Organic Trade Association's Organic Newsroom: Katherine DiMatteo, OTA’s original ED, receives Leadership Award
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2006 Press Releases


Katherine DiMatteo, OTA’s original ED, receives Leadership Award

News Release Contact: Holly Givens
For immediate Release
Office: 413-774-7511, Ext. 18; Cell: 413-834-2758

Katherine DiMatteo, OTA’s original ED, receives Leadership Award

CHICAGO, Illinois (May 9): The Organic Trade Association (OTA) last night honored Katherine DiMatteo with its 2006 Organic Leadership Award for outstanding individual achievement. DiMatteo, who served as the original executive director for OTA from 1990 (when it was the Organic Foods Production Association of North America) until March 1, 2006, received the award at OTA’s Annual Dinner at the InterContinental Hotel here in Chicago.

A tribute to DiMatteo, the dinner program included testimonials, a video, and song written in her honor.

“Katherine has become a legend in the global world of organic. She is recognized as the leading spokesperson for organic in the United States and a respected global leader. It’s always been apparent that this is more than a job for Katherine. It’s her passion,” Joe Smillie, one of the founders and past president of the trade association, wrote in his letter nominating DiMatteo.

Smillie added, “One of the greatest challenges Katherine has met is to balance the needs of the entire community and keep OTA as the umbrella for all its diverse interests. It takes a lot of energy to try and keep everyone happy. It also means that accepting criticism, even from un-informed and misinformed members, media, and government, becomes a daily chore.”

Smillie recollected that from the beginning, “Katherine adopted the philosophy that it was not us versus them, not organic vs. conventional, not small vs. large. As she facilitated the growth of the organization everyone was welcome at the table. Organic would be a choice; for consumers for farmers, for merchants, for governments. She pointed out pragmatically and passionately that it was the best choice for people and planet but she never became judgmental and always looked for future allies.”

“Most, if not everyone, in our organic industry have come to know Katherine as a pioneer, a professional in every sense of the word whose invaluable contributions and vision have positioned OTA as a respected organization in our country. It is not by chance that Katherine has already been recognized by many organizations in the United States and around the world for her outstanding leadership when it comes to organic agriculture matters,” Board member Luis H. Acuña wrote in his nominating letter. He added, “One has to feel deep conviction for the mission, passion for the work, and perseverance to overcome challenges in order to achieve such level of success. Katherine certainly has had all of the above and more.”

Phil Margolis, immediate past president of OTA, added, “She captained the OTA ship through stormy waters without ever capsizing, which is quite the feat given all the tempestuousness that we traversed over her 16 years of stewardship. Katherine has grown the ‘O’ way beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.”

When DiMatteo started as first executive director of the Organic Foods Production Association of North American (OFPANA), the organization had approximately 200 members and a vision to establish unified guidelines for organic standards. U.S. organic sales at that time totaled approximately $1 billion. OTA now boasts 1,700 members, covering the entire scope of organic agriculture and finished products, and 2006 organic sales are expected to surpass $16.5 billion.

During her tenure at OTA, Katherine grew to be the principal spokesperson for the organic business community in the United States and a respected global leader. Over the course of 16 years, her work with government, the media, the trade, and the public have helped place organic foods, fibers, and other products in the mainstream of American life. The trade association celebrated significant milestones under her stewardship, including the implementation of the U.S. National Organic Program and the establishment of the All Things Organic™ Conference and Trade Show.

Her contributions have not gone unnoticed. She has been previously honored with the natural products’ industry Heart in Business Award, the National Nutritional Foods Association’s Rachel Carson Environmental Achievement Award, a Natural Business Leadership Award from the Sixth Annual Natural Business Market Trends Conference, and New Hope Natural Media’s 2006 Spirit of Organic Award. Katherine was also named one of Self magazine’s “Food Influentials” and saluted as an Organic Industry Luminary by Organic & Natural News. Most recently, she has been selected to serve on the World Board of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), and to continue as an independent board member of The Organic Center, which she helped to found.

The mission of the Organic Trade Association is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy. OTA envisions organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life, enhancing people's lives and the environment. As a membership-based business association, the Organic Trade Association focuses on the organic business community in North America. OTA's 1,700 members include farmers, processors, importers, exporters, distributors, retailers, certifiers, and more. For further information, visit OTA's web site at

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