Speakers and Panelists
Note: Updated as additional bios are received.
Amy Bachman is DC Central Kitchen’s Director of Procurement and Sustainability. Amy and her team have a number of relationships with local growers who provide product for DC Central Kitchen’s social enterprise programs like school lunches, healthy corner store offerings, and other social enterprises.
Andrea Basche, PhD, is a research fellow with the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists based in Washington D.C. Her current research is exploring how a shift to more ecological agriculture can reduce risks related to climate change, particularly floods and droughts. She completed her PhD at Iowa State University in Agronomy and Sustainable Agriculture, where she focused on the role of cover crops as a climate mitigation and adaptation tool. While in Iowa, she also helped coordinate regular meals and a community garden effort for a food assistance program in her community. Andrea is passionate about the need for interdisciplinary, collaborative endeavors to solve 21st century challenges, and as a result has designed and participated in research and volunteer projects with farmers in Iowa, Guatemala and Indonesia.
Maureen McNamara Best is the Executive Director of Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP), a 501c3 non-profit based in Roanoke, VA. LEAP’s mission is to nurture healthy communities and resilient local food systems. She works closely with community partners, farmers, and the broader community to meet this mission. LEAP supports all aspects of local food systems in order to create healthy communities that can respond and adapt to meet community needs. LEAP programs include LEAP Community Markets (West End and Grandin Village), LEAP Mobile Market, Healthy Food Incentives and The Kitchen.
LEAP support 20 food producers directly and another 80 through aggregators who sell at the markets (all within a 100-mile radius). In 2015, the markets generated over $250,000 in sales, over 10% of which came from market incentive programs (SNAP Double Value, Head Start and Senior incentives, Fresh Foods Prescription Program). The Mobile Market, launched in 2015, sells local and affordable produce at weekly stops in neighborhoods where there is limited access to fresh produce. In 2016, LEAP launched The Kitchen, a shared commercial kitchen and food business incubator, which further strengthens the local food system in our region.
Maureen has over twelve years of experience working with food, agriculture and community. Her work and professional experience is wide-ranging and includes teaching high school agriculture in Raleigh, NC, working with migrant farmworkers in eastern NC and in the Colorado plains, doing food safety inspections in Boulder CO, and studying the economic viability of the local food system in Northern Colorado. Maureen has a MA in Anthropology from Colorado State University and undergraduate degrees in Agriculture Education, Spanish, and Anthropology from North Carolina State University. You can contact Maureen at email@example.com.
Elizabeth Borst is Director of Healthy Food Access programs in the Fredericksburg region and a state lead with the Virginia Fresh Match Nutrition Incentive network. She is an experienced Farmers Market Manager and SNAP EBT Program Director, piloting one of the first successful nutrition incentive programs in Virginia at the Spotsylvania Farmers Market. She formed a regional market network to increase community access to fresh local food, started new markets and piloted innovative programs to connect farmers with low income families. As a Wholesome Wave partner and Board member with Virginia Farmers Market Association, she works to build collective impact at the Virginia farmers markets through increased SNAP usage and federal benefits income. Elizabeth had a prior career in telecom program development, marketing and communications, and holds a BA in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
John A. “Jack” Bricker holds a B.S. degree in Geology and Natural Resources and a Masters’ Degree in Engineering from Ohio State University. He also received a Masters’ Degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University. Jack began his NRCS career in 1984 as a Soil Conservationist in Wayne County, Ohio. He later served as the National Urban Program Manager and American Indian Liaison as well as Acting Director for the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. Jack provided leadership for NRCS Farm Bill Program, administrative, and field office functions as a Deputy State Conservationist in New Mexico before being selected as the Michigan State Conservationist in 2004. He came to Virginia in 2007 to become the Virginia State Conservationist with oversight for the direction and management of all NRCS operations in the Commonwealth.
For the past seven years, Brad Burrow has been the manager of Artisans’ Hope, a non-profit, fair trade retail shop, in Harrisonburg, VA. He first became directly involved in the world of Fair Trade while working with Divine Chocolate-US. After earning a MBA from the University of Kansas, Brad has actively pursued working with organizations existing to create positive social/environmental change. In his “free time”, he volunteers as a board member of the Friendly City Food Cooperative and remains active keeping up with his two sons, home brewing, listening to music and spending as much family time outdoors as possible.
Sarah Cohen is the founder and president of Route 11 Potato Chips, a small specialty potato chipper located in Mt. Jackson, VA. Sarah is a Washington, DC native, who grew up working in her family’s business – The Tabard Inn. This early exposure to good food and farming (the Tabard Inn was the first restaurant in DC with its own market garden), has given Sarah an appreciation of fresh, local food and a close up perspective of the food business for the last 35 years.
In 1992, Sarah moved to the Shenandoah Valley with the intent of starting a small potato chip factory. With ZERO manufacturing experience or engineering skills (she was an English major), but with a huge commitment to making a high quality potato chip, Route 11 Potato Chips was born in an old feed store in Middletown, VA.
In 2008, Sarah and her business partner Mike designed and built a state of the art kettle chip facility in Mt. Jackson, VA. Route 11 employs 37 people and is currently in the process of adding a second production line to double its capacity.
Dr. Morris Henderson, PhD, was born in Columbus, Mississippi, where he spent his early childhood. He received his bachelor of music education degree from Jackson State University in Jackson Mississippi, his master’s degree from Virginia Union University School of Theology in Richmond, Virginia, and the doctor of ministry degree from Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Henderson served as an adjunct professor of Religious Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, and is a former instructor of Religious Studies at the Governor’s School in Richmond, Virginia. He also served as an adjunct professor of Religion, Mississippi University for Women, Columbus, Mississippi. He has served as executive director of the Williams Institute of Technology and Humanities, Inc. in Columbus, Mississippi, and executive director of the Golden Triangle Regional Housing Corporation, Columbus Mississippi. He continues to serve on the Board of the Center Advancing Self Help.
Current and former civic organizations he has served with include, Baptist General Convention of Virginia, Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Richmond and Vicinity, Black Music Association, the Richmond Chapter of the NAACP, Board of Directors of the Prison Family Support Services, Advisory Council for the Literacy Council of Richmond, Virginia, and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He has served as the Minister of Outreach, the Spiritual Advisor of the Singles’ Ministry, Substance Abuse Ministry, Media Ministry and Young Adult Ministry. Presently, he serves as Senior Pastor of the Thirty-first Street Baptist Church. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex and Betsy Hitt arrived in North Carolina in 1980 with fresh degrees in Soils (Alex) and Forestry (Betsy) from Utah State University and with a dream to live in the country and farm. Just over a year later they had developed a plan, incorporated a business and purchased a piece of land, the adventure was on!
Neither one of them was from a farming background but we had parents that loved growing things and then cooking and eating them. They were way ahead of the of local food wave. They were young, tough, not afraid of work and naive. In 1982 Alex and Betsy planted their first crops, “the plan” was pick-your-own berries. Four acres of blackberries and raspberries with plans for more to come. The Hitts had no money so moved into a tent so they could work and save what little money they had.
Today, Alex and Betsy are raising crops on 3-4 acres of a total 26 acres on their farm, down from a high of 5 acres in production. There are no more raspberries or blackberries left. Their production is fairly evenly split down the middle with Betsy running the cut flower half of the farm and Alex managing the vegetable side. They do have a quarter acre of the best blueberries on the planet (sorry, no pick your own) and for 10 years they’ve raised up to 100 turkeys a year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
To get all of this work done, beyond being full time on the farm (a rare situation for both husband and wife to not have off farm work), they typically hire two people each season. Alex and Betsy have been fortunate to have had excellent help for many years and are proud of the fact that nearly half of their former employees have gone off to start their own operations.
Originally from Mississippi, Glyen Holmes has worked in small-scale agriculture most of his life. He is an Agronomy graduate of Alcorn State University (MS), and worked 18 years for USDA before entering the private sector as Executive Director of New North Florida Cooperative. He has over 25 years of experience working closely with small-scale farmers in market development, crop production and value-added agriculture in the Southeast.
Under his leadership, the New North Florida Cooperative has developed an approach that helps school food service develop innovative ways of incorporating locally and regionally grown fruit and vegetables into child nutrition programs. This collaborative effort, Farm to School, has demonstrated an innovative way to promote healthy eating and enhance nutrition for school meals while cultivating schools in a local market for small-scale farmers. The Farm to School model focuses on networking and capacity building among small farmers in the Southeast. Despite being based in Florida, Glyen has worked with farmers, school districts and numerous collaborative partners in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Recently, he has established the Holmes County Food Hub in Durant, MS to help promote Farm to School with school districts and small-scale farmers in Mississippi.
Ellen Kahler became the Executive Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) in late 2005. She is a graduate of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania with a BA in Political Science and from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with a Masters in Public Administration.
The VSJF uses early stage grant funding, technical assistance and near-equity loans to catalyze and accelerate the development of markets for sustainably produced goods and services in Vermont. Since 2009, at the request of the Vermont Legislature, the VSJF has led the Vermont Farm to Plate Initiative which includes authoring the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan (a 10 year road map for strengthening Vermont’s farm and food economy), coordinating the Farm to Plate Network, and maintaining the Farm to Plate website.
Prior to joining the VSJF, Ellen was the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington (1990 to 2002). Her most well-known work through the Peace & Justice Center— the Vermont Job Gap Study and the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign — won statewide attention around the issue of basic family needs, livable wages, and under-employment.
After graduating from the Kennedy School for Government in 2003, Ellen created and directed the Peer to Peer Collaborative, an initiative that assists founder CEOs of small, Vermont-based manufacturing and natural resource based companies. For its first two years, the Collaborative was sponsored by the Vermont Business Roundtable. In January, 2006 the Collaborative became a core technical assistance program of the VSJF. The VSJF’s Vermont Agriculture Development Program builds off the P2P model by providing wrap-around technical assistance and expansion-capital mobilization to early stage value-added agricultural enterprises.
Ellen has received numerous leadership awards including: The Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial & Community Leadership from the VT Community Foundation (2015), the Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership from the VT Natural Resources Council (2015) and the Jan Eastman Excellence in Leadership Award from the Snelling Center for Government (2010). Ellen was also a recipient of a three year leadership development fellowship through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (1994-1997) and was a member of the Snelling Center for Government’s Vermont Leadership Institute class of 1997.
Tony Kleese is the owner of Earthwise Organics, LLC. that supports the business development of an organic food system that celebrates the abundance and culture of the Southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean. Tony has been actively involved in the development of local and organic food systems since 1989, as a farmer, educator, and activist. He was a founding member of Eastern Carolina Organics in 2004, and Production Coordinator from 2007 to 2009. He managed organic vegetable and cut flower operations in the Piedmont and Mountain region of North Carolina. He also helped develop the USDA’s National Organic Program as the Coordinator of the Organic Trade Association‘s Organic Certifier’s Council. Additionally, he was the first Coordinator of the Sustainable Farming Program at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, NC, served on the Board of Directors of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association for six years (three as Chair), and was the Executive Director from 2000 to 2007.
He also helped develop and manage CFSA’s organic certification program; provided hundreds of workshops on organic farming and certification; and helped guide individuals, organizations, businesses and governments in developing strategic plans for local and organic food systems.
Evan Lutz is a recent University of Maryland graduate and the Co-Founder and CEO of Hungry Harvest, a subscription delivery service of recovered, organic, and all-fruit boxes. At the beginning of 2016, Evan successfully appeared on ABC’s TV Show, Shark Tank to pitch his business to investors.
Trevor Piersol is a farmer, permaculture designer, and educator who is dedicated to seeing regenerative agriculture thrive in his home state of Virginia. He is the founding manager of Allegheny Mountain Institute’s Urban Farm, a 3-acre fruit and vegetable farm and outdoor classroom located at Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. The student-run farm grows food for local school cafeterias and is a model of the multi-faceted educational and nutritional benefits of school farms.
Trevor holds a B.A. from University of Virginia and is a graduate of Allegheny Mountain Institute’s Food and Farming fellowship program. In 2014 he co-founded Shenandoah Permaculture Institute, where he teaches and writes about permaculture design.
Ricardo Salvador, PhD, is the senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Ricardo works with citizens, scientists, economists, and politicians to transition our current food system into one that grows healthy foods while employing sustainable and socially equitable practices.
Before coming to UCS, Dr. Salvador served as a program officer for food, health, and well-being with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this capacity, he was responsible for conceptualizing and managing the Foundation’s food systems programming. He partnered with colleagues to create programs that addressed the connections between food and health, environment, economic development, sovereignty, and social justice.
Prior to UCS, he was an associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State University. While at ISU, Dr. Salvador taught the first course in sustainable agriculture at a land-grant university, and his graduate students conducted some of the original academic research on community-supported agriculture. He also worked with students to establish ISU’s student-operated organic farm and he worked with other ISU faculty to develop the nation’s first sustainable agriculture graduate program in 2000. Dr. Salvador served as the program’s first chair. Dr. Salvador also worked as an extension agent with Texas A&M University.
Dr. Salvador has appeared on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show and has been quoted in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Politico and many other outlets. Dr. Salvador was named a 2013 NBC Latino Innovator and received the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2014. He was also an author of a 2014 op-ed in The Washington Post calling for a national food policy, which is changing how many think about food and farm policy.
Tom Thompson, PhD, is associate dean and director of international programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. Thompson’s career has been characterized by international engagement. In 2004 he took a sabbatical leave in Israel and has had scientific collaborations with colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University, and Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization.
Tom’s recent research and outreach has focused on the adoption of conservation agriculture practices in smallholder farming systems in the Caribbean in Haiti and in Africa in Senegal. He has mentored graduate students from Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Thompson has published more than 50 refereed journal articles and garnered more than $9.7 million in extramural funding. As head of the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences since 2011, he has led a department with 25 faculty members, 300 undergraduate and graduate students, and a research portfolio of more than $5 million per year.
Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Thompson was chairman of the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech University from 2006 to 2011. In addition to leading the department’s academic and research activities, he taught undergraduate and graduate courses and advised graduate students.
Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Abilene Christian University, a master’s degree in soil chemistry and fertility from Texas A&M, and a doctorate in soil chemistry from Iowa State University.
In 1994, he received the Teaching Award of Merit from the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture. Also in 1994, he was named the Outstanding Junior Faculty Member for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, and the Food Systems Leadership Institute.
He is past president of the Western Society of Soil Science, and was associate and technical editor for the Soil Science Society of America Journal for more than a decade.
Jody Tick is the Senior Director of Food Resources, Information Technology, and Programs at the Capital Area Food Bank. At CAFB, Jody oversees the organization’s acquisition of food, including for its Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program which relies in part on relationships with regional growers.
Lynn Trizna is project manager of Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s Organic Farm. Lynn began farming in 2007, when she spent the summer working on her first farm. She received a Bachelors Degree in Urban Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, but decided to follow a more rural path.
Rather than return to school for organic agriculture, Lynn decided to take a hands-on approach when learning to farm. Through volunteering, interning, and apprenticing on various farms, Lynn has gained the knowledge and experience needed to manage various farm projects. In the Fall of 2011 Lynn finally earned her title as “Farmer Lynn,” after purchasing her first tractor! Lynn has moved from state to state with her tractor in search of the right farm for them both. She was pleased to join the Rodale Institute staff to develop the St Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm.
Chef Michael W. Twitty is a food writer, independent scholar, culinary historian , and historical interpreter personally charged with preparing, preserving and promoting African American foodways and its parent traditions in Africa, her Diaspora, and its legacy in the food culture of the American South. Michael is a Judaic studies teacher from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area and his interests include food culture, food history, Jewish cultural issues, African American history and cultural politics. Afroculinaria, Michael’s award-winning blog, highlights and addresses food’s critical role in the development and definition of African American civilization and the politics of consumption and cultural ownership that surround it.
Michael’s forthcoming book, The Cooking Gene, is his personal mission to document the connection between food history and family history from Africa to America, from slavery to freedom. Begun in 2011, the project successfully garnered funding and significant media attention in 2012 to initiate a journey known as The Southern Discomfort Tour. The project and tour continue as Michael visits sites of cultural memory, does presentations on his journey, and visits places critical to his family history while conducting genealogical and genetic research to discover his roots and food heritage. Michael believes that Terroir is in Your Genes. Food is also extremely culturally connected and inherently economic and political. It is a proving ground for racial reconciliation and healing and dialogue. The Cooking Gene seeks to connect the whole of the Southern food family–with cousins near and far–by drawing all of us into the story of how we got here and where we are going.
Phil Wong and Ann Yang are recent Georgetown University graduates and the entrepreneurs behind Misfit Juicery, a DC-based, small business. The produce in Misfit’s juice recipes is surplus and “ugly” fruits and vegetables. Most weeks, it is between 70 and 80% of their production and they’re constantly looking for more.
Reverend Nancy Yarnell, Executive Director of Food Security for America, is an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church. She left a business career in productivity improvement and software development to answer a mid-life call to work with people who are homeless. Nancy is the former Executive Director of Trinity Community Ministries (one of the largest soup kitchens in Atlanta as well as a transitional shelter for homeless addicts), and the former Atlanta Day Shelter. The Chattanooga native and Vanderbilt graduate earned an MS in counseling from Georgia State and attended Candler School of Theology at Emory.
Katrina Didot is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She studied for her Bachelors Degree at Temple University and Messiah College. She earned her Masters degree in Social Work from the Catholic University of America. Katrina has lived in Haiti and Guatemala, and has worked extensively with refugees in the US. Through living and working with people from different cultures from around the world she developed a love for vibrant foods and flavors of the world. She created and opened A Bowl of Good in 2005. Since 2012 she has been transitioning out of her role in day to day operations, so she can provide leadership and vision going forward. Katrina also serves the community as a Mental Health Clinician.
Gary Lantz is a native of the Shenandoah Valley. Along with his wife, Martha, Gary operates Cannon Hill Farm, one of the most unique, biologically diverse and environmentally friendly farming operations in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The farm is located just west of I-81 at Mount Jackson. Gary and Martha transitioned from conventional agricultural farming methods to raise organic beef in 2000, and for the past thirteen years, the entire farm has been Certified Organic. Humane certification was obtained in 2011. Cannon Hill Farm received The Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District Outstanding Conservation Farm Award in 2015. The farm is a closed operation and is on Virginia’s short list of farms that has control of its animals from conception to consumption.
In addition to full-time farming, Gary serves as a design/build consultant for farming operations and commercial construction projects. Gary is Chairman of Shenandoah County’s Planning Commission and Past President of Front Royal Southern States Cooperative. He is Chairman of Shenandoah County’s Water Resources Advisory Committee and has served on both Mount Jackson and Shenandoah County Agricultural Task Force Committees. Gary is a member and past president of the Mount Jackson Lions Club.
Andrew Wingfield directs the Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ESS) program at George Mason University and is an Associate Professor in Mason’s School of Integrative Studies. Andrew collaborated with Mason colleagues to develop the just-launched concentration in Sustainable Food and Agriculture for the ESS major. He is the founder and steering committee chair of the Virginia Sustainable Food Coalition, whose mission is to harness the intellectual, human, and economic capital of colleges and universities to foster the emerging local food economy in Virginia.
Alan Moore came back to Charlottesville in 2009 to help launch Local Food Hub. He has performed many duties at Local Food Hub, including managing the warehouse, making deliveries, production planning with local farmers, purchasing produce, and marketing the Local Food Hub brand. He is the director for business development, operations, purchasing, and sales. Prior to joining Local Food Hub, he founded Lowcountry Local First, a nonprofit in Charleston, SC, working to revitalize the agriculture economy of that region. Alan holds a B.S. from the University of Virginia and a masters in Environmental Studies from College of Charleston.
Dawn Story is the creatrix of Farmstead Ferments artisanal, fermented foods and brews and New Moon Alchemy & Apothecary. She homesteads in southern Albemarle County, Virginia, alongside a diverse poultry flock, bee hives, three cats, and two dogs, where she gathers garden harvest and wild-foraged plants that inspire hand-crafted fermented foods, medicinal brews, and what’s for supper. She is humbled and blessed to walk a path of right livelihood doing what she loves as a means of sustenance and community sharing.
Jenna Clarke is a farmer and fundraiser, and the executive director at Project GROWS educational farm in Augusta County, Virginia. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and holds a degree in communication. She has worked in the nonprofit field for nine years and entered the world of vegetable farming as part of the Allegheny Mountain School’s farm fellowship program in Highland County.
Regina Schweitzer is Vice President of Residential Living at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, providing oversight for the 413 independent living homes and VMRC’s Farm at Willow Run. In the past two years, The Farm at Willow Run has grown produce for VMRC’s dining program, offered produce to staff and residents for purchase, and marketed to local business partners. Growing up on a farm in northwestern Ohio, Regina was well-steeped in the value of fresh, home-grown produce and continues gardening for her personal enjoyment. Regina graduated with B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from Eastern Mennonite University.