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  • Al Johnson

NOFA’s Person of the Year - 2023 - Stephanie Harris

Stephanie and her family (man and 2 dogs)
Stephanie and her family

By Al Johnson

The dictionary defines a “stalwart” as “A morally strong and active supporter of an organization or cause.”  NOFA-New Jersey has been blessed to have had one such stalwart since its inception. She has served two 5-year terms as the Board of Directors President. She has been on NOFA-NJ’s Executive Committee for at least 30 straight years, rotating through all officer positions. She traditionally and currently sits on all standing NOFA-NJ Committees and has chaired many.  She has taken a leading role in organizing Annual and Ad Hoc events such as the Winter Conference and the Organic Country Fair & Harvest Dinners. Throughout NOFA-NJ’s life, she has been its most effective fundraiser. She has been a lifelong advocate for maintaining the organic label's integrity.  She has operated Stonehedge Farm in Hopewell, NJ, for 40 years, where she and her husband, Bob, raised their two children, Alex and Kate.

The NOFA Interstate Council is pleased to recognize Stephanie Harris as the 2023 NOFA Person of the Year!

Stephanie did not grow up farming or even gardening. City-bred, she was inspired by her husband's rural West Virginia family, whose large garden provided much of their food. She was amazed when Bob showed her what could be produced from a tiny seed. That was in the 1960s, just as organic was becoming popular but not readily available in markets. As a result, she became a mail-order patron of Walnut Acres in PA, which claimed to be America’s first organic farm until it closed many decades later.

Stephanie began volunteering for Ralph Nader as one of his “Raiders.” At the same time, she was turning her own 2.5-acre Maryland property into an organic homestead. The Nader organization, recognizing her interest, promoted her to Agricultural Monitor.  Stephanie faced many agribusiness lobbyists in EPA meetings.  She used her homestead as a laboratory to counter lobbyists’ claims that “it can’t be done organically.”  She also participated in an Environmental Defense Fund project comparing hydrocarbon levels of DDT in women's breast milk with various diets, convincing her to become a lifelong vegetarian.

Bob lost his DC job in the Carter Administration with the election of Ronald Regan, and the young family moved to New Jersey. By this time, Stephanie was ready to start farming, but she knew almost no one who was practicing the type of farming for which she was advocating as a Nader Raider. From an agricultural point of view, she was lonely - that is, until 1984, when Meg Cadoux gave her a call about helping to establish a NOFA Chapter in New Jersey.  Seven people attended the first meeting.  Stephanie finally had a community of people interested in growing food in a way that sustained the earth.  It’s difficult to determine if NOFA has given more to Stephanie than she has given to NOFA, but she has been an integral part of the organic community for 40 years, and we are so grateful.  Thank you, Stephanie, for all your work and your dedication to NOFA!

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