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James Beard Leadership Award Winners Celebrated

On Sunday, the James Beard Foundation recognized the six 2023 James Beard Leadership Award winners at a luncheon at The Dalcy in Chicago. The award recognizes individuals and organizations whose work is helping to create a safer, more healthful, equitable, and sustainable food world, according to the foundation. They are given for achievement in developing a global food system that is just, sustainable, and economically viable for both producers and consumers.

This year’s winners are:

Jim Embry of the Sustainable Communities Network, Slow Food USA, and Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance

Embry founded the Sustainable Communities Network, a Kentucky-based nonprofit dedicated to the development of the theory and practice of sustainable living. He is on the administrative team of Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance, a Black- and Indigenous-led company with a focus on African and African-American crops. He has also been active in Slow Food’s Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Committee.

Valerie Horn of CANE Kitchen, Cowan Community Center, and City of Whitesburg Farmers Market

Horn is the board chair for Community Agricultural Nutritional Enterprises (CANE Kitchen), which offers local farmers an outlet for their produce and provides low-income individuals access to healthy food from their community. She is also the director of Cowan Community Action Group and the board chair for the City of Whitesburg Farmers Market.

Savonala Horne of the Land Loss Prevention Project

Horne is the executive director of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, Land Loss Prevention Project, which provides legal expertise, community education, and advocacy skills to help farms and rural landowners facing legal, economic, and environmental challenges. She currently serves on the boards of the National Family Farm Coalition and the Rural Coalition and is a member of the USDA Equity Commission/Agriculture Subcommittee, and the National Black Environmental Justice Network.

Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Wallace serves on the board of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming. After 10 years of service, she stepped down from the Organic Seed Alliance in February. She is the author of The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast and the state-specific series Grow Great Vegetables. She also spends a lot of her time in Acorn, the Virginia community she helped found in the 1990s, which farms more than 50 acres of certified organic land.

Rowen White of Sierra Seeds and Indigenous Seedkeepers Network

White is the founder and creative director of Sierra Seeds, a living Indigenous seed bank farm in Nevada City that is centered on values-aligned cultural stewardship of land, seeds, cultural memory, and dignified resurgence of a culture of belonging in our seed and foodways. She is also the founder of Indigenous Seed Keepers Network, which promotes Indigenous cultural diversity for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

Additionally, the foundation awarded The Burgerville Workers Union the emerging leadership award. The Union is an independent collective voice of workers with a goal to win better working conditions by building union power on the shop floor. The member-run union successfully negotiated the country’s first-ever fast-food union contract in 2021.

“There is no better representation of ‘Good Food For Good’ than those we recognize today—these remarkable leaders who work tirelessly to fight for change, break down barriers, and help us to build a healthier and more equitable food culture," said Clare Reichenbach, CEO of the James Beard Foundation, in a statement. “This is what we mean when we say ‘Good Food For Good.’ Congratulations to this year’s Leadership Award winners.”

Related: Food Lion Recognizes Hunger Relief Leaders; James Beard Foundation Modifies Award Selection Process