From Organic Trade Association Press Release

On May 14th, Mac Ehrhardt was honored, along with five other individuals for outstanding leadership, vision and commitment in advancing the organic movement and making a positive difference on their farms, in their communities, in our climate and environment, and in the lives and diets of millions of people throughout the world.

The trade association honored these exemplary men and women at its 2024 Organic Leadership Awards at an official reception on May 14, the opening day of Organic Week (May 14-16) in Washington, D.C. OTA’s leadership awards were established in 1997, and since then OTA annually recognizes a group of exceptional individuals who have been nominated by their peers and chosen unanimously by the association’s Board of Directors.

As always Mac, gave props to fellow recipients and heartfelt credit to the entire team at Albert Lea Seed:
“So proud to share the stage last night at OTA with George Siemon (founder of ⁦ OrganicValley⁩ and true Organic pioneer). George received the Lifetime Achievement award. I received the Organic Groundbreaker award on behalf of all my co-workers at Albert Lea Seed.”

Mac Erhardt and George Siemon at OTA

The distinguished 2024 Organic Leadership Award Honorees are:

Organic Lifetime Achievement: George Siemon of Organic Valley
Organic Champion: The Honorable Jenny Lester Moffitt of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Organic Groundbreaker: Mac Ehrhardt of Albert Lea Seed
Organic Farmer of the Year: Larry Santos of Taylor Farming
Organic Climate Action: Renaud des Rosiers of Amy’s Kitchen
Social Impact: Jyoti Stephens of Nature’s Path

The Organic Groundbreaker Leadership Award

The award honors trade association members who have dedicated their careers to advancing organic agriculture and trade by providing vision, innovative creations and solutions, and the work and leadership that makes dreams a reality. This year’s winner, Mac Ehrhardt, chairman of Albert Lea Seed – inspired by his family’s love of nature – recognized the promise of organic agriculture more then 30 years ago and, working with his brother Tom, led the transformation of his granddad and dad’s seed company into the nation’s largest organic field seed supplier.

Tom, Mac, and George Ehrhardt.

Founded in 1923 by Lou Ehrhardt, the Minnesota-based Albert Lea Seed has been owned and operated by the Ehrhardt family for three generations, earning its first USDA organic certification in 1996. In 2022, the company purchased Blue River Organic Seed, to form the strongest lineup of organic field seed in the U.S. In 2023 Ehrhardt spearheaded another initiative aimed at serving organic farmers by investing in an independent corn breeding program focused on the needs of organic farms.

“I believe that the demand for organically raised food will continue to grow,” says Ehrhardt. “But we must actively work to encourage that growth by strengthening consumer confidence in the Organic label; addressing the issue of gene-editing from both a scientific and a consumer perspective; and reducing the carbon footprint of organic farming practices.”

Ehrhardt’s advice to future organic groundbreakers: “Work hard. Be nice to people. Keep an open mind. Be honest and own your mistakes. And to steal a line from Practical Farmers of Iowa, ‘Make your experiments small enough that you can afford to fail.’”

Macs OTA Groundbreaker Award

Learn more about the awards and other honorees from OTA.