2017 SPEAKERS, PANELISTS, AND MODERATORS
Note: Updated as additional bios are received.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER – DIANE IMRIE – Wednesday December 6
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 foodservice 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 SPEAKERS – JACK & ANNE LAZOR Wednesday December 6
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.
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, healthcare, 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 about the art of giving exceptional 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 SPEAKER – SHORLETTE AMMONS – Thursday December 7
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.
Session Speaker – Tim Woods, PhD Wednesday December 6
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 of his knowledge, experiences, and MarketReady in two breakout sessions that will span an hour and a half each.
Session Panelist & Moderator – Dr. Kimberly Morgan – Wednesday December 6
Dr. Kimberly Morgan joined the Agricultural and Applied Economics Department at Virginia Tech in July 2013 as an Extension Agricultural Economist and Junior Faculty Fellow for the Kohl Centre. She teaches undergraduate courses including Agricultural Financial Management, Economics of the Food and Fiber System, Food & Agribusiness Marketing, Foundations in Agribusiness and the Kohl Centre Experiential Learning Project Team course. Her extension program goal is to pursue multi-disciplinary, research-based, grant-funded research that serves to drive extension programs, such as Market Ready Training, Annie’s Project, the eXtension All About Blueberries Community of Practice, and the Market Maker portal. Kim’s research program goals are centered on measurable real-world needs and wants communicated by Virginia’s rural, natural resource, and agribusiness owners, managers and consumers. Specific research objectives include: understanding significant factors which influence specialty crop producers to adoption new technologies and/or pursue new marketing channels, determining the physical, behavioral and demographic characteristics of consumers motivated to seek out food and food products sold directly from the farm, and assessing the economic impacts of natural or man-made hazards on the private and public sectors of the state.
Dr. Kimberly Morgan earned a BS in 1993 in Animal Science, a M.S. in Food & Resource Economics in 1997, and a Ph.D. in Food & Resource Economics in 2007, all from the University of Florida. She worked with the University of Florida’s Agricultural Market Research Center as an Economic Analyst from 2000-08. From July 2008-2013, Dr. Morgan was an Extension Agricultural Economist in the Agricultural Economics Department at Mississippi State University. Kim enjoys riding horses and spending time with her three children.
Paul has worked on sustainability and food issues in the United States Senate for over eight years. He holds a J.D. from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and a B.A. in Political Science from Gonzaga University. Paul has spent the last six years working for Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Prior to that, he was the Senior Policy Analyst for the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production where he contributed to the Commission’s final report and led its Congressional education efforts. Prior to that, he worked for Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD). Paul handles NSAC’s Farming Opportunities and Fair Competition Committee, which seeks to bring fairness to the structure of agriculture for all types of farmers, especially new and beginning farmers.
Sanaz Arjomand is the Government Affairs Specialist for American Farmland Trust (AFT), an organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land. In this role, Sanaz coordinates AFT’s federal policy portfolio and Farm Bill efforts. She moved to American Farmland Trust’s national office from its New York office, where she co-authored policy reports on New York’s public farmland protection program and the greenhouse gas consequences of developing New York farmland. Before coming to AFT, Sanaz spent two seasons working as a farmer’s apprentice at Full Sun Farm in western North Carolina, and two years serving in AmeriCorps as a middle school garden coordinator in Harrisburg, Arkansas. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from the College of Charleston Honors College and an M.S. in Environmental Policy from the Bard College Center for Environmental Policy.
Mike Lavender is the senior Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food & Environment program, where he advocates for a healthy, sustainable, and socially equitable food system. Previously, Mike served as a policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group, where he led congressional and executive branch campaigns relating to agriculture and biofuels policies. Before that, he spent six years in the office of former Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), where he worked on agriculture appropriations, nutrition, dairy policy, and other farm and food policy issues. Mike has a B.A. in American history and French language from Marquette University in Wisconsin.
Tanya Denckla Cobb is a writer, teacher and professional environmental mediator at the University of Virginia. She has worked at the grassroots, state, and federal levels. At the state level, she facilitated the birth of the Virginia Food System Council and co-founded the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute where she continues to serve as core faculty. She is the author of Reclaiming Our Food: How the Grassroots Food Movement Is Changing the Way We Eat and the Gardener’s A to Z Guide to Growing Organic Food. 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 leading the UVA Sustainable Food Strategy Task Force, and also serving on a 4VA collaborative to launch the Virginia Food System Leadership Institute in June 2018.
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.
Christie St. Pierre is the Farm to School Specialist at Fairfax County Public Schools. Christie grew up on a family farm in Central California, and her interest in agricultural policy brought her to Washington, DC, where she worked on international trade issues in agricultural products. After a few years in policy, she changed gears and went back to school to study nutrition and became a Registered Dietitian. She worked as an Early Childhood Nutritionist in the FCPS Early Childhood Education Program/Head Start for three years before joining Food and Nutrition Services in September 2016. In her role as Farm to School Specialist, she is excited about the opportunity to tie all of her experience together, from production agriculture to nutrition. Christie is working to build a Farm to School program that is based on fresh and local procurement in combination with nutrition education that not only helps students understand where their food comes from but also equips them with the knowledge and tools to become life-long healthy eaters.
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 healthcare—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.
Session Panelists – Amanda & Buck Holsinger – Wednesday December 6
In 2009, after serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan, flying cargo planes, Buck and Amanda returned to the family farm that had been in the Holsinger Family since 1773. As the 9th generation to own and operate the farm, the Holsinger’s have transformed the Century Farm into a grass fed cow-calf to finish operation practicing in-season high grass grazing and winter stockpiled forage grazing primarily accomplished via an intensive rotational grazing system. On top of the grass-fed locker beef operation, Amanda longarm quilts for customers from the farm and Buck works for IBM full-time and continues to serve in the Air National Guard as a C-17 Pilot. Buck and Amanda share their home and love of farming with their 4 children, a black lab, and two house cats. With the help of Conservation Services, Holsinger Homeplace Farms also schedules their calving to match forage availability, plants pollinator habitat, overseeds with clover, has Hosted Grazing tours, and has added more than 40 acres of Silvopasture.
Since 2010, Jason and his wife Sally have been farming Glade Road Growing (www.gladeroadgrowing.com) in the town limits of Blacksburg, a college town in southwest Virginia. They raise about 3 acres of organically-grown vegetables plus pasture-raise 1200 broilers, 50 Thanksgiving turkeys and 120 laying ducks on organic feed. They grow year-round and sell nearly all of it directly via the Blacksburg Farmers Market, on-farm stand, and 150 member CSA. Jason and Sally both farm full time and have 4-5 full time employees in season. Their farm is on leased land which they share with other young entrepreneurs for enterprises such as a farm kitchen, organic brewery, grass-fed beef operation and pastured pork operation.
Danny Boyer is a farm owner-operation, grazing consultant, water systems specialist, and retired USDA-NRCS conservationist from Grayson County, Virginia. He is a leader in the promotion and sale of grass-fed beef in his area. Danny has 30 years of experience helping farmers implement conservation practices, with particular emphasis on grassland management. This includes extensive experience in planning, managing, and promoting intensive grazing systems and the installation of associated infrastructure. For example, Danny has designed and supervised the installation of more than 6,000 on-farm livestock watering systems. He was named “2013 Forage Person of the Year” by the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council. Danny has served on a wide variety of boards and committees and donated many volunteer hours to agricultural and conservation causes over his career. A few examples include Board of Directors of Virginia Forage and Grassland Council, Advisor to Carroll/Grayson Cattle Producers Association, President of Grayson County Farm Bureau, Charter Member and President of Grayson LandCare, Chair of Grayson LandCare Processing Committee, Southwest Virginia Agricultural Association Crops Committee.
Dennis Jamison operates Dividing Spring Farm in Salem, VA. The farm raises Katahdin hair sheep and lamb and provides fresh meat to a family owned meat market . Dennis has had a longstanding presence in the New River Valley community and is looking forward to sharing more on his experience getting started in producing and marketing lamb on Wednesday December 6, 2017 during the Virginia Farm to Table Conference.
JoAnn Connell has worked for Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Meat and Poultry for over 23 years. She started in the field as an inspector. For the past 16 years has been performing reviews of the establishments HACCP System. She recently has taken on the responsibility as the Technical Resource Advisor. In this role, she provides guidance and information to Virginia citizens and/or anyone that may have an interest in producing meat animals for human consumption. During her session, JoAnn will present information on several different inspection opportunities available, regulations regarding slaughtering, processing and selling product. Different types of exemptions will be discussed, for example; 1000 bird, 20,000 bird, and custom exemptions and what you as the grower can do with voluntary inspection or without voluntary inspected animals.
Chuck and Lou Ann Neely own and operate Riven Rock Farm, in beautiful Highland County VA. Riven Rock is a holistic grazing operation spread across 750 acres of mountain pastures and hardwood forests. Utilizing heritage breed livestock, Riven Rock produces chemical free, old world, 100% grass-fed beef, lamb, and pastured pork. Intensive rotational grazing is used across 47 paddocks to build biodiversity and fertility. The farm has added a pastured poultry and free range egg partnership with Fireside Farm that follows the cattle and sheep. In addition, Riven Rock has on farm lodging with a guest cabin and fishing lodge, and also maintains commercial trout raceways. An on-farm sawmill adds more revenue diversification and woodlot management opportunities. The farm was recently awarded the Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District’s 2017 Clean Water award. Riven Rock Farm sells its products direct to consumers and families, and is also available at several local restaurants, farmer’s markets and groceries.
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 to 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.
Todd Cook has worked for the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Division of Registered Apprenticeship for the past 15 years. Prior to coming to Registered Apprenticeship, he worked as a behavioral specialists with Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center for 10 years and taught 7 years in public career and technical education grades 9-12. He is a graduate of James Madison University with a BS in Trade and Industrial Education.
Session Speaker – Dr. Robin ‘Buz’ Kloot – Thursday December 7
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 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.
Session Speaker – Andrew Mefferd – Thursday December 7
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 Andrew 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 are grown in ways that don’t make the most of the 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 into 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.
With a focus on creating a healthy Virginia, Heidi Hertz is the Obesity Prevention Coordinator with the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. Heidi is currently expanding partnerships and developing strategies that can help eliminate childhood hunger while improving health. Heidi actively coordinates initiatives around Virginia promoting access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. Most recently she has been working in the Office of the First Lady of Virginia Mrs. Dorothy McAuliffe to coordinate the efforts of the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide. The Council’s primary focus is eliminating childhood hunger in Virginia, developing local agriculture markets, and promoting community efforts that link locally grown food, education, health and nutrition. Heidi is a 2004 graduate from Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise and currently lives in Richmond with her husband Billy, daughter Libbie, and boxer Lane.
Mike, with his wife Betsy, is the owner/operator of Bean Hollow Grassfed, a pasture based farm raising grassfed sheep and cattle in Virginia. Currently Senior Associate of the Liberty Prairie Foundation (LPF), where he serves as founding Executive Director. This small private operating foundation, based in IL, is dedicated to the integration of economically prosperous, ecologically sensitive farms and high quality natural areas into vibrant working landscapes. He founded the Farm Business Development Center, a business incubator for beginning organic farmers. As Environmental Team Leader at Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, IL. Mike provided leadership in the design and management of natural resources and farmlands in an innovative conservation community.
Sam Lev and his wife are relatively new to southwest Virginia and love calling Roanoke home. Having spent 7 years as a professional pastry chef, Sam is a food lover, a home cook, and always interested in new food adventures around the house. His current projects include growing fruit trees and raising ducks for eggs! Sam has a degree in History from Appalachian State University, was born in Georgia, and has lived in many states across the country from Alaska to New York. He is also an avid runner and hiker, enjoying everything the mountains around the Roanoke Valley have to offer.
Session Panelist – Tom McDougall – Thursday December 7
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 foodshed and deliver 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 stands for Purpose, People, Planet, and Profit. 4P foods have 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.
Session Panelist – Beth Schermerhorn – Thursday December 7
Beth is currently an associate with Skeo Solutions, INC. Beth’s approach to planning is based on 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-based 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.
Dean spent his childhood days in central Florida where he grew up raising produce. Later his family moved to a dairy farm in western Missouri. In both operations, they experienced firsthand the devastation that large-scale brokers can have on the family farm. Later, Dean worked in Pennsylvania helping a small operation distribute local farmed dairy products to stores. This again inspired his passion to be the missing link between the quality local goods and the consumer. In 2014, Dean moved to the Shenandoah Valley and launched Wadels Farm Wagon. The Farm Wagon partners with local farmers and producers to distribute their products throughout VA and DC. Their goal is to provide the farmer with a sustainable living for his humane practices and healthy, farm-fresh food and to connect that quality product with consumers who understand the benefit of supporting their local farmer.
Tom Benevento is co-director of Vine & Fig/New Community Project, a sustainable living center in Harrisonburg Virginia working with neighbors and friends to build a community of mercy, social justice, and ecological healing. Current work includes hospitality for people who are housing insecure, regional food systems, climate action, and bike/ped transportation. He has over two decades of experience learning and working with village farmers of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic in sustainable agriculture, edible forests, and community development. Tom enjoys hiking, commuter biking, and mini farming at his home in Harrisonburg with his family, four chickens, chubby cat, and more-than-enough ground hogs.
Molly was first inspired to support the local food movement in 1999 when spending summers in Vermont with her three very young children and was reminded of her own childhood and the fabulous fresh food she enjoyed growing up. It was this recollected appreciation that motivated her to open her own restaurant, Edible Garden, in 2004 showcasing seasonally sourced ingredients and educating customers on the importance of supporting their local agricultural community and economy. In late 2008, Molly began an online farmers market with the farmers serving the restaurant and the customers seeking their fabulous ingredients for their own pantries. The next spring, the online food hub, Fall Line Farms, opened a second season of business with an innovative software solution designed by Harris and developed locally. The online platform, Lulus Local Food, enabled the food hub to grow from 25 farmers selling to one pick up location to over fifty farmers selling to five pick up locations around the city. Today, the hub supports over 100 local farmers and now merged with sister hub, Local Roots Food Co-op, serving over 20 locations throughout the metro Richmond area. Recently acquired by supporter VA FAIRS, Lulus Local Food software is now licensed by small farms, CSAs, farmers markets and food hubs throughout the state of Virginia and across the country in Ohio, Iowa and Montana. As the founder of this ever expanding project, Harris has involved herself in many aspects of the local food movement in Virginia. She serves on the executive committees for the Virginia Food System Council and the Virginia Farmers Direct Marketing Association. She is also a founding member of the Virginia Farm to School Working Group, a participant in the Richmond City Mayor’s Food Council and leader of the Richmond Area Buy Fresh Buy Local Chapter. Dedicated to supporting small family farms and promoting and educating communities on the value of supporting local food, she continues to search out opportunities to strengthen local food systems.
Abby serves as the Regional Manager for The Common Market Mid-Atlantic (DC/MD/VA). She opened the Washington DC office of The Common Market in 2016, expanding distribution reach southward into Maryland, DC and Virginia. She currently manages sales to colleges and universities, retailers, healthcare facilities and distributors, in addition to growing relationships with community partners in the region. Prior to her work at The Common Market, Abby worked as a Communications Coordinator in the Outreach office of USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. She holds a Masters of the Arts in International Development from American University, and is a Clemson University Graduate.
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 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 cofounder and caretaker of Blacks Run Forest Farm.
2017 PANEL MODERATORS
Jim Barham is an Agricultural Economist for USDA’s Rural Development agency. Jim obtained an MA in Cultural Anthropology and a Ph.D. 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.
Kevin is currently the 4-H / Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent and Unit Coordinator for Virginia Cooperative Extension in Lynchburg. He started with Virginia Cooperative Extension in 2007 as the 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent in Amelia County. In 2010, Kevin transferred to the City of Lynchburg and became a dual Agent of both 4-H and Agriculture & Natural Resources and became the Unit Coordinator in 2011. Kevin is unique in his position with Virginia Cooperative Extension as his primary Extension responsibilities are split into two roles. Kevin manages an impressive group of trained Extension Master Gardeners who, since his arrival in Lynchburg, have contributed over 100,000 hours of volunteer time to the Lynchburg area. Those hours can be averaged out to benefit Lynchburg by over $2 million. He also organizes pest management programs as well as provides educational programs to nearly all of Lynchburg’s eleven elementary schools. Kevin also directs the Urban Agriculture Day for 5th graders of Lynchburg City Schools. Not only did this program expose urban youth to agriculture, but it also focused on the Virginia Standards of Learning and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. He received a degree in Political Science from Radford University and a Masters in Agriculture and Life Sciences focusing on Technical Education from Virginia Tech. He serves on the Lynchburg Area Food Council and is President of the Lynchburg Grows Board of Directors. Kevin is extremely passionate about Urban Agriculture and the benefits of it and has helped spearhead several agricultural projects to highlight and promote agriculture in the region.
Dave Close is the State Consumer Horticulture and Master Gardener Specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension. He has served as the Extension MG State Coordinator since 2004 and assumed his Consumer Horticulture responsibilities in 2012. Prior to moving to Virginia Tech, Dave was the Community Forestry Coordinator for the southern 36 counties in Illinois working jointly with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Southern Illinois University assisting small municipalities to manage their community forest resources. He received an M.S. degree in Forest Ecology from Southern Illinois University and has post-masters course work in Botany and Environmental Resources and Policy. Dave has been married to his wife Constance for more than twenty-four years and they have four daughters ranging in age from 11 to 18 and a rescue dog named Phoebe. They reside in Christiansburg, VA.
Kevin Cubbage is a 4-H Alumni and employee of Virginia Cooperative Extension where he works as an Area Information Technologist. Kevin grew up on a small family farm in the Shenandoah Valley. He has always had an interest in technology and electronic gadgets, and how these devices and innovative ideas can be used to engage people, sometimes outside of their comfort zones.
JB Daniel has worked with farmers and livestock producers across Virginia for the past 19 years. For the past 9 years, JB 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. He 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. JB is a frequent contributor to the quarterly publication the Virginia Forager and the popular VA Graziers’ Planner published each December.
As a Hampton, Virginia native, Megan grew up around more sandy beaches, aircraft 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 its 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 Farm to Table 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.
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.
Dr. Kim Niewolny
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 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.
Erin is a native of Rockingham County and loves our beautiful surroundings here in the Shenandoah Valley. She spent some time in Richmond, VA working in the food-service industry but ultimately returned to Harrisonburg to attend James Madison University for a degree in Dietetics. Now her passions lie in promoting local foods and agriculture and preserving natural and cultural resources through her work at Friendly City Food Co-op and Shenandoah Valley Network and position on the board of the Harrisonburg Farmers Market.
Lindsay Smith, AICP, is working with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) on its Regional Food Systems Value Chain Coordination Program. COG brings area leaders together to address major regional issues in metropolitan Washington. The Regional Food Systems Value Chain Coordination Program is made possible by a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its new Food LINC program. She is a member of American Institute of Certified Planners and serves on the Board of the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association. Lindsay holds a master’s in urban planning and a master’s in environmental policy from the University of Michigan. Previously, she has consulted with philanthropy on strengthening local and regional food systems, served as a Food Council Coordinator, consulted on land conservation, and worked as a practicing urban planner in suburban Maryland. Her work specializes in developing data driven-issue analysis to inform action, and engage approaches to bring together diverse stakeholders for learning, relationship building, and collaboration.
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. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science from Virginia Tech in 1989 and a Master’s Degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University in 1992. After service in the U.S. Army, Tom eventually joined Virginia Cooperative Extension in 1996 as Extension Agent headquartered in Augusta County. In 2010, Tom assumed the role of Unit Coordinator for the Rockbridge Unit. Tom’s area of specialization as an Extension Agent is Farm Business Management. Tom is part of a team of Agriculture Extension Agents that serve Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, and Rockingham Counties. Their areas of specialization include Crop and Soil Science, Animal Science, Commercial Horticulture, and Farm Business Management. 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.