Monday, April 20, 2009

Athens area organic farmer Stewardship Award winner

Rich Tomsu of Rich Gardens Organic Farm—a certified organic farm in Athens County--is the winner of the 2009 Stewardship Award from the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). This award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community and was presented at the 30th annual OEFFA conference.

During his characteristically passionate acceptance speech, Rich recognized Mick Luber, a previous OEFFA Stewardship award winner for introducing Rich and other Athens area growers to the organic movement. Rich harkened back to 1975 when he and his wife Ann Fugate made the “life-changing decision” to buy their farm near Shade, Ohio in southern Athens County. Ann related that the move to the farm was a political decision coming from their desire to feed themselves and others, in reaction to their distrust of the political system at the time.

While accepting his award, Rich framed his work in organic farming as being a part of a “revolution,” that is increasingly becoming a mainstream movement. Rich and Ann trace their farming methods back to the Victory Gardens of World War II. “We never knew any other way to farm but organic,” said Ann.

Rich has been a vendor at the Athens Farmers market since the early 80s and, along with his wife—who is the Athens Farmers Market Association President—has been instrumental in its growth and recognition as one of the top 10 farmers markets in the country (Audubon Magazine, 2006).

Sarah Conley, Athens Farmers Market Manager calls Rich “one of the most impactful farmers on me personally.” From 2002-2003 Sarah worked at his farm, and recalls it as a turning point in her life. “Working for Rich gave me a deep appreciation of organic agriculture. Rich is an asset to the community,” said Conley.

She is one of many Athens area residents who have gained insights into organic agriculture through Rich’s openness and mentoring. Athens OEFFA chapter president Ed Perkins remarked on Rich’s dedication to the organic movement: “Rich has always put his time in to building OEFFA, and to organic agriculture, he shares his knowledge every chance he gets.”

The annual OEFFA conference is the largest gathering of organic farmers, gardeners, agriculture educators, retailers and consumers in the state. More than 700 people attended this year’s conference, The Changing Climate of Agriculture, held February 21 & 22 in Granville, and featured nationally recognized keynote speakers Melinda Hemmelgarn and Fred Kirschenmann, more than 50 workshops, a pre-conference workshop on soil fertility, a kids’ conference, on-site childcare, and Saturday evening entertainment.

OEFFA was formed in 1979 and is a membership-based, grassroots organization dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological, and healthful food systems.

No comments:

Post a Comment


blogger templates