NOFA-VT Executive Director Enid Wonnacott Steps Down
Posted On: October 31, 2018
Enid Wonnacott has tallied many accomplishments over 30-plus years as executive director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. In 1987, her 10-hour-per-week job came with one filing cabinet and a milk crate filled with paperwork. Since then, Wonnacott has built the nonprofit into a 20-person team supported by a $2.8 million budget. NOFA-VT has had an impact not only on Vermont agriculture but nationwide.
This summer Wonnacott, now 57, was inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame. In early October, she announced that she was stepping down from her position earlier than planned due to cancer.
Wonnacott understands that her successor will face challenges. NOFA-VT membership is stagnant at about 1,200 members, and this year’s winter conference attendance was down across NOFA state chapters. The USDA organic integrity issues have provoked fractures within the organic community, along with public confusion and distrust. “I fear for the future of organic, the splintering that’s taking place,” she admitted.
Wonnacott is also concerned that new farmers don’t see a need to be certified, noting that Vermont is about to see a huge land shift and transition between generations. “I really want beginning farmers to feel there’s value in this movement,” she said. “We need a really strong beginning-farmer wave to replace the pioneering farmers.”
It’s fitting in some ways that Wonnacott is navigating a transition while also helping many of the farmers with whom she started her career navigate their own. She has co-facilitated two meetings with the old guard. “It’s like deep therapy for all of us,” she said with a chuckle. “These are the farmers who really inspired me. I wanted to do everything I could to make their farms and their lives successful. That drive has carried me through, and I could have done it for another 30 years.”
After she steps down in the spring, Wonnacott will stay involved in other ways. She’s training to become an organic inspector and will do that part time. She will also help out during the pizza-oven season. But mostly, Wonnacott will focus on her health, her family — husband Harry Frank and their two grown children — and their Huntington homestead.
It’s no surprise, though, that Wonnacott has not stopped dreaming up new, creative ways to support her passions. “One of my favorite things to do is long-distance walking,” she said, explaining that she has solo-walked trails around the world, most recently Ireland’s Dingle Way.
Wonnacott envisions a statewide farm-to-farm walk to raise awareness of organic agriculture and community. The Vermont walk would not be a solo endeavor, however. With her signature warm smile Wonnacott said, “I have a great vision of hundreds of people joining me to walk for the cause.”