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2017 Leadership Award Winners

The Specialty Food Association’s annual Leadership Awards honor industry leaders whose work and passion advance our food standards and our society. Their innovations and vision help build a better world for all of us.

Throughout their careers, Leadership Award winners have: 

  • Demonstrated sound ethics, professionalism, transparency and collegiality within our industry;
  • Pioneered innovative products, practices, and business models; and/or
  • Advanced food standards and the positive role food can play in the future of society.

This year’s winners range from entrepreneurs spearheading the organic milk movement in the U.S. to those supporting sustainable rice farming around the globe. We look forward to honoring them all at our award ceremony to be held during the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco on January 22, 2017.


Leadership Awards are given in three categories: 

  • Business Leadership: Advancing best practices across the spectrum of workforce issues to benefit food industry personnel.
  • Citizenship: Improving the lives of people and communities by advancing environmental and social sustainability knowledge and practice.
  • Vision: Pioneering new approaches, innovative products and business models to set in motion positive change and progress.

2017 Leadership Awards: Business Leadership

James Faison, Milton’s Local

James Faison grew up visiting his grandparents’ farm in the Southside region of Virginia, but his path was not headed toward farming. He went to Harvard, then earned a law degree at the University of Virginia. In 2012, he formed Milton’s Local, which aggregates pasture-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats from small farmers who get a fair price for their meats (60 percent of revenue). Read more...

Mike Brady, Greyston Bakery and Greyston Foundation

Mike Brady is the president and CEO of the nonprofit Greyston Foundation and its for-profit arm, Greyston Bakery, a Yonkers-based, mission-driven enterprise that seeks to change the lives of the formerly incarcerated and other hard-to-employ people. Over the years, this nonjudgmental practice has created more than 3,500 living wage jobs. Read more...

2017 Leadership Award: Citizenship

Mark Tilsen, Native American Natural Foods

Mark Tilsen co-founded Native American Natural Foods to return the sacred buffalo to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The company’s Tanka Bar, made from dried bison and fruit, has created employment opportunities for the Oglala Lakota people and helped to improve their diets in an isolated land. Read more...

Ken Lee, Lotus Foods

Ken Lee and his wife Caryl Levine co-founded Lotus Foods in California in 1995. Lotus Foods works with 4,000 small-scale rice producers around the globe and helps to educate them in new irrigation methods. During 2015, the profitable company saved 528 million gallons of water. Read more...

2017 Leadership Award: Vision

Albert Straus, Straus Family Creamery

Albert Straus, founder and CEO of Straus Family Creamery in Northern California, spearheaded the organic milk movement in the U.S. Straus’ farm is currently comprised of 500 acres and 300 milking cows, with another 2,500 cows on nine local, organically certified farms contributing to the 16,000 gallons of milk a day for Straus Family Creamery products. Read more...

Norah Eddy and Laura Johnson, Salty Girl Seafood

Norah Eddy and Laura Johnson share a commitment to accelerating change in the seafood industry. Their nearly three-year-old company, Salty Girl Seafood, supports small-scale fishermen and fisheries that harvest sustainably. They guarantee traceable seafood to consumers and promote stewardship of the oceans. Read more...


Our Judges

A panel of judges composed of industry experts and influencers selected the honorees from dozens of nominees. 2017 judges included: 

  • Erin Alston, City Harvest, New York, New York 
  • Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas 
  • Meg Escobar, Social Venture Network, San Francisco, California
  • Kimberly Jung, Rumi Spice, Chicago, Illinois 
  • Linda Appel Lipsius, Teatulia, Denver, Colorado
  • John Raiche, UNFI, Providence, Rhode Island 
  • Bill Ward, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts