Eric Kindberg, 66, a longtime advocate of cooperative development, organic farming, and integrity in organic regulations, died Dec. 11, 2008. Originally from Arkansas, Eric died in China, where he had been living and farming for several years. His death was reportedly due to bile duct cancer.
He was a man with an incredible ability to talk with other farmers about laws, politics, and his vision of establishing programs and farmer-based organizations that would serve their needs.
Eric was an activist in more than just organic farming. Whenever he saw a problem of any sort, he took it upon himself to be part of the solution. He was an advocate of civil rights and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. He became an advocate for the family farmer as well, especially those who called themselves “organic.”
He taught folks how to write effective public input and how to get to the National Organic Standards Board meetings. When the 1997 Proposed Organic Rule was published, he and others wrote an analysis of the rule and created a public comment form that was distributed on the internet, in retail stores, and even under car windshield wipers. This outreach generated thousands of public comments, resulting in a completely rewritten 1997 Rule. The current National Organic Program has been greatly shaped by public input, encouraged by Eric.
Funded by a USDA cooperative development grant, Eric-via the Ozark Small Farm Viability Project-spearheaded the National Organic Marketing Cooperative Feasibility Study. Under his leadership, 12 meetings were held across the U.S., bringing organic farmers together to discuss the problems they faced and how to solve them, including: production coordination, market coordination, pricing coordination, infrastructure development, and the need for continued public advocacy-all things a cooperative can help supply. Eric taught us about the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922, which gives qualifying farmers the right to organize to price their products. The study resulted in the formation of the Organic Farmers Marketing Association, which led to the creation of the Organic Farmers Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM)-an “organic marketing agency in common”-which now is comprised of a number of organic cooperatives and professional marketing associations. OFARM and its member associations are the fulfillment of Eric’s farmer cooperative dream
Eric taught us and others how to find our voices in government policy making and cooperative development. I hope we are able to take these things forward in our lives and that, in doing so, we will carry on his great spirit and passion.