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Every year, at the MOA Annual Member Meeting, two awards are given to people who have achieved excellence in their endeavors in the organic industry.

The “Lifetime of Service” award is presented to an organic producer, handler, retailer, researcher, service provider (or other) who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to organic agriculture in Montana. Previous recipients are: Robert Boettcher (2005), Barry Flamm (2006), Bob Quinn (2007), David Oien (2008),  Jim Barngrover (2009) and Laughing Water (2010).

 A “Leadership in Organics” award will go to an organic producer, handler, retailer, researcher, service provider (or other) who demonstrates an on-going commitment to advancing the adoption, practice and success of organic agriculture in Montana. Previous recipients are: Margaret Scoles (2005), Jon Tester (2006), Jonda Crosby (2007), Mikel & Nancy Lund (2008),  Jon & Amy Kvaalen (2009) and Andre Giles (2010).

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MOA Awards: Lifetime of Service Award
Laughing Water
Real Food Market & Deli

At the MOA's annual conference I was presented the Lifetime of Service Award, complete with an introduction that only my old friend Jim Barngrover could have given (although he understated my nearly ten years of living without owning a car). It's an honor I can only accept knowing that it belongs to all of us who are working together toward a livable future for our planet.

As I said in accepting the award, we're facing an evolutionary challenge. We are at a crossroads: we either learn to live in harmony with nature, or something else not as nice will happen. As Anna Lappe (Diet for a Hot Planet) and others have argued, food is the biggest part of the solution. For that reason, I can't think of any more important work we can be doing than building the organic movement.

Recent news is not encouraging: Greenhouse gas emissions are even worse than scientists' worst-case scenarios. Methane released from northern permafrost threatens to trigger a vicious cycle of runaway global warming. Sadly, half our new members of Congress are global warming doubters or deniers, and surveys show the American public is falling for the massively-funded public relations campaign of the fossil fuel industries. Our leaders and public are out of step with the rest of the world and out of touch with the thinking of 97 percent of the world's leading experts on climate.

This, along with a lifelong love of food and health, is the kind of thing that has impelled me to give my 35 years of service and be hungry for more.

We began the Real Food Store in Helena (now Real Food Market & Deli) with organic foods, even when it meant driving it from Missoula or flying it in. We've been certified as an organic food handler for several years now. We agree with keynoter Maria Rodale that organic trumps local, and we've made it clear to Montana growers that we have a strong preference for certified organic products. 

I know I've contributed to the organic movement, but I know it would not be possible without the MOA and the larger organic community. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this life-affirming (and good-tasting!) step for humankind.

Laughing Water

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MOA Awards: Leadership in Organics Award
Andre Giles
Montana Flour and Grains

I'm honored to have been chosen for a this award by my MOA peers.

I have to give thanks to Bob Quinn for hiring me with no experience so many years ago and introducing me to the organic industry.  I must thank all the growers who have sold food Montana Flour & Grain's and all the customers who purchase that food.

I'm in my 19th year at Montana Flour & Grains and I've seen a lot of change.  During my first few years our community spent a lot of time discussing what the definition of organic was.  We've matured a lot and gained a seat at the "establishment" table.  It wasn't that long ago that the head of the Montana department of ag calling organics a fraud.  Now we have genuine support and respect from that department.  Looking ahead to the next 19 years I'd like to challenge us to work inside the box to improve things we already recognize as problems.  For example, our school meals in Montana would be so much better if they used our local, organic food.  I challenge us to make that happen.  Outside the box thinking is needed to find solutions to problems and improve our society.  I'm better at maintaining and improving things than innovating so others will probably do most of the outside the box thinking.

Learning, education and knowledge - continually learning - is one of the things that makes organic agriculture fun and ever changing.  The continuing education and experimentation that I see organic farmers, young and old, undertaking is fascinating.  You are not being led by the universities how to farm - in many cases you are leading them.  Fun is very lacking in too much of our work so it's fun to have fun at work. 

I believe our organic community is always at the intersection of idealism and realism.  Maybe I come to this award more through the realism channel.  We live in a market based economic reality that, for all its failings, is still better, in practice, than any other economic system man has ever conceived.  All our idealism goes for not if organic farmers cannot sell their products for a profit.  I guess that's where Montana Flour & Grains' has a role at the intersection of idealism and realism.  Wendell Berry wrote, "honesty is the fundamental economic virtue."  I believe with all my heart that it is more important to be honest than successful.  It know it seems easy to say that when success has come yet I truly believe it enough to idealistically try to live that way.  I've never been one for setting sales goals and income goals.  I've just always believed that you sell people a good product at a fair price and let the money take care of itself.  My idealism is for honesty and integrity and sustainability.

I do not want my obituary to say I was a "business man."  If it says I was a man who conducted business that is fine.  But I don't want my whole life tied up in business.  I want to work in our garden and with our livestock and I want to enjoy God's creations.  I want to raise children who have a moral compass that might be our greatest contribution any of us can make to future generations.

I have every intention of being a good example in and of the organic agriculture movement.
Thank you again for this recognition.

Andre Giles

©2010 Montana Organic Association