Russell Libby, longtime Executive Director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), passed away this past weekend at the age of 56 after a long struggle with cancer. Russell was a well-loved leader in the organic movement nationally, and a source of inspiration and hope for many of us here at Stonyfield.
I first met Russell in the late 1970's at a Northeast Organic Farming Association conference. We bonded at once. He was a classic Mainer...not one to waste words, he cut right to the heart of the matter and did a lot more listening than yakking. I always appreciated his quiet passion, his pragmatism, wisdom and dedication.
In a talk he gave a few years ago, Russell talked about his vision for a more sustainable economy: "I'm not really interested in standing over here in the local and organic corner for the rest of my life and waving 'hi we're having fun over here!' I'm really interested in this kind of food being available to everybody."
Russell's leadership helped to bring us out of that corner - when he began working on agriculture in Maine, in the early 1970s, there were about a dozen people farming organically in the state, and one farmers market. Today, Maine's farmers are in the lead when it comes to organic agriculture. Five percent of the farms in Maine are now organic, and MOFGA has the largest membership of any state-based organic organization.
I think it was Woody Allen who said that 90% of life is showing up. Russell Libby showed up again and again and again on behalf of organic and sustainable agriculture and family farming. He will be missed.