For outgoing executive director Ellen Gray, the past 19
years of her life have been devoted to advocating for the
growing and distribution of organic food. When she began
in 1997, she was part of a group of passionate individuals
who decided to be proactive about the kinds of food
available. “Just a group of like-minded individuals who
all said ‘We want to make a difference.’ And so they
did,” Gray said.
Since then, organic produce is now plentiful. The Network
in Mount Vernon — formerly the Washington Sustainable
Food and Farming Network — is one example of how our
food landscape has changed. The Network is a nonprofit
statewide organization that works tirelessly to create
and support organic agriculture.
Gray witnessed the growth of Washington over the years
with natural lands being paved and pollution increasing.
“In Vermont, there’s a huge ethic about how to treat the
land and in Washington, I saw a lot of disrespect.”
As with many concerned citizens, she got active. “I’m a
With The Network, she helped create a degree in organic
agriculture at Washington State University in order to
support the growth of that industry for future generations.
The Network has also successfully initiated the farm-to-
school movement to provide children with unprocessed
nutritious foods for lunch.
This year, Gray has decided to take time off from working
with The Network. “I think the network has changed my life
in a way that it has given me an opportunity to much better
understand our food system. I’ve woken up every day for the
last 10 years wanting to go to work.”
During her break from work, Gray plans to visit the schools
that have been involved with The Network’s programs. She
recalls her most rewarding moment as director when The
Network received $5 million in grants to provide sustainable
equipment for schools in 2014. “We clearly had a need, we
couldn’t meet the entire need, but we were able to address
part of that and then I saw those dollars getting
distributed to all these schools and that was probably the
most significant change that I was able to capture in my
tenure at the network.”
Change-makers like Gray are the gears that turn within the
machine to make it function well. And while most people
desire to be revolutionary, the aspiration that Gray holds
makes her a revolution all on her own. Although she will
not be the current director of The Network, Gray and her
actions have a ripple effect: quietly spreading her
positive change in the long run.