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Earth Day 2011

Another Earth Day has arrived, providing an opportunity to pause and reflect on the world of which we are all an integral part.

Another Earth Day has arrived, providing an opportunity to pause and reflect on the world of which we are all an integral part.

I could start by focusing on the litany of statistics describing the crisis the Earth and all its inhabitants face. I’ll forego offering up the latest quantitative figures, but the themes would include:

  1. the loss of topsoil due to erosion
  2. the loss of farms, farmland and the decline of rural communities
  3. the loss of biodiversity to monocultures
  4. the presence of toxic chemicals on the food we eat, in the air we breathe & in the water we depend on
  5. the health impacts of these chemicals, with known links to life-threatening diseases such as cancer
  6. the health impacts of cheap and convenient food (made possible by the industrialized food system), with increasing diet-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease
  7. rising hunger and food insecurity
  8. climate destabilization and the uncertainty associated with unprecedented weather

Admittedly, it’s an alarming, daunting and even disheartening list. But the purpose of reviewing these challenges is not to dwell on them, become overwhelmed, and feel powerless. Instead, being aware of these challenges provides a compelling case for change.

To be truly forward thinking and agents of positive change, we must envision a more sustainable and balanced world. And then we must apply our collective innovation, passion, creativity and hard work to realize the change we want to see.

And that’s where Oregon Tilth’s mission and work matters most. Through our programs and activities, we are working hard every day to make a positive difference.

The Oregon Tilth Certified Organic program now certifies over 1400 operations of diverse sizes and production systems across the US and in Latin America and Canada. Since 1982, we’ve been offering certification of organic food and fiber throughout the supply chain, providing economic opportunity, ensuring integrity & transparency, and defending consumer trust in the organic label.

In Good Tilth, our bimonthly magazine, covers timely topics related to sustainable food systems. Now entering its 22nd year of publication, it has become a respected source of informative and insightful articles for thousands of readers.

Now in its 10th year, the Organic Education Center program offers classes, volunteer opportunities and a model for organic growing at the backyard scale and urban context. Our demonstration garden provides a living classroom for hand-on, place-based education and has donated over 10,000 pounds of fresh organic produce to the hungry over the years.

Now in its second year, our Organic Land Care program reaches out to a new audience (landscape designers and contractors) and applies the same principles of ecological design and management to landscapes used for purposes other than food production. By offering education and building a network of accredited organic land care practitioners, we hope to increase the demand for organically managed public parks, campuses and private residences.

Once every two years, we co-sponsor the Organicology conference, a catalyzing gathering of the organic food community that is working to create a truly sustainable food future. This 3-day event offers all-day intensives, workshops, a trade show, great food and plenty of opportunity for networking and celebration across all links in the food supply chain. The event is the result of a great partnership between Oregon Tilth, Organically Grown Company, the Organic Seed Alliance and the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association.

Oregon Tilth also supports and participates in advocacy and policy efforts. Led by the fine work of organizations like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Organic Trade Association, National Organic Coalition and Community Food Security Coalition – we advocate for and help craft policies that support our work as well as identify changes needed to policies that represent barriers to achieving our goals.

Oregon Tilth has also recently established strategic partnerships with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Oregon State University Extension’s Small Farms Program. These partnerships with traditional agricultural service providers will leverage their resources and influence to support the organic movement.

This highlights the power of relationships. Resilient and sustainable systems rely on diversity and cooperation. To me, those two things – diversity and cooperation – are the foundation of community. And it is strong communities working together that will cultivate the change we need for a sustainable future and enduring planet Earth.

Happy Earth Day,

Chris Schreiner
Executive Director
Oregon Tilth

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