We had a chat with Mark A. Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, all the way from Cornucopia, Wisconsin. Partnering with consumers, the institute seeks to empower farmers by supporting ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food. We were inspired by his team’s efforts and decided to give you guys a sneak-peek of the hard work they put in everyday.
Tell us briefly what the Cornucopia Institute does.
The Cornucopia Institute is a farm policy research group. We act as an organic industry watchdog assuring that, in the pursuit of profit, corporations that have invested in organics do not sell-out the values this industry was founded upon.
(Helen at Cornucopia Post Office: Helen Keys, Cornucopia Board President and certified organic vegetable and beef producer checking in at the Cornucopia, Wisconsin Post Office)
Where did it all begin?
We are based in Cornucopia, Wisconsin. We were founded 11 years ago when Dean Foods, the largest dairy processor in the United States (about $12 billion a year in annual volume at the time, the same size as Monsanto) purchased the Horizon organic dairy brand. Simultaneously, the founders of Horizon took their profit and started Aurora Organic Dairy. Depending on all giant factory farms, that they owned, they were going to compete with family-scale organic farmers by making organic milk “more affordable.” Aurora produces private-label milk for Walmart, Costco, Target and others.
Our research helps consumers get the very best, authentic organic food and reward the true heroes in this industry (see www.cornucopia.org and click on “scorecards” to see ratings for organic dairy brands, eggs, soy foods, cereal and more)
A day at the Cornucopia institute sees..
We might be investigating factory farms or “organic” imports from China. We might be producing additional research studies or testifying before the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board.
(Moses organic conference: Cornucopia Codirector Mark Kastel along with policy analyst Dr. Linley Dixon at the MOSES organic farming conference, the largest in the country (early 2015))
Where to from here?
We always encourage consumers to “vote with their pocketbooks” when they visit their supermarket, farmers market or food co-op. Through our patronage we can reward the very best organic farmers in the brands they partner with 10 serious message to the bad actors in this industry.
How many people are involved with the institute?
Cornucopia presently has 10 core-staff members with a few additional part-time employees and contractors. We will likely grow our staff by an additional livestock policy expert this year and an assistant to our communications and development Director.
A message from the institute to our readers.
Farmers have no clout in the marketplace or in Washington. Less than 2% of our population are currently engaged in farming (this has never been lower). After the presidential candidates get done kissing the rear ends of the ethanol lobbyist in Iowa you will never hear about food and farming again during this election cycle.
The difference with organics is that our customers truly care and have a passion for good food and are willing to stand with the farmers who produce what nourishes their families. Together, we have true power.