(more 2018 Local Food Heroes coming soon)
Tony Kleese has been actively involved in the development of local and organic food systems since 1989, primarily in the southeastern US and Caribbean. As a farmer, educator, and activist, he rarely wears one of these “hats” at a time. He has had tremendous influence in North Carolina and beyond both personally and professionally.
In his early years farming in Franklin County, he invited people to his farm to work and learn. His passion for growing and selling food organically is contagious! By sharing organic principles on his farms, and through teaching hundreds of workshops on organic farming, he has inspired many new farmers and gardeners over the last 30 years.
He helped develop and manage Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s organic certification program, before the advent of the USDA’s program. He then helped develop the USDA's National Organic Program, in the late 90s, as the Coordinator of the Organic Trade Association's Organic Certifier's Council.
He has provided leadership and served in distinguished roles with many organizations that are focused on developing the local and organic food systems in North Carolina. He was the first coordinator of the Sustainable Farming Program at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, NC, served as Executive Director for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and is a founding member of Eastern Carolina Organics.
Tony is leading a technical support program in partnership with the Source Farm Project in Jamaica to help the island nation develop a local and organic food system.
Those who know or have met Tony know the intense passion that drives his work. It is this passion and drive that has resulted in tremendous progress toward his vision of a southeastern local and organic food system. He has been a teacher and mentor to an entire generation of farmers, students, activists, and food system change-makers. He is a Local Food Hero in North Carolina and beyond.
Our wonderful Local Food Hero Tony has been battling cancer and has entered hospice care. One way to honor Tony is to support the non-profit he founded in 2017: The People’s Seed. The mission is to redesign the funding and decision-making systems for seed and plant development to focus on farmer success, food security, nutrition, and protecting the environment. To visit the People’s Seed website, please go to: www.thepeoplesseed.org.