Jim Cochran, founder and co-owner of Davenport, Calif.-based Swanton Berry Farm, was named a winner in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s third-annual “Growing Green Awards” recognizing those promoting sustainable agriculture and food.

Cochran started the first commercially successful organic strawberry operation in California and the first 100% unionized organic farm in the U.S., according to an April 26 release on the council’s website.

“Jim not only helped jump-start the organic strawberry industry, but is also encouraging fair labor practices among sustainable growers,” the San Francisco-based environmental group said in the statement.

Additionally, Cochran’s unique worker benefits, including an employee stock ownership plan, health coverage and a pension plan, “recognize the workers on his farm as vital partners in the operation,” the council said.

Cochran won the “food producer” category and will receive a $10,000 cash prize, the council said. The council also gave awards in three other categories: business leader, knowledge leader and young food leader.

As the population grows and demand increases, it’s important to find ways to reduce waste and improve efficiency in food production, the council said.

“We need a food system that can produce more while using fewer natural resources,” Jonathan Kaplan, the council’s senior policy specialist, said in the statement.

The winners were selected from 265 candidates; they were honored at an April 28 dinner at Yoshi’s Restaurant and Jazz Club in San Francisco.

Swanton Berry Farm founder wins sustainable food honor