Meet the Nation’s Top Champions for Sustainable Food: Finalists, Winner Named in First-Ever “Cooperate for Community!” Contest

Oct 08, 2007

In the first-ever Cooperate for Community! contest, judges recently named Joseph Kiefer, Barbara Eiswerth and Juanita Nelson as the individuals whose work in the area of sustainable food most exemplifies the cooperative spirit. Presented by National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), a business services cooperative representing 110 food co-ops nationwide, the winner and two finalists will each receive a donation to the nonprofit of their choice.

Judges selected Joseph Kiefer of Food Works in Montpelier, Vt., the winner for connecting local growers to local human service agencies in an effort to teach consumers – the vast majority low-income or underserved elderly and child populations – how to prepare and enjoy local produce. For his initiative, he will receive a $7,500 donation to the nonprofit of his choice.

The two finalists are Barbara Eiswerth of Iskash*taa Refugee Harvesting Network in Tucson, Ariz., and Juanita Nelson of Free Harvest Supper of Locally Grown Food Organizing Committee held in Greenfield, Mass. Eiswerth organized several hundred refugees and volunteers to harvest and redistribute locally grown produce. Nelson created the annual Harvest Supper, an event that celebrates local agriculture and donates thousands of dollars to the local food pantry. Each will receive a $2,500 donation for the nonprofit of their choice.

In July, NCGA launched Cooperate for Community! with its co-sponsor, Frontier Natural Products Co-op -- a wholesale cooperative specializing in natural and organic products -- to honor people across America who are working for more sustainable food, while exemplifying a spirit of cooperation. It called on individuals to submit a 500-word nomination highlighting an individual or organization they knew who embodied this spirit.

Twenty-seven co-ops nationwide held local Cooperate for Community! competitions; these local winners were then sent for consideration in the national judging. Kiefer was the local winner for Hunger Mountain Co-op ( Eiswerth was the local winner for Food Conspiracy Co-op (, and Nelson was the local winner for Green Fields Market (

"Each of these individuals have in their own way made the community a better place by being, and helping others be, more mindful of the connection between our food, how it is grown, and the impact on human, environmental and animal health," said Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer, NCGA. "Their spirit of cooperation is incredibly inspiring, and we congratulate all of our nominees on their efforts."

To learn more about the winners and nominees, visit