John Vlcek (D)

John Vlcek was recruited to run the direct marketing program. He and his staff successfully opened 125 new farmers markets, promoted farmer cooperatives such as the Hempstead Watermelon Coop, and connected small farmers upscale restaurants. John went on to become Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture and was instrumental in the adoption of statewide and then national organic standards.
The promotion to Assistant Commissioner enraged Texas agribusiness leaders, in part because John Vlcek was gay. He was committed to building a diversified leadership team, despite the misgivings of some of his staff. As David Currie, former farmers market organizer, tells it, “The young lady that came after me, Bernadette (Pfieffer), was African American. That stretched me. I told John, ‘You’re hiring an African American woman to go work with farmers?’ He said, ‘They need to be stretched, they need to be challenged.’ I thought, ‘You gotta at least be able to relate to them.’ But she did a good job. And that’s where he helped me grow. John would stretch me.” John died of AIDS in 1991. There is a quilt panel for him on the national AIDS Memorial Quilt.

John Vlcek smiling in black and white