Enid Wonnacott, organic agriculture advocate in Vermont (1961-2019)
From Seven Days, Vermont's Independent Voice:
Enid Wonnacott passed away peacefully from breast cancer, surrounded by her family at their home in Huntington on Saturday, January 19, 2019. She was 57 years old.
Enid lived a life filled with family, friends, horses, sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs, gardens, sports, outdoor adventures and a long career in organic agriculture.
Enid was born on August 29, 1961, to Bruce and Erica Wonnacott. The family moved to Middlebury in 1968 and later to Weybridge.
Enid’s deep passion for agriculture was seeded while growing up on her family's Weybridge homestead. There, she spent a lot of time on a neighboring dairy farm, showed livestock at the fair and worked with a large-animal veterinarian.
In high school, she was a standout athlete lettering in field hockey and nordic skiing. Her athletic passions continued while she was a student at St. Lawrence University.
At St. Lawrence University, Enid studied biology and chemistry and first learned about organic agriculture. She relief-milked for a nearby organic dairy and discovered Wendell Berry's writing. During a semester in Kenya, Enid learned how to treat cobra bites and hand-milk a 70-cow herd. That semester planted the seed for her eventual study of and work in sustainable and organic agriculture.
As graduation neared, Enid applied to veterinary school and, at her mother's suggestion, for a yearlong Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study alternative agriculture. Enid always talked about her mom as the role model who showed her that women can do anything and supported what was in her heart.
After college, Enid traveled the world as a Watson Fellow and Fulbright Scholar, studying sustainable agriculture in New Zealand, Greece, India, Nepal and Norway. Upon her return, she worked as a biology and environmental science teacher at Northfield-Mt. Hermon School, where she also managed the school’s farm, coached field hockey and skiing, and met her future husband, Harry Frank. Together, they moved to Huntington, where they both pursued further education and their careers — Harry as an educator, and Enid as an organic certification agent and executive director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), beginning that work while a graduate student at the University of Vermont.
Enid began her tenure at NOFA-VT in 1987, inheriting two milk crates and one filing cabinet. Over her long career, she worked to develop the National Organic Program — developing a farmer-driven organic certification program, championing a robust farm-to-school partnership in Vermont that became a national model for broadening access to local and organic food, and leading the organization with an open-minded approach that made room at the table for everyone.
Enid believed that collaboration and mutual support were critical to sustaining agriculture in Vermont and helping more farmers move toward organic practices. Her work was honored with an induction into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame last summer. Enid was the first member of the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame to be exclusively affiliated with organic agriculture.
One of her favorite projects was the traveling NOFA-VT pizza oven, in which she delighted for its capacity to bring people together around food. She was passionate about community building and embodied the warm heart of Vermont's organic agriculture movement, pulling people together around organic food and the farmers who produce it. Launched in 2006, the portable pizza oven fulfilled a vision Enid had for gathering people around food in a way that fostered connection and conversation.
And, since her cancer diagnosis in 2014, working the oven also provided Enid a way to get out and see people, which she described as “a really healthy thing to do, especially when you have chemo brain.”
Many people who worked with Enid described her positive energy and balanced approach as both an anchor and a beacon, as well as a source of fun, through the hard work of building a movement. She is remembered as the first one to turn on the music and get everyone dancing at many events.
Harry and Enid were married in 1990 and had two children, Lila and Eli. Enid seamlessly blended her work with her family life — bringing Lila and Eli along to meetings and events from the time they were infants through this past fall, when they helped her cook pizza in NOFA’s traveling oven. Enid kept a collection of pictures showing her with Lila and Eli, as well as local, national and international farmers, advocates, policy makers and politicians. She ultimately retired in December 2018.
Enid’s love of the outdoors was evident in their home, where every window offers a beautiful view; the small farm she and Harry worked together; the many canoe trips with family and friends; travels across the country and the globe; and her abiding interest in long walks.
Enid continued her love of sports as a field hockey coach at Champlain Valley Union High School and nordic skiing with the Bill Koch Kids Ski Program. She could be found every year on the sidelines of the Vermont State Field Hockey Playoffs and the Cross Country Ski Championships, cheering on all the athletes from every team.
Enid was predeceased by her parents and is survived by her husband, Harry Frank; their two children, Eli and Lila; sisters Megan Sutton of Weybridge and Robin Davis of Norwich; nieces Elsie, Alison, Doris and Laura; and nephews Bruce, Will, Graham, Wesley and Alex.
There will be a tribute to Enid at the NOFA Conference on February 16 and a celebration of life at Shelburne Farms on June 16. Special thanks to the many friends and family who provided food, company, love, support, and a collection of the most beautiful and touching cards — as well as to the doctors and nurses at UVM Medical Center and the hospice team from Visiting Nurse Association.
NOFA-VT has established a fund to continue the work that was so important to Enid. Donations can be sent to The Enid Fund, c/o NOFA-VT, P.O. Box 697, Richmond, VT 05477. Additionally, Enid’s family encourages donations to the cancer charity of your choice.
Also, there’s going to be an Enid’s Orchard project with farmers planting an apple tree on their farms in her honor, as well as a statewide farm-to-farm walk to raise awareness of organic agriculture and community. Enid had a vision of hundreds of people joining together to walk for the cause.
Finally, thank you to Seven Days for providing some of the text and the picture used in this obituary.