Earlier this month, the USDA’s second-in-command, Kathleen Merrigan, announced that she’ll be leaving the government agency. Merrigan was one of the loudest voices in Washington, one who advocated local and organic foods, farm-to-school programs and more.

Robyn O’Brien, author of “The Unhealthy Truth” wrote a letter to Merrigan with the intention of bringing attention to the importance of the work Merrigan has done and also “to urge the Obama administration to continue supporting sensible food and agriculture policies and investing in diverse local and regional food systems.”

I was given permission to reprint the letter in its entirety.

Dear Deputy Secretary Merrigan,

It is with enormous gratitude that we write today to thank you for your extraordinary work at the United States Department of Agriculture.

You have been a voice for millions, not only as a courageous advocate for local food production and its marketing, but also for organic food and for farmers.

In light of the challenges facing the health of our country and food system today, the value of your work cannot be emphasized enough. From improving school meals, expanding opportunities for American farmers, and managing USDA budgets through challenging economic times, there are so many lives that you have touched in your work.

You made history as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, inspiring countless women around the world, and you did it during unprecedented changes in our food supply.

Your establishment of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative helped to build local and regional food systems across the country. This initiative has helped to not only restore local economies but also food literacy around the country.

Your impact will be far-reaching especially with the work that you did to try to bring healthier school lunches to the American children, because while they only represent 30% of the population, they are 100% of our future.

But perhaps your efforts to ensure that the United States has a certified organic food system, one in which artificial growth hormones, artificial dyes, genetically engineered ingredients and other substances are not allowed in production, will be your greatest legacy.

It is our sincere hope that you know how much your work has meant to families around the country.

With heartfelt thanks,

The letter is signed by more than 100 food and farm leaders, CEOs, actors, chefs, pediatricians, authors, environmentalists and public interest groups including O’Brien, actresses Marisa Tomei and Kristin Bauer, chef Alice Waters, author Laurie David, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb, Annie’s CEO John Foraker, The Honest Company founder Christopher Gavigan, Organic Valley CEO George Siemon and Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook.

Sustainable food advocates can often, and should often, be the voices of pointing out what's wrong with our food systems. It's important, however, to point out when someone — particularly someone in government — is doing something right. I'm pleased to see so many names on this letter praising Merrigan.

I’d gladly add my name to the list of signatures. Would you?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Kathleen Merrigan gets thanks from sustainable food advocates
The outgoing USDA deputy secretary receives a heartfelt letter signed by Alice Waters, Marisa Tomei, Robyn O’Brien and many more.