Ushering in a New Leadership Era With a Fierce Protector of Organic

Viroqua, WI –  Following many months of teamwork to navigate a founder transition, the board of The Cornucopia Institute voted unanimously to promote longtime staff member Melody Morrell as the organization’s next executive director.

“Melody Morrell has served as the backbone of Cornucopia for the past several years, constantly demonstrating her commitment to the authentic organic movement,” says Cornucopia’s Board President Cameron Molberg. “She is dedicated to our stakeholders and community, and she is passionate about continuing our important work. The board is very excited and pleased to have Melody serve as our executive director.”

Prior to joining Cornucopia in 2012, Morrell spent 15 years in nonprofit event planning, communications, operations, and direct programs. Her history includes a formative five years helping to shape and share the messages of Echo Valley Hope, an educational nonprofit “raising the voice of peace and sustainable living.” Her time spent in the kitchen, pastures, woods, and gardens at Echo Valley Farm strengthened Morrell’s abiding appreciation for food as medicine.

The roots of her food story took hold in her family’s Spicer, Minnesota supper club. She watched her father lovingly nourish the community with weekly free meals during the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. Morrell had a front row seat to the exploitation of migrant fieldworkers and the perilous finances of conventional turkey farmers on contract with Jennie-O, a subsidiary of the Hormel Foods Corporation in Willmar, Minnesota.

“My deep love of food, and the soil it comes from, have made me a fierce protector of organic integrity,” she says.

In the last 18 months of her 8-year tenure at Cornucopia, she has spearheaded the nonprofit’s policy positions, built and enhanced relationships with partners and stakeholders across the movement, and co-led the process to create the organization’s first-ever strategic plan. “She has been the Gorilla Glue of the Cornucopia Team during its recent transition, positioning the institute to vault into work that continues to fulfill its mission statement,” says longtime board member and Vice President Helen Kees.

Kees fondly recalls bringing Morrell onto the team, initially, in 2012:

“She had an energy about her that was inclusive, self-sufficient and respectful of all voices. Over the past eight years, Morrell has exhibited competency and persistence coupled with a nose for integrity and collaboration. These character attributes, along with her industriousness, have steadily promoted her through roles that have naturally positioned her to lead The Cornucopia Institute as its executive director. With so much work to be done I am pleased to have such an experienced hand guiding the plow. Welcome Melody!”

Morrell has already begun the transition from her previous role as operations director, and will work closely with Interim Executive Director Jonathan Rosenthal to finalize Cornucopia’s leadership transition in the first quarter of 2021.

“I am honored to lead the passionate and talented team at Cornucopia into our next chapter,” she says. “Together, we offer decades of industry-watch, policy and legal expertise, and strong relationships with authentic organic farmers, co-ops, and consumers.

“This year and beyond, Cornucopia will incorporate new technologies into our industry investigations and deepen our policy efforts, strengthening our position in the good food movement as a trusted ally and a catalyst for meaningful change. At the same time, we will continue pointing to the most ethical organic farmers, helping community members, co-ops, and natural food stores find and support farms and products they can trust, while giving our supporters more concrete ways to step into the role of food system advocate.”

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