October 2, 2013

Natural Foodie: New head of MOFGA moves to Maine, and he's impressed

By Avery Yale Kamila

Ted Quaday, the new executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, is settling into his second day on the job Wednesday.

He's filling a high-profile position in a state with a robust organic farming scene. He's also following in the footsteps of the late Russell Libby, who led the organization for more than 17 years and was widely known and respected in Maine and around the country for his work advancing organic farming.

Libby left big shoes to fill, yet Quaday seems uniquely qualified to take up MOFGA's reins. He knows the industry and he has a proven track record of communicating the importance of cultivating food systems that improve the health of the planet and its people.

Quaday spent the past 15 years working with family farmers and promoting sustainable agriculture. Most recently he worked as a strategic communications consultant for nonprofits in what he calls the "good food movement." Before that he worked for the Farm Aid music festival and the Organic Farming Research Foundation (which conducts research and gives away grant money).

Quaday, 60, grew up in North Dakota, where his family gardened using organic methods. He later lived in Massachusetts for 20 years and comes to Maine from Santa Cruz, Calif. His resume includes stints working as a broadcast journalist and as a political campaigner.

He is married with three children, and his family, which also includes a dog and a cat, is searching for a home in the Unity area. In his spare time, you'll find Quaday skiing, playing hockey, canoeing, hiking and swimming.

I recently had a chance to ask him about the organic farming movement. Here's what he had to say.

Q: You have years of experience working in the areas of sustainable agriculture and organic food and know many of the people and players involved in this movement. You even sought advice from the late Russell Libby. What about MOFGA stood out to you and made you want to be a part of it?

A: The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country that is dedicated to building the organic food movement. It is an organization supported by strong membership and a tremendous commitment to volunteerism that sustains its work in every way.

Its dedication to collaboration among all those associated with the organization has enabled it to become a highly innovative and influential national leader in the organic movement. These assets, combined with its on-going programs in support of organic farmers and gardeners, make it a gem in the movement to build a more healthful food system.

It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to join with so many wonderful people to continue advancing this important work.

Q: The number of people buying organic food continues to grow each year, despite studies such as the controversial one out of Stanford University last year finding little nutritional difference in organic versus conventionally grown fruits and vegetables (differences were detected in dairy and meats). Why is organic food so attractive to consumers?

A: Organic food consumers make their food choices for a wide variety of reasons. An increasing number of people every year are expressing interest in who, where and how their food is being grown. When possible, they want their food to be locally or regionally grown, and they prefer the food be grown by family farmers using organic methods.

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