Character Bios

JIM GARDINER – certified organic dairy farmer

Jim and his family have been raising dairy cows and high-quality forages for many years. They’ve been farming organically since 1989 (before contemporary market demand). After battling several illnesses in their family, they gained a vast knowledge of natural medicine. As a result, their approach to farming is focused on promoting health rather than treating disease. They grow most of their own food and believe that organic production has the potential to transform the lives and improve the health of citizens, our land, and our animals. They are part of CROPP Cooperative that distributes products under the Organic Valley label.

JOHN GORZYNSKI – formerly certified organic vegetable farmer

Nestled in a valley of the Catskills two and half hours north of New York City, you’ll find highly nutritious and flavorful vegetables growing on Gorzynski Ornery Farm. John Gorzynski started farming in 1976 when he decided his backyard garden was producing more food than his family could eat and/or give away. They decided to buy a larger farm and in 1982 the Gorzynskis started creating their 20-acre farm in the Catskills. John has been a longtime advocate for organic agriculture and small-scale growers, especially in his local Farm Bureau. In 2002, however, he dropped their organic certification for the farm in protest of the newly enacted federal standards and changed the name of his business from “Gorzynski Organic Farm” to “Gorzynski Ornery Farm.” He sells his produce to very happy vegetable eaters every Saturday at NYC’s Union Square Greenmarket. He’s also recently dropped his membership in Farm Bureau.

MARTY MESH – farmer advocate and FOG executive director

Marty Mesh is Executive Director of Florida Certified Organic Growers & Consumers, Inc. (FOG) and it’s organic certification program, Quality Certification Services (QCS). He worked on a conventional Kibbutz in Israel and became committed to organic / sustainable agriculture through that experience. His work in the natural foods community started in 1973 and he was part of Bellevue Gardens Organic Farm for 26 years. Marty Mesh serves on the boards of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture (NCSA). In addition to public policy work in the U.S., he has also worked on an international level, helping farmers and farm workers in developing countries to advance organic and sustainable agriculture as well as organic certification. He attends most National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings and believes it is part of his job to make sure the government hears the voices of farmers. He balances his busy schedule of travel and conference calls with the duties of a single father of two kids in Gainesville, FL.

URVASHI RANGAN, Ph.D. – environmental health scientist and consumer advocate, Consumer’s Union

Dr. Rangan is the Project Director for Consumer Reports GreenerChoices.org and Consumers Union’s Senior Scientist for Policy Initiatives. Dr. Rangan joined Consumers Union in 1999 and produced the Eco-labels.org Web site. She also serves as a spokesperson for Consumer Reports in the areas of sustainable production and consumption practices, organic food standards, food safety issues, pollution, toxics, and environmental health concerns. Dr. Rangan makes sure the voice of the consumer is in the discussion when it comes to environmental and agricultural debates. She lives with her husband and son in the Bronx.

GREG SWARTZ – farmer and NOFA-NY executive director

After finally making the connection between his love of food and his environmental ethic, Greg Swartz found his way to a farm in the Catskill Mountains of New York State to see where food really comes from. He dove into a 6-month apprenticeship there and that hands-on farm experience launched him into a new life as a diversified vegetable farmer and an organic farm activist. He spent 7 years farming, 5 of which he worked with farmer John Gorzynski. Then in 2007, Greg became the Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), a statewide education and advocacy organization fighting to build a sustainable regional food system. He also purchased his own farm this past year and is slowly getting it into production.

WENDE ELLIOT – founding farmer, Wholesome Harvest

Wende Elliot is the founding farmer of Wholesome Harvest, an organic meat cooperative in the Midwest. Wende started Wholesome Harvest in 2001 when she realized that the best way to ensure that her children were eating safe, chemical & hormone-free meat was to produce it herself. Seeing the marketing difficulties that small family farms face, Wende made use of her business logistics experience to create a successful business based upon cooperative principles. Wende’s story shows us that family farming and commercial success are not mututally exclusive concepts.

CLASSIE PARKERcommunity gardener and canning consultant

Classie Parker in the founder of the Five Star community garden in Harlem. For the past two decades she has been teaching her neighbors that being a city dweller does not mean that one can’t eat healthy, locally grown produce. As part of her outreach efforts, she teaches her fellow gardeners and citizens about the importance of canning, a process of home food-preservation that allows people to eat local produce year-round. Classie describes herself as a “canning consultant” and shows us that canning won’t be a lost culinary art as long as she’s around.

KATHIE ARNOLDorganic dairy farmer and advocate

kathistill001cropLocated in Truxton, NY, Kathie Arnold owns and operates Twin Oaks Organic Dairy with her husband, brother-in-law, and son. They milk approximately 130, mostly Holstein, cows and have been producing organic milk since 1998. She is an active advocate with the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance and served as their Organic Policy Chair for several years. Kathie believes family farmers, who produce quality organic milk and steward the environment through ecologically friendly farming practices, are entitled to receive a fair price and a fair share of the retail dollar for the organic milk they produce daily.

ANDY GRANTorganic farmer

andystill 001cropAndy Grant has been farming in Northern Colorado for his entire life. Grant Family Farms was the first to be certified organic by the State of Colorado in 1988. He now has a diverse operation of over 2,000 acres and is committed to developing a sustainable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The farm produces food both for fresh markets and for the frozen and processed industries. Andy served on the board of the Organic Trade Association from 1999-2005. His farm employs 300 people and Andy is committed to ensuring a safe, respectful work environment for all farm workers.

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