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Influential Judges Spotlight: 2013's Growing Green Awards VIPs

Tiffany Traynum

Posted January 10, 2013

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There’s a lot to look forward to in the New Year. A new season of MLB playoffs (Go Giants!) and another round of crazy reality shows are sure to have me on the edge of my seat. And if you know anything about food and sustainability, you’ve already added NRDC’s 5th Annual Growing Green Awards to your 2013 calendar. For its fifth year, NRDC continues to honor sustainable food pioneers making a real difference in the way we eat every day.  NRDC’s Growing Green Awards is a nationally recognized award given to everyone from farmers, entrepreneurs, scientists, ranchers, to winemakers -- anyone and everyone breaking new ground to improve our food systems.

And now that you’ve done your job and nominated your good food GGA hopeful, it’s time for the hard part – the selection process and judging. With the selection process currently underway, I can’t wait to find out who will be our next round of food heroes. The anticipation is building, not just because of the sheer number of worthy nominees, but also because of the amazing work they are all doing -- food operations that I could never have imagined.

There are many things that I like to judge. I will be the first to give your new work ensemble my thumbs up, or call the shots on whether a song is good or just borderline criminal. One area I am more than happy to not be an authority on however, is the 2013 Growing Green Awards. How can you possibly choose from so many great contenders? Who is even qualified to make the call? Well, leave it to NRDC to find some of the best sustainable food experts around to serve on the selection panel -- starting with 2012’s winner in the category of food production, Gabe Brown.

Organic rancher and farmer Gabe Brown’s innovative science-based farming techniques, not only helped secured his GGA win, but also put a national spotlight on holistic ranch management  or “a practice of farming and ranching in nature’s image”, according to Gabe. At Brown’s Ranch improving soil health takes priority – thus he has not tilled for over 18 years. His passion for sustainability through unconventional farming methods has not only made him hugely successful, but a recognized regenerative ranching authority as well.

2013 GGA Cover photo_Gabe Brown.JPG

                                              2013 GGA Judge Gabe Brown

I can always feel good about my Newman’s Own popcorn on late nights. This is because our next prestigious judge, Nell Newman, is an organics powerhouse who in 1992 established a Newman’s Own product line -- following the philanthropic footsteps of her father Paul Newman -- with a healthy, organic twist. Since then, Newman’s Own Organics has become one of the largest, most profitable organics brand in the country. "My niche will be to support the environment through the growth of organic agriculture”, Nell has once said. From salad-dressing, to Fig-Newman’s, to pretzel’s, Newman’s Own has triumphed in an aggressive, competitive market, most in part to Nell’s forever unphased vision and dedication to her families good food, great people legacy.

This year’s judge panel also includes Marion Nestle -- nutrition and health expert, prize-winning food author, Paulette Goddard Professor in the department of Food Studies and NYU Sociology Professor. Marion has been listed as one of Time Magazine’s top ten most influential people in health and science. She is the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety. Her most recent book published in 2012, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics, received 5-star ratings and acclaim from millions of readers previously baffled by the concept of calorie intake and nutrition. Marion’s food vision is not only one closely followed by consumers, her influences on food choice, obesity, food safety, and the role of food marketing continue to drive meaningful strides in the food industry.

Michael Anthony, 2012 recipient of a James Beard Award for “Best Chef in New York City”, executive chef and partner of New York City’s Gramercy Tavern has also signed on to judge this year’s GGA’s. Michael is a food superstar, having appeared everywhere from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to Beyond the Dish, and is highly regarded in the food community. Recently when asked about food trends, Michael said that the biggest is, “the ability to trace the food that we use back to its source”. Michael’s good food mission goes beyond the gorgeous ambiance of the Gramercy Tavern. His philanthropic work with campaigns such as No Kid Gone Hungry shines a much-needed spotlight on child hunger; and he continues to educate and mentor both children and future chefs about healthy food and the concept of sustainability.

There is no doubt that 2013’s Growing Green Awards judges are masters in the field of food, health, and sustainability. I’d be hard-pressed to find a better panel of judges anywhere. Take that American Idol.

Don't forget the 'Like' the Growing Green Awards Facebook page @

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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

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