NOFA-VT announces new Executive Director

NOFA-VT is pleased to announce Grace Oedel will be leading the organization as its new Executive Director, starting July 1, 2019.

Grace Oedel During the last 30 years, under the leadership of the late Enid Wonnacott, NOFA-VT has grown to become an active, thriving organization deeply woven into the fabric of Vermont agriculture, with a $2.6 million operating budget encompassing many diverse programs managed by a team of 20 talented staff. NOFA-VT has a devoted Board of Directors, and a passionate and committed membership. As Executive Director, Grace will build on Enid’s strengths of vision, creativity, management, eloquence, and joy, while bringing new skills and ideas to the table.

“I am deeply honored, excited, and humbled by the opportunity to serve NOFA-VT as Executive Director,” said Grace. “NOFA-VT’s wonderful long-time director, Enid Wonnacott, grew the NOFA community and movement through her incredible ability to show up for people and with people, in order to build coalition and power through inclusion and connection. I am profoundly grateful to her work, and am committed to honoring and continuing the tradition of her open-hearted leadership.”

Grace has spent her career making change through building community. She comes to NOFA-VT most recently from Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington, Vermont, where she served as Executive Director of this community hub since 2016. Grace brings a diverse and deep base of organizational management skills including program development, community organizing, strategic planning, fundraising, human resources, and financial management. During her time at Ohavi Zedek, she managed a large staff team and nurtured a diverse member constituency. Grace oversaw the organization’s budget, cultivated donors, and worked to build community through a variety of innovative measures. She started a preschool center that has become an important childcare resource for community members inside and outside the synagogue, and has infused the Synagogue with new life and members. Grace has focused on building interfaith coalition around social and environmental justice issues. She currently serves on the board of Vermont Interfaith Action.

Agriculture has been foundational to Grace’s career. Prior to moving to Burlington, Grace established and directed Dig In Farm in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, a farm-based educational center, focused on the intersection of social and environmental justice within the context of a working farm. She designed the farm’s approach and structure for education and farm operations, and ran new farmer training programs for young women. Prior to founding Dig In Farm, Grace served as a member of the education team at Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), where she developed and administered educational workshops and conferences.  Early in her career, Grace served as program director of a new Farm-to-Table program at the Woolman Semester School in Nevada City, CA, worked on an organic commercial vegetable farm, and managed the Yale University student farm.

At NOFA, Grace will be responsible for continuing to build an inclusive tent for Vermont’s agricultural community. The Executive Director embodies NOFA-VT’s mission and values and leads a movement of farmers, gardeners and consumers.

“After an extensive search process, the NOFA-VT Board was unanimous in their choice of Grace Oedel as the next Executive Director,” said Board president Andrew Knafel, of Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont. “We are confident that her thoughtful outlook and tremendous skill set will be a great strength in reaching NOFA-VT’s new goals moving forward, while deeply valuing its past.”

Grace has an inclusive vision for agriculture and a robust understanding of the many current challenges our agricultural community faces now and into the future. “In Vermont--and in the whole country--we are currently facing a number of intimidating challenges. An erratic climate, degradation of rural communities, an aging farmer population, lack of economic opportunity for young people, and rampant social and environmental injustice,” said Grace, while reflecting on the role of organic farming in Vermont’s future. “The organic farming movement can offer potent solutions to all of these most pressing problems. I am grateful to join the NOFA-VT team to help support NOFA’s amazing work offering viable, elegant, joyful solutions for a hopeful, resilient--and delicious--future.”

Grace holds a degree in Religious Studies from Yale University with a focus on environmental activism. She is currently the youngest female Executive Director of a community center/ synagogue in the nation. She believes strongly in women’s empowerment, and leads communication, leadership and facilitation trainings for women serving in a variety of professional and educational spheres.

To work toward the goal of a robust agricultural economy in Vermont, NOFA-VT nurtures several key programs, including:

Organic Certification - NOFA-VT operates Vermont Organic Farmers, LLC (VOF), an accredited certifier of the USDA National Organic Program. NOFA-VT believes that organic production enhances soil, plant, animal, and human health to protect the environment for current and future generations. Organic certification is needed to verify these production practices and to ensure that organic products are produced with integrity and transparency. VOF has a reputation for integrity and high standards, and providing consumers with a process and label they can trust.

Advocacy - At the local, state and federal levels, NOFA-VT advocates for policies and practices that strengthen our food system, support sustainable farming practices, improve economic opportunities for farmers, and expand access to local and organic foods for all Vermonters.

Community Food Access - NOFA-VT believes all people, regardless of circumstance, should have access to local, organic food that is nourishing and supports our working landscape. Our nationally recognized community food access programs support the many farmers and farm businesses that are committed to feeding everyone in their communities.

Market Development - To strengthen the relationships between food producers and consumers, NOFA-VT supports direct-to-consumer markets by providing technical support and assistance to farmers markets, community- supported agriculture (CSA) farms, and farm stand farms.

Farmer Services - NOFA-VT supports farmers as the foundation of our working lands, local economies and agricultural heritage. We conduct technical, financial and beginning farmer programs to help farmers improve their production systems and business management practices throughout the agricultural sector.

Farm to School - NOFA-VT works to improve the diets and eating behaviors of school-aged children by reconnecting students and school communities to local agriculture and the food they eat. NOFA-VT is a founding partner of the nationally recognized Food Education Every Day (VT-FEED) program that brings together educators and farmers to forge field to classroom and cafeteria links.

Farm to Institution - NOFA-VT is a collaborative partner with the Farm to Institution New England (FINE) Network, a six- state regional network of organizations working to increase the amount of local food sourcing that takes place on college and university campuses, within K-12 schools, and at hospitals. We believe that the regional market will benefit our Vermont producers and provide consistent access to affordable, healthy, regionally- grown foods for institutional facilities.