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Niki Ford steps down as CEO of Australian Organic Limited

After nearly six years at the helm of Australian Organic Limited (AOL), Chief Executive Officer, Niki Ford, has announced she will be stepping down from the role.

Ms Ford, who became the organisation’s first female CEO in 2018, made the announcement at the close of the 2024 Australian Organic Conference that her tenure will end on 31 July.

“Our industry has so much to offer Australia’s collective future, and as I have said so many times the sector is still to reach its full potential,” she told Conference attendees at Pullman on the Park in Melbourne tonight.

“As the industry progresses, it’s imperative that new ideas are sought to ensure a dynamic course is set, and courageous leaders step into uncomfortable and challenging areas to guarantee the growth continues – next generation leaders with fresh ideas and fully charged batteries.

“Mentoring the AOL team, with so many highly intelligent people, has been my greatest privilege, and it has been a pleasure working side by side with the passionate and generous AOL Board.

“And of course, I want to thank the AOL members, who have inspired me daily with their innovation, dedication and agility. I have so many emotionally filled memories from my experiences over the years with these passionate, certified organic producers.”

Ms Ford’s strong connection to the land and sustainable food was forged from her upbringing on the outskirts of Toowoomba, and while working as a chef and in various FMCG roles.

An illness which kept her from working for nine months at the age of 21 prompted a reassessment of her diet, and ultimately discovery of the health benefits of certified organic produce. Over the next decade of self-education, Ms Ford became a passionate advocate for organics, eventually leading what is now the peak body of the industry.

As the longest serving CEO of AOL, she has navigated a demerger, restructured the organisation into the highly regarded industry body it is today, adapted to a global pandemic, and established strong, respected relationships with government and industry while championing the organic industry in all aspects.

Ms Ford has led the charge for organic regulatory reform, with Australia being the last developed country in the OECD without a consistent regulatory framework around the use of the word ‘organic’.

In August 2023, all of Australia’s organic certification bodies and major industry groups joined to create the Organic Development Group (ODG) to present a united voice for change, buoyed by the formation of the Parliamentary Friends of Australia’s Organic Industry (PFAOI) co-chaired by the Liberal Party’s Aaron Violi MP and Labor’s Dan Repacholi MP, who both spoke at the Australian Organic Conference.

“When we stand together with experts, academics, producers, political leaders, and the community who live and breathe organics every day, we really are a force to be reckoned with,” Ms Ford said.

“It is time though for a new Executive to take the lead of Australian Organic and continue to nurture and develop those strong relationships to ensure our industry’s success. There are still many milestones to achieve, and it’s a truly exciting time to step into this role and this great sector.

“I want to thank everyone for the privilege of serving an industry I feel very passionate about – one that I will continue to champion. There have been many highs and lows, but I know I have left the sector and AOL in a better place.”