2019 SPEAKERS, PANELISTS, AND MODERATORS
Note: Updated as additional bios are received. To register for the 2019 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference, please visit Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Program Registration site at https://tinyurl.com/2019VAF2TRegistration
WELCOMING AND OPENING REMARKS – Thursday Morning, December 5
DR. JEWEL H. BRONAUGH, VIRGINIA’S COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER SERVICES
In April 2018, Governor Ralph Northam appointed Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh as the 16th Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Dr. Bronaugh most recently served as the Executive Director of the Center of Agriculture Research, Engagement and Outreach (CAREO) at Virginia State University. In her leadership of CAREO, she assisted in expanding the impact of the 1890 Land Grant mission of VSU and provided oversight of the Agricultural Research and Extension Divisions. She previously served as the Virginia State Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), where she was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, in July 2015. The FSA State Executive Director is the highest ranking full-time FSA program administrator in the State. In her role with FSA, she provided oversight for critical production stabilization, price support, compliance, farm loan, conservation, environmental, and emergency assistance programs in Virginia. She was responsible for the supervision of 41 field offices and the State FSA Office, comprising 186 employees. Dr. Bronaugh is the first African American female in the nation to serve in this capacity.
Prior to being appointed to FSA, she served as the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University (VSU) for 5 years, where she led the strategic vision for the Extension and Research divisions and the academic departments of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Hospitality Management. In her earlier career at VSU, she was the Associate Administrator of Cooperative Extension and a 4-H Youth Development Specialist, where she developed and delivered programs that addressed issues of bullying among today’s youth.
MORNING KEYNOTE SPEAKER – ELNIAN GILBERT OF ZINGTRAIN – Thursday, December 5
As an Ann Arbor native who started working in the service industry while still in high school, you could say that Elnian has both service and Zingerman’s in her blood! Elnian shares Zingerman’s approach to business in ZingTrain’s public 2-day seminars and workshops as well as delivering customized training and facilitation for clients across the country (and Canada!) Her particular areas of focus are Customer Service and Training, with a growing interest in vision facilitation. Elnian’s clients include a wide array of industries, such as libraries, information technology, health care, financial services, specialty retail, co-operative groceries, manufacturing, wholesale, and all levels of education.
LUNCH KEYNOTE SPEAKER – BOB MUTH OF MUTH FAMILY FARM, Williamstown, NJ – Thursday, December 5
Farming has been Bob’s passion ever since he can remember. Growing up on a small farm, he was involved in farm activities at an early age. Bob attended Rutger’s Cook College in New Jersey, and upon graduating, obtained a position as agricultural extension agent in South Carolina. For three years, Bob worked helping tobacco growers transition to vegetable crops, after which he decided to move back to South Jersey to farm along with his father. After his return, Bob decided to expand on his education and attend the University of Delaware to work toward his masters degree. Bob soon realized that farming was what he truly wanted to do, and went back to farm full-time.
Shortly after returning from South Carolina, Bob and Leda met, and married a few years later. In 2001 they started an organic CSA with 35 members. By 2015, the CSA had expanded to over 400 families. After fifteen years of running a successful CSA, Bob and Leda have decided to open a farm stand in it’s place. The farm stand is open to the general public, and anyone can now come and shop without having to commit to a CSA.
“One day,” he says, “I looked out the window and realized I’d rather be sitting on a tractor seat than working in a lab, and I’ve never been back.” Since 1990, Muth has farmed full time. “I hear all this gloom and doom about farming,” he says, “but I like where I am and I wouldn’t change a thing about how I got here.”
SESSION SPEAKERS – Thursday, December 5
Bob Muth, Muth Family Farm, Williamstown, NJ and Amy Hicks, Amy’s Garden, Charles City County, VA (Room A) Soil Management and Pollinator Habitat for Organic Farmers
Elnian Gilbert, ZingTrain, Ann Arbor, MI (Room B) Living Servant Leadership (morning) and Bottom Line Change (afternoon)
Amy Hicks, Amy’s Garden, Charles City County, VA
Amy’s Garden has been growing and selling great organic produce and cut flowers since 1995. What began as an ambitious backyard garden quickly blossomed into a full time farming career for husband and wife team Amy Hicks & George Ferguson. Nowadays, with the help of a dedicated team of seasonal employees they grow an amazingly diverse selection of specialty vegetables, small fruits and cut flowers on their organic farm in historic Charles City county, VA.
The farm has been Certified Organic since 2000. Amy’s Garden sells their USDA Certified Organic produce and flowers at local farmers markets in Richmond and Williamsburg and offers the only Certified Organic CSA option in the area.
We also plant cover crops which naturally fix nitrogen, add organic matter to the soil and provide habitat areas for beneficial insects and wildlife while preventing erosion. Permanent plantings of flowering plants provide a vital source of food and nectar to insects and wildlife that make the farm their home and several areas of native milkweed have been planted just for our monarch butterfly friends who migrate through each season. https://www.amysorganicgarden.com/about.html
PANELISTS – Thursday, December 5
Christie Huger, Mountain View Farm, Fairfield, VA
Mountain View Farm believes that “sunshine, good soil, and happy cows make for delicious farmstead cheeses.” Mountain View is a 250 acre dairy farm with 200 cows milked daily. Cows are rotationally grazed. Mountain View is owned by Fred and Christie and their three children.
Tom McDougall. 4P Foods, Warrenton, VA
Tom McDougall is the founder and CEO of 4pFoods. Tom was born and raised in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. He grew to love the rolling country, and learned to question the suburban sprawl that took over one cow pasture after another around his childhood home. After moving to DC to finish school, he was introduced to business concepts that had been foreign to him: corporate social responsibility, externalized costs, triple-bottom line, social entrepreneurship, true cost accounting, and others. His first job after college had him traveling back and forth to China where he saw first hand what externalized costs really looked like. By producing all of our “stuff” elsewhere, he experienced the impacts it had on people’s lives, the environment, and the social construct of a backyard, far far away. It was a jarring, eye-opening experience for him, one that ultimately led him to launch 4P Foods in an effort to be part of the solution.
While he and his wife were participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) of their own, and after reading one too many Michael Pollan books, Tom found himself on a life-changing path of working towards food systems change, and more broadly, business systems change. What, really, is the true purpose of business in our society? What should it be? He’d love to know your thoughts.
Brent Beringer, JMU Aramark, Harrisonburg, VA
Brent is the Executive Director at James Madison University Dining. He leads multiple unit food and beverage facilities including fine dining, fast casual and quick serve in private and institutional settings. He is able to build strong campus and community relationships and believes in a strong environmental sustainability dining program.
Brent Beringer knew he wanted to be involved in the hospitality field at a young age.“It started back when I was a kid and my grandmother ran a restaurant in Wisconsin,” he said. “While I never got to work for her, it inspired me to want to be in this business. I started off washing dishes in this business. The ability to be involved in people’s lives and make them feel at home is really a great thing about the hospitality business and I can’t imagine doing anything else.” After graduating from Florida State University’s Dedman School of Hospitality and spending time in a number of different aspects of the hospitality industry, Beringer joined Aramark 21 years ago in the Business and Industry division as district manager for Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. After three years in that position, he became Director of Dining Services at the University of Virginia. He is now the Executive Director of Dining at James Madison University.
Robin Robbins, Appalachian Harvest, Duffield, VA
Robin joined ASD as the Appalachian Harvest Food Hub Marketer in September 2005. Prior to joining ASD, she was a public school teacher in the Lee County public school system, as well as an advocate for children with special needs. Raised on a tobacco farm, Robin joined the Appalachian Harvest Food Hub network as a certified advocate for health, nutrition and building local community, and has many years of experience organizing events and special campaigns. After being promoted to General Manager in 2011, she drafted the Appalachian Harvest GAP Mirror Program and merged the USDA National Organic Program rules with GAP practice language into one farmer-friendly document. She also trains farmers on GAP procedures and processes. Robin and her husband Dave own and operate their own farm, Robbins Family Farm. They have 3 daughters. Outside of work she absolutely loves anything outside, working with children and helping others.
Dan Budi, Produce Source Partners, Ashland, VA
Dan is the Director of Retail Sales and Local Farmer Liaison at Produce Source Partners and is in his 20th year with the company.
Produce Source Partners (PSP) was formed in 2003 when three Virginia family-owned produce companies joined forces. Saville Produce of Newport News, Baker Brothers Produce of Richmond, and Quality Produce of Roanoke banded together to form what is now Virginia’s largest independent produce distributor.
PSP specializes in the procurement, warehousing, and distribution of fresh local produce as well as a wide range of products for a diverse customer base. PSP is a member of Pro*Act, the nation’s largest procurement organization for fresh fruits and vegetables to the foodservice industry. Our clientele consists of convenience stores, restaurants, supermarket chains, schools, and universities.
We are committed to working with the local farming community to move product from farm to table. Our vision is to be our customer’s first choice in fresh and local product. That vision is made possible with the dedication of our 275 associates who have a passion for delivering fresh food and great customer service to our customers. We take pride in supplying safe, fresh foods to our community.
Lonnie Kelley, Food Lion, Local Produce Sourcing Specialist, Aiken, NC
Lonnie Kelley led the Reid’s produce program from 2002 until Reid’s was sold in June of 2014. During this time Lonnie worked with South Carolina Department of Agriculture to celebrate and promote SC Grown in all Reid’s stores. During his time at BI-LO, Lonnie was the Local Produce Buyer working directly with growers in the southeast to increase distribution and recognition of Locally Grown for all BI-LO and Harvey’s stores. In 2016 he returned to Food Lion to help create the Local Goodness initiative for the Produce Department. Under his guidance Food Lion supported over 850 stores receiving Direct from grower deliveries in season across 4 states and nearly 200 farms. Lonnie’s mission is to connect local growers with the people who live and shop in those same communities. Lonnie Kelley, a Food Lion local produce sourcing specialist, said the company has seen double-digit growth year over year of local produce sold in Food Lion stores.
Keith Ohlinger, Heritage Hill Farm, Woodbine, MD
Keith Ohlinger raises Heritage Breeds on his farm in Howard County, Maryland, with his wife and daughters. The family raises Dexter Cattle, Hog Island Sheep, Gloucestershire Old Spot Hogs and White Chinese Geese. They also have rabbits and honey bees. Keith is extremely active in his community. He is treasurer for the Howard Soil Conservation District Board of Supervisors and vice chair of the Maryland Agriculture Commission. He also serves on the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture/Future Harvest Board of Directors, the Howard County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, State Soil Conservation Committee, Maryland Forests Association Board of Directors and more. He is also the past vice president for the Howard County Extension Advisory Council and past president for the Howard County Watershed Improvement Networking Steering Committee. He is a National Association of Conservation Districts Soil Health Champion.
With help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Ohlinger has planted a wood lot of over 10,000 seedlings and thousands of tree seeds to help move the farm to a wood-based system for heat and energy. He has planted a living fence of Osage Orange, Black Locust, Eastern Red Cedar and other tree species. The family also has an orchard of apple, peach, plum, pear and sour cherry trees.
Keith rotationally grazes his sheep and cattle together. Once the herd moves on, the area is left alone for three days. This allows dung beetles to utilize the fresh manure pats. After these three days, geese are allowed onto the area. The geese can then take advantage of the free protein from developing maggots and spread the manure pats.
Ohlinger utilizes many techniques that have helped improve his soil health. His farm is laid out on keylines, allowing water to spread out and soak back into the soil. This has helped improve soil microbiology and, in turn, nutrient cycling. In the steeper areas of his farm, swales are dug three feet deep and filled with wood chips. This allows vascular arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to link up with the roots of trees and other vegetation throughout his farm to improve drought resistance. His pastures are seeded with a variety of native flowers and grasses, providing a plant diversity of over 75 species. Some of the native plants have natural dewormers that have helped to keep his animals healthy while eliminating the need for chemical dewormers that might negatively impact his soil microbes.
He admits that most of the practices he utilizes are not found in manuals. He learned through experience and older farmers, books and the National Agriculture Library. Their practices, he says, are a combination of worldwide practices adapted to their local conditions.
J. B. Daniel, State Forage and Grassland Specialist, USDA – National Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS)
J.B. Daniel has worked with farmers and livestock producers across Virginia for the past 20 years. For the past 10 years, J.B. has served as the USDA-NRCS Forage and Grassland Agronomist and Grazing Specialist in Virginia. He serves as the Technical Leader for the grassland conservation practices planned and designed by NRCS and implemented as part of conservation plans on farms across Virginia.
J.B. provides concurrent training to field staff on changing technologies and methods for establishing and managing forages on private lands throughout the state. He strategically partners with other agencies, non-profits, and regional/local associations on grassland related outreach events and he helped develop and continues to be a lead trainer on the Statewide Grazing Schools hosted by the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council. He has developed grazing planning calendars which are distributed annually to about 3,500 Virginia graziers. J.B. is a frequent contributor to the quarterly publication the Virginia Forager and the popular VA Graziers’ Planner published each December.
Prior to this J.B. was an Extension Agent and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech.
Matt Booher, Extension Agent, Augusta County Virginia Cooperative Extension, Verona, VA
Matt has worked with Virginia Cooperative Extension since 2012. Prior to VCE he worked as Area Agronomist and Field Representative with Rockingham Cooperative. Matt has an M.S. in Agronomy – Forages from Colorado State University and a B.S. in Agronomy from Penn State University.
Matt has developed a mobile, solar-powered pump and livestock waterer. This system facilitates stream exclusion and grazing management where conventional watering systems are not viable. He has also researched and published work on summer stockpiling to extend grazing and on endophyte infection in tall fescue.
Francesca Constantino, Community Impact Advisor, Virginia Community Capital, Richmond, VA
Francesca Costantino is Community Impact Advisor with Virginia Community Capital, the statewide community development finance institution offering social mission lending and business development technical assistance to the underserved. At the US Department of Agriculture, she served as food security advisor and managed international development and cooperation programs for improving productivity and sustainability of agricultural and food safety systems overseas. As Board Member, Francesca guided a financial inclusion organization that empowers marginalized women in developing countries to establish small businesses. She has studied innovative methods to enhance economic viability and environmental sustainability of small family farms with master farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. A foodie, she enjoys exploring farm to table restaurants, farms and wineries. Her MA and BA in economic development are from Stanford University. She has a certificate in microfinance, and is completing her MBA from the College of William and Mary.
Lauren DeSimone, Community Impact Advisor, Virginia Community Capital, Richmond, VA
Lauren DeSimone is a Community Impact Advisor in Richmond. She brings expertise in healthy food access, business development, and creative community engagement. In her professional past she has led non-profit teams, supported business development for startups, and mentored entrepreneurs.
WELCOMING AND OPENING REMARKS – Friday Morning, December 6
DR. DAN GOERLICH, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA COOPERATIVE EXTENSION
Dr. Goerlich has a PhD in Forestry from Virginia Tech, and an MS in Forestry from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY. He has served as the Central District Director with Virginia Cooperative Extension as well as and Extension Agent in Forestry and Natural Resources. He has authored or co-authored five refereed journal articles, six Extension publications, 24 trade journal / consumer magazine feature articles, eight on-line learning modules, 26 substantive newsletter articles, five working papers, one bound book, two manuals, and one thesis. Dr. Goerlich earned 11 National level awards from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, National Association of Extension 4-H Agents, Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals, Forest Resources Association, Society of American Foresters, and Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources recognizing professional leadership and programmatic accomplishments. He served on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation, W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Center, Virginia Forestry Association, Virginia Extension Service Association, Virginia Association of Agricultural Extension Agents, Virginia Urban Forest Council, and Halifax Soil and Water Conservation District.
MORNING KEYNOTE SPEAKER – ELNIAN GILBERT – Friday, December 6
LUNCH KEYNOTE SPEAKER – AMANI OLUGBALA OF SOUL FIRE FARM, Petersburg, NY – Friday, December 6
Amani is a storyteller who weaves music, film, speech, and poem into art that highlights social injustice honors the ancestors and demands for change. This, in an effort to uplift the spirits of the marginalized and promote love and service as necessary acts of rebellion against isolation and disconnection. An artist, farmer, educator and community organizer Amani uses artistic expression, urban agriculture and social awareness to impact change and foster a sense of empathy and inter-being in local urban communities. Amani started out at Soul Fire Farm as a participant and later facilitator of the Black and Latino Farmers Immersion.
SESSION SPEAKERS – Friday, December 6
Elnian Gilbert, ZingTrain, Ann Arbor, MI (Room A) Courageous Conversations in the Workplace
Bob Muth, Muth Family Farm, Williamstown, NJ (Room B) Growing and Marketing Small Fruit at Muth Family Farm
Dr. Tim Woods, Extension Professor, Agribusiness Management and Marketing, University of Kentucky (Room A) Nuts and Bolts of Values-Based Farming and Marketing
Amani Olugbala, Soul Fire Farm, Petersburg, NY (Room B) Dismantling Biases
PANELISTS – Friday, December 6
Nancy Bruns, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, Charleston, WV
Nancy, and her brother, Lewis Payne are partners at J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works. Nancy spent 25 years in the food industry before becoming a salt maker. She enjoys being part of the WV sustainable food system community. Nancy’s passion for food began at a young age. Growing up in a large family, her best memories occurred in the kitchen and around the dinner table. Her parents allowed their children to participate in the kitchen, instilling a lifelong passion for cooking. After graduating from Bucknell University, Nancy enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. She embarked on a career that would explore many facets of cooking. She owned and operated a small restaurant and catering business in Highlands, North Carolina, allowing her to discover the importance of food sourcing and the connection of family farming to a healthy food system. She sold her restaurant in 2008, and has since sought to marry her love of food and deep family heritage with a meaningful business. Reviving her family’s salt enterprise in Malden, West Virginia was the perfect fit. For her, salt is the most essential cooking ingredient, and she particularly loves to experiment with meat and fish curing. She has 2 children, Lisle and Carter, who both love to cook.
Clifford Rohrer, Valley Farming, Dayton, VA
Clifford Rohrer and his family have been farming for over 30 years on land that was originally settled by their family in 1876. Three generations currently work together to perform the diverse tasks required to produce and market over 20 acres of produce within a larger diversified farm operation. They are well known in the community for providing guidance to up-and-coming farmers, their investment in on-farm food safety practices, and for the high quality of their crops – primarily potatoes, onions, and winter squash.
Sarah Cohen, Route 11 Potato Chips, Mt. Jackson, VA
Route 11 Potato Chip’s roots go back to the mid 1980s after Sarah Cohen’s father, Edward, started a nearby organic farm to supply fresh produce for the family restaurant. When a neighboring farmer ended up with a field full of potatoes and the expected buyer fell through, Cohen bought the whole lot of them and made potato chips to serve at his restaurant. Customers loved the chips, and their popularity led Cohen to open a small chip factory that ultimately became Route 11 Potato Chips.The two-person business first opened its doors in the Shenandoah Valley in 1992 along the winding road that became its namesake. The quaint original location in Middletown offered visitors the opportunity to watch the cooking process through a big window. “It’s how we enticed people to come out to buy our chips over the counter,” says founder Sarah Cohen. And it’s a tradition that she’s continued in the company’s new state-of-the-art facility down the road a piece in Mount Jackson. Cohen says, “It’s a rare opportunity to actually see where food comes from.”
Dave Gardner, Valley Pike Farm Market, Weyers Cave, VA
Dave went to Ferrum College in 1978 and transferred to Virginia Tech to study Dairy Science, graduating in 1980. He went on to graduate from the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984 with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. After graduation, he opened Maple Lane Veterinary Clinic. When not in the clinic, Dave is a “busy bee” farming and working around his farm.
For years Dave drove by and admired and old bank barn that stood prominently outside of Harrisonburg. When the land it sat on was sold for development, Dave knew the barn would be torn down and its history would be lost. This was the beginning of Valley Pike Farm Market. Piece by piece, Dave and his team set out to save the barn. They deconstructed and rebuilt the barn where it stands today in Weyers Cave as a bustling farm market and event venue. The Market is an ode to Dave’s love for country stores, community gathering places, and Virginia agriculture.
Daniel Austin, Green Sprig Ag, Rocky Mount, VA
Daniel Austin is a fifth-generation farmer from Rocky Mount in Franklin County, VA. He is also a leading innovator, expert, and educator on forage, crop, and soil management in his region.
Raised on a dairy, by the age of 18 Daniel was overseeing the production of corn silage and other forages for two confined dairy operations. At one point in his career, Daniel was farming more than 500 acres of forages and grain crops annually. Committed to finding ways to stay profitable in the face of milk and commodity crop prices that are currently devastating his community, Daniel has shifted his focus to value-added production and marketing. Currently managing 170 acres, Daniel’s motto is “Everything we sell leaves the farm in a bag 50 pounds or smaller.” Daniel’s operation called Green Sprig Ag grows and sells forage and cover crop seed. He specializes in providing expert advice as well as customized seed mixes for his clients. Daniel offers custom no-till planting and forage harvesting services as well as equipment rental. Daniel also runs a feed mill called Little Red Hen that processes his non-GMO corn, soybeans, and small grains into feed for small-scale poultry and swine growers. Daniel is also growing food-grade small grains for specialty markets.
Daniel is deeply committed to taking care of the soil on his farm and beyond. He has been a major agent for change in how farmers across Franklin County and Southside Virginia manage their land, leading by example with his adoption of continuous no-till and aggressive cover cropping. Daniel was the original founder of the Franklin County chapter of the Virginia No-till Alliance, which held its first planter clinic meeting in 2011. An indispensable ally to Virginia Cooperative Extension and local conservation agencies, he has since organized, promoted, hosted, sponsored, invited fellow farmers to attend, and spoken at dozens of educational events for both growers and agency personnel in Franklin County and beyond.
Charlie Wade, Deep Roots Milling, Roanoke, VA
Deep Roots Milling was started by Charlie Wade in 2017. Charlie comes from a long line of millers. He is the 6th generation in his family to take up the trade. Charlie’s family owned and operated Wades Mill in Raphine, VA from 1882 to the early 1990’s. Continuing the family trade has long been a dream of Charlie’s and he and his wife and daughter are excited to embark on this next journey in the lives.
Just like his great great grandfather, Charlie uses stone mills to grind his flour. The cool action of the stones help to preserve the whole grain nutrients and flavor. Deep Roots Milling is committed to working with local growers to help support and sustain the local food economy and takes every step possible to to source grains from growers in Virginia.
Tim Wiggins, Little Grill Collective, Harrisonburg, VA
Tim joined the LIttle Grill as a member- owner in January, 2017. Prior to that he served as a Chef at the Little Grill for about two years.
When an employee works at the Grill for six months or more, they have the opportunity to become a trial member. Trial members shadow current worker-owners to learn more about how the Grill operates and are required to attend meetings and complete a “self-directed project.” Once a trial member completes all these qualifications, they can go up for full membership, which denotes joint ownership. There are currently nine worker-owners at the Grill.
Membership and ownership are considered synonymous at the Grill. Employees are members of the cooperative, which owns the business. Employees have found that there are many benefits to the employment style. Running the restaurant as a cooperative has allowed them to have more stake in what happens at the Grill.
Part of the Grill’s vision is to source from as many local vendors as possible, creating favorites such as Blue Monkey pancakes (blueberry-banana buttermilk pancakes) and Egg Scramblers that feature seasonal foods such as brussel sprouts and parsnips.
“We change our menu with the seasons so it reflects what’s available in our area,” Wiggins said.
Pete Sisti, Greater Richmond Grains, Powhatan, VA
Sisti has been growing grains only since 2013—an enterprise that he manages around his other career selling software. As he demonstrates machinery and inspects wheat berries, noting subtle differences in size and quality, it’s apparent that being a wheat farmer demands not only a large capital investment but a considerable knowledge base. “Having a mentor is so important,” he says.
After several years of experimenting, he’s now settled on a rotation plan in which he’ll grow winter wheat on 30 acres at a time, planting in September and harvesting in June. This year’s crop is almost ready to harvest, a soft ocean of green beginning to turn gold. On the edge of the field, Sisti bends one stalk to show how each plant will soon nod its seedhead down toward the ground, signaling that it’s time for him to come through with the combine. Holding onto this land—which his grandparents also farmed—means a lot to him, and organic wheat farming is part of his plan to do so.
Tim Woods, Extension Professor, Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky
Dr. Woods works in agribusiness management and marketing with special emphasis on horticulture, food business development, consumer and direct markets, and farm entrepreneurship. He developed MarketReady Training for Specialty Crop Growers, a producer training program designed to educate producers on best business practices associated with selling to grocery, restaurant, wholesale, and other institutional markets; since it’s inception, the MarketReady program has been adapted for delivery in several states, including Virginia. Dr. Woods also works with the UK Food Systems Innovation Center and the Center for Crop Diversification. He also led research on: “Going to the Farm-acy: The Effect of CSA-Backed Produce Prescriptions on Eating Behaviors and Health Outcomes in Rural Kentucky.”
2019 PANEL MODERATORS
Eric Bendfeldt, Extension Specialist, Community Food Systems, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Harrisonburg, VA
Eric Bendfeldt has worked with Virginia Cooperative Extension since 1999 as Extension Agent, Environmental Sciences and currently as Extension Specialist, Community Food Systems. He has his B.S. and M.S. from Virginia Tech and is currently working on his PhD.
Eric manages the Virginia Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) grant.
Kathy Holm, Asst. State Conservationist, USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), Harrisonburg, VA
Ms. Holm has a diverse background in natural resources project management, implementation, grant writing, education, and outreach. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and political science and a master’s degree in forest resources all from the University of Minnesota.
She has worked at NRCS for almost 15 years holding positions as Assistant State Conservationist, Resource Conservationist, and Coordinator for the Shenandoah Resource Conservation & Development Council. Prior to her work at NRCS, she served as the Director of Public Policy for the Valley Conservation Council, a Shenandoah Valley land trust, in Staunton, VA, at Eastern Mennonite University, the University of Minnesota, BRW Inc., Minneapolis, MN, and Youth New Service in Washington, DC. She served as an intern in sustainable agriculture at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Volunteer work includes serving on the Stormwater Advisory Committee for the City of Harrisonburg, VA, and administrative work for the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota and The Nature Conservancy, Charlottesville, VA, chapter. She has professional communications experience in public relations, writing, editing, and marketing.
Chris Lawrence, State Cropland Agronomist, USDA -NRCS, Richmond, VA
Chris Lawrence has served as State Cropland Agronomist covering cropland issues for USDA-NRCS in Virginia since March 2004. He is the lead technical contact for NRCS in Virginia in the areas of cropland agronomy; soil health/soil quality; erosion prediction; and nutrient management. He has a degree in Crop & Soil Environmental Sciences from Virginia Tech and also has five years of experience as an agricultural Extension Agent in northeast and northwest Virginia.
Jonathan McRay is a farmer, facilitator, and writer from Central Appalachia. He has an MA in Conflict Transformation with extensive experience and education in restorative justice, mediation, group decision-making, ecological design, agroecology, and agroforestry. Jonathan was a founding member of Vine and Fig, a neighborhood homestead and education center, therapeutic community, and organizing hub, and currently serves as a resident mediator. He has worked on diversified farms, wrote an introduction to watershed restoration and stream health for an action research initiative in a rural farming community, and co-facilitated the first Uprooting Racism Farmer Immersion program at Soul Fire Farm in New York. Jonathan grew up in East Tennessee and lives in the Shenandoah Valley, where he is co-founder and caretaker of Blacks Run Forest Farm.
Caitlin Miller, Sales and Market Development Northwest Region, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS)
Caitlin works with Sales and Market Development and assists Virginia’s agricultural producers and processors market their products throughout the USA and Canada. Through her role with VDACS she serves on the Virginia Apple Board and the Virginia Wine Board.
Caitlin Miller graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS in Crop and Soil Environmental Science and a minor in Civic Agriculture and Food Systems. Prior to working with Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Caitlin was employed as an Extension Agent with Prince Edward County, Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Dr. Clint Neill, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Dr. Neill joined Virginia Tech in 2017 after completing a PhD at Oklahoma State University. His work with Extension is to integrate consumers’ wants and needs into food producers and processors’ business decision. His research, therefore, is primarily focused on identifying problems along the food system chain and using the information to create solutions for producers and policy makers.
Dr. Kim Niewolny, Associate Professor, Community Education and Development, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Dr. Kim Niewolny is an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. Her scholarship centers on the role of power and equity in community education and development with a specific focus on the participatory praxis and cultural resilience. Her work is grounded in cultural and participatory community development; critical pedagogy; action research; and sociocultural, transformative, and social movement frameworks for food systems change. Dr. Niewolny holds research training and experience in qualitative research methods; special interest in discourse analysis and narrative inquiry. Current funded initiatives emphasize the political praxis of community food work, Appalachian community food security, new farmer sustainability, and farmworker care/dignity. Most recently, Kim launched the “Stories of Community Food Work in Appalachia” project to create and share stories that illustrate the lived experiences of activists, educators, and practitioners who are connected to the broader issues of social justice and food systems change in the Appalachian region.
French Price, Value Chain Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Harrisonburg, VA
French Price is working to enhance farm-to-market connections in the Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont Regions of Virginia as part of a USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service Local Food Promotion Program grant project for area farmers and food businesses. Working closely with Extension colleagues and community partners, French’s main responsibilities are match-making, relationship building, networking, and convening with small to mid-sized producers, aggregators, processors, and buyers to strengthen the region’s food value chain.
French has several years of experience with Virginia Cooperative Extension, and has worked previously in tourism and economic development. French is equipped with an Agribusiness degree from Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. She was born and raised in Woodstock, VA blessed by a large and colorful family with agricultural roots. While agriculture taught French that there is always work to be done, her family taught her the importance of taking the time to appreciate the land, our food, and each other
Bethzabet Sastre-Flores, Extension Agent, Loudoun County, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Before moving from Mexico to the U.S. in 1999, Beth graduated from Universidad Autonoma Agraria Antonio Narro (UAAAN-UL), where she obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Agronomy. After graduating, Beth worked at Chapingo’s Phytotechnology lab and for two nationwide government programs in Mexico, which focused on supporting marginalized farmers. Beth decided to pursue her Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Postharvest Physiology at the Food and Development Research Center (CIAD) in Hermosillo, Mexico. Upon graduating she worked at the center, conducting research and agricultural education for five years.
Her work experience includes horticulture, propagation, entomology, fungi microbiology, postharvest physiology, Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), Pesticide Education, Research and Extension activities. Beth joined the VCE Loudoun Office to assist Loudoun Growers in finding joint solutions to locally-identified problems related to agriculture. Her mission is to help Loudoun’s agricultural community become stronger, unified and sustainable.
Tom Stanley, Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Rockbridge County, Lexington, VA
Tom has a B.S. Animal Science, VA Tech, and a M.S. in Animal Science, Kansas State University. Tom grew up in Southwest Virginia and was an active member of both 4-H and FFA. He worked in livestock production from his 4-H sheep project at an early age, on local farms in High School, and then on beef cattle ranches and a feedlot in Western Nebraska and Eastern Colorado while in college.
Tom’s particular interest is in developing market opportunities for wholesale produce grown in the region to provide young people an opportunity to enter farming as a profession and existing farmers the chance to diversify their income and improve cash flow.
Dr. Wade Thomason, Professor, Extension Grains Specialist, Plant and Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Dr. Thomason holds a Ph.D. in Soil Science from Oklahoma State University and has served in his role as Extension Grains Specialist since 2004. His research at Virginia Tech has focused on practical modern grain production methods and their integration into economical and
environmentally-sound operations throughout the eastern United States. These include no-till methods and precision agricultural technology that allows producers to improve the yield and quality of their crops while remaining responsible environmental stewards.
Dr. Thomason has fostered an excellent rapport with Virginia grain producers, and he actively engages on advisory boards and committees; he research is highly valued to the entire industry.” Dr. Dan Brann, a former Extension grains specialist and member of the Virginia Agribusiness Council Board of Directors stated, “Wade has done a wonderful job of meeting the technical needs of the grain crop industry by working with the extension agents, other specialists, and farmers directly. ”
To register for the 2019 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference, please visit Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Program Registration site at https://tinyurl.com/2019VAF2TRegistration!
The registration rate is $130 to attend both days or $65 to attend one day. Walk-ins are welcome!