Organic Association Chooses New Leader

John Mesko has been hired to head the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), a nonprofit in Spring Valley, WI, that is nationally recognized for hosting the country’s largest annual organic farming conference.

John Mesko
John Mesko

Mesko currently is the executive director of the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) in Minnesota. He will join the MOSES staff at the end of this month.

“The players, pressures, and policies within America’s food system are changing rapidly, and the ever-increasing demand for certified organic foods is both opportunity and challenge,” the president of the MOSES Board of Directors, Sylvia Burgos Toftness, said. “We believe John brings the experience and vision needed to build on MOSES’s strengths, keep organic standards high, continue to provide excellent programming, and reach out to all growers seeking environmental and economic sustainability.”

Mesko steps into the leadership role vacated by the organization’s founding executive director, Faye Jones, who retired from MOSES in March. Linda Halley has been serving as the interim director for the organization.

“Linda provided a critical bridge to MOSES’s next phase,” Burgos Toftness said. “Her credible and measured leadership not only helped staff continue to contribute at the highest level, but also fostered an atmosphere for a smooth transition to John.”

Mesko has a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s degree in farm management from Purdue University. His career has spanned all facets of agriculture, from fertilizer sales and biotechnology research to leading a large network of sustainable farmers and starting his own farm. In each role, he has worked to promote a better understanding and appreciation of how food is produced.

“I’m a firm believer that farmers are the original caretakers of the environment,” Mesko said. “I’ve always sought ways to bring the food and farming community together to promote farming practices that produce abundant, healthy food in a sustainable manner.

“MOSES is the recognized leader in our movement,” he added. “It’s truly an honor to have an opportunity to build upon the foundation already laid down. Sustainable and organic agriculture hold the solution for many of the issues facing the environment, rural communities and our food system. I’m thrilled to be part of a great organization, helping to bring those solutions forward.”

Mesko and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters, Gabrielle and Sarah. The family raises grass-fed beef on a 160-acre farm in east-central Minnesota. He also teaches a college-level environmental science class and regularly speaks about sustainability, farming, and the future of agriculture.

Once onboard at MOSES, Mesko will lead a 10-member staff which provides training, resources, and practical advice to help farmers grow organically. In addition to the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the staff organizes on-farm field days, publishes a newspaper about organic practices, and offers a mentoring program and other services to help new organic farmers.

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