Organic farmers honored

2/21/2012 11:05:00 PM
Submitted photo Doug Siebert and Leslie Garcia are recipients of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 2012 Stewardship Award.

Staff Writer, Xenia Gazette

COLUMBUS — Two decades of doing things naturally earned two Greene County organic farmers the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) highest honor on Saturday, Feb. 18.

Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia received the OEFFA’s 2012 Stewardship Award during the association’s 33rd annual conference entitled Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty. The award, according to OEFFA’s website, “recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community.” The association was founded in 1979 and is a grassroots organization that promotes local and organic food systems through education and advocacy. The award, says Seibert, was unexpected good news.

“Our reaction was surprise,” said Siebert. “When I was at the conference, I was looking at these major players around me. It made me think, ‘Why me?’”

Since 1992, Seibert and Garcia have been certified as organic farmers in the Greene County area. The farm organically at Peach Mountain Organics, their Spring Valley-based farm. The farm possesses 43 acres, with more than 25 acres certified organic and used to produce seasonal vegetables, early tomatoes, winter greens, cut flowers, log grown shiitake, herbs and gladiola bulbs. For Seibert and Garcia, organic practices represent the most responsible and healthy approach to agriculture.

“I’ve never considered any other way to farm,” said Garcia. “I think its more in line with natural law. It’s more pleasing to God and less toxic. I went to agricultural college just one year. I didn’t like what they were teaching.”

“I’ve never thought of farming any other way,” added Siebert. “My father never used anything but chicken manure in his garden. If you know a lot about chemistry, you know you don’t want to eat a lot of what’s going onto the fields on conventional farms. I can’t appreciate soil loss or pollutions in our streams. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Visitors to the Yellow Springs Farmer’s Market will recognize Seibert and Garcia as market regulars, selling their organic mixed vegetables, microgreens, fresh-cut flowers, bedding plants, mushrooms, hay and greenhouse plants. The duo also sells their products to local restaurants, grocery and health food stores. For a time during the early nineties, Seibert and Garcia were Greene County’s only organic farmers. According to Siebert, the organic way of life has experienced steady growth and expansion since that time.

“When you look at health food stores, it’s certainly on the rise,” said Siebert. “You see more people talking about it. The reality is that it is escalating. Science is starting to convert itself to organics. It works better.”

“As a shopper myself, it’s easy to find organic products now,” added Garcia.

The award-winning organic farmers are dedicated to OEFFA’s mission to educate people concerning sustainable, ecological and healthy food systems. In addition to raising and selling produce, Siebert and Garcia hold farm tours, host agriculture classes for Wilmington College and present OEFFA conference workshops.

“Most of my friends at the OEFFA use me for information,” said Siebert.

“We’re a draw to people who are looking into organic foods,” added Garcia. “People who are concerned about food and eating fresh and local.”

Recipients of the Stewardship Award are selected by the prior year’s winners. When next year’s selection process begins, Seibert and Garcia intend on looking for a recipient who has made organic food a way of life.

“We’ll be looking for people who live and breathe organic in their everyday lives,” said Siebert.