Sipping organically: A night of organic spirits and snacks on Capitol Hill 

By Courtney Buzzard, Project and Events Coordinator, Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems

On the evening of November 14th, 2023, Capitol Hill became the focal point for a gathering hosted by the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Over 100 people were brought together to raise a glass to organic agriculture.  

Left to right: Swette Center Senior Fellow Cathy Greene, Swette Center Projects and Events Coordinator Courtney Buzzard, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Jenny Moffitt, and NRDC Senior Attorney Allison Johnson, celebrating organic agriculture. 
Images by Christiani

The lineup of speakers for the evening was nothing short of impressive, featuring key figures deeply rooted in the organic movement in the United States.

Allison Johnson, NRDC Senior Attorney, graciously welcomed attendees and acknowledged the efforts of the Swette Center, OTA, and all contributors for their ongoing efforts to advance organic agriculture.  

Representative Chellie Pingree (ME-01), amidst her demanding schedule that evening, expressed gratitude for the Swette Center, NRDC, and OTA’s dedication to educating members of Congress and staff about the benefits of organic. As a long supporter and organic farmer herself, Rep. Pingree emphasized the importance of building resources for organic agriculture, particularly as Farm Bill debates had begun on Capitol Hill. 

Next, joined by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary and organic farmer Jenny Moffitt, attendees were given an insight into the USDA’s endeavors to strengthen the organic landscape in the United States. She underscored the significance of the Organic Transition Initiative (OTI) and emphasized the transformative impact of the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) in “growing organic farmers across the country.”

Concluding the evening’s remarks was Cathy Greene, Senior Fellow at the Swette Center. Drawing from decades of expertise in leading research on the US organic sector, she emphasized the pivotal role of publications such as the Grow Organic report in fostering continued organic education and advancement.

Swette Center Senior Fellow Cathy Greene, speaking about the importance of the Grow Organic report.
Images by Christiani

Grow Organic: The Climate, Health, and Economic Case for Expanding Organic Agriculture published in October 2022 as a collaborative research effort between the Swette Center, NRDC, and Californians for Pesticide Reform, took center stage at the mixer. A number of attendees left with a copy in hand. 

The event was a testament to the versatility of the organic community, even in a less traditional market: organic spirits. Attendees mingled over an array of organic beverages and snacks, having the pleasure of sipping on mixed drinks, wine, and spirits, all crafted from organic ingredients. This underscored the importance of the growing organic beverage market as a revenue source for organic producers nationwide.

Connecting with like-minded individuals who believe in the importance of organic agriculture in the United States was a genuine pleasure. It was inspiring to be surrounded by the collective dedication to supporting organic as a climate-smart practice and championing America's farmers through organic.

As organic bills, such as the Opportunities in Organic Act and the Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act make their way through the House and the Senate, and programs such as TOPP continue to grow, it is important to continue raising our glasses to support the advancement of organic agriculture. 

Western Distillers discuss organic spirits with event attendees.
Images by Christiani

A special thanks to the leaders in the organic beverage industry who shared their craft and passion with us:

  • Anytime Foods
  • Bonterra Organic Estates
  • Journeyman Distillery
  • McClintock Distilling
  • Peak Organic Brewing
  • Western Reserve Distillers

To learn more about the mixer and the work of NRDC in the organic community, read NRDC Senior Attorney Allison Johnson’s reflection on the evening here