The Cornucopia Institute

The number one ingredient in authentic organic is integrity.

Viroqua, WI   |  http://www.cornucopia.org

Mission

The Cornucopia Institute is dedicated to the fight for organic integrity and economic justice for the family-scale farming community. 

The Cornucopia Institute engages in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute provides needed information to consumers, family farmers and the media.

Notes from the nonprofit

After our leadership transition in 2019, Cornucopia hired an Interim Executive Director, in accordance with current research suggesting that parting with founders often leads to the dissolution of a nonprofit. With the leadership of Interim Executive Director Jonathan Rosenthal, Cornucopia created a Strategic Plan, meant to be a living and changeable guide for the organization. Rosenthal also recognized the leadership capabilities and knowledge within the existing staff, and our current Executive Director was promoted after eight years of service to Cornucopia's mission.

Ruling year info

2005

Executive Director

Melody Morrell

Main address

PO Box 826

Viroqua, WI 54665 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

20-1075143

NTEE code info

Other Food, Agriculture, and Nutrition N.E.C. (K99)

Animal Protection and Welfare (includes Humane Societies and SPCAs) (D20)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (C05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Organic agriculture has become a bifurcated industry under the certified organic label: authentic organic farmers provide much of the cleanest and most ethical food in the market and industrial organic operators and brands provide food that meets the minimum requirements of organic certification. Few consumers are aware of this difference in food quality, soil stewardship, and focus on biodiversity. In addition, regulation and government policies often favor agricultural industrialization, to the great detriment of human and environmental health.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Organic Integrity Project

The Organic Integrity Project is our umbrella program with the goal of upholding economic justice for community-scale farming while ensuring an alternative form of food and agriculture that truly supports environmental and human health. The two main initiatives under this program are: policy and industry watchdogging & empowering consumer activism.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of website pageviews

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of return website visitors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of new website visitors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of petition signatures

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Signatures on a proxy campaign pressuring grocery retailers to label hydroponics and provide consumers with info. to make careful decisions at the supermarket, protecting authentic organic farmers.

Number of testimonies offered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Cornucopia acts as a watchdog and an independent reviewer of materials petitioned for use in organics, with staff providing public testimony at annual NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) meetings.

Number of Facebook followers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of reports written/published

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Cornucopia has become a go-to source of information about organic food for committed food activists and family health-oriented consumers alike through our reports, scorecards, and buying guides.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Cornucopia Institute is passionate about defending economic justice for community-scale farmers and ensuring that nutrient-dense, organic foods remain accessible. We work to achieve our mission by engaging in educational and policy activities that amplify the voice of authentic organic farmers and mobilize consumers to uphold the pillars of the organic and local food movement.

The Cornucopia Institute is a national nonprofit farm and food policy research group, respected as one of the most effective voices protecting the good food movement and THE organic industry watchdog. We engage in research and education focused on the integrity of local and organic food. Organic, local, and direct-market agriculture have emerged as economic lifelines for community-scale farms, and are central to creating a food system that is beneficial to environmental and human health.

The global organic sector is expected to reach $262.85 billion in 2022. That growth depends on consumer trust in the organic label. Yet as the organic market has grown to over $50 billion in the US alone, so have greenwashing, price-cutting, and fraudulent practices by some industrial players and factory farm operators. These practices threaten to cheat and alienate consumers while competitively injuring ethical industry participants.

The USDA's National Organic Program is not adequately fulfilling its congressional mandate to regulate and protect the organic label, necessitating Cornucopia's voice to educate and inform organic farmers, consumers, ethical retailers, and the media about threats to strong organic standards.

Through industry watchdog activities and investigations, Cornucopia exposes and puts pressure on government regulators and industrial players that abuse food integrity and ignore the systems that underlie organic agriculture. At the same time, we shine a spotlight on authentic organic farmers and companies that adhere to true organic principles.

When The Cornucopia Institute was founded in 2004, a primary goal of the fledgling organic watchdog was to draw attention to, and rein in abuses from, the rise of factory farm confinement dairy operations in organic agriculture.

Today Cornucopia occupies a unique position within the food movement. We work to defend, protect, and promote what authentic organic farmers, consumers, co-op grocers, ethical companies, and funders have worked so hard to build over the past 40 years: a viable, just, and transparent food system that rewards ethical industry participants, supports sustainable rural communities, and provides access to healthy food for all communities. Through research, advocacy, networking, coalition building, marketplace initiatives, and education, Cornucopia has earned a reputation as an effective voice devoted to the support of strict organic production standards.

Cornucopia's primary methods for achieving our efforts aimed at upholding organic integrity are: research, consumer education, advocacy, and—as a last resort—legal challenge.

In our policy work, Cornucopia employs a combination of tactics. At the regulatory level, we push the USDA for enforcement of strong organic production standards and the closing of regulatory loopholes. We work in the marketplace to educate and empower organic consumers and wholesale buyers with reports and commodity scorecards about which organic brands are produced with ethics and integrity so that they may vote their values through their purchases. And as a last resort, we seek redress on behalf of organic stakeholders in the courts.

Marketplace Activism: Cornucopia has become a go-to source for information about organic food for committed food activists and health-oriented consumers alike. Resulting consumer education and empowerment drives organic market share away from industrial faux-organic to reward committed, authentic organic farms and food processors.

Our popular reports and brand scorecards rate organic and natural brands of eggs, soy foods, dairy, poultry, and other foods and food additives. Our work is viewed by more than 700,000 people annually, including nearly 2.5 million page views.

Organic Policy Watch: Cornucopia acts as a watchdog and an independent reviewer of materials petitioned for use in organic production. The governance of the National Organic Program is increasingly infiltrated by industry that aims to undercut the integrity of the organic label in the interest of scale economies and agribusiness profits. Without a level playing field, community-scale organic farmers cannot compete in a policy environment that favors cost-cutting and large-scale industrial "organic" farms.

The purpose of our Organic Policy Watch project is to ensure that every-day organic consumers and advocates have a voice on a policy panel that has become very industry friendly. Prior to each biannual meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), Cornucopia's policy staff prepares extensive formal recommendations on the agenda for the Board. At each meeting, Cornucopia staff offer expert testimony and also work to ensure that authentic organic farmers provide their testimony.

Cornucopia provides widespread public education on, and promotion of, organics and related food and farm topics. Cornucopia's staff has a unique knowledge base, experience, and expertise to draw on. As a relatively small organization, Cornucopia remains nimble, able to respond to organic policy and industry developments as they arise.

Cornucopia also draws from its widespread membership of concerned farmers, consumers, and other organic stakeholders from across the country.

Cornucopia maintains an active website, which sees as many as 10,000 visits per day, and regularly between 100,000 and 200,000 per month, in addition to more than 150,000 Facebook followers. Electronic communications including a biweekly e-newsletter, action alerts, and news releases reach the inboxes of more than 75,000 organic advocates directly. Our quarterly print newsletter, The Cultivator, reaches more than 8,000 households, including key leaders in the good food movement. Combined with extensive media outreach, Cornucopia's informative communications keep millions engaged in organic policy and industry issues that would otherwise fly under the radar.

While Cornucopia has been instrumental in bringing public attention to, and action on, issues that determine the integrity of the USDA Organic seal and local marketing channels, the governance of the National Organic Program is increasingly influenced by industry that aims to reshape the organic label in their economic interests.

Cornucopia monitors and reports on the work of the National Organic Standards Board to ensure public accountability. In the past year, we have challenged improper board appointments of agribusiness executives appointed to seats reserved for organic farmers, provided a board member voting scorecard, conducted thorough independent organic material reviews, and offered expert testimony and public facing coverage of NOSB activities. We are committed to continuing this watchdog work.

Both in the marketplace and in the policy arena, Cornucopia's has had an outsized effect over this past decade of operation. Some of our major accomplishments include:
* Following the publication of Cornucopia's dairy report and scorecard, virtually every member-owned food cooperative in the U.S. dropped the Horizon brand.
* Walmart, Target and Dean Foods corrected deceptive product labeling and food advertising after Cornucopia investigations were publicized in the media.
* Kellogg's reformulated their Kashi products as non-GMO and committed to introducing more organic products after Cornucopia's Cereal Crimes report exposed their practices.
* “Organic" factory livestock farms, housing tens of thousands of animals, have lost organic certification for violation of organic rules as a result of Cornucopia's investigations.
* National organic rules require that organic cows must be pastured, not confined to feedlots, as a result of Cornucopia's policy pressure (in collaboration with other groups).
* Jirah Mills lost its organic certification after being exposed fraudulently selling conventional grain as organic as a result of Cornucopia's collaborative effort with farmer-owned U.S. organic grain co-ops and organic farmers in Québec.
* Based on formal legal complaints, USDA investigators found Aurora Dairy willfully violated 14 tenets of federal organic regulations, leading to probation and sanctions. Aurora subsequently paid $8 million to settle a class action, consumer fraud lawsuit alleging misrepresentation of their products.
* DHA/ARA has been removed from Earth's Best infant formula.
* After finding their 365 cornflakes were made from GMO corn, Whole Foods switched to certified organic corn.

In addition, our freely available organic brand scorecards and reports have been downloaded and used by millions of families across the country to reward authentic organic farmers with their families' food dollars. Consumers consult the shopping scorecards when deciding which egg, dairy, yogurt, and other food brands to patronize.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    Farmers, consumers, and policy makers

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees, Suggestion box/email,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    We have begun to think critically about the language that we use and the stories we tell. We have been told that people are interested in hearing more about the practices of authentic organic farmers and the soil health. We have begun to create different materials for talking to policy-interested individuals as well. And we are attempting to think of authentic organic farming through a wider cultural lens. Much of the contemporary theory in organic agriculture is based on ideas of white thought leaders. We know that Black and Indigenous farming history is full of stories and understanding that can help humans thrive, and we are working toward legitimate co-creation. This process is not fast and there is no roadmap, but Cornucopia is on that journey.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    It has shifted us from being an organization that takes input from a small group of insiders and dispenses information to looking across agriculture for wider understanding and engaging in sometimes uncomfortable dialogue. We are becoming a collaborative partner in the movement and our work is increasingly strengthened by a diversity of voices. We are still practicing these skills, and so far most of the power shift has occurred internally. We are now working together as a staff of thoughtful, collaborative individuals rather than a hierarchical structure. We expect to continue this evolution over time and will report more here in the future.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time,

Financials

The Cornucopia Institute
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

The Cornucopia Institute

Board of directors
as of 02/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Cameron Molberg

New Growth Management

Term: 2019 - 2021

Kevin Engelbert

Engelbert Farms

Goldie Caughlan

National Organic Standards Board (former)

Helen Kees

Wheatfield Organics

Jim Crawford

New Morning Farm

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/12/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Equity strategies

Last updated: 03/12/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.