The Rodale Institute for each of the past 11 year has celebrated the well-being of people and the planet by recognizing “three leaders who are changing the landscape of regenerative organic agriculture for the better.” Rodale Institute’s Organic Pioneer Award winners for 2021 are the Iowa farmer and activist Denise O’Brien, New Mexico farmer Don Bustos, and Jay Feldman, the Executive Director and founder of Beyond Pesticides.
Denise O’Brien has farmed with her husband, Larry Harris, for 45 years and maintains 17 acres of the original Harris farm in Atlantic (Cass County), Iowa. Five acres incorporate a high tunnel and greenhouse for starter plants and are certified organic for fruit and vegetable production.
Farmer O’Brien helped found Sustainable Iowa Land Trust and serves on its board. This Land Trust helps establish beginning farmers and uses easements to preserve land for food production in Iowa.
O’Brien is also the co-founder of the Women Food and Agriculture Network. She served as an Agriculture Advisor in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, deepening her knowledge of women farmers on an international level. O’Brien has also served as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Pesticide Action Network of North America.
Don Bustos farms land in Northern New Mexico that has been in his family since the Spanish Land Grant of 1598. One of the first farmers in New Mexico to receive organic certification, he has played a lead role in developing the vision and raising funds for the Santa Fe Farmers Market Complex.
As a former co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Mexico Program, farmer Bustos focused on training beginning farmers and developing farmer networks throughout the state. He also serves on the board of the New Mexico Acequia Association and is a former board member of the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.
Jay Feldman, a founder in 1981 and Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides based in Washington, D. C., has a 40-year history of working with communities nationwide on toxins and organic policies and practice. With a mission to maintain ecological balance, enhance biodiversity, and eliminate toxic chemical use by addressing agricultural, lawn and landscape management practices, Feldman, a past chair and board member of Earth Share, also currently serves on the standards board of the Real Organic Project and on the executive committee of the National Organic Coalition.
Rodale Institute’s website includes short bios for the 37 winners of its Organic Pioneer Awards over the past 11 years, including this year’s three recipients of the award.
(Frank W. Barrie, 9/3/21)