Ted Quaday worked on occasion with and sought advice from Russell Libby, director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.
“He was a true innovator and pioneer thinker in this movement. He was actually one of the people I relied on when I was at Farm Aid to understand the organic arena,” Quaday said.
On Tuesday it was announced that Quaday, a consultant with a long career in organic food as executive director, will now take over the executive director job Libby held for 17 years before stepping down in October when he was diagnosed with cancer.
Unity-based MOFGA said in a press release that Quaday, 60, of Santa Cruz, Calif., got the job because of his experience that includes organic agriculture, food system movements and communication work with Farm Aid, Organic Farming Research Foundation and as an independent consultant.
While he didn’t formally work in food systems until 1998, Quaday said Tuesday night in a telephone interview he has been involved in the organic food movement for as long as he can remember.
He grew up in North Dakota, where his interest in organic food and food systems began as a child. He said loved to garden with his family, who never used pesticides on their plants.
“On a personal level, I feel like I’ve always been committed to the organic systems as an approach. I never thought it was smart to put poisons on your food. It’s never made any sense to me,” he said.
In 1998, Quaday was hired by Farm Aid, which hosts an annual benefit concert organized by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young. The organization stages the concerts to help family farmers in economic crisis.
Quaday said when he worked with Farm Aid, he worked with MOFGA on occasion and sought advice from Libby.
He said he is honored to be selected to the executive director position, but doesn’t expect to replace Libby.
“Nobody replaces Russell Libby. It’s just that simple. What you do is step in and continue to push the board’s agenda,” he said.
Libby died in December.
After living in the Boston area for almost 20 years, Quaday accepted a job in communications with the Organic Farming Research Foundation Santa Cruz, Calif.
He said he worked on fundraising and publicity for the research group, which he said was formed because of a lack of federal or state funded research in production methods.
“Farmers had to go on a hunt every time they wanted to learn to do something new organically,” he said.
Quaday said he is excited to be selected for the executive director position and said as the new executive director, he will be a steward of the board and work to further their agenda in the organic food movement.
“It’s really their agenda that matters. What I bring to it is a new opportunity to bring folks together to continue to make organic farming a positive and economical livelihood for the state,” he said.
Since October, the association has been under the direction of interim executive director Heather Spalding.
Kaitlin Schroeder— 861-9252