YORK COUNTY — Amy Bruch of Cyclone Farms, which is located in rural York County, has been named the national 2021 Organic Farmer of the Year by the Organic Trade Association, a national organization.
This week, the association announced the 2021 Organic Leadership Award honor, saying the distinction is given to “visionaries who have advanced organic by promoting the industry’s climate change mitigation practices, investing in social responsibility initiatives, leading organic transition programs and keeping the organic community safe during COVID-19.”
Bruch will be honored at an event next February in Washington D.C.
This is the most prestigious award an organic farmer can achieve — and it has never been won by a woman or anyone from the Midwest.
The awardees are nominated by their peers and chosen unanimously by the association’s board of directors.
“Bruch is a sixth-generation farmer. Since carrying on the legacy of her family farm in Nebraska nine years ago, after the sudden passing of her father, she and her husband, Tyler, evolved the operation into one of the most cutting-edge organic farms in the country and converted nearly 2,500 acres of high productive farm ground to organic row crops, small grains, pulses and oilseeds," the association said.
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Bruch is a soil health expert who uses the Kinsey-Albrecht approach on her operation. She has had experience with various projects to help establish sustainable farming systems on four continents, the association said, and she is currently serving as a member of the National Organic Standards Board.
The association noted that Bruch is the co-founder of AgriSecure, a first-of-its-kind full-service organic consulting company that helps farmers transition into organic production. “This effort has already helped convert over 65,000 acres represented by more than 68 farmers across 15 states in their organic transition. Her leadership is widely revered as setting the pace for getting growers through transition and fully certified to organic.”
In an earlier interview with the York News-Times, Bruch talked about how she has learned through experimentation and lessons of trial and error alongside her father, Gary Schlechte.
“I learned from my dad’s point of view,” Bruch said. “I worked really closely with him growing up. We did some crazy, interesting experiments together.”
Her father passed away suddenly in 2012. “Instead of working with him, we’re working for him now,” she said.
She said during the earlier interview that one of her philosophies is to marry the way people farmed decades ago with current technology, all while maintaining organic status.
“There is a renewed focus on agronomy as soil health is our number one defense to fight the challenges of the season,” she said.
She added that organic farming offers significant challenges. “It’s a humbling way to farm. Not everything works the way we want it to; you’ve got to make a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. There isn’t a road map for what we do and there is definitely not an ‘easy’ button because the solutions are very different.
"It requires very detailed plans, management and recordkeeping, but it has allowed for my husband and I and our team to dive deeper into soil balancing, applying new technology and expand our team to allow additional opportunities for those interested in ag to get involved.”
Bruch has traveled to South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, she said, where she was fascinated by many different types of agriculture.
“There is a common thread that allows for benchmarking, innovation and support,” she said, regarding the universal art of farming.
“This is a life, not a career,” she added.
The Organic Trade Association is a business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. The association represents over 9,500 organic businesses across 50 states.