growing green awards

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) honors remarkable individuals for their contributions to creating healthier and more sustainable food systems through their annual Growing Green Awards. This year’s winners are tackling antibiotic resistance on farms, infusing urban areas with fresh produce in corner stores, championing business innovation in organic agriculture, and empowering communities with sustainable food equity projects.

“America’s highly productive food system is often a disaster for health, communities and our environment,” said Jonathan Kaplan, director of NRDC’s Food and Agriculture Program. “But these entrepreneurs show us that we can defy the gravity of the conventional food industry and innovate smarter, healthier, and more equitable ways to produce food.”

The 2013 Growing Green Award winners are:

Food Producer:  Russ Kremer, Heritage Acres (Frankenstein, Missouri) 

Known as the “Pope of Pork,” Russ Kremer is a fifth-generation pig farmer and a driving force in the movement for more sustainably-raised, antibiotic-free livestock. Kremer contracted an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection from his pigs in 1989 and nearly died, causing him to realize firsthand the dangers of conventional pork production methods. He immediately made changes to his operation, deciding to start over from scratch and raise pigs the natural, old-fashioned way—as free-roaming, pasture-raised creatures and most importantly, without drugs. 

“I share this NRDC honor with farmers who have had the courage to buck dangerous conventional production trends by transforming their raising operations into models of hope,” said Kremer. “These producers are living proof that we can grow profitable and sustainable food production systems that put health first and preserve the efficacy of life-saving medicine, while also treating animals humanely.” 

Kremer leads the Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative, helping other small producers make similar sustainable conversions and profitably raise healthy pigs without antibiotics. The co-op has relationships with major buyers including Whole Foods, Chipotle, Costco and La Quercia. 

Young Food Leader: Brianna Almaguer Sandoval, The Healthy Corner Store Initiative (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) 

At only 30 years-old, Brianna Almaguer Sandoval has brought  healthy foods into low-resourced communities through hundreds of Philadelphia-area corner stores. As leader of The Food Trust’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative, Sandoval supports corner stores with education, tools, and finances they need to bring in more healthy fruits and vegetables. The program has grwon from 11 stores to become the nation’s largest initiative of its kind with more than 680 stores in Philadelphia, Camden, NJ and Norristown, PA. 

“Everyone has a right to healthy food, regardless of where they live or how much money they have,” said Almaguer Sandoval. “Greater access to healthy food, especially for children in urban areas, translates as life-changing health outcomes. This work is just the beginning of an exciting future for corner stores and public health.”

Food Justice: Tezozomoc, South Central Farmers Health and Educational Fund (Buttonwillow, California) 

In 2003, the city of Los Angeles threatened to bulldoze the U.S.’s largest community food garden. Local leader Tezozomoc rallied the 350 families who grew food to feed themselves from the 14-acre South Central Garden, engaging in one of our nation’s most important battles for urban agricultural land use. Although the garden was ultimately shut down, it was reborn through Tezozomoc’s efforts into a now-thriving 85-acre, 100% organic cooperative farm in Buttonwillow, California, and the South Central Farmers Health and Educational Fund (SCFHEF).

“By creating new economic opportunities right in our own backyard, we hope to strengthen communities’ ability to grow and eat healthy food as well as reconnect to the priceless cultural heritage behind it,” said Tezozomoc. “Community-based agriculture can prosper if equity is the guiding principle. That equity means having access to healthy food, good jobs and working conditions, and land ownership and resources.”

Business Leader:  Larry Jacobs, Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo (Pescadero, California) 

California farmer and entrepreneur Larry Jacobs has been a pioneer in organic food production that proves thatwe can grow profitable food without chemicals for more than 30 years. After a dangerous personal encounter with pesticides in his early twenties, Jacobs made it his life’s work to support organic farming and introduce innovative non-toxic pest control approaches. He founded the California-based Jacobs Farm, the nation’s largest producer of fresh organic herbs and built the Del Cabo Co-operative, a  partnership supporting organic growing in Baja, Mexico. He also played an important role in setting a legal precedent that protects organic farmers from drifting pesticides.

“With this Growing Green Award, we hope to encourage other businesses, farmers and innovators to join us in growing healthy food, in a healthier way,” said Jacobs. “We can’t think of anything more important and fulfilling than finding ways to grow good, toxic-free food without poisoning ourselves and the planet.”

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