Marnie Record has recently taken over the role of executive director of the Illinois Organic Grower’s Association.
We had the privilege of meeting her for the first time at the Illinois Organic Conference this past winter and she is off to do GREAT things for our industry. She brings a breath of fresh air to everything she’s done so far, and we’re so excited to see what she does next.
Marnie grew up on her family’s farm just outside of Springfield, IL where she helped her mom with their vegetable garden, or in her words helping eat said vegetables. In addition to serving as the IOGA executive director, she also works full-time at Lincoln Land Community College where she developed a Value-Added Local Food Program to assist aspiring local-food business owners. Anyway, she so graciously agreed to an interview with us.
AER: At what point did you discover your love of locally grown, organic foods? And what lead up to that discovery?
MR: From the time I could walk, I helped my mom grow vegetables (mostly helped her eat them) and assisted her at the farmers’ market where she was known as the “zucchini bread lady” because of her delicious baked goods. She also sold extra produce at the market, but it wasn’t until just after college I came back to my passion for local food. I volunteered on a vegetable farm and spent the mornings planting the longest row of leeks ever known to man. I realized, in this moment, that I would never take my food for granted again. I definitely didn’t have what was needed to be a farmer, but I wanted to do everything I could to help these farmers who have dedicated their lives to caring for the land, animals, and all the people of the food system. Food is my life. Every seed that grows into a nourishing plant is a miracle to me. I’m awed daily by the gift of life through our food and the people who grow it.
AER: What are you planning on bringing to the table for Illinois organic growers?
MR: I bring a passion for farmers and a dedicated mind to help develop more successful organic farmers in Illinois. I plan to make sure that every farmer in the state knows about the association and sees value in the work we do. I also bring a passion for the collective community. I’m convinced that we can accomplish more, have more prosperous farms, and feed healthy food to everyone in our state if we share our gifts and wisdom to evolve our local food system. Collectively we are stronger together as we work to build an organic community. After interacting with farmers during the first few months of my role with IOGA, we’ve decided to focus on several educational issues such as organic transition in order to fill a significant unmet demand, genetic and chemical trespass to keep the integrity of organic farms, and growing the consumer base for organics through special events. Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming Crop Cycle, a bike to farm event in Champaign County this fall!
AER: Why is having an association, such as the IOGA, important?
MR: Farmers see value in having an association of organic growers where they can access support from peers, get education on issues that are relevant to their everyday lives, as well as educating the growing consumer base on organics. On a broad level the association is needed to fill in gaps to mold successful farmers.
AER: If a new organic grower wanted to get involved, how’d they go about it?
MR: As a small, non-profit organization, it is important to have farmers become members of the organization which they can do here. This helps us secure additional funding to grow the organization and provide needed services. In addition, we rely heavily on volunteers who have an interest in moving organics forward. Interested growers and/or volunteers can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 864-704-5783.
AER: What is around the corner for Illinois organic growers? Any issues to be aware of like the check-off and/or farm bill?
MR: The organic industry has experienced rapid growth for the past decade, and continues to outpace other methods of farming. The Illinois Stewardship Alliance works tirelessly on relevant policy issues that support the growth of organic farmers. Sign up to receive notices and find out about the current legislative issues here.