Forum Speaker Directory

A huge thank you to our speakers for their willingness to share their time, expertise, and experiences with us!

Speakers are sorted alphabetically by last name below.

Krystel Aguilar
Castanea Fellowship | Executive Director | New Mexico

Krysten Aguilar is the Executive Director of the Castanea Fellowship, an emergent fellowship that roots leadership development in liberatory practices. Before coming onboard at Castanea in 2021, she spent nine years at La Semilla Food Center in Anthony, NM, the last four as Co-Executive Director. Krysten played a pivotal role in directing La Semilla to focus on intersectional work to address systemic issues facing communities in southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas. Her work centers justice, power building, anti-racism, and shared leadership, using food systems and leadership development as a tool to cultivate and support movement and power building in BIPOC communities. Krysten has a background in Biology, Anthropology, and food studies. She lives in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert in Las Cruces, NM, with her family.

Janet Alkire
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe | Chairwoman | South Dakota

Janet served in the US Air Force for 15 years where she retired as a Staff Sergeant. She made friends early on in that career with Sherman Gallup who eventually won her heart over and they married March 21, 2020. She has two accomplished daughters from her first marriage; Helen, is employed by the State of Arizona’s Education Program as a tribal liaison, and Elspeth is a commercial airline Pilot, currently completing her requirements as a flight instructor before she is able to fly commercial planes. Janet has served as the Executive Director for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe twice, worked in the Pentagon during her tenure in the Air Force, served as Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s Legislative Liaison, and was the first woman elected as Chairperson for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in 2021. (Previous women held one-year appointed terms by the BIA over 60 years ago). Janet is the Great-great Granddaughter of Chief Rain In The Face.

Reem Assil
Reems California | Chef, Restaurateur, Labor Organizer | California

Reem Assil is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland, CA and owner of Reem’s California, a nationally acclaimed restaurant in Oakland and Reem’s California Mission in San Francisco, inspired by Arab street corner bakeries and the vibrant communities that surround them.  Reem has garnered an array of top accolades in the culinary world, including back to back James Beard Semifinalist nods for Best Chef: West (2018-19) and Outstanding Chef (2022).  She is a graduate of the competitive food business incubator program, La Cocina, business leadership program Centro Community Partners, and Oakland-based business accelerator program ICA: Fund Good Jobs. Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem spent over a decade as a community and labor organizer, building leadership in workers and residents to fight for living wages, affordable housing, and a voice in their jobs and their neighborhoods.  Reem was a 2021 Emerson Collective Fellow in the Recover & Renew Cohort to incubate Sumoud, a replicable worker-ownership apprenticeship program equipping food-service workers with the tools they need to make meaningful, systemic change in the restaurant industry and beyond.  Reem sits at the intersection of her three passions: food, community, and social justice. She uses food to invoke the central virtue of her Arab culture ⁠— hospitality ⁠— to build strong, resilient, and connected community.

Yissel Barajas
Reiter Affiliated Companies | Chief Human Resources Officer | California

Yissel Barajas is Chief Human Resources Officer for Reiter Affiliated Companies (RAC), the world’s largest fresh multi-berry producer. Before joining RAC’s HR Department, Yissel managed its Philanthropy program, under which she launched the Sembrando Salud program, a work- based healthy living initiative developed in partnership with UC Davis and UC Berkeley. Prior to joining RAC, Yissel was a Senior Development Project Manager at Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit developer of quality affordable housing. The daughter of farm workers, she has a personal commitment to issues impacting the quality of life of the farm worker community. Yissel has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Urban Planning from UCLA. Yissel is an alumnus of Class 40 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. She has volunteered on the Board of various community organizations including, the California Coalition for Rural Housing, the Ventura County Homeless and Housing Coalition, and the American Red Cross of Ventura County. She currently serves on the Ventura County Farm Worker Resource Program Committee, the UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety External Advisory Board and the Board of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation.

Vanessa Bechtel
Ventura County Community Foundation | President & CEO | California

Vanessa Bechtel, AIFA, serves as President and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, last year raising over $47 million during this challenging time. The foundation was also active in the 2020 Census promoting an accurate count in Ventura County. Bechtel served as Co-Chair of the multi-year effort. Prior to her work with VCCF, Bechtel served as executive director of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation. She co-founded Monarch Wealth Strategies in 2008 and was honored as Business Woman of the Year by the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce in 2010. Bechtel was recognized as Nonprofit Leader of the Year by the Ventura County Leadership Academy in 2019 and Humanitarian of the Year by the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation. In December 2020, Bechtel was named Woman of the Year for 2020 by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, the 19th Senatorial District and 37th Assembly District. Bechtel graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Law and Society. In 2016, she received her master’s degree from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. She also received her master’s certificate from the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Onati, Spain in 2002.

Oren Brandvian
Develop Detroit, Inc. | Senior Project Manager | Michigan

Oren Brandvain is an experienced Real Estate Project Manager with Develop Detroit, Inc. a mission-oriented non-profit real estate development firm. He initiates, performs, and oversees the conceptualization, analysis, and management through the development process of a variety of community-rooted real estate projects including mixed-income, mixed-use, commercial, and affordable housing developments. Oren has experience with a broad array of financial sources including Low-income Housing Tax Credits, New Market Tax Credit, Program Related Investments, and conventional financing. He received his Master’s of Urban Planning and MS in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan. Oren is a proud Detroit resident and gardener.

Bill Bullard
Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) | CEO | MT

Bill Bullard is the CEO of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), the nation’s largest cattle trade association that exclusively represents independent cattle producers.
Formerly a cow/calf producer in South Dakota, Bullard also served as Executive Director of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission for over five years. He has testified on behalf of R-CALF USA before Congress and executive branch agencies, manages numerous lawsuits on behalf of the organization, and authored an antitrust paper published in the South Dakota Law Review. He has a B.S. in Political Science from Black Hills State University. Bullard resides in Billings, Montana, and has three children: Cameron, Candace, and Callie, and five grandchildren.

Elizabeth Burger
Sunflower Foundation | Senior Program Officer | Kansas

Elizabeth Stewart Burger, PhD, MBA, oversees the foundation’s Healthy Living & Active Communities program area. This program area focuses on the built environment: the systems, structures and surroundings that make the healthy choice, the easy choice around physical activity and healthy food access. Burger began her career as a TV news producer but later transitioned to health and wellness. While completing her graduate degrees, she owned a personal training business, managed hospital-based wellness programs, and taught health education at the collegiate and community level. Most recently, she served as the evaluation director of practice-based research for the American Academy of Family Physicians. Burger loves running, hiking and biking whenever and wherever she can, but her favorite spot is near her log cabin home in rural northwest Douglas County. Education: PhD and Master of Science degrees in Health and Human Performance, Oklahoma State University; MBA from Rockhurst University; post-doctoral fellowship, University of Kansas; and Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications/ Journalism, University of Tulsa.

Mariela Cedeño
Manzanita Capital Collective | Collaborative Member | California

Mariela is the product of her Venezuelan birthplace, El Salvadoran roots, and Bay Area upbringing. For the past 15 years she has cultivated local economies and resilient food systems, and catalyzed new models of investment and economic opportunity that center and uplift BIPOC entrepreneurs, farmers, and community-based organizations. Prior to Manzanita, Mariela was the Interim Executive Director of Mandela Partners’ an Oakland based non-profit organization that works to increase access to healthy food, good jobs, and ownership opportunities. In a decade at Mandela Partners, Mariela seeded and grew economic development projects, wealth building initiatives, entrepreneurship programming, and non-extractive capital resources. Mariela holds a wide breadth of experience in community rooted economic development, small business advising, alternative capital, financial planning, non-profit management, and much more. She is the chair of the Equitable Food Oriented Development Collaborative’s Community Investment Committee, on the Olamina Fund Community Advisory Committee, on Nonprofit Finance Fund’s Care Fund Advisory Committee, on California Farmlink’s Board of Directors, and part of the Firebrand Stewardship Trust. Mariela is a current Institute for the Future fellow and is also a former Common Future fellow, NALCAB Colegio alumni, and Kiva fellow. She also proudly serves Somos Familia as the Board Treasurer.

Anthony Chang
Manzanita Capital Collective | Partner | California

Anthony Chang is the son of Chinese immigrant small business owners and has spent 20+ years working in economic opportunity and environmental sustainability in communities of color. Prior to Manzanita Capital Collective, Anthony helped start and build Kitchen Table Advisors (KTA), a nonprofit that fuels economic viability and thriving livelihoods for a multi-racial next generation of sustainable small farms and ranches. During his last couple years at KTA, he participated in POC-led collaboratives stewarding and governing their own capital (such as The People’s Land Fund, Equitable Food Oriented Development Collaborative, and the LIFE / Open Letter group); worked with foundations on aligning grants and investments with their values; and facilitated integrated capital and technical assistance for farmer owned food hubs for food and land justice projects. Prior to Kitchen Table Advisors, he spent 15+ years channeling capital to small business owners while in leadership roles at community development financial institutions (CDFIs) like Accion Opportunity Fund and California FarmLink. Anthony also is a Castanea Fellow; previously served on the board of RSF Social Finance; and currently serves on the board of Common Future and steering committee of the Fondo de Solidaridad de Mountain View.

Candace Clark
HEAL Food Alliance | Resource Organizing Director | Illinois

Candace has over 10 years of combined experience in technology, project management, and community organizing. Growing up in Montgomery, AL, Candace was introduced to technology at an early age, going on to work with various nonprofit organizations helping teams use technology to automate processes to increase capacity and effectively utilize resources. Candace is a registered lobbyist and entrepreneur in Illinois taking a special interest in tech policy, social equity, and economic development of the Black community. Candace completed her BS in Computer Science at Troy University and now lives in Chicago with her husband and 4 children.

Tim Crosby
Thread Fund | Principal | Washington

Tim Crosby is Principal of the Thread Fund, which focuses on investing multiple forms of capital to generate social and environmental returns alongside financial returns. Additionally Tim is a Steering Committee Member of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, Member Agroecology Fund, Chair Transformational Investing in Food Systems (TIFS) Initiative, Member Seattle Impact Investing Group, and Board Member of the Carolyn Foundation and Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship. Tim’s previous work includes Co-Chair Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders, Director Slow Money Northwest, Manager Cascadia Foodshed Financing Project, and fifteen years as a professional photographer and graphic designer. Tim holds an MBA in Sustainable Business from Presidio University and a BA in Anthropology from Kenyon College.

Chaz Daughtry
Sweetwater Farms HTX | Owner | Texas

Chaz Daughtry is a graduate from Texas A&M University
with a B.S. in Economics and a minor in Agriculture. He is the founder and
CEO of SoulFitGrill, a low sodium food product company. Today his
healthy products have allowed him to partner with some of the largest
grocery retailers in the world such as Whole Foods and HEB. He is also
the founder and operator of Sweetwater Farms HTX a 6-acre organic
urban farm located in Houston, Texas. When he is not making and growing
healthy foods, he serves as the co-founder of the TWEF, a non-profit that
has impacted over 100,000 lives. He is also the current Vice President for
the Council for Healthy Food Systems. Chaz loves teaching youth about
entrepreneurship and agriculture.

Dãnia Davy
Federation of Southern Cooperatives | Director of Land Retention and Advocacy | Georgia

Dãnia Davy, Director of Land Retention and Advocacy at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, which is the largest and oldest cooperatively-owned organization whose membership includes black farmers, landowners and cooperatives. After double concentrating in Community Health and Africana Studies at Brown University, she earned her J.D. at University of Virginia School of Law. Dãnia has written extensively on heir property, Black land loss, racial disparities in maternal mortality, racial disparities in the criminalization of mothers, and disparities in healthy food access for low-income and communities of color. Dãnia began her legal career as a Skadden Fellow at the NCABL Land Loss Prevention Project implementing a project she designed which provided community education and estate planning services to improve Black farmers’ access to legal services in the rural South. She developed the documentary – “Our Land, Our Lives: The North Carolina Black Farmers’ Experience” and served on the inaugural North Carolina Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council. She has lectured and facilitated workshops at conferences on the local, state and national level on equity issues facing rural, Black America.

Noel Didla
Mississippi Food Policy Council | Chair | Mississippi

Noel Didla is an immigrant from Guntur, South India making Jackson, MS home. She is invested in people, people centered movements and systems change work in Jackson, Mississippi, the Deep & Gulf South, and the Global South. Noel is committed to a lifetime of principled struggle with people and places that she calls home.

Skya Ducheneaux
Akiptan CDFI | Executive Director | South Dakota

Skya Ducheneaux is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and spent her first 18 years of life on a cattle ranch on the CRST Reservation in South Dakota. She has an MBA in Business Administration. She previously spent her summers interning for the Intertribal Agriculture Council, where she was introduced to the Native CDFI world (Community Development Financial Institution). Skya worked diligently to create the first national Native CDFI dedicated to Indian agriculture, which launched in 2019. Skya remains connected to agriculture, just from the other side of the table.

Bartlett Durand
Sand County Foundation | Director, Water Quality Partnerships | Wisconsin

Bartlett joined Sand County Foundation to facilitate agreements that allow municipalities and utilities to achieve water quality goals by working with farmers and agriculture groups. His work is focused on developing documents that local government and state agencies can use to reach agreements that create enough certainty for cities and sufficient clarity for regulators that water quality goals will be met in the future. Bartlett is a creative attorney and businessman with more than 20 years of experience in academic research, complex litigation, mediation, transactional work and extensive contract work focused on business outcomes. He has started three successful businesses: an artisanal farm-based cheese line from his family’s dairy; a USDA-inspected meat processing business; and a retail butcher shop, The Conscious Carnivore.

Stacey Faella
Woodcock Foundation | Executive Director | New York

Stacey Faella is the Executive Director of the Woodcock Foundation, a progressive family foundation that supports efforts to improve the educational, economic, and environmental circumstances of communities in need. Stacey works across the foundation’s programs, which span social enterprise, food systems, conservation, gender equality, democracy, and civil society. In addition to advancing the foundation’s programs through both grants and program-related investments, Stacey works with others in the sector to foster collaboration in philanthropy and support grantee capacity building efforts. Stacey has experience working on foundation and nonprofit communications, strategy, evaluation, and impact investing. She has managed a growing PRI portfolio at the Woodcock Foundation, developed and honed strategies for a variety of foundation programs and projects, and led or supported strategic planning processes with several organizations. Stacey has engaged in communications research on behalf of various causes and frequently works with grantees to improve their communications capacity. Stacey serves on the boards of Spark Microgrants and Confluence Philanthropy, as well as the management committee for Farmland Renewal, LLC. She previously served on the Board of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, where she was also founding chair of the Young People’s Network.

Jennifer Fahy
Farm Aid | Communications Director | Massachusetts

Jennifer, Farm Aid’s Communications Director, has been with Farm Aid since 2002. She loves to spread the word about good food from family farms and the important work of Farm Aid. According to Jennifer, the best part of her job is the intersection of people she gets to work with, from fellow staff and the Farm Aid board of directors, to farmers, activists and members of the media. Outside of the office, Jennifer is an avid cyclist and skier, a dedicated dog-mom, and a baker.

Dawn Finn
Community & Life Services | Executive Director | Minnesota

Dawn Finn represents the micro perspective of the local foods work taking place in Pelican Rapids, both as a resident and as Director of Community and Life Services. She is a motivated leader, transformational speaker, and coach with over 25 years of rich experience in program development initiatives with women, poverty, & addiction clients/participants. She possesses a strong track record of successfully building an organizational culture founded on shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that the team share and use daily, as well as building competent teams of motivated staff and long-lasting networks. Dawn holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Theatre & Dance, with minors in African Studies & Social Psychology. She attended Luther College in Decorah Iowa and, after marrying, completed her degrees from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa. Prior to Dawn’s formal education, she was a Dancer and Choreographer, teaching and preparing for performances and video recording for teams of 2-200. Community and Life Services’ mission is to break down barriers to success by providing financial, physical, and emotional health services to the community. For Pelican Rapids, that includes low-income residents, many of whom are immigrants and refugees from western Africa, Latin America, and Bosnia.

Meredith E. Freeman
Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Family Foundation | Director, Alignment and Impact Investing | Michigan

Meredith has extensive experience in the social impact sector and community development. She has worked with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Citibank Global Community Relations and is currently the Director of Alignment and Impact Investing with the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation where she also served as the Foundation’s Interim Executive Director during an executive sabbatical. In 2014, Meredith was selected for the inaugural class of the WK Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network. Meredith received a B.A. from Michigan State University, and an M.S. in Management and Urban Policy from the New School in New York. She has also served as adjunct faculty for graduate level courses in Nonprofit Management at Seton Hall University and the New School.

Cicely Garrett
National Black Food and Justice Alliance | Co-Executive Director – Operations and Development | Georgia

Cicely is the new Co-Executive Director for National Black Food and Justice Alliance. She also is a Creative Strategist and Social Entrepreneur with a distinguished client list is adept at providing thought leadership and consulting on strategy, design thinking, racial equity, environmental justice, food sovereignty, and community wealth building. Cicely spearheaded the production of Resilient Atlanta and the transition of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to Office of Resilience under the 100 Resilient Cities program pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation to address challenges and opportunities arising in Metro cities as a result of urbanization, globalization, and climate change. Cicely served as a community builder, facilitator, and program manager for 8.5 years at the Atlanta Community Food Bank leading the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and later transitioning to Food Systems Innovation Manager working to improve fresh and healthy food access in Atlanta’s inner-city neighborhoods via GA Food Oasis-Atlanta initiative. Cicely holds a B.S.B.A. degree with a concentration in Finance and New & Small Business Management from Georgetown University and a Master of Public Policy degree with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from The George Washington University.

Helga Garza
Agri-Cultura Network | Executive Director | New Mexico

Helga Garza, Executive Director of Agri-Cultura Network (ACN), a South Valley of Albuquerque farmer owned cooperative. The network is inclusive of with 40 allied farms from urban and rural Rio Grande communities committed to sustainable and regenerative growing methods. Helga is inspired by justice, guided by her ancestral ceremonial agricultural calendar engaging community through a holistic intergenerational approach in developing a sustainable food system and environmental economy for New Mexico. By developing community driven markets that strengthen and build assets of local farmers while preserving New Mexico’s historic culture and tradition in sustainable agriculture. Helga is leading efforts that have increased equitable access to healthy local food, by removing structural barriers such as procurement policy, price, availability, and increasing nutritional knowledge through curriculum development of a holistic family-based wellness program that is bilingual, culturally relevant, and community based. Through these efforts Helga Garza is building the capacity of New Mexico’s urban and rural small farmers ability to keep production local through an effective farm to market system ensures household livelihood, by providing farmer’s the opportunity to grow food for their community contributing to positive health outcomes, economic activity and wellbeing. Helga is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leader 2018-2021, Castanea Fellow 2020-2022, Chair Governing Board of the New Mexico Food and Agricultural Policy Council, President of South Valley Main Street.

Tim Gibbons
Missouri Rural Crisis Center | Communications Director | Missouri

Tim Gibbons is Missouri Rural Crisis Center’s Communication Director and has been helping organize independent family farmers, rural families and their communities and citizens concerned with our food supply, our natural resources and democratic process since 2005. MRCC is a statewide farm and rural membership organization whose mission is to preserve family farms, promote stewardship of the land and environmental integrity and strive for economic and social justice by building unity and mutual understanding among diverse groups, both rural and urban.

Lauren Grattan
Mission Driven Finance | Co-Founder and Chief Community Officer | California

Lauren’s background in nonprofit development made her eager to activate more capital for social change, leading her to co-found Mission Driven Finance. As Chief Community Officer, she leads the design of community-driven strategy, providing a frame for both internal culture & partner relationships. Prior to building Mission Driven Finance, she spent nearly 10 years fundraising for a wide variety of nonprofits—from large universities to small, volunteer-run initiatives. Lauren proudly served on the steering committee of the Inclusive Capital Collective and on the board of Business for Good San Diego. She is a 2019 Social Venture Circle Innovation Entrepreneur, and an active member of Women Give San Diego, San Diego Social Venture Partners, San Diego Grantmakers, and San Diego Impact Investors Network. Lauren is an alumna of Punahou School in Honolulu, and Columbia University in the City of New York.

Gray Harris
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. | Senior Vice President, Food System Strategies | Maine

Gray Harris is the SVP of food systems at CEI, a rural CDFI in Maine. She is responsible for the strategy, development, and implementation of action-oriented business initiatives. In her role, Gray assesses industry needs and identifies sources of specialized technical assistance and financing for start-up and expanding food businesses; this includes spearheading the development of funds for sector-specific lending and investing at CEI, and more recently, the management of federal CARES Act and ARPA grant funds tagged for ag and food processing businesses. Gray participates on the boards of Wolfe’s Neck Center and the Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union, the tech board of the Maine Technology Institute, national food finance advisory boards, and on the boards of CEI Catalyst Fund equity portfolio companies. Gray holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and a M.A. from USM.

Emily Heaton
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative | Professor of Crop Sciences, Director, Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative | Ilinois

I joined the Crop Sciences department at the University of Illinois as Professor of Regenerative Agriculture in 2021. After receiving my PhD from this department in 2006, I worked for a plant genetics company in California then joined the faculty at Iowa State University, where I remain an Affiliate Professor in the Dept. of Agronomy. My research seeks to understand the growth and productivity of perennial C4 grasses so we can manage them for multiple ecosystem services, especially biomass provision. As director of the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative, I connect researchers and stakeholders to advance knowledge and practices that return value to people and the land. My family owns and operates Caveny Farm near Monticello, IL where we graze cattle, sheep, and heritage poultry for local sale; the farm serves as inspiration and proving ground for our ideas and collaborations.

Lesli Hoey
University of Michigan | Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning | Michigan

Dr. Lesli Hoey investigates how community-based and government-led visions of more equitable, sustainable, and healthy food systems are operationalized in practice, and the ways in which policy advocacy, collaborative planning, and evaluation facilitate or hinder their implementation. Her current projects examine the impact of good food charters, local food councils, food hubs and food systems networks, strategies for achieving carbon neutrality in university dining systems, and policies that shape food environments and sustainable diets in the Global South. Dr. Hoey also has 16 years of program evaluation experience. Her early work aimed to increase gender, disability and racial equity in pre-K through university STEM education. Over the last 12 years, she has focused on food systems, serving as the external evaluator for multiple Center for Regional Food Systems projects in Michigan, and programs in Peru, Albania, Bolivia, the Mississippi Delta, North Carolina, and Texas. At the University of Michigan, she is director of doctoral studies in urban and regional planning, co-lead of the International Planning Case Studies Project, on the advisory board of the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative and the community-university partnership course Food Literacy for All, and co-director of the Transformative Food Systems Fellowship, which supports underrepresented master’s students studying food systems.

Jacob Israelow
Dirt Capital Partners | Managing Director | New York

Jacob started Dirt Capital Partners in 2013 as a platform to channel private investment in support of farmland access, conservation and long-term land security for sustainable farmers. The company’s innovative approach has been featured at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow Conference, the US Sustainable Investment Forum, the Slow Money National Gathering and various other gatherings of investors, farmers and food system advocates. Jacob chairs Dirt Capital’s Investment Committee and also serves on the Board of the National Young Farmers Coalition, the New York Advisory Council of American Farmland Trust, and the Investment Committee for Belltown Farms. Previously, Jacob was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs in Asia, where he spent five years acquiring and developing real estate and infrastructure on behalf of the firm. Jacob has an MBA from Columbia Business School, an MA from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a BA from Williams College.

Michael Kotutwa Johnson
University of Arizona | Extension Specialist | Arizona

Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson, a member of the Hopi Tribe in Northern Arizona, holds a Ph.D. in natural resources from the University of Arizona. Previously, Dr. Johnson was a natural resource district conservationist assigned to the Hopi Reservation for the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He also held the position of program officer at the Native American Agriculture Fund. Dr. Johnson has given extensive lectures on Hopi dryland farming, a practice of his people for over two millennials throughout his academic and professional career. Dr. Johnson has also published scholarly papers on Indigenous conservation and agriculture-related issues. Currently, he is a co-author on the National Climate Assessment 5 which will be published by the federal government in 2023.

Claire Kelloway
Open Markets Institute | Food Systems Program Manager | DC

Claire Kelloway is the program manager for fair food and farming systems at the Open Markets Institute. She is the primary writer for Food & Power, a first-of-its-kind website, providing original reporting and resources on monopoly power in food and agriculture. She also oversees Open Markets’ policy research into the legal underpinnings of corporations and market concentration in the food sector. Kelloway has written for outlets such as The Intercept, Time, Civil Eats, Vox, and ProPublica. Before joining Open Markets, she worked as a sustainability fellow with Bon Appetit Management Company and studied political economy at Carleton College. Kelloway lives and works in Minneapolis. You can reach her at [email protected] or @clairekelloway on Twitter.

Sarah Kendall
Western Organization of Resource Councils | Interim Executive Director | DC

Sara coordinates WORC’s regional issue campaigns and has represented WORC in Washington, DC since 1994, tracking Washington policy decisions that affect WORC’s members, and engaging the network’s member organizations and grassroots leaders in federal policy debates. In that role, she has been at the forefront of efforts to advance national policies that restore competition to livestock markets for nearly three decades. Sara currently coordinates WORC’s campaign work on coal mining and coal community transition and serves on the steering committee of the Rural Power Coalition, and the Just Transition Fund’s National Economic Transition team.

Luam Kidane
Thousand Currents | Director of Global Programs

An African of Eritrean origin, Luam Kidane’s research, writing and curatorial work examines movement building at the intersections of Indigenous governance models, cultural production and articulations of self-determination. She has worked as a researcher and strategist on food sovereignty, political economy, gender, sexuality, climate justice and cultural production. Luam is currently the Director of Global Programs at Thousand Currents.

Ed Kissam
Werner-Kohnstamm Family (WKF) Giving Fund | Co-trustee | California

Ed is a trustee of the WKF Charitable Giving Fund which supports local immigrant integration initiatives, as well as policy analysis and advocacy at the national level. WKF pandemic response efforts include grants for improving farmworker testing in Florida and national messaging via Spanish-language radio to promote COVID-19 vaccination in Latino immigrant communities. Ed has led research on farmworker and immigrant issues sponsored by the Department of Labor, the Commission on Agricultural Workers, and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture for many years. His study of the post-IRCA farm labor market, Working Poor: Farmworkers in the United States, was published by Temple University Press in 1995. His research also includes studies on agricultural production and farmworkers in Washington, and Michigan and community case studies of immigrant settlement in California farmworker communities, and Latino immigrant entrepreneurship in rural North Carolina. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic Ed’s research and advocacy has focused on strategies to effectively respond to COVID-19 in farmworker communities. His published work on COVID-19 in farmworker communities includes analysis of disparities in prevalence, commentary on current research, promising new directions, and analysis of a statewide university-community organization initiative to promote farmworker vaccination.

Reggie Knox
Califonia FarmLink | CEO | California

Reggie has been working on behalf of small farmers and sustainable agriculture for 30 years. He joined California FarmLink in 2004 and has served as FarmLink’s CEO since 2011, facilitating FarmLink’s emergence as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). Reggie’s career has spanned from co-managing an eleven-acre organic farm, to managing statewide farm education programs, developing organic standards, assisting farmers with leasing and purchasing land, and working on agricultural development projects in Sri Lanka, India, and Africa. California FarmLink helps small farmers access land and capital, and has developed a statewide program of economic development for beginning, limited-resource, immigrant, and other underserved farmers. Staff provide business resilience courses and one-on-one business assistance and have coached over 3,000 farmers in finding, leasing, and buying land. FarmLink became a CDFI in 2013, and has since made over 600 loans ($41 million) to small farms, over 60% to farmers of color, and over 90% to low-income borrowers. FarmLink’s loan fund is supported by impact investments from individuals, foundations, banks, and wealth management offices.

Karen Lehman
Fresh Taste | Director | Illinois

Karen Lehman directs Fresh Taste, a funder initiative dedicated to relocalizing the food system in the Chicago foodshed and improving equity of access to good food. Karen’s food system work spans three decades, beginning with an award-winning PBS documentary on women’s leadership in farm movements. She directed the local food and regional economy programs at The Minnesota Project; co-founded Youth Farm, located in Minneapolis and St. Paul; and directed the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Food and Agriculture Program. Karen also held an endowed chair in agricultural systems at the University of Minnesota, consulted with the Ford Foundation on rural development in Mexico, and received a masters of public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as a Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow. Prior to her work with Fresh Taste, she was a senior associate with Cambridge Leadership Associates.

Patty Lovera
GRACE Communications Foundation | Food Policy Consultant | DC

Patty Lovera is a food policy consultant who serves as the policy advisor for the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, a coalition of state and national groups working to fight factory farms, and as the policy director for the Organic Farmers Association, which represents U.S. certified organic farmers, as well as a consultant for Grace Communications Foundation. Previously, Patty helped start and grow Food & Water Watch, serving as their Food and Water Program Director for 14 years. Patty has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Lehigh University and a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Michigan. Before joining FWW, Patty was the deputy director of the energy and environment program at Public Citizen and a researcher at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. Patty has worked extensively on many food policy issues including food safety, food labeling, and consolidation in agriculture and food markets.

David Mancera
Kitchen Table Advisors | Director | California

As a Monterey County native, David has a unique relationship with the local agriculture industry. David’s first exposure to life in agriculture was at the young age of 8 years old, contributing to his migrant family’s income. With the understanding and hands on experience of field laborer, David pursued a bachelor in Agriculture Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where he was fortunate enough to have been exposed to a wide array of valuable experiences and hands-on learning. At that time, David’s focus was marketing, but as he began his career and gained experience, David’s interests shifted to other functional areas. The produce sales experience David gained at FoodSource Inc. allowed him to expand his professional network, ultimately leading him to pursue a Masters in Agriculture and Resource Economics from UC Davis. The experience and exposure David gained at UC Davis opened many agriculture doors, from his opportunity to work with professors like Roberta Cook, as a research assistant, to his job offer at the California Strawberry Commission and Driscoll’s (DSA). In recent years, David has found much fulfillment in volunteering at a school garden, teaching sustainable agriculture at the local community college and working with small farmers.

Susie Marshall
GROW North Texas | Executive Director | Texas

Susie Marshall is founder and Executive Director of GROW North Texas, a Dallas-based nonprofit that cultivates healthy food communities by strengthening local food production and improving access to fresh, nutritious food. She has nearly two decades of experience working with food systems, food producers, and food assistance programs distributing surplus fruits and vegetables. Susie is a past president of Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and has been involved since 2010. Susie has degrees from Texas Wesleyan University, Texas A&M Commerce, and Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

Fallys Masambuka-Kanchewa
Iowa State University | Assistant Professor, Agricultural Education & Studies | Iowa

Dr. Fallys Masambuka-Kanchewa is an assistant professor of agricultural communication at Iowa State University in the Agricultural Education and Studies Department. She is a Malawian citizen and holds a Ph.D. in agricultural communication with a focus on international development and a minor in rural sociology from The Ohio State University. She has a masters in agricultural communication from Purdue University and a bachelors degree in agricultural extension from Bunda College of Agriculture in Malawi. Her research focuses on exploring the use of communication as an empowerment tool for amplifying the voices of marginalized farmers and other vulnerable members. She has published several articles focusing on the role of communication in agricultural development. Before coming to the U.S. she worked for the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture as a communication officer where she was among the pioneers of the National Agriculture Content Development Committee (NACDC). The NACDC was established to ensure harmonization in the delivery of agricultural messages among various service providers in response to an increased presence of conflicting agricultural messages. She is currently serving as the JAFSCD equity advisor Co-chairperson.

Donna Pearson McClish
Common Ground Producers and Growers, Inc | Founder and CEO | Kansas

Donna Pearson McClish is founder and CEO of Common Ground Mobile Market and Mobile Food hub, a unique mobile food hub that serves both urban and rural families. She is a multi-generation urban farmer and is involved with local, state and national community partners: SARE Grant Review Committee member,
appointed by Governor of Kansas to State Board of Agriculture; 2022 Martin Luther King President’s Award; 2021 Kansan of the Year – Community; Greater YMCA Food Planning Committee; Health ICT, Wichita; ICT Steering Committee; Kansas Black Farmer’s Association; Kansas Farmers Union Board Member; Kansas Rural Center Board Member; K-State Community Vitality Committee member; K-State Extension Board Secretary; National Farmers Union Policy and Convention Delegate; SARE (Sustainable Agriculture and Research Programs) Council; 2023 SARE Review Chairperson; Senior Market Voucher Program; SNAP certified; State Extension Advisory Council (SEAC. Donna serves as a consultative group to the Director of Extension on concerns relating to Kansas State Extension Kansas Health Foundation Initiative Advisory Board Member- strengthen a culture of support – both financial and informational – for healthy food retail. Donna was also recognized by Congressman Ron Estes during Black History Month.

Tracy Lloyd McCurty
Black Belt Justice Center | Executive Director | DC

Nile Sirius Asantewaa (Tracy Lloyd McCurty), Esq., is the Executive Director of the Black Belt Justice Center and the Co-Alchemist of the Acres of Ancestry Initiative/Black Agrarian Fund, a multidisciplinary, cooperative ecosystem rooted in Black ecocultural traditions and textile arts to regenerate custodial landownership, ecological stewardship, and food and fiber economies in the rural South. As a great-great granddaughter of sharecroppers turned independent farmers in eastern North Carolina, Nile views her work as a continuation of her ancestors’ value paradigm rooted in collective land tenure, spirit-culture reclamation, and ecological harmony. Decades of farmer-led organizing combined with Nile’s leadership over the last three years through the Black Farmers’ Appeal: Cancel Pigford Debt Campaign advanced reparative land justice for Black farmers through various federal legislations and agricultural policies including a USDA foreclosure moratorium, debt cancellation, and direct payments for past discrimination (these policy recommendations became pillars in President Biden’s 100-day action plan). Nile has elevated both intracommunity and national discourses regarding reparative justice through participation in numerous racial and land justice convenings including the “Whiteness As Property: A Twenty-Year Appraisal” Critical Race Studies Symposium at UCLA School of Law. Nile is energized by the urgent call to (re)build a decolonized society governed by the values of racial equity, indigenous knowledges, spiritual journeying, and cooperative economy. She believes the Black Rural Imagination is regenerative when boundless and interdependent. To learn more about our liberatory ecosystem, visit

Judith McGeary
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance | Executive Director | Texas

Judith McGeary is an attorney, activist, and sustainable farmer. After earning her Bachelors of Science from Stanford University and her law degree with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin, she clerked for a Federal Appeals Court and went on to private law practice. During that time, she became a passionate advocate of sustainable agriculture, and she and her husband established their own livestock farm. After seeing how government regulations benefit industrial agriculture at the expense of family farms, she founded the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance to promote common-sense policies for local, diversified agricultural systems. Judith has served as the Vice Chair of the U.S. Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health and is also active with Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Britt Moore
University of North Carolina Wilmington & Collaborator with Green Lands Blue Waters | Assistant Professor of Environmental Protection | North Carolina

Eric Britt Moore (Britt) is an assistant professor of environmental protection at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Britt’s professional experiences include soil science researcher at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, lecturer of agronomy and environmental science at Iowa State University, and cover crop specialist for Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Britt also works to promote civic empowerment through youth and adult training programs centered on science literacy, environmental justice, and community gardening. Britt is a Chicago native, and his academic background includes a B.S. in Agricultural Science from Truman State University, a M.S. in Crop Production & Physiology and Sustainable Agriculture from Iowa State University, and a Ph.D. in Soil Physics from Iowa State University.

Stephanie Morningstar
Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust | Relationships and Reciprocity Co-Director | Ontario

Stephanie is Kanien’kehá:ka, Wakeniáhten (Mohawk nation, Turtle clan), with ancestors rooted in Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and Europe. She is a plant nerd, medicine tender, bridge builder, soil and seed steward, scholar, student, and Earth Worker dedicated to decolonizing and liberating minds, hearts, and land- one plant, person, ecosystem, and non-human being at a time. She loves to learn and share stories about medicines; builds soil and reintegrates mycelium at Sky World Apothecary and Farm; teach about the plant-human-non-human-ancestral connection through a decolonial lens at Seed, Soil, + Spirit School; and liberates land with and for Indigenous, Black, and people of color as the Relationships and Reciprocity Co-Director at the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust. Stephanie is also PhD Candidate in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Graduate Program focusing her work on Biocultural Restoryation at the SUNY ESF Center for Native Peoples and the Environment.

Daniel Moss
AgroEcology Fund | Co-Executive Director | Massachusetts

Daniel serves as Co-Executive Director of the Agroecology Fund. Trained as a community organizer, he strengthened tenant organizations in public housing in Boston and then lived in El Salvador and Mexico for five years, working in support of social movements defending rights to land and water. In addition to work with the Agroecology Fund, he collaborates with the Equitable Food Initiative as an on-farm trainer and with Latin American water utilities to strengthen watershed conservation strategies. He holds a Master’s degree in City Planning from MIT and writes frequently on food and water issues for traditional and online media.

Mark Muller
Regenerative Agriculture Foundation | Executive Director | Minnesota

Mark Muller serves as the executive director at the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation. He came to RAF in March 2020 after spending over 20 years working on related issues including agricultural conservation, Midwest water quality, racial equity in the food system, and effective federal food and agricultural policy. Mark served as director of the Mississippi River program at the McKnight Foundation, and prior to that he directed the Food & Community Fellows program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. He also spent two years teaching high school in New York City and 18 months volunteering in Honduras and Guatemala. He and his spouse and three children live in south Minneapolis.

Brigid Murray
New Hampshire Community Loan Fund | Vested for Growth Investor | New Hampshire

Brigid Murray joined the NH Community Loan Fund as the Vested for Growth Investor in 2019 bringing 15 years of experience in the natural and specialty foods industry where she worked in sales and marketing, finance and operations, and served six years as Managing Partner/CEO. Prior to that she worked in public health and community development in rural communities in the nonprofit and government sectors. Brigid serves on the Advisory Board to the Northern New England Fibershed and the Steering Committee of the Northern New England Women’s Investor Network as well as on several small business advisory boards.

Thérèse Nelson
Black Culinary History | Founder. Chef. Writer. Podcast Host. | New York

Classically trained at Johnson and Wales University, Chef Thérèse Nelson holds dual degrees in Culinary Arts and Foodservice Management and spent the first half of her career working her way through major hotel brands from Marriott and Hilton to Four Seasons and Orient Express before transitioning to private chef and boutique catering services. Her cultural work focuses on Black identity in the culinary profession. Her writing has been featured in anthologies including Black Food and Women on Food and digital and print publications like Sandwich, TASTE, For The Culture, and Southern Living. She has served as a cultural commentator for publications from the New York Times to NPR and moderated conversations for cultural organizations such as the Schomburg Center, AfroPunk, Brooklyn Historical Society, and the Museum of Food and Drink. She also hosts a limited series podcast called Black Desserts, which focuses on the life and work of Black pastry chefs. Thérèse is the founder of Black Culinary History, a platform she established in 2008 to connect Black chefs, preserve culinary heritage throughout the African Atlantic, promote and share her colleagues’ work, and preserve the legacy being constructed for future generations.

Jose Oliva
HEAL Food Alliance | Campaigns Director | Illinois 

Jose Oliva was born in Xelaju, Guatemala. In 1985 he and his family were forced to flee the civil war and come to the US. Once in Chicago he was called to be Executive Director of Casa Guatemala where he began to organize day-laborers in Chicago’s street corners. He founded the Chicago Interfaith Workers’ Center and then became the Coordinator of Interfaith Worker Justice’s National Workers’ Centers Network. Jose served in several leadership positions at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the national organization of restaurant workers. Jose was the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a national coalition of food-worker organizations that collectively represents over 350,000 workers. Jose is a 2017 James Beard Award recipient and a 2018 American Food Hero Awardee and a 2020 Castanea Fellow. Currently he is the Campaigns Director at HEAL (Health Environment Agriculture and Labor) Food Alliance, a national multi-sector coalition representing over 50 organizations in food and agriculture. He also serves on the Steering Committee of the Chicago Area Food System Fund and the Food and Farm Communication Fund.

David Otieno
Kenyan Peasants League | Secretary General | Kenya

As a Monterey County native, David has a unique relationship with the local agriculture industry. David’s first exposure to life in agriculture was at the young age of 8 years old, contributing to his migrant family’s income. With the understanding and hands on experience of field laborer, David pursued a bachelor in Agriculture Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where he was fortunate enough to have been exposed to a wide array of valuable experiences and hands-on learning. At that time, David’s focus was marketing, but as he began his career and gained experience, David’s interests shifted to other functional areas. The produce sales experience David gained at FoodSource Inc. allowed him to expand his professional network, ultimately leading him to pursue a Masters in Agriculture and Resource Economics from UC Davis. The experience and exposure David gained at UC Davis opened many agriculture doors, from his opportunity to work with professors like Roberta Cook, as a research assistant, to his job offer at the California Strawberry Commission and Driscoll’s (DSA). In recent years, David has found much fulfillment in volunteering at a school garden, teaching sustainable agriculture at the local community college and working with small farmers.

Esperanza Pallana
Food and Farm Communications Fund | Executive Director | California

Esperanza is a culture change leader working with people, data, strategy, capital and storytelling. Her passions are community centered economic development, equitable and sustainable food systems and racial justice. She has worked with nonprofits for over 20 years with an emphasis in leadership, systemic change, and policy advocacy. She has led several successful campaigns that resulted in institutional change and innovative policy as well as capital and grantmaking programs advancing economic and racial equity. For the past ten years, she has worked to support social justice entrepreneurs and movement leaders in removing policy barriers, consolidating resources and accessing grant and lending capital for transformative food system change. She has recently joined the Food & Farm Communications Fund as Executive Director.

Kathryn Parker
W.K. Kellogg Foundation | Program Officer | Louisiana

Kate Parker is a program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. In this role, she works in the foundation’s priority place of New Orleans to support thriving children, working families and equitable communities. Kate Parker is a program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. In this role, she works in the foundation’s priority place of New Orleans to support thriving children, working families and equitable communities. Serving under the direction of the vice president for place-based programs, Parker is responsible for identifying and nurturing opportunities for effecting positive systemic change in New Orleans. In this role, she executes programming efforts that are aligned with the organizational direction and works closely with other staff to ensure the integration and coordination of initiatives as it relates to the mission of the foundation. More specifically, Parker focuses on issues of health equity. She brings public health and food systems expertise, along with professional experience working directly with local and state agencies to address inequities in access to healthy food and quality health care. Prior to joining the foundation, Parker was executive director of Market Umbrella and The Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans where she oversaw daily operations of public markets, provided technical assistance for healthy food advocacy to governmental and non-profit entities, and fostered relationships with funders, community members and partners to advance the organization’s mission for public good. Prior to this, she served as assistant director and project manager at The Prevention Research Center, Tulane University and as an education and evaluation consultant at Public Health Projects, L3C. Parker earned her Doctor of Philosophy in global community health and behavioral sciences and her Master of Public Health, both from Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in women’s history from Suffolk University in Boston.

Rhonda Perry
Missouri Rural Crisis Center | Executive Director | Missouri

Rhonda Perry is a 5th generation Missouri farmer originally from Livingston County, MO, who has called Howard County home for over 30 years. Watching her family and other local farmers stand up for their livelihood during the farm foreclosure crisis in the 80’s inspired her to dedicate her life career to amplifying the voices of rural farmers and communities. After receiving her degree in Psychology she joined Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) in 1991, where she served as the Program Director before taking over as Executive Director in 2020. In her role, she manages staff, directs on the ground programs and initiatives, and drives their policy advocacy. Rhonda is especially passionate about the organization’s environmental justice work, sustainable farming and food programs, and emerging projects that are bringing rural and urban youth together around agriculture and healthy food. As a cattle farmer herself, she works to ensure that the statewide advocacy of MRCC is grounded in the everyday experiences and voices of rural families. Rhonda believes that rural Missourians must be a big part of the solution to make Missouri and our country even better, stronger, and healthier.

Brett Ramey
Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska | Climate Resiliency Planner | Kansas

Brett (Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska) is a land-based educator and program designer working along intersections of ecological, cultural, and community health. He serves as Climate Resilience Planner for the Iowa Tribe where his work includes co-designing a land stewardship plan for the recently established Ioway Tribal National Park. Prior to returning to the midwest in 2020, Brett served as Director for the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington, a national program that infuses conservation practice with Indigenous knowledges and environmental justice. Brett serves on the Steering Committee for Castanea, a fellowship for established leaders working towards a racially just food system. He has advised on food and land-focused grantmaking programs- including First Nations Development Institute’s ‘Stewarding Native Lands’ and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s ‘Building an Inclusive Conservation Movement’. In 2021, Brett convened ‘Restorying Regenerative Agriculture’, a pilot participatory funding process through the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation that supports Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led regenerative agriculture initiatives.

Emily Reno
West Central Initiative | Community Planner | Minnesota

Growing up in a working-class family in Lawrence, Kansas, Emily Reno represents a macro perspective of the local foods landscape in West Central Minnesota. As a McNair Scholars alumnus, she is passionate about paving the way for other underrepresented women like herself, first-time college students, ethnic minorities, transfer students to become shapers of the systems around them. Her formal and informal education is grounded in environmental studies, sustainable agriculture, Spanish language studies, urban and regional planning, and food systems. Not one to follow the crowd, Emily knew after an internship in North Central Kansas that rural living was for her and pursued her passion by working for farmers in Greater Minnesota during her graduate degree. She currently serves at a regional scale in community and economic development for West Central Initiative, a regional planning organization and community foundation based in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. She is responsible for providing technical assistance related to pandemic response and recovery across a 9-county region comprised of primarily towns with a population of 2500 or less.

Kris Reynolds
American Farmland Trust | Midwest Regional Director | Illinois 

Kris Reynolds joined American Farmland Trust in 2017. Kris’s primary responsibility is managing programs in the Midwest that promote sound farming practices, help keep farmers on the land and protect farmland. He is also responsible for working with partners to coordinate activities with farmers and landowners that improve water quality, improve soil health, enhance nutrient efficiency, utilize conservation cropping systems, combat climate change and meet the goals of Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Kris previously worked as a Resource Conservationist, working with farmers and landowners to develop conservation plans, and also as a Cover Crop Specialist, educating and advising on cover crop usage. He is a Certified Crop Advisor with the American Society of Agronomy and holds a specialty certification as a 4R Nutrient Management Specialist and Sustainability Specialist. Reynolds holds a B.S. in Agronomy and Ag Business from Illinois State University. Kris is also a 5th-generation corn and soybean farmer in Nokomis, Illinois who grew up on a diversified grain and livestock farm. He began his soil health journey in 2013 by incorporating cover crops, no-till and nutrient management practices into his farming operation and he continues to expand and improve their use on his farm each year.

Holly Rippon-Butler
National Young Farmers Coalition | Land Campaign Director | New York

Holly grew up on her family’s multi-generation dairy and beef farm in upstate New York, where she continues to farm with her parents. From her first job at a nearby apple orchard to positions with local and national land conservation organizations, Holly has focused her work on the intersection of food, farmland protection, and policy. Holly holds an M.E.M. in sustainable land use and agriculture from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Abby Rohweder
Intertribal Agriculture Council | Policy Assistant | Michigan

Abby Rohweder serves as the Policy Assistant for the Intertribal Agriculture Council’s Policy & Government Relations Program. Throughout her work, she strives to meet the needs of Native American producers and tribes, ensuring that their voices are heard in national policy. Abby is a descendant of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, holds a degree in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Minnesota, and is a Co-Founder of the Land Access Alliance Non-Profit based out of Northeastern Minnesota.

Amy Saltzman
Walton Family Foundation | Senior Program Officer | Colorado

Amy is a senior program officer leading the Walton Family Foundation’s Mississippi River initiative, which seeks to support healthy soils, clean water and a restored and resilient Mississippi River system. Before joining the foundation, Amy was a senior program analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute’s HarvestPlus program, focusing on the intersection of agriculture and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Amy has also held positions at the Rural Coalition and the U.S. Department of State and was a Fulbright fellow in Malawi, where she studied farmer behavior change. Amy received her B.A. from Cornell University and her M.P.A. from the University of Colorado. She grew up on a farm in southwest Iowa.

Sarida Scott
W.K. Kellogg Foundation | Program Officer | Michigan

Sarida Scott is a program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this role, she works in the foundation’s priority place of Detroit, Michigan to support thriving children, working families and equitable communities. Scott is responsible for identifying and nurturing opportunities for effecting positive systemic change within communities and executing programming efforts that are aligned with the foundation’s mission, as well as working closely with staff to ensure integration and coordination of efforts. As the lead program officer for the Detroit office, Scott specializes in the area of employment equity for the communities of Detroit. Prior to joining the foundation, Scott was executive director of Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD), where she led the advancement of their policy and strategic positions, managed fundraising and oversaw day-to-day operations. Scott earned a bachelor of science in engineering from the University of Michigan and a juris doctor from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Detroit with her family.

Shakirah Simley
Booker T Washington Community Service Center | Executive Director | California

Shakirah Simley is a writer, seasoned organizer, and community development and policy strategist with over fifteen years of experience working on social justice and equity issues. Prior to serving as the inaugural Director for the Office of Racial Equity for the City and County of San Francisco, Shakirah has been a food media creator, culture curator and writer. In 2021, she shifted her focus to become the Executive Director at the Booker T Washington Community Service Center where she is leveraging her role to fight for better access and food sovereignty for Black and brown folks. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a Fulbright Scholar. She is a former food artisan and forever food justice advocate. A native of Harlem, New York, she lives in San Francisco.

Scott Skokos
Dakota Reserve Council | Executive Director | Missouri

Scott has over 15 years of experience working in public policy, politics, and community organizing. Scott has served as the Executive Director of Dakota Resource Council since 2018. Dakota Resource Council (DRC) is a statewide conservation and family farm group that works with farmers, ranchers, and frontline communities to address community issues, climate change, and promote family farm agriculture. Prior to becoming DRC’s Executive Director, Scott worked as a Regional Organizer for the Western Organization of Resource Councils where he was responsible for WORC’s regional oil and gas campaign. Scott also spent four years working as a community organizer at Dakota Resource Council focusing on clean energy and oil and gas. Scott is a board member for North Dakota Voters First (an organization founded to combat gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement) , the REAMP Network Agriculture Hub (working to uncover climate solutions in the agriculture sector throughout the midwest), and lastly is a member of the Methane Partners Campaign Steering Committee (a campaign working to combat methane emissions from the oil and gas industry). Scott holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Theory from Michigan State University and a Master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy from University of Denver.

Matt Solberg
National Center for Farmworker Health | Agricultural Employer Liaison | Texas

Matt works to connect agricultural employers and labor contractors in the United States with public health resources in their area.  He has worked with employers of all sizes to coordinate COVID vaccine clinics for their workers and to connect them with health centers for other worker health issues.  As a student at the University of Vermont, he studied agricultural economics and volunteered with migrant workers in the dairy industry.  Matt is committed to helping employers utilize public health resources available to their workers without interrupting work schedules.

Mariama Sonko
We Are the Solution | President | Casamance, Senegal

Mariama Sonko lives in Niaguiss, a town in the southwest of Senegal. She is an agroecological farmer, ecofeminist, organizer, and the President of the Pan-African women’s movement. We Are the Solution which brings together rural women’s associations in seven West African countries to promote sustainable agroecology and fight large-scale industrial farming. She is also treasurer of her grassroots association AJAC Lukaal in Senegal. She studied in primary and secondary school for 13 years, which is how she came to speak French. She is the mother to five children, feeding her family with her own agricultural production, and a tireless advocate in the fight for the human and socioeconomic rights of women and youth.

Kristina Stanley
Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance | Food & Culinary Program Coordinator | Wisconsin

Kristina Stanley (Ojibwe, Red Cliff ) attended Northland College where she studied Ecopsychology with a focus on Horticulture Therapy. Her studies focused around food ecosystems, food access, and how an individual’s relationship with food and the natural environment affects physical and mental health. Finding disparities between chefs and producers and event organizers, she continued her studies, completing the Meeting and Event Management Program at Madison College. Kristina has worked in food service for over 20 years, specializing in Catering, Event Management, Pastry, and Nutrition. She is a business owner (Abaaso Foods), and also shares her knowledge and experience as an Adjunct Instructor in the Hospitality Program at Fox Valley Technical College. Kristina is currently the Food & Culinary Program Coordinator at the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, and the Operations Manager for the I-Collective. Kristina served as project manager for “A Gathering Basket,” an Indigenous cookbook and multimedia platform produced by I-Collective and recently featured in the NYT.

Philip Taylor
Perennial Fund | Executive Director and Co-Founder | Colorado

I grew up in rural Maryland on farmland at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, raised by a family that taught me stewardship and my place in the world. I’ve always felt a deep purpose to ensure the beauty and wellbeing of the Earth, which humans are part and parcel of. I am drawn to agriculture because food is at the heart of our existence, and how we eat largely determines how the world is used. Humans are increasingly disconnected from food and the farmers that feed us all, which has driven a dramatic deterioration of global ecosystems, culture and economy. My life work is to create a world where people and ecosystem flourish together. I long to see coastal rivers rife with migrating fish, the prairies abundant with buffalo, the oceans churning with anchovies and whales, the Amazon rainforest left to stand, the bays rich with oysters and blue crabs, the mountains with glaciers and snow, and people living in their rightful place among it all. Seeking this vision of what was and could be requires wild creativity. Radical love must be the root of all action. I am also a fellow at the University of Colorado, where I teach The Future of Food in the Masters of the Environment Food Systems program. I have diverse international experience in both private and public sectors, and I’ve led research and outreach campaigns throughout Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. From 2013-2014 I co-founded Aethos Energy, an exploratory PE fund for accelerating renewable energy in the global south.

Tina Vasquez
Biwa | Emergent Equity | Founding Partner | North Carolina

Tina Vasquez is a first generation American of Puerto Rican, Cuban and Jamaican decent. She is the founder of Emergent Equity and has 15 plus years working in community based organizations and institutions in New York City and abroad. Tina is a Certified Movement Analyst by way of the Laban Institute for Movement Studies and has a B.A. in Individualized Study from NYU Gallatin. She has also been trained by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond on Undoing Racism. She has infused anti-racism principles throughout her professional career of teaching, dancing and organizing. Tina received her MS in Organizational Behavior, Systems and Analytics from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Polytechnic Institute and transitioned into non-profit management. Since 2017, she has expanded to the Triangle Area of North Carolina serving a cross section of industries from the arts to social serves and government. She specializes in systems and processes, training and development, change management and social equity development. Tina also maintains her dance and arts practices incorporating them into her consulting work as needed. Tina believes that organizations can only effectively serve their clients and communities if their organizational practices are fused with equitable visions and practices.

Olivia Watkins
Black Farmer Fund | President | New York

Olivia Watkins (she/her/hers) is a social entrepreneur and impact investor. For the past seven years, she has financed, developed, and operated environmental and social projects across the US. She currently serves as a co-founder and President of Black Farmer Fund. She also serves as a board member for Soul Fire Farm Institute. Prior to founding Black Farmer Fund in 2017, Olivia worked in several production roles at Soul Fire Farm Institute and Kahumana Organic Farms, leveraging her environmental biology background to manage and grow environmentally regenerative and socially impactful business operations. Olivia has an MBA from North Carolina State University in Financial Management, and a BA from Barnard College, Columbia University in Environmental Biology. She was also recognized on the 2021 Forbes 30 under 30 Social Impact list and The Grist 50.

Mark Watson
Potlikker Capital | President | Massachusetts

Mark Watson is Co-founder and President of Potlikker Capital, a farm community governed charitable integrated capital fund dedicated to supporting BIPOC farmers at the intersection of racial and climate justice. He also serves as Senior Investment Strategist, after serving as Managing Director of the Fair Food Fund, which offers catalytic capital with a social equity lens to improve community access to healthy food and increase wealth through more local ownership of the means of the production and distribution of food. Mr. Watson started his career as a banker at the First National Bank of Chicago, now JP Morgan in commercial banking, corporate and public finance. Most recently, Mark co-designed and launched an integrated racial justice capital fund, The Boston Impact Initiative Fund and managed the deployment of capital to over 30 small businesses. Mark continues as an investment committee member of the Boston Impact Initiative Fund; an advisory board Member of MIT/Health Innovation Systems Inc.; Director of Transition of The Institute of Educational Leadership; and a former board member of the Social Venture Network. Mr. Watson holds a B.S. in Finance, University of Illinois Champaign -Urbana and a MBA from The Booth School, University of Chicago.

Sally Worley
Practical Farmers of Iowa | Executive Director | Iowa

Sally Worley joined Practical Farmers of Iowa staff in the fall of 2007, after being a member of the organization for a few years. She became the executive director February 1, 2016. Before that Sally worked in multiple positions at Practical Farmers, including: communications director, next generation and horticulture director, deputy director and operations director. Sally works to ensure Practical Farmers is farmer-led and maintains its big tent, welcoming everyone into the organization. She oversees PFI’s staffing, finances and programming, and is the primary liaison with the board of directors. A native of Northeast Iowa, Sally has a Bachelor of Science in horticulture and environmental studies from Iowa State University, and an Executive Master of Public Administration from the University of South Dakota. Prior to working at Practical Farmers of Iowa, Sally directed the agriculture-based vocational program for people with autism at The Homestead near Pleasant Hill for four years. Sally has also started up a landscape maintenance program for a local landscape company, managed a crew of landscapers in Boise, Idaho, and apprenticed on an upstate New York organic vegetable farm. Sally serves in multiple board and advisory roles that complement PFI’s mission and vision.

Malik Yakini
Detroit Black Community Food Security Network | Co-Founder/Executive Director | Michigan

Malik Kenyatta Yakini is co-founder and Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN). DBCFSN operates the seven-acre D-Town Farm and is spearheading the opening of, the Detroit Food Commons, in Detroit’s North End that will house the Detroit People’s Food Co-op. He serves as a board member of the co-op. Yakini views the work of DBCFSN as part of the larger movement for building power, self-determination, and justice. He is adamantly opposed to the systems of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy. He has an intense interest in contributing to the development of an international food sovereignty movement that embraces Black communities in the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa. He is a co-founder of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance.

Jen Zuckerman
World Food Policy Center, Sanford School of Public Policy | Director of Strategic Initiatives | North Carolina

Jen Zuckerman serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at Duke University’s World Food Policy Center. Here she focuses on people-first policy development for equitable food policy. Foundational to that work has been producing research to demonstrate the racialized history of policies that have created the inequities in the food system (and other systems) of today and identifying strategies that shift power and decision making to community leadership. Specific examples: Power and Benefit on the Plate, a History of Food in Durham; Identifying and Countering White Supremacy Narratives in Food Systems; and North Carolina Food System Resilience Strategy. Prior to her current work, she spent twelve years at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, serving as the Senior Program Officer for Healthy Living and the Director of Strategic Partnerships. Jen currently serves on the Board of Directors for SAFSF.