Profile: Miles McEvoy

1985 Deputy administrator, USDA (Organic Program)

In October, Miles McEvoy ’85 became deputy administrator of the National Organic Program, the arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that sets America’s organic standards.

Within six months, his office issued strict new rules governing organic dairy operations and announced that it will enforce previously ignored pesticide-testing rules.

Organics proponents nationwide applauded the announcement of McEvoy’s hiring. Widely respected in the field, he was the first employee of the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Organic Food Program, starting part-time in 1988. He went on to direct the program for more than 20 years. He was also the founding director of the Food Alliance, a certification program that merges sustainable farming practices and social welfare factors, and he helped establish the National Association of State Organic Programs, serving as its president until he moved to the U.S.D.A.

A dance student when he first came to Evergreen, McEvoy ended up concentrating in environmental studies. Did he work at the college’s Organic Farm? “No, I didn’t,” he says. “I’m more of a natural history person.”

McEvoy, who earned his master’s in entomology from Cornell University, is relishing his new role in the nation’s capital. “Every day’s an adventure,” he says. “I’m working with so many diverse people collaborating with the organic community and the government to create a quality system that ensures the integrity of products, and building a much better verification system.”

Has he met President Obama? “Not yet,” he says, “but I’m hoping to get an invitation to the White House organic garden”—which he says will not be certified because its harvest goes to the First Family’s private use. His department is working on certifying the six-acre People’s Garden on U.S.D.A. grounds along the National Mall. Produce from the garden, which was created last spring to showcase sustainable farming, is donated to D.C. Central Kitchen, a local food distribution organization.