Opinion: Finding inspiration at Portland’s Organicology

February 28 , 2017

By Organics Unlimited CEO Mayra Velazquez de León

The organic produce movement continues to grow by double digits every year, but it still represents a very small segment of the entire industry. The recent Organicology conference, held recently from Feb. 2-4 in Portland, Oregon, wants to see those statistics change, and quickly. The organizers call it an organic revolution, and for those who attended this bi-annual conference that embraces sustainable farming and sustainable businesses, it had that feeling.

When a group of organic activists first conceived the idea of bringing together people in the industry for the study and advancement of sustainable food, the Pacific Northwest event was small but passionate. The 2017 conference was the fifth session of Organicology, and it was the largest and most inclusive forum to date.

My company, Organics Unlimited, has been a part of every Organicology and this year’s event offered the largest variety of discussions yet. Beneficial to all segments of the organic produce industry, workshops offered education on everything from farm management to farmworker issues to policy changes to marketing strategies. I leave every Organicology conference energized, educated and hopeful about the direction of our industry – and this year was no exception.

The most notable message that all attendees took home is that now is the time to act and to look at the necessity of forming a better future for humanity. From medical problems based on chemical reactions to the split between urban and rural cultures, the conference did not ignore the issues that need immediate attention in our world.

Organicology is a forum for discussion, a sharing of ideas. It helps all growers, distributors, retailers and consumers become better global citizens. Organic growing goes hand-in-hand with sustainability, maintaining a healthy and productive workforce and financial responsibility.

Sustainability can often mean local food production, but not all produce, such as bananas, can be farmed in all climates. We live in a global economy, one in which we need to look at where we can reduce the carbon footprint on the products that consumers buy. 

An organic movement, like any societal change, begins with visionaries that have a better solution to a world order.  The first day of Organicology was dedicated to what they termed “Intensives”. A series of full day workshops was available to all attendees, and of particular interest was one entitled “The Case for Independence in the Organic Trade: Creating and Sustaining Business Enterprises that Provide Vision, Leadership and a Path to Succession”.

With the consolidation of companies into publicly traded entities and the emergence of more venture capitalism, the model of the industry changes. In a need to always look toward the future, the succession of visionary companies and the people who run them provides a torch for the future.

Moving forward to Saturday morning’s keynote speaker, Nikki Silvestri of Silvestri Strategies, captivated and inspired the more than 500 people gathered for breakfast. Her work with food systems, public health, climate solutions and economic development spoke to the heart of those in attendance.

The revolution of Organicology and of the organic movement is to bring these areas together, rather than addressing them separately and individually.  

The organic revolution has grown, matured and taken root. It is not a passing trend. Organicology inspires everyone to work together toward a common good for society and our planet. Together, we can turn the corner on solving our environmental and societal problems. 

Organics Unlimited is a California-based grower and importer of organic bananas, plantains and coconuts from Mexico and Ecuador. 


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