California (organic CSA vegetable producer), Merrell Clark—Michigan (organic beef producer and former NOSB member), Tony Azevedo—California (organic dairy farmer and president of the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance)

“We want to take this opportunity to publicly thank retiring board member Anne Lazor for her many years of service,” stated Board President Steve Sprinkel. “Anne and her husband Jack were thought to be the second certified organic farmers in the United States in the mid-1980s (Kevin Engelbert, and his wife Lisa, are thought to have been the first). The Lazors are renowned for their generosity over the years in helping mentor many other farmers in the Northeast, and around the country. Their farmstead-produced yogurt, Butterworks, is Vermont’s leading organic brand.

“We also wish to thank Michael Herron for his board service,” Sprinkel said. Herron, a political scientist at Dartmouth College, and a charter Cornucopia board member, stepped down, at least temporarily, as he and his family moved to Europe for a year-long teaching assignment.

“We also once again want to especially note the passing, this past February, of one of our founding board members, Bill Welsh,” said Sprinkel. “Bill, a true giant in organic agriculture, was one of the founders of the CROPP/Organic Valley cooperative and its meat business. He also served on the National Organic Standards Board. We will truly miss Bill’s advice and counsel and, most importantly, his wit, warmth, and friendship.”

“Our new board members have big shoes to fill and we know they welcome the challenge,” said Cornucopia Cofounder Will Fantle. “In an era when the success of the organic movement, local foods, and direct farm marketing has grown to tens of billions of dollars in commerce, it has never been more important to protect the farmers and ethical businesses in this community and the authenticity of our connection with consumers.”

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