for organic is still personal health, but I wanted to see
people “get out of their bodies and get into the fields.”
The key is to help people understand that it’s not just
what you are putting into your body that’s important, but
that the air you breathe and the water you drink is important, too. We need to get the word out about the links between pesticides in the environment and infertility,
hermaphrodite frogs and other atrocities. I wanted to do a
whole campaign on “toxic debt.” We’re all worried about
our financial debt. What about our toxic debt? When do
we start paying that back?
As for what has worked best for us, it has always been
the phrase “farmer-owned.” We started the “Who’s Your
Farmer?” campaign, because we believe that the whole
local movement is just a huge desire for people to be connected to their food. It’s always been about the farmers.
So far there has been a great response.
“We’re all worried about our
financial debt. What about our
toxic debt? When do we start paying
OP: One of the latest efforts you have launched was the Genera-
tion Organic 2010 “Who’s Your Farmer?” Tour. What was the
goal with this?
Marquez: Generation Organic was an idea I had about
four years ago when my frustration with conventional agriculture leadership hit the wall. Spokespeople for conventional agriculture usually had a Monsanto hat
on—literally. Add to this the fact that today the average
age of farmers is 60.
Organic Valley represents around 10 percent of the or-
ganic milk supply and 1600 farmers in an industry that
has much more growth ahead—I wondered who will be
the next generation of organic farmers and what role they
can play in fixing a deeply broken food system? An impor-
tant question for us was also, “Who are the next leaders of
CROPP and how are we going to engage and train them
to lead the cooperative?”
So we invited a dozen or so of our young farmers to
come talk to the management team. An hour into this ses-
sion, we were all in tears, even the men! I left the session
with a deep commitment to do everything I could to em-
power these young folks and give them a voice. And so we