2017 Speakers and Panelists
Note: Updated as additional bios are received.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER – DIANE IMRIE
Diane is a graduate of McGill University (Bachelor of Science in Nutrition), a Registered Dietitian and holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Vermont. She has over 25 years of experience working in a variety of healthcare food service operations. For the past 18 years she has worked as Director of Nutrition Services at Fletcher Allen Health Care, responsible for clinical, retail, and patient Nutrition Services. Recent work at that organization includes the implementation of new retail services, room service for patients, and a food sustainability program that is nationally recognized. Diane received the first Fletcher Allen CEO leadership award, titled “Living the Leadership Philosophy” and the Pyramid Award from the Vermont Dietetic Association for improving the health of Vermonters. On behalf of Fletcher Allen she received three first place national awards from Health Care Without Harm; two for Sustainable Food Procurement and Public Policy and Advocacy. She is passionate about local food, both personally and professionally, and is the co-author of a cookbook highlighting seasonal cooking titled “Cooking Close to Home”.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER – ELNIAN GILBERT
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! Her past customer service experience ranged from retail to non-profit to higher education, ultimately finding a home at Zingerman’s in 2006 as seasonal holiday help at Zingerman’s Mail Order. It was at Zingerman’s that Elnian discovered an appreciation for working in a business that had three bottom lines – Food, Service, and Finance – which led her to, with characteristic determination, seek opportunities to continue working at Zingerman’s after her stint at the Mail Order business. When a position at ZingTrain opened up, she jumped at the chance, and has been an integral part of ZingTrain ever since! Elnian now 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. During her time at the 2017 Conference, Elnian will be speaking more to the art of giving exceptional customer service and how this can translate to Virginia’s food system in two breakout sessions that will span an hour and a half each.
KEYNOTE SPEAKERS – JACK & ANNE LAZOR
Jack and Anne are the creators and founders of Butterworks Farm. They came to Westfield in 1976 fresh out of college with degrees in Agricultural History (Jack) and Anthropology (Anne). As long-time sustainable farmers and leaders in organic farming they continue to play an important role in the dynamics and operations at Butterworks and beyond. Jack is a writer and frequent inspirational keynote speaker at organic farming conferences everywhere. He enjoys food, friends and pursuing his passions- sustainability and soil science. Anne keeps Jack and the farm running as Jack’s home dialysis technician and a caring presence for the entire team. She enjoys gardening, keeping chickens and ducks, the study of homeopathic medicine and upholds the homesteading spirit she and Jack started with 40 years ago.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER – SHORLETTE AMMONS
Shorlette Ammons has worked to address food insecurity and systemic social and economic disparities within the state of North Carolina, where she was born and raised, and beyond. She currently serves as the Equity in Food Systems Coordinator with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems for North Carolina State University, where she co-leads the CEFS Committee for Racial Equity (CORE) Team. Her passions and expertise have developed by working in the Goldsboro community with the Wayne Food Initiative and in numerous community-based food systems projects, including community gardens and an urban farm. In 2014, Shorlette received a coveted Food Equity Fellowship from the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI). Her fellowship focused on women of color working on food equity in the South, building relationships and identifying opportunities to bring local work to scale and for local leaders to influence national policy and support community-led change. She currently resides in Durham, NC with her teenage daughter and their diva dog.
Tim Woods, PhD
Tim Woods is a well-seasoned Extension professor within the Department of Agricultural Economics through the University of Kentucky. His emphasis area is agribusiness management and marketing, with special emphases on horticulture, food business development, consumer and direct markets, and farm entrepreneurship. With state-wide support in Kentucky, Tim developed MarketReady, a producer training program designed to educate producers on best business practices associated with selling to grocery, restaurant, wholesale, and other institutional markets. Since its inception, the MarketReady program has been adapted for delivery in several states, including Virginia. During his time at the 2017 Conference, Tim will be sharing more on his knowledge, experiences, and MarketReady in two breakout sessions that will span an hour and a half each.
Robin ‘Buz’ Kloot
Dr. Robin (Buz) Kloot is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences’ Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk (CENR) at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. His background in industry and consulting makes him a more applied thinker and he tends to combine research with outreach and service. Kloot, and has collaborated with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in South Carolina to communicate the importance of conservation and stewardship through the “Unlock the Secrets of the Soil,” campaign. These videos encourage farmers to protect and improve the soil with cover crops. Other videos that have been produced work to educate cattlemen about for pasture management practices. Through his teachings, research, and outreach projects Dr. Kloot hopes to advance sustainable farming methods (e.g., soil conservation) that will benefit farmers, the environment, and public health. Dr. Kloot is often applauded for his devotion to graduate and undergraduate students and his efforts to help them understand the connections between how we care for the soil and how this can impact our health. During his time at the 2017 Conference, Buz will be discussing soil issues and innovations in two breakout sessions that will span an hour and a half each.
Andrew grew up in Virginia with frequent trips to visit his grandparents’ farm in Pennsylvania. After going to journalism school, he wanted to start a farm on the family land. He apprenticed on farms in six states (Pennsylvania, California, Washington State, Virginia, New York State and Maine), started One Drop Farm in Pennsylvania, and then moved the farm to Maine. There he spent seven years in the research department at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. This position gave Johnny the opportunity to travel around the world to consult with researchers and farmers on the best practices in greenhouse growing. He put what he learned to use on his own farm in Maine, and most recently in the form of The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook, published in February of 2017. This work brings his experience and expertise to bear in an in-depth guide that helps readers make their investment in greenhouse space worthwhile. Andrew has seen many growers waste time and money due to unpredictable weather or unprofitable crops grown in ways that don’t make the most of precious greenhouse space. With comprehensive chapters on temperature control and crop steering, pruning and trellising, grafting, and more, Mefferd’s book is full of techniques and strategies that offer ways for farms to stay profitable, satisfy customers, and become an integral part of re-localizing our food system. One change he would like to see in the world is for more of our food to be produced closer to where it is eaten. Andrew has been the editor and publisher of Growing for Market magazine since the beginning of 2016. During his time at the 2017 Conference, Andrew will be delving in to topics discussed in his book in two breakout sessions that will span an hour and a half each. For more on Andrew and his work, go to www.andrewmefferd.com.
Tanya Denckla Cobb
Tanya Denckla Cobb is a writer, professional environmental mediator, and teacher of food system planning at the University of Virginia. She has worked at the grassroots, co-founding a community forestry nonprofit and mediating for community mediation centers. At the state level, she facilitated the birth of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute and the Virginia Food System Council, and served as Executive Director of the Virginia Urban Forest Council. She is the author of Reclaiming Our Food: How the Grassroots Food Movement Is Changing the Way We Eat and enjoys the restorative energy of gardening and cooking from her garden. Since 1997, she has worked at the UVA Institute for Environmental Negotiation where her work involves facilitating and mediating a broad range of community and environmental issues. She is passionate about bringing people together to discover common ground and create solutions for mutual gain.
Trista Grigsby is the current Farm to School Specialist for the Virginia Department of Education. In her years of Farm to School work, Trista has facilitated sustainable agriculture education and curriculum development, school nutrition staff training, and Farm to School procurement. She also assisted with the implementation of school and community gardens, as well as salad bars in Virginia schools. Her goals are to encourage, enhance, and support the development of local and sustainable food systems through hands-on educational opportunities in sustainable agriculture and nutrition.
A noted pioneer, and expert in farm-to-school salad bars, he is particularly known for establishing the “Farmers’ Market Salad Bar” (FMSB) program in 1997, while working as Director of Food and Nutrition Services in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, in Santa Monica, California. While in California, Rodney served on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, the University of California (UC) President’s Advisory Commission for Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as the Network for a Healthy California’s Executive Committee. Rodney has accumulated 40 years of experience in the food service industry as well as numerous award for his work to bring healthy, high quality food to schoolchildren. When Rodney joined Fairfax County Public School in 2015, he brought a trove of successful food programs and a mandate to turn the district into the foremost food service program in the country. Since beginning as the nutrition director, he has made a commitment to roll out a salad bar program for all elementary schools in the county. When Rodney thought about food in Fairfax, two words came to mind: fresh and local. This “fresh and local” creed centers on buying directly from area farmers. For Rodney, it is important to have healthy students and a healthy bottom line, while being a catalyst for change in the community.
Health Care Without Harm is at the center of work that seeks to lead the healthcare sector in moving beyond doing “less harm”—reducing negative impacts from the design and operation of health care—to a future where the sector “heals” or restores ecological, economic and social capital within communities. As Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for Health Care Without Harm and the Healthy Food in Health Care program, Kristen Markley works to harnesses the purchasing power, expertise, and voice of the regional healthcare sector to advance the development of a sustainable food system. The Healthy Food in Healthcare program encourages hospitals to leverage their purchasing power to purchase products from local sustainable farms, thereby strengthening the financial viability of local farms and the agricultural businesses that support them. Health Care Without Harm currently partners with over 1,000 hospitals across North America to source and serve foods that are produced, processed, and transported in ways that are protective of public and environmental health. The group’s advocacy work has resulted in the creation of sustainable food purchasing policies, environmental health curricula, and advocacy for healthy food policy at federal, state and local levels.
Aaron started volunteering with local hospitals when he was 14 years old and quickly fell in love with helping people in the fast-paced hospital environment. After graduating from James Madison University’s Health Service Administration program, Aaron found his home within Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, VA. He currently serves as the Carilion Clinic Community Outreach Manager. In this position, he manages the Community Health Needs Assessment activities for the area. When it was learned that a lack of access to nutrient dense foods was the top prioritized need in the New River Valley, Aaron and the leadership team of Carilion and Healthy Roanoke Valley committed to facilitate programs that would encourage healthy eating by providing patients, employees, and community members with better access to local fruits and vegetables. With the help of community collaboration and partnerships, Aaron has coordinated a Farmers Market SNAP/EBT double value program, fruit and vegetable prescription program, employee farm share (CSA), and mobile farmers market.
Sally comes from a long line of family gardeners, farmers and cooks. She loves the process of growing seed to harvest, and sharing the preparation and celebration of good food with friends and family. For several years, she ran programs and events for nonprofits in Northern California and educational programming for the Real Goods Solar Living Institute (a 12- acre demonstration site providing education and experiences with renewable energy, natural building, and permaculture and bio intensive gardening.) Sally also developed a dynamic collaboration with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to create the Certificate in Urban Agriculture. This program is the first of its kind and provides participants with an 11-month fellowship of classroom, fieldwork and the network to learn the business and practice of sustainable urban agriculture. Since returning to her birthplace of Richmond, VA, she has lead Tricycle, Richmond’s leading urban agriculture nonprofit organization that is on a mission to grow a healthy future through urban agriculture. During her tenure with Tricycle, the organization has been recognized as “Game Changer” and “Best in Sustainability” by Richmond Magazine, named a “Good Food” Organization by the James Beard Foundation and Food Tank, and was honored as a “Catalyst for Change” finalist by Partnership for a Healthier America. The organization has engaged thousands of neighbors and shown that the simple act of growing food is an incredibly powerful way to impact the overall health of our community.
Tom McDougall is the founder of 4P Foods. He 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. 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 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. 4P Foods sources farm-fresh food from farms in the Washington DC local food shed and delivers them to members’ offices or homes once a week. Bags range in size and price, with options devoted to dairy, produce, and protein. For every 10th bag they sell, 4P Foods donates a bag to local food bank partners. The four P’s of 4P Foods stand for Purpose, People, Planet, and Profit. 4P foods has a goal to create a just and equitable food system in the United States by ensuring that all people have access to farm-fresh, healthy food, grown using sustainable and humane practices and that the people who produce that food are able to earn a fair and dignified living doing so.
Beth is currently an associate with Skeo Solutions, INC. Beth’s approach to planning is based in her experiences as an urban farmer, community organizer and ecological landscape designer. For over 10 years, she has worked with a wide range of community stakeholders, including people experiencing homelessness, immigrants and refugees, formerly incarcerated individuals and historically marginalized farmers, to find land-based strategies that create opportunities to overcome systemic obstacles. Beth is a community planner and designer with a passion for environmental and social justice. As a leader in the Harrisonburg EATs (Everyone at the Table) project, Beth worked to gain a better understanding of Harrisonburg, Virginia’s health, hunger, and local food system by conducting a broad-base food assessment in order to strategically plan solutions that improve food security, individual and family health, and the overall local food economy. Everyone at the Table: A Community Food Equity Assessment for Harrisonburg, VA is an output and outcome of an Agua Fund and Community Viability grant-related initiative. The report focuses on food access and equity in Harrisonburg and juxtaposes the issues with Rockingham County being Virginia’s most productive agricultural county. Beth strives to create long-term solutions that bring communities closer to the visions they have for the places where they live, play and work.
Meredith Ledlie Johnson
Meredith Ledlie Johnson is the Food Access and Availability Initiative coordinator and manager of the Food Security Project with Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program. The Food Security Project is designed to ensure that all Virginians have access to enough healthy, culturally appropriate food in their communities through increasing access to farmers markets and teaching basic cooking skills and container gardening. Before living in Virginia, Meredith worked as a farmers market manager for Greenmarket in New York City and as an urban park advocate with New Yorkers for Parks. Serving on the Virginia Farmers Market Association board, Meredith assisted with the development of the 2017 Market Manager Certification Program. Meredith is excited by the possibilities offered by the local food movement to strengthen the resiliency of Virginia’s families and communities.
Kelli Scott is an Agriculture and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension, Montgomery County. She stresses the importance of having good and devoted collaborators and also building a critical mass within the community. She sees relationships as the key to success. Kelli is working towards strengthening the regional food system for enhanced access and affordability. She champions the importance of supporting local farmers, while creating a healthier and stronger community for the future.
*** Along with Meredith Ledlie Johnson, Kelli assists with Farmacy Garden programming. The site is adjacent to the health department, the department of social services, and Christiansburg’s federally qualified Community Health Center of the New River Valley. With its location just a short walk from each of these agencies, the garden serves as a learning lab and healthy food source for women and children qualifying for WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), plus social services clients, Community Health Center patients, food pantries and other community groups. Patients of the Community Health Center receive “prescriptions” for growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables, learn about gardening and nutrition, exercise by performing gardening tasks and receive the fresh produce grown in the garden to prepare their own affordable and nutritious meals and snacks. The garden has increased access to fresh food, helps to fight obesity, cultivates a sense of community, and encourages everyone, especially children, to try foods that may be unfamiliar but are tasty and healthy. ***
Johnny Craig is the president of TEENS, Inc. and owner of Fresh Cut Lawn Care in Winchester, Virginia. TEENS, Inc. is a vocational agriculture non-profit organization that provides training for at risk youth and individuals with disabilities. The primary objective of the program is to prepare students to enter the workforce better equipped for obtaining and maintaining gainful employment. This 12-week unique training course in green industry jobs provides students with a well-rounded introductory education in agricultural and grounds maintenance. In addition, students learn other important job readiness concepts such as work ethics, employer expectations, job safety and teamwork. The organization has access to greenhouses where Johnny assists students in growing vegetables and herbs such as lettuce, watercress, basil and tomatoes using aquaponic and traditional growing methods. Students take the food that they grow food sell at area farmers markets. In addition, portions of the crops are donated to other non-profits such as soup kitchens or homeless shelters. An important component in the TEENS program is to teach job and life skills simultaneously, while teaching the students to “give back” to their own community. Students create and execute projects (IE: landscaping, gardening, pruning, and seasonal clean-ups) that are provided as a community service to other non-profit or community organizations, elderly, or disabled individuals. According to Johnny, “entry level job applicants very rarely come with any experience or training in the industry. To receive an application from an entry-level employee with a well-rounded formal training would be invaluable to a potential employer. It would make the applicant truly stand out in a crowd and make my job easier.” This program has been designed specifically to meet the needs of potential employers in the industry, therefore making the graduates much more employable.
2017 Panel Moderators
As a Hampton, Virginia native Megan grew up around more sandy beaches, air craft carriers, and bustling city traffic than she did local family farms. This all changed after re-locating to Winchester, Virginia at age 15. During her high school years she had the chance to see another side of Virginia and gained a greater appreciation for all the Shenandoah Valley and it’s farms have to offer. Her lifelong love of animals combined with a newfound interest in agriculture and led to her graduating from Virginia Tech’s Animal and Poultry Sciences program. Megan has a passion for effectively educating, marketing, and networking with the public on issues surrounding agriculture and life sciences. She is grateful for the opportunity to expand the scope and scale of Buy Fresh Buy Local and Virginia Farm to Table in the Shenandoah Valley and the Shenandoah and Rappahannock River basins as a coordinator with Virginia Cooperative Extension. In this role she has enjoyed a specific mission of expanding local agricultural markets while promoting the area’s farmers and their products.
French was born and raised in Shenandoah County and blessed by a large and colorful family with agricultural roots. She is equipped with an Agribusiness degree from Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. 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. Along with Megan, French has worked to expand the scope and scale of Buy Fresh Buy Local and Virginia Farm to Table in the Shenandoah Valley and the Shenandoah and Rappahannock River basins as a coordinator with Virginia Cooperative Extension. In this role she has worked to promote Virginia’s farmers with consumers and retail buyers through tools such as Virginia Market Maker.
Jim Barham is an Agricultural Economist for USDA’s Rural Development agency. Jim obtained a MA in Cultural Anthropology and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida. Before joining the USDA, Jim worked extensively in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean with a number of nonprofit organizations and government agencies on agricultural development projects targeting smallholder producers. Jim joined USDA in 2007 where he has worked to improve marketing opportunities for small and mid-size producers through a combination of research, technical assistance, and financial support. Jim has presented research and published a number of articles on regional food hubs, food value chains, local food distribution, and foodservice procurement. He is the USDA lead for Food LINC – a public-private partnership to support value chain coordination efforts, and serves as Rural Development’s program lead for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative.