Many of us pass the last days of summer making an annual pilgrimage to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. We don’t come to swim through the aquarium or catch a fly ball at Camden Yards. This historic seaport is the place where all things natural and organic gather to foment and foster the trade. It’s the place to whet your business appetite with new products, educational forums and networking opportunities. Making the journey is well worth the sore feet and lack of sleep—it’s the place to make new friends and reacquaint with old buddies, assuring good business prevails. There is plenty in store this year to keep you engaged, educated and delighted.
It’s a year of change for me. I no longer serve on the Board of the Organic Trade Association, but I still plan to get there early to attend the OTA Board meeting on Wednesday, September 13th from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Baltimore Convention Center. The board will have a new makeup and fresh energy this year. At this meeting, the OTA will seat Kim Dietz from Smucker Company, a beloved incumbent, along with four new members. Britt Lundgren of Stonyfield Farm, Mark Squires, owner of two Good Earth Natural Foods stores, Bob Kaake of Annie’s Inc. and Mike Menes of True Organic Products will join the board for their first term. I wish them all well because there is much work ahead for organic.
If you are an OTA member, it’s a good idea to attend the board meeting and learn more about what your trade association is up to concerning organic policy and regulations, the Farm Bill and much more. For the first time in 9 years, I will be spectating on the sidelines listening and learning.
The evening rolls on in OTA fashion with the annual meeting for members which takes place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the American Visionary Art Museum. Here you can sample organic culinary delights during the cocktail reception before the Leadership Awards Celebration begins.
If you haven’t already secured tickets for the Leadership Awards Celebration and Dinner, you can still buy your tickets here. Celebrate leaders in the organic industry; dine on delicious organic fare and network with friends and associates at this annual event. It’s a meal not to be missed!
The Trade Show is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday with myriad levels of show floors, pavilions and terraces overflowing with an astounding array of products. As you gobble, slurp and smell your way through the aisles, remember to check out the “Hot Products Pavilion” to discover what’s upcoming and new!
Soon enough it will be time to give your sore dogs a break and head upstairs for some organic edification. Seated comfortably in one of the convention rooms, the All Things Organic Conference will amaze you with a wide range of topics from protecting supply chain integrity to ideas on increasing the accessibility of organic products. Remember you don’t need a super pass to attend any of these great sessions, just your badge.
If you worry about the changing climate and wish to be a catalyst for change, wake up early and attend the Climate Collaborative Briefing on September 15 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Come to learn how manufacturers, retailers, distributors, brokers, and suppliers are all working collaboratively to take bold action to reverse climate change. This new collaborative connects companies to resources to create solutions. If you are inspired to act and want to learn more about this event, email [email protected].
Later that same day, The Organic Center will share exciting research on how organic farming reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps improve the stability of our climate. Don’t miss this session “Organic Agriculture: Climate Change Champion” from 11 a.m. until noon in Room 316 of the Baltimore Convention Center. The Organic Center will unveil groundbreaking research done with Northeastern University on organic practices and soil health. UNFI Foundation was one of the funders of the study and is committed to expanding organic in the US and communicating the benefits of organic agriculture.
Then from 12:30-1:30pm in the same room The Organic Center Presents: “Sounds good, but… what about the chemicals?” Where my good friends Gary Hirshberg, Todd Linksy, Mark Lipson and Tracy Misiewicz will discuss why most eco-labels don’t go far enough to protect human and environmental health.
If you are one of the lucky pilgrims attending Expo East, there is much more in store for you other than wandering the aisles sampling new products. Discover new ways of doing business that will help your bottom line and the planet. Educate yourself on the newest research and policy in organic. Connect with old and new business associates. Expo East can be a place of discovery and delight. I hope to see you there.