Santa Cruz, CA – 2011 is a historic year in the organic food and farming movement. With Maureen Wilmot named to the executive directorship of the Organic Farming Research Foundation(OFRF) in January, four leading U.S. organic food and farming advocacy organizations are now headed by women for the first time. Joan Boykin is the executive director of The Organic Center, Christine Bushway is the executive director of the Organic Trade Association(OTA), and Peggy Miars is the executive director of the Organic Materials Review Institute.
“The fact that women are leading these four major national organizations at the same time is a delightful coincidence,” said Ms. Wilmot. “In the last three years, the boards of all four organic organizations have chosen the best and the brightest to lead the way, and it just so happened we were all women.”
Having women in leadership positions in the organic agriculture sector is only natural given the significant role women have in the U.S. farm and food economy. Today, the majority of food purchases are made by women and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 22 percent of all organic farmers are women.
The quartet of women in leadership positions comes at a time when women have made significant advances in other national organic farming institutions as well. Kathleen Merrigan, a former OFRF board member and lead author of the Organic Foods Production Act, is now deputy secretary of agriculture at the USDA and LaRhea Pepper is co-founder and senior director of Textile Exchange (formerly Organic Exchange). In addition, board presidents at both OFRF (Deirdre Birmingham) and OTA (Julia Sabin) are women.