The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has named the 2022 recipients of its Stewardship and Service awards.
Dean McIlvaine of Wayne County received the Stewardship Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the cultivation of sustainable agriculture, and Louise Warner of Pickaway County received the Service Award, which recognizes extraordinary service in support of sustainable agriculture.
2022 Stewardship Award Winner—Dean McIlvaine
Since 1985, Dean McIlvaine has operated Twin Parks Organic Farm, a 1,200-acre farm in West Salem, Ohio. When he took over the conventionally farmed land from his father, he began transitioning the farm to organic, a newly emerging trend at the time. Twin Parks was certified organic by OEFFA in 1988.
McIlvaine made the transition to organic farming on the belief that it is better and healthier not only for the environment, but for people as well. “The contamination starts with our air, our water, and our soil,” he told Farm and Dairy. “And if we want to live a healthier, more productive life, we need to clean up our environment.”
Early in his organic career, McIlvaine realized the importance of balancing the agroecological realities of his land and soils with the needs of the marketplace. He first grew food-grade soybeans for tofu by Eden Foods, then spelt for Purity Foods, before figuring out a rotation that included corn when its market demand grew.
McIlvaine now cultivates a rotation of corn, rye, soybeans, and hay, as well as livestock on the farm. He markets these organic products widely, including locally with Western Reserve Distillers, a certified organic distillery outside of Cleveland.
The distillery’s range of vodkas, gins, and some bourbons and whiskeys are distilled using Twin Parks organic grains. The spent grain is then loaded back to the farm to feed the livestock or add to the compost. Western Reserve’s former restaurant, Distill Table, featured Twin Park pork and beef on their menu, creating a zero-waste organic loop.
“We’re making every effort to be as environmentally conscious as possible. Starting with the organic label, all the way through with recycling anything we can,” McIlvaine said to Edible Cleveland.
A longtime public advocate for sustainable agriculture, he has frequently championed farm policy with OEFFA. He most recently testified in front of the Ohio Senate Ways and Means Committee in support of legislation increasing access to affordable land for beginning farmers.
He has served on the Organic Farming Research Foundation and OEFFA boards, and is a member of OEFFA’s Grain Growers Chapter and the Ohio Farmers Union.
“We are pleased to recognize Dean with this award,” said Carol Goland, executive director of OEFFA. “For more than forty years, he has been a great ambassador for organics in Ohio, generously sharing his knowledge, encouraging others, and demonstrating through his own labors what a successful organic farm can accomplish.”
2022 Service Award Winner—Louise Warner
Louise Warner is a retired physician and anesthesiologist, as well as a farmer and educator. She joined the medical field in the 1950s, when only 6 percent of doctors were female, and worked at Nationwide Children’s Hospital for several decades, retiring as their director of clinical anesthesia research.
Warner, however, considers her greatest achievement to be in sustainable agriculture with the Stratford Ecological Center. Inspired by an educational farm her late daughter Gale had worked on, she and her late husband, Jack Warner, started the nonprofit in Delaware County in 1990. Gale passionately crafted a mission for Stratford before passing only a month after ground was broken for the site.
They committed to carry forward Gale’s vision for Stratford: teaching children where their food and fiber comes from and reconnecting them to the wonders of the natural world. In 1993, the first busload of children arrived at Stratford. Stratford now hosts almost 16,000 visitors each year through camps, a farm school, community events, and adult programming. A pin oak tree that OEFFA planted at Stratford in 1993 in memory of Gale is a focal point and gathering place for many of the groups who visit.
Along with Stratford, Warner is a founding board member of the Ohio Forage and Grassland Council, Innovative Farmers of Ohio, and the Appalachia Ohio Alliance. In memory of Jack’s parents, she and Jack established the Warner Endowment Fund at Ohio State University to support many on-farm research projects in sustainable agriculture.
Warner has received a number of recognitions and accolades, including the Innovative Farmers of Ohio’s Ben Stinner Award, the Ohio Forage and Grassland Council Appreciation Award, as well as induction into the Delaware County Agricultural Society’s Hall of Fame. With husband Clyde Gosnell, the two were inducted into the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Hall of Fame for their decades of conservation work in Ohio.
“I’m stunned by the depth of her service and good work, but, even more than stunned, I am grateful, as we all should be, for the tireless-and the pioneering-efforts she has given over decades. Throughout it all, her goal has been conserving and preserving natural and agricultural lands and providing education to foster an appreciation of the land and all life that depends on it,” Goland said. “Thank you for all that you have done for the benefit of Ohio and its people.”
Warner said, “I use that [pin oak tree] as a kind of metaphor for how I have seen the OEFFA organization grow, mature, and branch out. My heartfelt thanks for this wonderful award.”