All photos courtesy OTAKyle Mathison, OTA's grower of the year(UPDATED COVERAGE, July 9) The Organic Trade Association has named Kyle Mathison, co-owner of Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, Wash., as its organic farmer of the year.
In addition, the Brattleboro, Vt.-based association will present Arran and Ratana Stephens of Nature’s Path Foods, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, with the Growing Organic Industry Award. Karen and Colin Archipley of Archi’s Acres, Escondido, Calif., will receive the Rising Star Award.
The association will present the awards at the Natural Products Expo East at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Sept. 25, according to a news release.
Mathison is a fourth-generation grower who began experimenting with organic production in the late 1980s. Eventually he became certified and farms with his two sons, growing apples, pears and cherries.
He was one of the first organic growers to adopt an integrated program in his orchards, using liquid fish oil to increase predator populations.
He also used augmentative releases of reared beneficial insects to reduce sprays and has developed a certified organic composting business, according to the OTA release.
Ratana and Arran Stephens, OTA's honorees for growing the organic industry.Mathison uses the compost on his orchards and sells it to other organic producers. He has served for several years on the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, promoting solutions for organic production problems.
In honoring the Stephens couple with the award for growing the organic industry, OTA officials cited their purchase of 2,880 acres of organic farmland so they could partner with growers on a crop-share basis.
Their company, Nature’s Path Foods Inc., employees more than 500 people in the U.S. and Canada.
They have also donated $20 million in food and cash to food banks and funded a scholarship through the Rodale Institute, according to OTA’s release.
Dubbed as the rising stars in the organic community for 2013, the Archipley couple is being honored for founding the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program at their organic hydroponic farm.
Karen and Colin Archipley, OTA's Rising Stars for 2013Colin Archipley is a U.S. Marine veteran, according to his company’s website. More than 200 active duty military personnel and veterans have already been trained through the company's special program.
Staff writer Coral Beach contributed to this report.