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Dear EarthTalk:
What are the “Growing Green Awards”?
Allen Sherwood, Denver, CO

The Growing Green Awards is a program of the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that recognizes and gives exposure to individuals across the United States who have demonstrated original leadership in the field of sustainable food. Each year NRDC gives out the awards to those making extraordinary contributions advancing ecologically-integrated farming practices, climate stewardship, water stewardship, farmland preservation, and social responsibility “from farm to fork.”

NRDC gives out the awards in four categories: Business Leader, Food Producer, Food Justice Leader and Young Food Leader. The Food Producer award recipient wins $10,000, while the Food Justice Leader and Young Food Leader each get $2,500. (There is no cash prize for the Business Leader.) An independent panel of renowned sustainable food leaders chooses the winners. Judges for the 2013 awards include owner and chef Michael Anthony of New York City’s renowned Gramercy Tavern, Nell Newman of Newman’s Own Organics, nutritionist Marion Nestle and organic farmer and rancher Gabe Brown.

Growing Green Winner

The Growing Green Awards, a program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, recognizes individuals across the U.S. who have demonstrated leadership in the field of sustainable food. Pictured: Andrea Northup, winner of the 2012 Young Food Leader award for her work with the D.C. Farm to School Network, which links regional farmers with local schools in order to transform cafeteria lunch menus.

Photo Credit: D.C. Farm to School Network


Before becoming a judge for the 2013 awards, Brown won the 2012 Food Producer award in recognition of his practices at his ranch in North Dakota, which integrates grass-fed cattle grazing with no-till cropping and is thus able to eschew synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides altogether. The 2012 Business Leader award went to Organic Valley CEO George Siemon for his efforts over the last 25 years securing fair pay for organic farmers, building market demand for organic foods and playing a critical role in developing national organic standards for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic certification.

Meanwhile, Lucas Benitez and Greg Asbed of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a human rights group focusing on improving conditions and pay for agricultural labor, took home the 2012 Food Justice Leaders award for their work organizing and supporting some 5,000 farm workers in Florida. And last but not least, Andrea Northup won the 2012 Young Food Leader award for her work with the DC Farm to School Network which links regional farmers with local schools in order to transform cafeteria lunch menus. And her work as the principal architect of the ‘farm-to-school’ provisions in the landmark “Healthy Schools Act” is having ripples effects across the country.

Although the deadline has passed for nominating candidates for 2013, nominees the judges will be evaluating will likely represent a variety of fields including food production, food service, retail or restaurants, academia, journalism, policy advocacy and government. As the award was created to bolster responsible and sustainable food production in the U.S., only nominees operating on American soil are considered. The criteria for picking the winners include: innovation in promoting ecologically-integrated food systems, including minimizing inputs of energy, water, antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals; reducing pollution and global warming gas emissions; use of on-farm polyculture; increasing natural resilience; and stewardship of biodiversity, pollinators, open space and land resources. Judges will also consider nominees’ potential to achieve wide scale adoption, implementation or behavioral change, and whether their work advances health, safety and economic viability for farmers, food system workers and communities. NRDC will unveil the new award winners at a Spring 2013 benefit event in San Francisco.

CONTACTS: Growing Green Awards,

January 2013
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