Q&A: Making headway with leafy greens

Q&A: Making headway with leafy greens

As the CEA Food Safety Coalition's first executive director, Marni Karlin shares her upcoming plans and goals for her first year and onward.

November 20, 2019

For the past 10 years, Marni Karlin — the CEA Food Safety Coalition’s first executive director — has implemented change in the industry with her extensive background in food and agriculture. As the previous VP of government affairs and general counsel for the Organic Trade Association, Karlin even engaged Congress, federal and state agencies to further the policy goals that were derived from her position at OTA. Produce Grower caught up with Karlin to discuss how she plans to manage day-to-day operations, grow the coalition’s membership and lead all communications and advocacy work in her new role.

Produce Grower: How do you plan to develop food safety standards for the CEA leafy greens industry?

Marni Karlin: We're excited to work with members, government agencies and industry experts to strengthen the already strong food safety standards and ensure they are applied in a way that make sense for the realities of all, including the CEA leafy greens sector.

PG: How do you plan to grow the coalition’s membership?

MK: The Coalition is excited to be a big tent for all members who grow leafy greens in controlled environments and subject their processes to external audit. We look forward to working together to represent the sector as a whole. The Coalition will offer [current] members and potential members the opportunity to become part of our community of stakeholders, work together to develop credible and appropriate food safety standards and communicate the value of controlled environment agriculture.

Related article: Marni Karlin joins CEA Food Safety Coalition as first executive director (bit.ly/346x7Ir

PG: How do you plan to match your duties as executive director with the coalition’s mission?

MK: The CEA Food Safety Coalition is an independent and member-governed organization whose membership is comprised of controlled environment leafy greens growers who subject their production processes to external audit. Our goal is to keep people safe from foodborne illness. The Coalition was established to develop credible, strong and appropriate food safety standards, educate consumers and regulators on controlled environment growing and communicate the value of controlled environment agriculture. I look forward to the opportunity to work within this mission to develop membership, advocate for strong and appropriate food safety standards and communicate the value of CEA leafy greens.

PG: For the past decade, you’ve worked to institute positive change in the food industry. Why is it important to you and why should it be important to others?

MK: I am passionate about creating a healthier, more sustainable food system. Our food system impacts so many facets of our lives ­­— from our individual physical health, to our communities' economic health, to our planet's environmental health. It's important to develop a food system that promotes each of those "healths" — healthy choices for our kids, healthy choices for our communities and healthy choices for our planet. And we should all care because each of these things directly impacts each of us every day. The good news is, there are many ways to move the needle on this and we each have the opportunity to create positive change in the food system each time we're at the grocery store.

PG: What are your personal goals as CEA’s first executive director?

MK: It's an exciting challenge and opportunity to help build a coalition dedicated to improving the already strong food safety rules, and ensuring their application aligns with the realities of the sector, at a time of growth for the controlled environment agriculture sector. I'm also excited to help build this coalition — to grow its membership, educate consumers and regulators about this growing sector. It's important to have a seat at the table when standards and regulations are being discussed and I'm excited to ensure that our sector has just that.