From a news release issued by the Organic Farming Research Foundation:

Organic farmers from across the U.S. will join the Organic Farming Research Foundation’s(OFRF) new executive director Maureen Wilmot for the Organic Trade Association’s(OTA’s) Policy Conference and Hill Visit Days in Washington, DC April 6-7, 2011.

Five entrepreneurial organic farmers will journey from Georgia, Maine, New York, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin to discuss the beneficial impacts of their farm businesses on rural economies and on environmental and public health with their congressional members who sit on key agriculture and appropriations committees and subcommittees. OFRF is a supporting organization of the OTA event and Ms. Wilmot will be a speaker at the conference.

“This event is a wonderful opportunity for members of Congress to learn from the farmers themselves about the role of organic farmers who really are the “roots” of the burgeoning 26 billion dollar organic industry,” said Ms. Wilmot.

Ms. Wilmot, OFRF staff, and the organic farmers will join with other OTA member companies to visit key members of Congress to discuss the economic and social viability of organic farming. The organization seeks to make organic farming viable, profitable, and attractive for the American farmers of today and those of the future.

“Organic farmers are the heart of the organic movement – without their commitment to vibrant communities and healthy ecosystems, the organic industry as we know it today could not exist,” said Ms. Wilmot. “In addition,” she noted, “Organic farmers contribute to a diverse U.S. agriculture. Investing in their future will benefit both consumers and rural communities nationwide.”

OFRF’s grant making program has worked closely with organic farmers for almost 20 years, awarding more than $2.5 million for over 300 organic research projects nationwide since 1992.

The five organic farmers OFRF is bringing to the OTA event are:

1. Mark Shepard is the CEO of Forest Agriculture Enterprises and the owner and manager of New Forest Farms in Viola, WI. New Forest Farms is a 104 acre perennial agricultural farm and forest considered by many to be one of the most ambitious sustainable agricultural projects in the U.S. Mark and his family grow organic fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts.

2. Will Harris and his family own and operate White Oak Pastures, an organic, grass-fed beef cattle farm in Bluffton, GA, which received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Stewardship in 2009 and 2011. Will is the President of Georgia Organics’ Board of Directors and is the Beef Director of the American Grassfed Association.

3. Michael Kilpatrick is the owner of Kilpatrick Family Farm which grows vegetables and raises chickens using organic practices on over 100 acres near Granville, NY. The farm sells to four farmers markets per week, employs 6 people full-time, and grows produce year-round in high tunnels.

4. Kathy Moore owns Anichini-Moore Ranch and Farm in Woodward, OK. The ranch “The Ranch” focuses on education and soil building, and produces rare breed sheep, wool, grass-pastured lamb, large Black Pig products, Belted Galloway beef, Bison, produce, flowers, nuts and fruit. Kathy is the co-founder of the Oklahoma Composting Council and received the Oklahoma State University Green Award for Sustainability in March 2011.

5. Sarah Smith and her husband own Grassland Farm in Skowhegan, Maine, a certified organic farm and dairy. She and her family milk 45 diverse dairy cows and produce organic, grass-fed beef and chickens as well as a wide range of vegetables. Sarah will be joining the conference on behalf of Organic Valley, the Wisconsin-based organic dairy marketing cooperative, which works closely with OFRF to promote organic agriculture.