Come the new year, the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) will have a new leader at its helm: Maureen Wilmot, the organization's current deputy director. The OFRF board announced Nov. 22 that it unanimously selected Wilmot to take over as executive director of the organization when Bob Scowcroft, OFRF co-founder and current executive director, retires on Jan. 1.Maureen Wilmot

"A large part of the executive director job is managing and fundraising, and Maureen has experience and excels in those arenas," OFRF Board President Deirdre Birmingham told NewHope360.com. Founded in 1990 by Scowcroft and a group of organic farmers, OFRF's mission is to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming in the United States. The group does this by sponsoring organic farming research and education projects and working to help shape organic-friendly agricultural policies.

Wilmot, who is a trained biologist with a background in policy development, non-profit management and community activism, joined OFRF in February 2009 as the organization's deputy director. After Scowcroft announced his retirement earlier this year, the group's board conducted a nationwide search for his replacement. "We didn't hire Maureen as our deputy director thinking she would replace Bob," Birmingham said. "We conducted a very thorough search, and she rose to the top of the candidates."

During her nearly two years as OFRF's deputy director, Wilmot guided the organization through a strategic planning process, identifying organizational priorities and fostering a team approach that involved the board of directors and the staff, Birmingham added. "We are very confident in our decision to name Maureen to this position."

OFRF priorities

Once she takes over as OFRF's executive director, Wilmot will be focused on three strategic initiatives. The first is publishing a report detailing the many societal benefits of organic agriculture. The report, which will publish in spring 2011, will be based on a review of the research published to date on organic. "Publishing this report has been a priority for the [OFRF] board for more than five years," Birmingham said. "Maureen understands the value in this and is in a position to make this happen."

Under Wilmot's direction, OFRF will also spend next year developing its policy recommendations for the 2012 farm bill and working on the Organic Seed Initiative launched earlier this year by the CLIF BAR Family Foundation. "Organic farmers have identified GMO contamination as a major threat to their livelihoods and this is making the need for organic seeds and breeds increasingly important," Birmingham said.

Building broader support for organic

As part of OFRF's work to communicate the many environmental and economic advantages of organic, Wilmot said she plans to increase the organization's outreach to other advocacy groups that benefit from organic agriculture.

"My background is in ocean conservation, and when you support organic farming practices, you are helping keep the oceans clean," said Wilmot, who served as the executive director of the Ocean Wilderness Network and the Seatuck Environmental Association prior to joining OFRF. "I want to reach out to the ocean and other conservation communities to build a broader base of support for the organic farmers in this country."

Along with broadening its base, OFRF will also be refining its scope over the next several years. "We will become an increasingly strategic organization," Birmingham said. "We can't fight all battles, and Maureen has a strong sense of what we really need to achieve and what our key strategies should be to do that."