People in the News — OTA Annual Leadership Awards

Thomas Harding, Jr., President – Lehigh Valley Organic Growers, wins “2015: Growing the Organic Industry Award” at OTA Annual Leadership Dinner, NPEE 2015

By Alesia Bock, AgriSystems International

I was so very thrilled to be in attendance as my mentor, Thomas Harding, Jr., won this year’s OTA Leadership award for Growing the Organic Industry. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without his leadership and guidance. I am honored to call him a professional colleague and good friend. It was such a great opportunity to hear him speak at the awards dinner. I know that everyone who attended was thankful for all the hard work and dedication that he has given to the Organic Industry from it’s infancy, all the way through it’s tremendous growth over the last several decades. He is truly a tireless Pioneer!

Baltimore MD (NPEE) Sept 17th, 2015 – OTA’s Annual Organic Leadership Awards recognize individuals who have shown leadership and vision in furthering the goals of the organic movement. The awards were presented at OTA’s Annual Awards Celebration as the kick off to Natural Products Expo East.

The awards celebration was held in the Port Discovery Children’s Museum, an 80,000- square-foot facility in Baltimore.

This year’s honorees were:

  • Thomas Harding, President, Lehigh Valley Organic Growers, Growing the Organic Industry Award
  • Michael Berger, Founding Partner & VP Supply Chain, Elevation Burger, Rising Star Award
  • Benny McLean, Production Manager, Uncle Matt’s Organic, Farmer of the Year Award

Tom Harding has been involved with the organic industry for over 35 years, working directly with or as a consultant in business development, farm management, farming, and food distribution. He helped found the Organic Foods Production Association of North America (OTA’s precursor) and went on to become the founding president of the OTA Board.

A tireless worker for the organic industry, he continues to be active in furthering organic’s role in D.C., with advocacy efforts on the Hill and development of OTA’s Organic Political Action Committee (PAC). He has been a constant monitoring force concerning standards and related regulations for organic, including the work of the National Organic Standards Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Organic Program, and Congress. He also has also been a leader at OCIA International, and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

Harding’s vision of success over the years has played a critical part in the maturation of organic as an industry.


Alesia Bock is the Owner/ Managing Director of AgriSystems International, providing consulting services related to organic certification and sustainable business development for food growers and processors. Over her 25-year career in Quality & Regulatory in the food industry, she has dedicated the last 15 years to increasing the availability of natural/organic options for consumers. She can be reached at