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Hello Real Organic Project! 
This page is just for you.  

Thank you so much for clicking through!  I'm happy to share with you a few of the things that make me a uniquely qualified candidate for the Development Manager position with Real Organic Project.  

Please click here to see a detailed CV which describes my acheivements as a Program Manager and Managing Director in the nonprofit industry.

Please scroll down to read letters of recommendation from my previous employers.  

And lastly, please read the brief story below.

Thank you!

“Is it organic?”  

 

This was the question asked of me time and time again as I gave presentations, workshops, and tours in the large hydroponic greenhouse I ran as a Program Manager for Groundwork Denver from 2015-2019.  Chefs, foodies, donors, community activists, environmentalists, parents concerned for their children’s diets; they all sincerely wanted to know if the food produced in this controlled environment was healthy - was it safe?

Well… yes, it was healthy.  Yes, it was safe.  Was it organic?  Absolutely not. 

I began learninig about hydroponics as a volunteer with the Phoenix Permaculture Guild, during a time in which I was absorbed by the message in Gary Nabham’s book Coming Home to Eat.  Sweating through a sonoran summer, I became driven to acquire as much of my food as possible from local sources, bypassing the carbon heavy supply chain that brings food from South America, Asia, and Europe to rest, wrapped in plastic, on grocery store shelves. But in June, a backyard Phoenix garden withers; the verdant green becomes crisp brown, and gardeners give up until September when the temperatures finally recede and we can start again. 

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And so I explored other options.  How could I grow my own lettuce, herbs, and tomatoes year round?  Inspired by a local fellow who transformed his backyard swimming pool into a greenhouse, I began exploring hydroponics, turning my garage into a garden and finding enough success that I eventually became the manager at the local hydro shop where I spent so much time learning.  The skills and expertise I developed during this time served me years later as I joined the Groundwork Denver team in avdocating for environmental and social justice throughout Denver.  My role was to increase the supply of fresh, locally grown produce to disadvantaged communities, and I worked tirelessly to do so.


During this time, I remained highly aware of the ongoing debate between large scale producers, insisting their CEA hydroponically produced crops were organic (we only use Organic Certified pesticides!  There are no weeds - we don’t use herbicides at all!) and soil-focused farmers and activists insisting that no, crops grown in mineral-derived nutrient soup can not be considered organic.  I was on the side of the farmers. After all, hydroponic crops exist in a vacuum. There’s no ecosystem, no microbial life, no food chain.  It’s a type of growing more akin to manufacturing than farming.

There was great hubbub in April of 2016 when the USDA released a report from its Hydroponic Aquaponic Taskforce, and I explored how to transition my strictly mineral based input program to one which incorporated liquid organic fertilizers; perhaps I could develop the program enough that I could proudly say "Yes!  These crops ARE organic!"  Though my team and I made significant efforts, this transition was never achieved.

And so throughout, when people asked if my crops were organic I answered "no."  Though most people were really seeking clarity around pesticide use, I always replied to the organic query with the chemical definition of organic: that which contains carbon, an element conspicuously lacking from the NPK I dutifully fed my crops.

Please don't misunderstand me, I was proud of my work with GWD; the CSA program I developed from that greenhouse fed families living in food deserts and on top of superfund sites - a worthy goal.  But I couldn’t participate in the greenwashing so prevalent in the industrial food system; I couldn’t claim those crops were organic.  They simply weren't.

This mindset, experience, and perspective is what makes me uniquely qualified to serve Real Organic Project in furthering their mission.  Whether the debate focuses on hydroponic vs. soil cultivation, pasture raised poultry vs caged, or grass fed dairy cows vs CAFOs, it is imperitive that those of us working for the betterment of our food system remain committed to honesty and integrity while moving forward with empathy, compassion, and understanding. This is how I would operate as part of the Real Organic Project team.

Emily Sepulveda in the Groundwork Greens Greenhouse, Denver, CO 2019, with the Colorado Renewable Energy Society.

Is it organic?  A story

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