31: Bob Scowcroft & Mark Lipson, organic champions


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Bob Scowcroft’s story continues this week, and he is joined by Mark Lipson as well as host Ron Kroese.

Mark begins the conversation at the end of 1987, when Bob joined California Certified Organic Farmers as executive director. About 18 months into Bob’s tenure, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Santa Cruz area (right at the same time Mark set up a new computer and inserted a floppy disk), forcing the organization to relocate offices.

Then, both Mark and Bob were thrust into the state and national spotlight as two organic bills made their way through legislature in California and in Washington. They talk about teaming up with partners across the country on landmark legislation, and becoming spokespeople with the media on all things organic.

Bob chats about starting the Organic Farming Research Foundation, which Mark joins later, and what that meant to the organic industry.


About Bob: He has successfully transitioned from a "retirement" state of mind into a more active composition of consultant, volunteer, and advocacy oriented activities. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Nell Newman Foundation and sits on 4 nonprofit advisory boards.

He previously served as executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, based in Santa Cruz, California. It was co-founded by Bob and two certified organic farmers in 1990. In the nearly 20 years Bob directed OFRF, it awarded $2.4+ million in support of 320+ organic research and education projects. The results of which were shared with 15,000+ organic farmers and ranchers.

During Bob's tenure, OFRF had an active policy, research, and publishing program, and it disseminated information on all sectors of the organic product industry. Bob averaged 200 media interviews and over 15 conference presentations on organic annually.

He sat on 5 non-governmental organizations advisory boards. He resigned and retired from OFRF in 2010.

Prior to working for OFRF, he was the first full-time executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers (1987-1992); before that he served in the Friends of the Earth's San Francisco office as their national organizer with a primary focus on pesticide reduction and organic farming advocacy (1979-1985).


About Mark: Mark is a 30-year pioneer and influential leader in the organic farming and food community in California and nationally. In 2016, he received the "Champion of Sustainable Agriculture Award" from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

He served a 4-year term as the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, from 2010 to 2014. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he led the department-wide Organic Working Group and co-led the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Task Force.

Since 1983, he has been a member in Molino Creek Farm, a cooperative multi-family organic farming community near Davenport, California, and the original home of the famed, dry-farmed tomatoes.

Mark currently serves as Director of Policy and Regulatory Engagement at the Heartland Health Research Alliance. He is a staff affiliate for Organic Agriculture Policy at the University of California at Santa Cruz, affiliated with the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 15, 2016.

Liked this show? SUBSCRIBE to this podcast on Spotify, Audible, Apple, Google, and more. Catch past episodes, a transcript, and the video at http://www.cfra.org/SustainableAgPodcast and https://misa.umn.edu/publications/national-sustainable-agriculture-oral-history-archive

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