Organic Trade Association showcases American organic at Milan World 39 s Fair

OTA program at international show highlights organic visionaries, technology, and mission
Organic Trade Association showcases American organic at Milan World 39 s Fair

The four women leading the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) event at the Milan World’s Fair represented more than 70 years of food activism—a senior government official in charge of the marketing of billions of dollars of US agricultural products daily and whose massive agency also oversees the US organic program, an organic visionary now heading the foremost organic trade group in America, a former DC-based food and agricultural policy expert turned organic farmer in Italy, and a foodservice entrepreneur who founded the first catering company in New York to own and operate its own organic farm.

The Milan exposition marked the first time for OTA to participate in a World’s Fair, or International Exposition as the event was known when the inaugural one was held in London in 1851. In one of a group of discussions OTA led at the international show, OTA spotlighted the four influential organic leaders for its "Women Leading the Organic Way" session.

Panelists were Anne Alonzo, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA); Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO of OTA; Ariane Lotti, farmer and agricultural entrepreneur; and Liz Neumark, Founder and CEO of Great Performances & Katchkie Farm.

For an absorbing two hours, the panelists talked about their unique paths that led them to the rooftop terrace of the USA Pavilion and what they envision for the future of food and the future of the planet. A bigger role for organic in the effort to feed the world in a sustainable way, growing opportunities for entrepreneurs—and women in particular—in the world of organic, and consumers who know where their food comes from and how it was produced were seen on the horizon.

"If we are thinking about feeding the world, we have to think about it holistically and work towards a broad solution. The experiences represented on this panel show that women are not afraid to do the work required for that change," said Lotti, who is beginning this year to transition her 1,000 acre farm in Italy, Tenuta San Carlo, to organic. "Organic agriculture provides opportunities to help manage the many climate and market risks in farming, and is one of the best tools for achieving sustainable food production."

"The next generation is making their voices heard, and they’re demanding a sustainable path to the table. The critical role that organic producers and supporters play in determining food security for the future of our planet has been never more apparent than during today’s discussion," said Neumark. She said being an early adopter of organic in food service at Great Performances and establishing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at her organic Katchkie Farm has enabled her to contribute to the goal of a sustainable food system.

Panelists also encouraged young people everywhere to consider a vocation in organic agriculture, or the organic sector beyond the farm. "Organic creates real opportunities for entrepreneurs…There is much more opportunity and diversity in agriculture now than just a decade ago," said OTA’s Batcha.

Batcha also noted the positive life-changing possibilities that organic offers to current farmers: "Organic has proven to be more profitable than conventional agriculture, and it offers important ways to improve the livelihood of farmers around the world. Organic increases farm income and helps eliminate rural poverty, which is a critical cause of hunger in many parts of the world."

The US government has pledged to help foster more organic agriculture, said Alonzo. "USDA is committed to supporting organic agriculture in the global marketplace and providing all organic producers and businesses with the tools and services they need to succeed," she said. "Through these efforts, USDA proactively supports and partners with the Organic Trade Association, and I am honored to share our work on a global stage at the USA Pavilion at the World Expo."

This year’s expo, whose theme is "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life," explores the huge challenge of finding a balance between meeting the nutritional needs of the global population and respecting the planet. The six-month show, which comes to a close on Oct. 31, has featured food and agricultural technology and innovations from more than 140 participating countries, and has attracted over 20 million visitors from around the world.

"Organic has always looked forward and has always been committed to producing the most healthy food in a way that sustains the environment. American organic is redefining food and farming, and we wanted to showcase those successes at this global venue," said Monique Marez, Associate Director of International Trade for OTA.

The theme of the USA Pavilion was "American Food 2.0: United to Feed the World." The American pavilion showcased the U.S. not only as an innovator in the food sector, but also in many aspects of culture, science and business.  

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