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Jonathan Kaplan’s Blog

NRDC's Growing Green Awards: An olive branch (organic of course) to agriculture

Jonathan Kaplan

Posted January 26, 2009 in Health and the Environment

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NRDC hasn't always been agriculture's favorite non-profit organization.  We have a history of doing things that some growers don't like including litigation and policy reform to curb emissions of pesticides, reduce livestock waste, conserve water, etc.  So it may be news to some growers that NRDC is now trying to give away $10,000 - to a farmer.

Earlier this month we announced our first ever growing green awards to celebrate leaders in sustainable food production.  A Growing Green Award will be given in each of three categories:  Producer, Business Leader; and Thought Leader.   Nominations are due by February 6.  You can nominate yourself or someone else.

I should also mention that the awards will be hand picked by a group of sustainable food celebrities who would themselves be unbeatable candidates for these awards if they weren't already on our selection panel.    Author Michael Pollan will preside as chair.

Here's my favorite detail about this whole thing: Only the Producer category gets the cash prize.  Sure, we like Business Leaders and Thought Leaders as much as anyone else, but we decided that special tribute should fall on the growers who actually produce our food. 

The fact is we really need agriculture to stick around and succeed in meeting environmental challenges.  When farms fail, farmland is typically converted to sprawl, ie more habitat for cars.   Food shortages cause hunger and may drive conversion of forest and grasslands into agriculture, resulting in CO2 emissions.  Agriculture can also play a critical role in helping us address climate change by providing renewable energy, sequestering carbon, and reducing on-farm global warming emissions.  

That doesn't mean NRDC should look the other way when it comes to farm pollution, farmworker injustice or the depletion of natural resources. 

Fortunately innovative farmers across the country have and continue to adopt more sustainable practices:  Producing energy from farm waste, using insect pheromones and beneficial insects to replace toxic pesticides; improving fertilizer efficiency to minimize runoff; and keeping soil healthy and on the farm.  These farmers are growing green. 

I hope someone nominates them for an award.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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