Pioneers For Real Organic: Eliot, Jesse, and Joan

Dear Real Organic friends,

Here is a second sharing of upcoming speakers for the January symposium. We are very excited about this event. It has been a great privilege and pleasure talking with so many organic champions, from farmers, to scientists, to academics, to journalists, to politicians, to chefs, to eaters.

Please use the menu above to check out our website, buy a ticket, and join us virtually in January!

One of the interviews that was the most fun for me was talking with Eliot Coleman. I actually drove the 6 hours to his farm in Maine to have a chance to sit in the fields and talk together, surrounded by Four Seasons' bounty.  Eliot has been a friend for the last 40 years. Really, since I began farming. I still remember the day we met at the local gas station in Post Mills and I asked Eliot for advice on a problem I was having with my melon crop. I was young and excited, still farming with oxen!

One thing led to another, and soon I was a regular visitor to the farm at the Mountain School that Eliot was managing. He not only shared his knowledge and his library but also his incredible food.  I ate very well, as did everyone lucky enough to spend a term in one of the more interesting educational experiments in Vermont, blending farming and classrooms.

In Eliot's library, I got the inspiration for organic greenhouse production from an English writer. Doug Blair's little booklet became the blueprint for Long Wind Farm. Like so many organic farmers, Eliot changed my life. The interview that formed the basis for our podcast took place on the special farm in Maine that Eliot still grows on with his wife, Barbara Damrosch and his daughter, Clara Coleman. Clara has taken over the management of the farm, but Eliot's fingers are still green.

I have met organic farmers all over the country who share my experience. Some now work on farms, some run small, intensive market gardens. One runs a very large farm operation that spans two countries. 

Eliot continues to inspire me these many years later, still challenging my thinking. I am happy to be able to share our conversation with all of you when the podcasts and symposium. This short clip is a taste.

Eliot serves on the Real Organic Project Advisory Board, a role he has taken seriously since before we began. Eliot is still fighting for an organic alternative to the industrial machine.

Jesse Buie is one of my favorite farmers I met during the "hydro battles" at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Jesse was a member of the NOSB and was one of the Soil Seven who fought to protect real organic in Jacksonville. One of Jesse's jobs is to run a small scale vegetable and spice farm in Mississippi. 

I have always been struck by Jesse's quiet dignity and rock-solid integrity. In the controversies and debates that raged at the meetings, it was always a relief to spend a few minutes with Jesse. I got to interview him a few weeks ago, and hear his reflections as he approaches the end of his five-year term on the NOSB. It is a lot of work to serve on this USDA advisory board, especially for a small independent farmer like Jesse. No one is paying him for the massive amount of time he has spent, unlike the corporate representatives for whom the NOSB is just another paid day at the office.

Organic is not YET a big movement in Mississippi, but Jesse assured me that more and more people there want real organic food too. Jesse serves on the Real Organic Project Advisory Board. His farm, Ole Brook Organics is a certified Real Organic Project pilot farm.

Joan Dye Gussow is a legendary pioneer in the organic movement. The New York Times has called her the "matriarch of the eat-locally-think-globally food movement." She continues to be an active and popular teacher at Columbia's Teachers College into her nineties. She has served as the chair of the nutrition department, where she created the transformative course, "Nutritional Ecology." She has written a number of books and she testified before Congress. She served a five-year term on the NOSB starting in 1996.

I have spoken and written with Joan over the years as we built our case for reform in the USDA. We were honored to have her join the Real Organic Project Board of Advisors three years ago. Her active intellect is still a force, and I was pleased to interview her for the symposium. She still speaks the truth as she sees it. It is a pleasure to learn from her.

Please attend the symposium so you can understand WHY real organic is important to ALL of us. These wise people have shared so much of themselves. Let us give them the respect of our attention.

Many thanks,


PS. It is especially important that friends forward this email so that others can learn about the symposium. We appreciate your support.


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