I just got back from my first board meeting of the Organic Farming and Research Foundation (OFRF). By spending time with the people who run OFRF, and guide OFRF, the whole organization has been brought into focus for me. The work being done in this establishment is so crucial that I wanted to tell you about it. The mission of OFRF is to “foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems.” OFRF is the premier organic organization out there and I am honored to be a part of it and I hope you will be too.
One of the main focuses of OFRF is funding organic research. Recently they have had a donor specified grant of $50,000 a year for five years for seed and breeding research. This is a historically under-funded part of organic research, and what is more crucial than the seeds that we plant. The rest of the research dollars go to a wide diversity of grants that aim to help organic farmers and researchers tackle the problems faced by organic farmers across the country. This granting program does not give away millions but has been used to leverage millions more in funding.
There is also a policy side that is both a grassroots action network and an organic lobbyist on capital hill. Earlier this year they added a regional organizer and plan to add one more this next year. OFRF networks often with National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), the main sustainable agriculture lobbyist on capital hill. In addition it is working. According to what has been leaked about farm bill inclusions recently, many of the organic initiatives OFRF seeks to keep are still in place. Of course the farm bill is a moving target, but isn’t it nice to know someone is up there and out there fighting against the Monsanto’s of the world, who spend eight million a year just on lobbying!
The other area that OFRF works in is that of education. The stated goal is to see organic agriculture taught in every agricultural university in the country is inspiring to me. Imagine every student of agriculture having organics as a part of their foundation. Already they have supported many programs in the land grant universities, and now that net is cast even wider to include all agricultural universities. They also work on education by publishing documents such as the recently released Organic Farming for Health and Prosperity.
In the last year OFRF has brought in a new Executive Director, Maureen Wilmot. She has the desire to grow the organization from a budget of 1.5 million to 5 million, which would more than double the amount of grants we would be able to award. Her fundraising is reaching out to organizations that benefit from organic farming like those who enjoy clear air and water, in addition to the large corporations who claim sustainability as a part of their philanthropic missions, or advertising campaign. After all what is more sustainable than actual organic farms? Maureen has broad visions and goals for the organization, which is exactly the kind of thinking that organics needs to become the convention of agriculture.
So you can see why I am so excited about being involved with such an organization. There have been several projects funded in Colorado over the years by OFRF, including right here in Hotchkiss. As this organization continues to grow I hope you will join me!