birthed Gen O.
For the tour, 16 Gen Os from all
over the country hopped on and off
the bus over a two week period, stopping at colleges to encourage other
young folks to get involved in organic
either as a farmer or at least as a citizen partner. Part of this tour included
a stop in New York City where we sponsored a rooftop garden at a public
school—there should be a garden in
every school! The last stop on the tour
was a visit to D.C. to step up to the government in support of organic, family
farming and supporting youth who
want to farm. Today, we make it almost
impossible to get into farming while
the opposite is what we need.
OP: In recent years, you have helped lead
a discussion group with OTA on “Manag-
ing the Organic Message.” What was the
goal with this?
Marquez: “Managing the Organic Message” was about understanding the science around organic, supporting it,
and trying to get everyone to get on
the same page with messaging. Every
trade show we’d get key marketing and
communications people from organic
companies together to talk about the
best way to share the message. How do
we talk about why organic costs more?
How do we talk about the difference
between GMOs and organic? How do
we talk about rBGH? How do we talk
about the big organic people versus
the little organic people? How do we
create harmony and consistency of
messaging in the organic family?
One of the things that would really
bug me was watching new people
come into the industry who would say
things about organic that simply just
weren’t true. For example, “It’s pure
food.” Nothing’s pure anymore. The
Environmental Working Group did a
test with newborns and they had over
200 contaminants in their body.
“pure,” there is a huge difference between organic food and non-organic food
that we can talk about. Scientists have researched children who ate organic versus non-organic, switching them back and forth, apples to apples, and urine
tests showed eight times less organophosphates just by switching to organic.
USDA data also shows that there are much less pesticides in organic food.
That is why I helped found the Organic Center, because I really believed in organic, and I wanted to have the science to prove it. I had seen lots of science
out there, but no one in the United States was taking that science and putting
“Having been in the organic
industry for 32 years—I now feel
like art might be one of the most
”exciting ways that we can share the organic message.”
OP: One of the outreach efforts you spearheaded is the Earth Dinner
( www.earthdinner.org). Can you explain this concept and tell us about how it has
come to life?
Marquez: The Earth Dinner is about bringing back meaningful conversations
to the dinner table. There’s another kind of learning that goes on there—role
modeling. What better place to get people talking about the connection between food and the environment? One of my goals was to help people associate
food with Earth Day. One frustration I have had is that the community thinks
that Earth Day is mainly about planting trees, and while planting trees is awesome, food has such a huge impact on both our health and the environment.
So we created an Earth Dinner book with ways to start conversations about
food and the environment and encouraged citizen partners to host Earth Dinners. And they have really run with the idea—hosting everything from potlucks
to community fundraisers. Last year, at our own Earth Dinner at the headquarters, we had twenty tables of eight, each with a theme that had to do with their
interpretation of Earth Day and the Earth Dinner. Then, between courses, we’d
have people come up and share their favorite story that was told at their table.
One of the ideas in the book is to write a haiku about food, and you would
not believe how fun it could be. Another question is, “What is your earliest
memory about food.” One story triggers another and so on. It’s about finding
creative ways to express our connection to food. We’re all artists at the end of
the day. I think that we can elevate a lot of what we do through art—it makes
our minds rise to a new level. When we look at our lives as art, or food as art, we
have an experience that isn’t intellectual anymore; it becomes an emotional experience.
My next big fantasy is to create a traveling organic art exhibit that goes to
every major museum in the country. I saw one on AIDS when I was in Los Angeles many years ago and I literally sat down and cried. I think everyone who saw