The Organic Consumers Association: A Grassroots Nonprofit Unites Health-Conscious People in a Common Cause

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The Organic Consumers Association: A Grassroots Nonprofit Unites Health-Conscious People in a Common Cause

Amber Brooks Amber Brooks • 2/07/18

The Short Version: Dedicated to bringing justice to the food industry, the Organic Consumers Association has launched hundreds of campaigns to pressure big businesses and governments to support healthy, organic, and sustainable products and policies. The nonprofit is a staunch advocate for consumers and believes in the people’s right to consume healthful, fair-trade foods free of pollutants or other harmful chemicals. If you consider yourself a food revolutionary — or if you just want to learn more about what you put in your body — you can comb through the website’s free resources and find opportunities to take action and effect change. OCA also hosts many community-driven events, including protests, workshops, and conferences, to help interested individuals network with activists, environmentalists, and organic consumers who share common values and goals. You can do your part to improve the food industry and meet many passionate individuals by becoming an active member of the Organic Consumers Association.

On a Friday night years back, one of my college roommates came home from a date way too early (pretty sure it was within an hour flat), so I got out the tub of cookie dough we kept for just such emergencies and asked what’d happened.

She covered her face with her hands and said, “I can’t date meat eaters.”

It turned out her date hadn’t known she was vegan and chose a restaurant that had very few meatless and cheeseless options on its menu. Instead of being gentlemanly and apologetic about it, her date had tried to argue her out of her conviction that consuming animal byproducts is morally wrong. She’d borne this punishing conversational topic in silence for half an hour and then faked a stomach ache so she could leave her rude date and her half-eaten salad before the night got any worse.

Photo of the Organic Consumers Association logo

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) offers a rallying point for people who support organic products and clean living.

The thing is my roommate didn’t decide to go vegan on a lark, and she certainly doesn’t do it because she enjoys eating tofu stir fry more than mac ‘n’ cheese. She has deep concerns about the food industry’s practices and uses her food choices as a protest against the suffering and dishonesty she sees in the system.

When you’re that passionate about an issue, you can’t date someone who doesn’t get it or doesn’t respect your views. What we put on our plates is a controversial issue in the US, and it’s not a debate you want to have on a supposedly romantic night out. However, if you support healthful organic living, you probably find yourself in the minority in a lot of social situations — but not in the Organic Consumers Association, a prominent advocacy group based in Finland, Minnesota.

This nonprofit empowers American consumers to become more aware of what’s in the food they consume and to advocate for environmentally sustainable and pollutant-free farming policies. The activists at OCA tirelessly lobby governmental officials to hold large corporations accountable and push for policy reforms necessary to the health and welfare of the general public.

By getting involved with the grassroots organization, health-conscious and socially responsible individuals can find solidarity and support in an international community of organic consumers.

Dedicated Food Revolutionaries Work to Enact Change

Food activists Ronnie Cummins and Rose Welch founded the Organic Consumers Association in 1998 to pressure the US Department of Agriculture to reject unfavorable regulation changes to organic food production. The controversial proposal would have allowed generic engineering, irradiation, and toxic sewage sludge in the production of organic foods. OCA found that unacceptable and spoke out against the proposed policy.

Photo of Ronnie Cummins, Co-Founder and International Director of OCA

Ronnie Cummins co-founded OCA to push for healthful solutions in the food industry.

In collaboration with other environmental organizations, OCA launched the Safeguard Organic Standards Campaign and mobilized hundreds of thousands of consumers across the country. This massive wave of public outcry put enormous pressure on government officials to preserve its strict organic standards and deny any proposal that would undermine the very meaning of the term “organic.”

The success of that first grassroots campaign led to hundreds of similar projects and protests, all geared toward making the food industry more transparent, healthful, sustainable, and beneficial to consumers.

Today, OCA is the only US organization focused exclusively on promoting the interests of an estimated 50 million socially responsible consumers of organic products. Its motto is “campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy.” If those sound like ideals you could get behind, you can get involved by following its newsletter and keeping an eye out for opportunities to petition, lobby, and volunteer for a good cause.

Whether you care about food safety or global warming, you’ll find many folks at OCA who feel as strongly as you do and are working hard to change the US agricultural system for the good of all.

Community Events Turn Consumers Into Activists

OCA advocates on behalf of organic consumers, and, over the decades, its campaigns have made an impact on businesses and governments around the world. Its firm stance on agricultural issues keeps people honest and raises awareness about important topics for consumer health.

According to the website, “OCA’s primary strategy is to work on national and global campaigns promoting health, justice, and sustainability that integrate public education, marketplace pressure, media work, litigation, and grassroots lobbying.”

If all of this sounds right up your alley, joining OCA would be a terrific way to help a worthy cause while meeting people who share similar organic values and activist inclinations. OCA’s events page lets members know when and where to volunteer, march, or contribute to local campaigns. The events range in size, from large conferences to intimate workshops, but they all offer unique opportunities to mingle with local farmers, grassroots activists, and organic consumers nationwide.

You can read more about OCA’s campaigns online and find a cause that speaks to your heart. From saving the bees to cleaning up the cosmetics industry, OCA has wide-ranging interests in anything that protects the health of consumers as well as the environment.

Anyone hungry for change should check out OCA’s website and get involved in its campaigns to promote peace, justice, democracy, and health. Many impassioned organic consumers have come together thanks to OCA’s relentless outreach and lobbying efforts.

Free Online Resources Bring Awareness on the Issues

Education is a major component of what OCA does on a day-to-day basis. People only care about issues they know about, so the website does its best to shine a light on little-known or largely misunderstood topics undermining the health of American consumers.

Every day, the OCA blog posts hot-off-the-presses updates about crucial agricultural issues. If a politician proposes a bill that would hurt organic farming, you’ll hear about. If a big-name brand makes false claims about its natural ingredients, you can petition against it. The blog acts as a news outlet as well as a platform for resistance. At the end of most articles, you’ll find a call to action that helps readers join voices and fight for change.

Screenshot of the OCA's blog

OCA’s blog highlights topical issues affecting consumers of organic products around the world.

The blog is an excellent resource for anyone looking to learn more about organic living (perhaps to impress a date) and what they can do to combat harmful food policies and practices.

Simply staying informed about the issues isn’t enough for OCA — it encourages everyday people to speak out by adding their names to petitions or coming out to volunteer. Together, consumers can change the food industry, but the movement has to start with individual choices and heart-to-heart conversations at the kitchen table.

Come Together With OCA’s Campaign for Health & Peace

My college roommate had a few missteps in the dating scene but soon hit her stride when she started networking at vegan-friendly events on campus and around the city. It’s so much easier to start a conversation and build a romantic connection with someone when you have some common ground in what you believe or how you live your life. It also makes choosing a date-night restaurant a lot easier.

When you get involved with a grassroots organization, like the Organic Consumers Association, you naturally meet people who have similar viewpoints and passions. All sorts of fruitful relationships can grow from a day of volunteering or protesting in the community.

Since OCA launched its first campaign in 1998, thousands of people have flocked to the organization’s message and added their voices to its call for change in the food industry. This nonprofit has become a well-known bastion of grassroots activism dedicated to raising awareness about harmful policies in the food industry while lobbying to effect change and enforce sustainable, healthful food production around the world.

One supporter named Caitlin commented on OCA’s Facebook page, “We must reduce human exposures to toxic chemicals, including those in food and medicine and water… I am thankful for the Organic Consumers Association.”