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Organic Valley CEO Wins Award for Farm Methods

George Siemon was named a Steward of Sustainable Agriculture at this year's Eco-Farm conference in recognition of his leadership in promoting sustainable agriculture.

George Siemon, CEO and a founding farmer of Organic Valley Family of Farms, recently received the prestigious Sustie Award from the Ecological Farming Association at the organization's annual Eco-Farm Conference in Pacific Grove, Calif. The trophy Siemon received was a hand-carved gourd, the organization's symbol of agriculture stewardship.

"Organic Valley is a social experiment disguised as a business," said Siemon. "We are at the heart of the organic movement leading the industry and we must have faith in our movement and welcome the newcomers." Referring to the Cooperatives rapid growth since 1988, Siemon said, "In the early days, some thought us foolish and accused us of playing out of our league. But our Board President said, 'if you don't play out of your league, then you never get out of your league'."

Since 1988, the Ecological Farming Association has been celebrating citizens who have been actively and critically involved in sustainable agriculture. Dubbed Stewards of Sustainable Agriculture -- hence the Sustie -- the annual award ceremony honors three individuals, couples or groups who have demonstrated, in word and action, a long-term, significant contribution to the well-being of agriculture and the planet.

"George has had the ability to recognize the bigger picture needed for change," said maverick organic agriculturalist Bob Cantisano, known simply as "Amigo Bob," as he presented the award to Siemon.

"George Siemon's years of service as an organic farming advocate have been immeasurable," states Kristin Rosenow, executive director of the Ecological Farming Association. "From building market support for organic agriculture to his involvement in helping to develop national standards for organic certification, it's hard to imagine where organics might be today without his pioneering work."

Siemon, an organic farmer for more than 20 years, has long championed a system of farming that sustains supports the family farmer economically, while promoting the well being of farm animals and protecting land, water, air and wildlife -- with an end result being a high quality organic food for consumers nationwide.

In 1988, Siemon helped to organize a cadre of family farmers in rural Wisconsin which became the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). Under his leadership and expertise, this organization evolved into Organic Valley Family of Farms -- the largest organic farmers' cooperative in North America with 922 organic farmer-owners in 27 states and $335 million in 2006 sales. Past winners of the Sustie include Alice Waters, Vandana Shiva, Lundberg Family and Robert Rodale.

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