Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit organization and leading certifier, educator & advocate for organic agriculture since 1974. Our mission to make our food system and agriculture biologically sound and socially equitable requires us to find practical ways to tackle big challenges. We advance this mission to balance the needs of people and planet through focus on core areas of certification, conservation, social equity, policy and the marketplace. The organization is accredited by the USDA to offer organic certification services in accordance with the USDA National Organic Program. Our certification program currently certifies over 1800 operations and their products from seed to plate, including crop & livestock farms, food handlers and processors. Oregon Tilth certifies over 3,750,000 acres of organic land and over 29,600 organic products.
Chris Schreiner has 20 years work experience in the organic sector. Since 1998, he has worked for Oregon Tilth. As Farm Program Coordinator, Chris coordinated the organic certification process for over 400 farms. As Quality Control Director, his responsibilities included policy analysis and managing accreditation with the USDA National Organic Program. Chris has been Oregon Tilth’s Executive Director since 2009. In 2014, Chris served on the Oregon Governor’s Task Force on Genetically Engineered Agriculture. Chris is currently the co-chair of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s Research, Education and Extension Committee.
Q&A with Chris Schreiner
What are you passionate about, in regard to your business?
Recently, I’ve been passionate about building bridges and finding common ground. Most food and agriculture isn’t organic and I’m interested in how we can make a compelling case for transitioning to organic. This requires careful listening to understand motivations, challenges and needs around support & resources. I’ve been excited about formalizing partnerships with traditional agricultural agencies and institutions like the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Oregon State University to increase access to expertise and resources about organic food and agriculture.
What is the most valuable leadership lesson you have learned?
As a service organization, people and relationships are at the center of our success. Our people will perform at their best when they are provided with three essential items: 1) Membership — they feel connected to a team and community; 2) Mastery — they have opportunities to learn and gain knowledge & expertise; 3)Mission — their work is aligned with a purpose they believe in.
If you could give the 20-year-old you any piece of advice, what would it be?
Pace yourself and be careful of burnout. Life’s journey is like a long-distance run, not a 100-meter dash. Sometimes perfection can be the enemy of progress. Remember there are diverse paths to achieving the same goal. Be kind and compassionate to yourself & others.