Horizon Announces Winners of the HOPE Scholarships

Horizon Organic® has announced the four recipients of the 2013 Horizon Organic Producer Education (HOPE) Scholarships that help encourage young people to enter the field of organic agriculture. The students, each of whom will receive $2,500, are children or grandchildren of Horizon’s more than 600 family farmers.

Horizon is the first national organic dairy brand to offer a scholarship program designed to build the next generation of organic leaders. The scholarship program began in 2007. American consumers are seeking out organic foods at an unprecedented rate, in part because of concerns about pesticide use, the effects of growth hormones, antibiotic resistance, and because they want to avoid genetically engineered foods.

This year’s four scholarship recipients are:

  • Callie Brodt (Ferndale, Calif.), 19, is the granddaughter of Horizon farmer Jim Walker of the Walker Dairy in Ferndale, Calif. Callie attends Chico State University, where she is majoring in Agriculture Business. “Growing up on an organic dairy and working throughout the dairy industry has given me many opportunities,” Brodt said. “I really think the organic dairy industry is promising for our future because of the natural practices it offers and the benefits to our land, animals and consumers.” This is Brodt’s second HOPE Scholarship. “Callie has extraordinary clarity of purpose and commitment for someone so young,” said HOPE Scholarship committee member, Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy TruthCallieBrodt

 

  • Mieke DeJong (Bonanza, Ore.), 21, is the daughter of Horizon farmers Arie and Jenneke DeJong, who run the Windy Ridge farm in Bonanza, Ore. This is DeJong’s third HOPE Scholarship, and she plans to graduate in spring 2014 from Oregon State University with a degree in Agricultural Business. DeJong says helping out on her family’s organic farm has been rewarding. “As I grew older, I gained a new perspective on what organic truly meant and have grown to love what it represents and how animals and farms should be treated,” DeJong said. “Knowing that organic foods are produced with care and love from families like ours, I am more than willing to support organic foods and encourage others to do so as well.” HOPE Scholarship committee member Glenda Yoder of Farm Aid said, “Mieke demonstrates a great awareness of the benefits and qualities of organic agriculture. She has qualities that could make her a business leader.”

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  • Damen Jeg (Chehalis, Wash.), 19, is the son of Horizon farmer Heinz Jeg of Jeg and Sons Dairy in Chehalis, Wash. Damen Jeg, who is a first-time recipient of the HOPE Scholarship, plans to attend Washington State University to pursue a degree in Animal Science. “Living and working on an organic dairy farm has been a unique and advantageous opportunity,” Jeg said. “The organic option provides a niche market for those who want to consume and utilize a more wholesome and pure product in their lives.” Beyond family farming, he said organic agriculture also offers career opportunities in various fields, including agronomy, business, animal science and food science. “Damen is an accomplished and well-rounded young man who will represent organic well,” said HOPE Scholarship committee member Dr. Alan Greene. “The skills he’s learned will help him be a creative and problem-solving organic farmer.”

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  • Sierra Knight (Lisbon, N.Y.), 19, is the daughter of Horizon farmer Bradley Knight of Knight’s Meadow View Farm in Lisbon, N.Y. Sierra Knight, now a two-time recipient of the HOPE Scholarship, is attending The State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam, where she is majoring in pre-veterinary with a minor in biology. She would like to become a veterinarian. “Healthcare for an organic farm is especially difficult to find because of the specific list of medications and procedures that a farmer is allowed to use,” Knight said. “The availability of a veterinarian who understands organic is also very important in the farmer’s goal in running and maintaining a productive farm.” HOPE Scholarship committee member Steve Gilman said, “Sierra is an incredible student and her pre-vet track is immensely important for organic agriculture.”

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The 2013 HOPE Scholarship recipients were chosen by a committee of organic industry leaders, including: Tracy Favre, National Organic Standards Board member and former chief operating officer, Holistic Management International (HMI); Steve Gilman, policy coordinator, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Interstate Council; Alan Greene, MD, founder of DrGreene.com; Faye Jones, executive director, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth and founder of AllergyKids; Bob Scowcroft, a long-standing organic advocate who has served in various leadership positions for 35 years; and Glenda Yoder, associate director, Farm Aid. 

 

Protecting Valuable Land in our Backyard

WhiteWave Foods has been a longtime supporter of helping people understand what’s in their food and where it comes from. We are committed to sustainable agriculture, continued learning and reducing our impact on the environment, and are therefore strong supporters of our local Boulder partner, Growing Gardens, and its mission to enrich the lives of our community through sustainable urban agriculture.

Growing Gardens raises awareness and provides opportunities for people to participate in urban agricultural programs. They unite the Boulder County community through urban agricultural projects such as: The Cultiva Youth Project, The Children’s Peace Garden, Horticultural Therapy, Fresh Food Families & Fitness, and The Community Gardens.

Protecting open space, promoting organic growing practices, and providing new learning experiences for kids and adults is core to the City of Boulder. And, it’s what Growing Gardens has contributed to since it was founded. WhiteWave Foods supports the impressive efforts of Growing Gardens, and we support Boulder City Council in placing a conservation easement on the Long’s Gardens property that is in our backyard. The conservation easement would protect the last 25 acres of working community farmland in the Boulder city limits.

Help us protect this land so it can continue to serve as a community-based resource for agricultural education. To make your opinion heard in this matter, you may contact the Boulder City Council before Tuesday, June 18 at council@bouldercolorado.gov. If you are local to Boulder, you are invited to make your voice heard by attending the June 18th  City Council meeting at the Municipal Building located at 1777 Broadway in Boulder CO.

 

WhiteWave’s Support for Mandatory National GMO Labeling

Initiatives to require labeling food made with genetically-modified ingredients are continuing to gain momentum at the Federal and state levels. New ballot initiatives in Washington State, Connecticut, Vermont and elsewhere continue to generate widespread attention.

We realize some consumers expressed concern about our former parent company’s position on these issues.

To be clear, we didn’t donate to the opposition of the I-522 or Prop 37 initiatives. At WhiteWave, we believe people have the right to know what is in their food and we agree with the underlying principles of state initiatives.

We support a national standard for labeling because we believe consumers everywhere, in all 50 states, have the same right to know what’s in their food.  A national standard for GMO labeling would provide consistency for consumers and avoid the potential for 50 different standards in 50 different states.

We remain committed to the non-GMO movement. Consumers can feel good knowing Silk’s entire line of plant-based beverages has been verified by, or is enrolled in, the Non-GMO Project. All of Horizon’s products carry the USDA Organic Seal, and have been certified organic for more than 20 years. Consumers know and trust that the certified organic label means their food is produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones, and GMOs.

Rest assured WhiteWave believes in transparency, and will not support initiatives that oppose GMO labeling.

 

The Future of Food

What does the future of food look like?  I hope in some ways it looks more like the past, with people caring about where their food comes from and how it’s produced, and respecting those who produce it.

I had the opportunity to discuss the future of food recently as part of a panel at LOHAS Forum 2012 in Boulder.  LOHAS stands for lifestyles of health and sustainability, and for a consumer segment of 13 to 19 percent of U.S. adults who are particularly interested in health, the environment and sustainable living.  LOHAS Forum is an annual gathering of brands, researchers, analysts and influencers who care about this space, meeting in Boulder – where so many organic food brands, like Horizon Organic and Silk,got their start.

It was a real pleasure to be there and to share the stage with Steve Demos, founder of Silk Soymilk and WhiteWave Inc., which later became WhiteWave Foods, the parent company of Horizon Organic.  Joining Steve and I on the panel was Elizabeth Candelario, marketing director at Demeter USA, part of the world’s only certifier of Biodynamic® farms and products.  Liz Myslik, CEO of Fresca Brands, was an excellent moderator for our group.

There were a couple of points that are important to me.  One is my belief that those of us acting as stewards of great brands like Horizon Organic have an obligation to use the power of these brands to educate consumers and grow the organic market.  More consumer demand for organic means more farm acres converted, which means fewer pesticides used – like the 20 million pounds of pesticides Horizon Organic farmers helped keep off the land in 2011 alone.

Transparency is another core value for me.  Trust is the cornerstone of all organic brands, so transparency is imperative – from the supply chain to the product label to the USDA Organic Seal.  USDA Organic is the gold standard and we must do all we can to strengthen it.

Serving on the panel was a great opportunity to talk about Horizon Organic’s partnership with the more than 600 family farmers in 23 states who supply more than 90 percent of our milk.  When we work together to grow the organic dairy category, we create more opportunities for farm families to prosper.

One audience member asked about the parent company for WhiteWave, Dean Foods.  I was proud to say that Dean has been a supportive partner for the Horizon Organic brand in good times and in bad.  All of our businesses at WhiteWave, including Horizon Organic, are run independently.  Dean’s consistent support, in good times and in bad, has been very important to us and to the farmers, retailers and consumers who depend on us.

What do you think the future of food should look like?  Share your thoughts and comments here.

What matters?

It’s been a little more than three years since we officially launched our Mission here at WhiteWave, a mission that states – We will be the Earth’s favorite food company. And over the past few years we’ve collectively been trying to define what that kind of achievement would really mean and accomplish.

I think a lot of people get caught up thinking that achieving our mission revolves mostly around sustainability (as it relates to waste, emissions, water usage, etc.). But as the broader examples in the below video point out, the concept of “finding ways to improve quality of life” is helping us broaden the scope of what becoming the Earth’s favorite food company will really mean.

Sure, sustainable actions are going to be a big part of our work, and really, really important. But there’s a lot more that needs to go into creating a product/brand/company that people want to support. Whether that be partnering with local organizations to make packaging more easily recyclable, or offering new ways for people to enjoy a great cup of coffee, that idea is always top of mind for us.

Making food more awesome

Improving the food system sounds like a massive undertaking. A big challenge that needs big solutions, right? Maybe not.

Awesome Food (part of the Awesome Foundation) is looking for small ideas to help fix food, and in turn offering small “no-strings attached” grants for the good ones.

Something in the middle

Interesting piece in the NYTimes, shining a light on what some believe to be a soon to come crackdown on antibiotic usage in livestock farming operations. Though the new guidelines would not eliminate the use of antibiotics entirely – “The guidelines, which are voluntary and will not have the binding force of regulations, would end farm uses of the drugs simply to promote faster animal growth and call for tighter oversight by veterinarians.” if this does play out as expected, it could possibly clear the path for an overall ban, something that’s already taken place in Europe.

The bigger question here isn’t whether or not to eliminate antibiotic and growth hormone usage in livestock farming operations. WhiteWave is in complete support of this. In fact, we already do that. The question is how can an entire industry eliminate the use of antibiotics and growth hormones in livestock without seriously crippling itself? For all the flaws associated with the current infrastructure around food production, it’s still a really efficient and profitable system — a system that’s been developed over the course of a few decades. Changing it is going to be hard.

Aside from the antibiotic argument, some believe that large-scale operations should be eliminated all together. That’s just not possible if we want to feed everyone. However, large-scale operations do need to find ways to adopt small scale principles if  the current system is to become safer and more sustainable.

Our Horizon brand offers a good example of the possibilities. We partner with more than 500 farmers across the country who provide more than 90 percent of our milk, but we also own two of our own farms, one of which spans about 9,000 acres and milks nearly 2,400 cows a day. It’s big. And because we’re connected to a larger organization (Dean Foods), we have the ability to heavily invest in technologies and processes that have helped the farm operate efficiently and organically, on a large scale.

For example the dairy is able to grow more than 70 percent of the feed the cows eat, and with the help of Holistic Management International, has established an impressive grazing system to get our cows on pasture as much as possible. Even when the cows aren’t on pasture, the barn they inhabit is designed to keep them comfortable and healthy, equipped with mattresses for each cow and open access to free roam areas outside the barn.

The farm also gives us an opportunity to try new things. As we continue to learn new, sustainable ways to care for our cows, we pass what we learn on to our family-farmer partners, just as they pass what they learn back to us.

We of course aren’t all the way there, and can always get better, but the farm is in our opinion a really strong example of how big and small can come together to find a middle ground, and begin to reshape the system.

House of green

Really excited to be partnering with brands like LG, Ford and Earthbound Farms this week, as part of The Green House project just down the way in Boulder. The “smart living” program brings together influential journalists from all over the country, and puts them up in a specially outfitted, net-zero Smart House for three days at a time. During the experience these guys get to go about their day-to-day routine with the help of a variety of products, services and technology that are good for your health, good for your wallet and good for the environment.

The Smart House is also blending a variety of companies and brands that don’t usually cross paths (Not often that soymilk and plasma TVs come together… on purpose anyway), but that’s actually one of the cooler parts of the program. The diverse group of company sponsors and products will allow for a complete “smart living” experience. How you cook, how you drive, how you do the laundry, how you watch TV, etc. This house can show you how to do it better.

Wanna see more? Me too.

On Wednesday (8/18), I’ll be tagging along with the group and featuring snippets from the day here on TGM….

The Mobile Food Collective

Adding to my post from last week, here’s just another great example of how building awareness is working to change the future of food… except in this case, these guys are bringing that awareness to you, and parking it right next to the hot dog cart.

The Mobile Food Collective is literally an urban garden on wheels, and again, not designed to feed the masses, just wake the masses up to the brilliance of fresh food.

You should really “Like” these guys on Facebook, and if you’re in Chicago, maybe swing by the cart and send us some pictures/video?

So fracking scary…

A few months ago I wrote about one of the best and most compelling movies I’ve seen in a long time – Gasland. I’ve since been waiting to hear where and when it would be released so that I could share it with everyone I know. Well, I just found out that it’a premiering on HBO this coming Monday, June 21 at 9 p.m. EDT.

Variety has said “Gasland may become to the dangers of gas drilling what Silent Spring was to DDT” and in case you still don’t care, this synopsis of the movie should reel you in.

The largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States, but the hydraulic fracturing drilling technology (called “fracking”) that unlocks this “Saudia Arabia of natural gas” beneath us may not be safe…When filmmaker Josh Fox was asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarked on a cross-country road trip to find out just what the environmental consequences of fracking are. Along the way, he meets residents of a Pennsylvania town which was recently drilled who show him how they can light their drinking water on fire, and that’s just one of the alarming and astonishing revelations in the movie.

You can join the Gasland fan page on Facebook in order to access to the film’s viewing guide, which contains tips for hosting a green screening, a list of 10 actions you can take now to fight fracking and a post-screening discussion guide