Intensive: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? Integrity, Continuous Improvement and Evolution in the Organic Trade

THE ONE INNOVATION that is our legacy to pass on is the idea that local and regionally based and privately owned for-profit businesses can be effective vehicles for large scale social change. We are not philanthropically funded NGOs. We are not in the street marchers. We do not do electoral politics. We buy things and sell things and provide services to our customers and by doing so we have enabled and facilitated a profound and enduring change in farming. By doing so, we have demonstrated the effectiveness of an overlooked model of social change. We must work to ensure that this lesson is not lost on those who come after us.” – David Weinstein, organic produce trade pioneer.


As the movement birthed the organic trade, those who stepped into the work were individuals and collectives holding vision for the potential of organic businesses to join forces with the organic movement in order to not only change agricultural practice but business practice as well. Now, more than 4 decades later, we find that our vision of what could be has not only created a flourishing market for our goods but done so on a scale resulting in the “mainstreaming” of the organic trade. This unfamiliar position has spawned increasingly contentious debates about what is “truly” organic, what responsibility organic has to “evolve” (or not) in order to help address numerous global crises that may be aggravated or abated by agricultural practice, and who should be carrying the organic flag into the future. Many of the visionaries and early entrepreneurs are no longer active participants, many iconic businesses and brands have been acquired and their voices diminished, and there is a sense of uncertainty and even despair in some circles related to how to proceed.


In this intensive, we will look at IFOAM’s “Organic 3.0” and the OTA’s “Bold Steps” as potential guides for navigating the challenges now before us, and the “Middle Path”, developed by Organic Agsystems Consulting and Organically Grown Company staff as a process for deliberating options with the requirement that they provide