2019 Speakers

August 11-13, 2019 | Texas State University | San Marcos, Texas

 

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2019 KEYNOTES

MARK SHEPARD heads Forest Agriculture Enterprises, is founder of Restoration Agriculture Development, and is the award-winning author of the book Restoration Agriculture: Real-World Permaculture for Farmers. The book represents Mark’s belief in the ability of sustainably grown perennial food crops to feed us into “our resource-compromised future.”

Mark is most widely known as the founder of New Forest Farm in Wisconsin, a 106-acre commercial-scale perennial agricultural operation that was converted from a row-crop grain farm. It is considered by many to be one of the most ambitious sustainable agriculture projects in the United States.

The farm was developed using oak savanna, successional brushland, and eastern woodlands as the ecological models. Trees, shrubs, vines, canes, perennial plants, and fungi are planted in association with one another to produce food (for humans and grazing livestock), fuel, medicines, and beauty. Hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, and various fruits are the primary woody crops.

Mark is a certified permaculture designer and teaches agroforestry and permaculture worldwide.

 

DEBORAH CLARK and EMRY BIRDWELL run a stocker operation of 5,000-7,000 head of cattle on the 14,000-acre Birdwell & Clark Ranch in Clay County, northwest of Ft. Worth. While a portion of the livestock is kept on leased land, about 5,000 head remain at the ranch they purchased in 2004, fed using a high-density grazing management plan, resulting in consistently improved range conditions, soil health, and cattle productivity.

Emry’s proudest accomplishments are the changes he sees at the ranch in terms of decreasing bare ground, improving diversity of grasses and forbs, soil health, and the ability to add more gain per acre. As a Holistic Management Certified Educator, Deborah works to help others learn to manage their resources in a way that keeps the business, land, family, and community healthy.

In 2018, the couple earned one of six regional Environmental Stewardship Awards, presented by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. in recognition of outstanding land stewardship. Deborah also serves on the board of directors of the Texas Wildlife Assn.

Their grazing system utilizes 340 paddocks to rotate the cattle three-six times a day. In addition, a pipeline and mobile watering trough system allows them to fence the cattle out of riparian areas and stock tanks, ensuring protection of local water and allowing grazing distribution over broad areas of pasture.

After 13 years of intensive land management, Emry and Deborah doubled their stocking rates and significantly improved wildlife habitat, primarily for deer, quail, and dove.

 


ADDITIONAL SPEAKERS

 

SUE BECKWITH is the Executive Director of the Texas Center for Local Food and a project manager for local food and sustainable agriculture projects in Texas. Through work for the City of Elgin and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Sue helps develop local food enterprises that support Texas sustainable agriculture and rural job creation.

Sue is past president of Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and was the start up project manager for Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill, the only certified organic commercial feed mill in Texas.

 

 


JAMES BROWN spent a 30+ year career in church music after earning a bachelor’s in organ and a master’s in choral conducting. His recent retirement has taken him in an entirely new direction, but not without some early background in the field. James also has a culinary degree from the Art Institute of Houston and worked at the Houston Country Club and as chef de cuisine at the Hotel Sofitel in Houston.

That love of culinary arts led him to baking bread as a hobby, but he soon discovered there were no viable local options for freshly milled, locally adapted heritage grains. After gauging the interest of local chefs, James decided to start his own mill. He found farmers willing to grow organic heritage grains and found sources for seed, opening Barton Springs Mill in January 2017. Today the mill provides artisan flours, cornmeal, and grits to wholesale and retail clients throughout Austin/Hill Country, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.


ALEX CANEPA provides strategic guidance to the Sustainable Food Center’s farmers’ markets and leads the organization’s policy efforts. SFC is a non-profit based in Austin that supports the local food system and the health of Central Texas residents. Alex works to reduce the barriers that farmers and ranchers face in getting their products to market.

Before joining SFC, Alex’s work included time with the National Farmers Market Coalition and Texas Senate. Alex holds a master’s degree from the University of Oxford and a bachelor’s from Trinity College Dublin. He lives in Austin.

 

 


NORA CHOVANEC is deputy director for Texas Farmers’ Market, organizer of the Austin Fermentation Festival, and design director for Travis Audubon. Nora’s experience encompasses communications direction, marketing strategy, brand development, and non-profit management, with a focus on food systems, species advocacy, environmental justice, and urban and rural development.

Nora is passionate about helping communities build sustainable practices that support and conserve the natural environment. Prior to moving to Texas, she was a designer and researcher for architect Maya Lin’s science-based art memorial “What Is Missing?” She also developed a catalog of documentary photography and videos produced across the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Cuba, and Uganda. She and her husband, Arabic and Turkish scholar Matthew Chovanec, live in Austin with a cat, four free-ranging chickens, and a plethora of pollinators in their home garden patch.


LINDA COFFEY has more than 40 years’ experience in raising sheep, beginning in Missouri on her family’s farm and continuing to the present day at Maple Gorge Farm near Prairie Grove, Ark. Linda uses her experience, as well as her animal science degrees from the University of Missouri (BS and MS) to assist sheep and goat producers in her position as NCAT livestock specialist.

As part of her work, Linda has written numerous publications and participated in podcasts, videos, and webinars, as well as presenting at conferences. Find Linda’s publications about sheep and goat production and internal parasite management at www.attra.ncat.org  to find Linda’s publications about sheep and goat production and internal parasite management.


DOUG CONSTANCE is Professor of Sociology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. His degrees are in Forest Management (BS), Community Development (MS), and Rural Sociology (PhD), all from the University of Missouri at Columbia. His research area is the impact of globalization of the conventional agrifood system, and alternative agrifood systems.

He has numerous journal articles, book chapters, and books on these topics. His most recent edited book is Contested Sustainability Discourses in the Agrifood System (2018) by Routledge/Earthscan Press. He is past president of the Southern Rural Sociological Association (2003) and the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (2008). Dr. Constance currently serves as the Quality of Life Representative and Chair of the Administrative Council of the USDA/Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research Education Program.

 


BRIANNA CROWLEY is the Texas A&M AgriLife Viticulture Program Specialist for the Hill Country region. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Rhodes College in Memphis in 2012 and her master’s in plant pathology in 2017 from North Carolina State University. Brianna has worked with fungal pathogens for the last decade and with perennial crops for the last 7 years, performing molecular and applied research in university and extension programs.

Her duties are to conduct applied research and advise commercial grape growers on viticulture from site selection through crop production and the many areas of concern in between.


ROB CUNNINGHAM lives in the middle of 22,000 organic, pasture-raised laying hens at Coyote Creek Organic Farm with his wife Amy and their two sons. The farm, located near Elgin, just east of Austin, has its own USDA certified organic feed mill which was the first organic feed mill in Texas open to the public.

In addition to their organic and Non-GMO Project Verified pasture-raised eggs, Rob and Amy raise grassfed beef and lamb for sale direct from the farm. Coyote Creek began producing pasture-raised eggs in 2005 with 5,000 layers, increasing that number by more than four-fold in the ensuing 14 years.

 

 


CRISTINA DOMINGUEZ is co-founder and co-executive director of La Semilla Food Center in Anthony, N.M. Through its community-focused advocacy program, mobile farmers market, community education, and local food and farm business development, as well as its community farm, La Semilla’s mission is to foster a healthy and localized food system in south-central New Mexico. Cristina led the transition of 12 acres of fallow farmland into La Semilla Community Farm, a thriving education and demonstration farm guided by agroecology principles.

She holds a certificate in ecological horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at University of California/Santa Cruz and is a graduate of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Cristina worked for Heifer International prior to launching La Semilla Food Center. She has been profiled in Ecoliterate and The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming.


JUSTIN DREIBELBIS serves as director for the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. His responsibilities include supporting TPWD biologists throughout the state in their technical guidance activities on private lands. He also administers the Public Hunting Program on more than 1.5 million acres statewide.

Justin is an avid hunter and angler who fell in love with the outdoors at an early age, hunting the brush country of south Texas with his family. Before joining TPWD, Justin spent seven years with the Texas Wildlife Association in various roles that include conservation program coordinator and director of hunting heritage. He is a Certified Wildlife Biologist with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University. He and his wife Rachael live in Austin with their daughters, June and Jill.


JUSTIN DUNCAN is a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s Southwest Regional Office. He has a BS in agronomy from Prairie View A&M University and an MS in plant breeding from Texas A&M University.

He’s spent years figuring out the nuts-and-bolts of successful organic farming in the humid South, concentrating mainly on sweet potatoes, strawberries, niche market ethnic specialty crops, cover crops, and drought mitigation techniques. He is currently working on cover crop projects in south Texas to help farmers there build organic matter in their soil.

 

 


WILLIE DURHAM is a soil health specialist with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Health Division. He began with NRCS 18 years ago as a conservation agronomist, becoming the State Conservation Agronomist is 2008. In his current role, Willie provides training, guidance, and technical resources to USDA-NRCS employees, customers, and partners, to improve the health and function of our soil.

After earning a bachelor’s in entomology and a master’s in agricultural chemistry from Texas A&M, Willie worked as a sales representative for Helena Chemical Company and Terra International in the Rio Grande Valley, then as a regional agronomist for Novartis Seeds in Texas, Oklahoma, and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

 

 


SAM EDER, CEO and co-founder of Big Wheelbarrow, is obsessed with changing how cities feed themselves. He and the team at Big Wheelbarrow, based in Austin, created software to strengthen the foodshed around cities by getting more local food into grocery stores and food-service companies. Working with farmers all over the country, Big Wheelbarrow’s platform powers millions of dollars in local farm purchasing for regional and national chains.

Launched just 3 years ago, Big Wheelbarrow already has been named the 2019 Food + City Global Prize finalist and was selected as part of the inaugural classes of the Techstars Farm to Fork and the Food Foundry. Before helping to found Big Wheelbarrow, Sam was involved in the local food scene as an advocate for urban agriculture in Austin.


JOSH EILERS served as an Airborne Army Ranger for 5 years.  As a sergeant, he served as team leader in the U.S. Army’s elite First Ranger Battalion, leading his team on hundreds of special operation missions throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. After being wounded in combat, Josh received a Purple Heart.

Following his military career, Josh attended the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in biology. While there, he invested his savings in a herd of Wagyu cattle, and his company, Ranger Cattle, was born. Today Josh continues to serve by providing high quality, sustainable beef to his community, selling at farmers’ markets and to local restaurants.

 

 


MAX ELLIOTT, LMSW, is co-founder and executive director of Urban Roots, an Austin non-profit that cultivates leadership skills in youth through food and farming. He earned a master’s in environmental studies from University of Essex, England, a master’s in social work from University of Texas at Austin, a bachelor’s in American studies from Tulane University, and a certificate in ecological horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz.

Max is the former co-director of the New Orleans Food & Farm Network and was a founding member of the City of Austin Food Policy Board. Currently, he is the co-chair of the One Voice Equity and Social Justice Committee and a board member of The New Philanthropists.

 


CHARLIE FLATTEN is the water policy program manager at the Hill Country Alliance. He works in long-range sustainable water planning, directing and analyzing policy, and facilitating educational outreach and a cooperative dialog among the region’s diverse communities.

He is a member of the Hill Country’s three Regional Water Planning Groups and its three Groundwater Management Area groups. He works with universities, state agencies, the Hill Country’s land and water conservation NGOs, and the Legislature, and produces the Texas Water Symposium radio broadcast series. The consistent focus of his work is long-term health and sustainability of our limited water resources.

 


JUSTIN GRAHAM is owner/operator of Zanzenberg Farm and organizer of the Kerrville Farmers Market Downtown. He grew up in conventional corn and cotton agriculture in Texas, but after college, he met his wife Kayte and was introduced to the benefits of rotational land management and regenerative agriculture.

In 2013, he and Kayte purchased a small homestead in East Kerr County and turned it into a pastured pork farm with heritage breed hogs. In 2017, they received the Young Farmer Grant through TDA for implementation of a diversified farm design, including water conservation, soil biology, carbon fixation, fruit and nut trees, native grasses, and pollinator species on a silvo-contour line system. Their focus is on educating the community about land stewardship and its resultant enrichment of our food.


DENNIS GRAY runs Cactus Village Birds and Bees which produces primarily honey and quail products. President of the Coastal Bend Beekeepers Association, he’s an advocate for small- and medium-size beekeeping operations in Texas. From the world-famous Guajillo honey of the caliche (brush) country to 100 percent natural comb sections for high-end customers, his bee and honey operation provides quality products to the Texas Gulf Coast. His bee colonies also provide pollination to much of that same region.

A retired U.S. Merchant Marine Officer, Dennis now focuses his work on sustainable, high quality, local food for boutique markets.

 


JESSE GRIFFITHS owns and operates Dai Due Butcher Shop and Supper Club in Austin, which was voted one of the top 10 new restaurants in the U.S. by Bon Appetit magazine in 2015. He is also owner of Dai Due Taqueria and head instructor of the New School of Traditional Cookery. A native of Denton, Jesse was a self-taught cook and began his restaurant career at the age of 16. Dai Due focuses on traditional, local, and sustainable food, working with and serving only locally sourced produce, meat, and dairy.

As a hunter and a butcher, Jesse is a big believer in knowing and caring about how animals have been grown and harvested. He is the author of the book Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, published by Welcome Books, and the soon-to-be-released The Hog Book: a Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Preparing and Cooking Wild Pigs.


HILDA GUTIERREZ is the food access director at the Sustainable Food Center in Austin where she oversees SFC’s Double Dollars Project (soon to be Double Up Food Bucks). This program offers a dollar-for-dollar match to market goers who use their federal nutrition benefits at local farmers’ markets. Hilda also directs engagement efforts focused on low-income communities.

Hilda is a native of the Rio Grande Valley and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. For generations, members of her family have worked as farm laborers. With a master’s in Latin American Studies and a B.A. in feminist studies, Hilda has extensive experience in the movements to end gender-based violence and to protect immigrant rights.

 

 


KASON HABY is a rangeland management specialist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and serves as a liaison to the Edwards Region Grazing Land Coalition. He provides technical assistance and conservation planning to landowners on grazing lands in 18 counties. His work was recognized by the Texas Section Society for Rangeland Management as Outstanding Young Range Professional in 2015.

Kason graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in rangeland ecology and management in 2006 and has worked for the NRCS since 2007.

 

 


ZACH HALFIN is a horticulturalist, arborist, avid gardener, and friend to the critters and the soil. He has been gardening for 18 years and now works with landowners and farmers to implement landscapes that help conserve biodiversity, clean water, and healthy soil.

Zach is the garden manager at Thigh High Gardens here in San Marcos and is an active member of the Central Texas Farmers Cooperative when he isn’t busy landscaping and gardening.

 

 


ABBIE HANNON is officer-in-charge and market reporter with USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Specialty Crop Programs Market News Division in Phoenix. Abbie has almost 20 years of reporting experience in the produce industry, reporting commodities including broccoli and romaine from Arizona and California, watermelon from Texas, and lime and mango from Mexico.

Her office reports weekly truck rates and retail ad pricing, along with daily prices and shipments of vegetables, citrus, melons and other specialty commodities grown in the southwestern United States.

 

 


KATHY HARRIS is program director and professional certified educator for Holistic Management International, where she works with a global community of educators to help farmers and ranchers regenerate our lands, revitalize the economic integrity of their businesses and communities, and improve their personal well-being. She embraced Holistic Management principles in the late 1990s to transition her young family from suburban life to a more self-sufficient lifestyle on a small family farm. Her passion for health, nutrient dense food, and biodiversity led to raising dairy cows and goats; grass-fed and finished beef and lamb; pastured poultry for eggs and meat; honeybees; and nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

The study of Holistic Management opened Kathy’s eyes to the connections and relationships in nature and led to field experimentation with composting, compost extracts, effective microbes, paramagnetic rock/dust, and kitchen experimentation with making soft and hard cheeses, sourdoughs, lacto-ferments, and probiotic brews.


ROCIO HERNANDEZ is a farmer and agriculture educator who was born in Mexico and raised in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. She studied biology and health while organizing regional farmers around production and food access feasibility, working within the University of Texas/RGV Agroecology Program.

For the past three years, she has worked with IDEA public schools as a full-time farmer and high school teacher. “The opportunity to talk about soil, food, and our environment with kids K-12 every day is one I do proudly, in hopes that the next generation of land stewards is more powerful than the last,” she says.

 

 


ERIC HERM is an organic farmer, author, poet, and musician from Ackerly, Texas. He is the author of Son of a Farmer, Child of the Earth, as well as Surviving Ourselves, and I am the Tumbleweed. He has transformed all 1,200 acres of his family’s farm into organic production, growing cotton, wheat, barley, oats and rye.

He and his wife Jennie have begun an environmentally friendly textile business, Allred Farms, creating denim goods from their own cotton. Visit allredfarm.com or sonofafarmer.com for more info.

 

 


TODD HUNTER is serving his 9th term in the Texas House of Representatives, having first been elected in 1988. He is an attorney in private practice in Corpus Christi. Born in Bartlesville, Okla., Todd earned a bachelor’s from the University of Kansas and his J.D. from Southern Methodist University.

He has lived in the Corpus Christi area for almost 40 years. During the 2019 Legislative Session, Rep. Hunter served on the committees for state affairs and criminal jurisprudence.

 

 


DR. RAVI JADEJA is assistant professor and food safety specialist at Oklahoma State University, having received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in food biotechnology in India. He attended Louisiana State University to earn a Ph.D. in food science, with a specialization in food microbiology. Following graduation, he joined the University of Georgia as a post-doctoral researcher, where he developed antimicrobial strategies to improve beef safety.

Ravi’s current research focuses on strategies to reduce foodborne pathogens within the food production chain. He is actively involved in training food industry professionals and regulators on topics that include food allergens, food safety audits, and regulations. He has authored 23 peer-reviewed journal articles, 3 patent applications, 44 abstracts, and 19 popular press articles.


KATIE JOLANDER is the farm loan officer for USDA’s Farm Service Agency in a south-central region of Texas that covers 12 counties. She has worked for Farm Service Agency for 12 years, serving in her current position for 6 years.

Katie graduated from Texas State University with a bachelor’s in agriculture education and a second bachelor’s in agribusiness management. She grew up in Northern California on her family’s dairy farm.

 

 

 

 


JIM KAMAS is an associate professor and Extension fruit specialist stationed at the Texas A&M Agrilife & Extension Viticulture and Fruit Lab in Fredericksburg. He has worked as a research associate and instructor at Texas A&M, commercial fruit grower in Austin County, and Extension team leader for the New York and Pennsylvania Lake Erie Regional Grape Program.

Since returning to Texas in 1996, Jim has worked extensively with grape and other perennial fruit industries to address the needs of large- and small-scale commercial fruit growers. Jim has authored two books, Growing Grapes in Texas and The Texas Peach Handbook. He also has been active in international fruit work in the Caucuses, North Africa, Central America, and across the Caribbean Basin.

 


ERIN KIMBROUGH is the program coordinator for Texas A&M Agrilife Extension’s programs BattleGround to Breaking Ground and Texas Agrability. BattleGround to Breaking Ground provides veterans and other beginning farmers/ranchers education and resources to start or expand a farm or ranch. Texas Agrability provides information, education, and assistance to individuals with disabilities to stay actively engaged in agriculture.

Erin is responsible for developing programs, writing curriculum, providing education, and managing operations. She also provides technical assistance on programs being developed for veterans across the country. She and her husband, John, own Growin on Faith Farm where they raise meat goats, sheep, grass-fed beef, Yaupon tea, and horses. Erin and John also serve as founding members on the board of the Farmer Veteran Coalition Chapter of Texas.


BILLY KNIFFEN is a water resource associate in the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, where he has worked for 30 years. For the past 20 years, Billy’s focus has been on rainwater harvesting and watershed stewardship, earning numerous awards for his work. He is a past vice president and education coordinator for the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Assn. and has conducted educational workshops and installed demonstration rainwater collection systems across Texas and the U.S., in addition to providing educational support internationally.

Billy co-authored the “Rainwater Harvesting: System Planning” manual used to train rainwater professionals. He and his wife, Mary, own a small sustainable farm in Menard, growing fruit, vegetables, and pecans and caring for free-range chickens, honeybees and Aberdeen Angus cattle. Their home is solely dependent on rainwater.


TRAVIS KRAUSE is the co-founder of Parker Creek Ranch and Ranch Marketing Solutions. He is a full-time rancher and consultant alongside his wife Mandy and their two sons, Jack and Max. Travis was born and raised on his family’s ranch in South Texas. He earned a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University and worked several years abroad in India, Ecuador, and other developing countries.

Travis realized the practical limitations of his work and felt called back to his family ranch where he studied and experimented with sustainable agriculture techniques and production methods, business management, and a variety of agricultural subjects. He was profoundly influenced by the writing and teaching of Joel Salatin, Allan Savory, and others, and now Travis, Mandy, and their sons are successful leaders in the Texas regenerative agriculture movement.


CAROLINE KREJCI is an assistant professor of industrial, manufacturing, and systems engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, an M.S. from Purdue University, and a B.S. from Bradley University, all in industrial engineering. She has worked as an industrial engineer at UPS, an operations engineer at Lutron Electronics, and an assistant professor at Iowa State University.

Dr. Krejci’s research focuses on developing methodologies for management of complex systems, including regional food supply networks, food recovery networks, crowd logistics systems, solar energy projects, and urban communities. She is particularly interested in adapting traditional industrial engineering techniques and tools to improve decentralized logistics and production systems.


KARA KROEGER is a sustainable agriculture specialist with National Center for Appropriate Technology in San Antonio. Kara became a certified herbalist in 1999 and a certified nutritionist in 2003. She has owned a private chef/catering business since training as a chef in 2009.

Kara earned a bachelor’s in general agriculture at Texas State University in 2018. With a background in in grass-fed beef production, she is knowledgeable in the use of regenerative management tools to improve pasture health and productivity. Her work includes management and development of the NCAT Soil for Water initiative, which aims to create a critical mass of landowners who are applying regenerative agricultural practices.

 


STAN LAMBERT is a Texas State Representative, serving House District 71. A Republican from Abilene, Stan is in his second term representing Taylor, Nolan, and Jones Counties. He is a member of the House Committee on Insurance; the Committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services; and the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission.

Born and raised in Abilene, Stan earned his bachelor’s in business from Abilene Christian University in 1975 and later his graduate certification in banking from Southern Methodist University. Upon graduation, Lambert began a long career in community banking.

 


DANIEL LESKOVAR is a professor in vegetable physiology and director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center, Uvalde. He has a BS from the Univ. del Comahue, Argentina; master’s from UC Davis, California; and Ph.D. from the University of Florida. His work centers on understanding plant adaptation mechanisms to stress and in developing sustainable cropping systems for high value vegetables.

Dr. Leskovar’s research has appeared in more than 200 journal papers, book chapters, and abstracts, and he was associate editor of two horticultural journals. Recently he was selected chair of the International Society for Horticultural Science Division of Vegetables, Roots and Tubers. His current research focus is on seed-transplant physiology; soil and plant growth regulators and amendments; grafted tomato-high tunnel; hydroponics; root/shoot trait responses to drought and heat; and genotype/variety selection for stress tolerance, yield, quality, and water use efficiency.


JANE LEVAN and her husband Terry own Dewberry Hills Farm near Elgin, where they not only raise chickens for meat, but have a USDA-certified processing facility relied upon by poultry raisers throughout Central Texas. They purchased the 20 acres 2 decades ago, with no intention of becoming pastured poultry farmers. But increasing dissatisfaction with their commute to Austin and an article they read about Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms changed all that.

They began by raising broilers for themselves and giving them away to clients and friends. The extremely positive reactions they received encouraged them to make the career change. By 2008 they had built the processing facility receiving USDA certification in 2010. Today they have thousands of chickens on the property and six full-time employees helping with processing.


ALAN LEWIS navigates government affairs and food and agriculture policy for Natural Grocers, a Colorado-based health food chain founded in 1955, now with over 150 stores in 19 states. At the federal, state and local level, Alan engages on food, agriculture, nutrition, rural economic development, blockchain, trade, and health issues. Alan is active in several trade and advocacy organizations and has been a speaker and panelist at many events, including a talk at TEDx Boulder in 2014.

Long a student of political activism, his focus is on communicating with stakeholders using frameworks that are non-confrontational and inclusive. Alan has lived oversees for extended periods, which lends to his understanding of agriculture in varying social and political contexts. He also oversees organic certification and compliance for Natural Grocers while advising dozens of food, natural product, and ag-tech start-ups across the country. Current commitments include the Non-GMO Project board, Organic and Natural Health Association board, Real Organic Project standards board, Retail Advisory Committee of the American Grassfed Association, Farm Policy Committee of the Organic Farmers Association, and various committees of the Council for Responsible Nutrition.


SAM LILLIE is the co-founder/CEO of Vinder, an online marketing app for small producers and farmers’ markets to sell direct-to-consumer and wholesale. Sam originally launched Vinder on foot and bicycle as he went door-to-door in his hometown of Port Townsend, Wash., asking homeowners if they had a home garden and if so, if they might consider selling their excess produce. Within 3 months, Vinder connected 30 home growers with 15 families and distributed over 300 lbs. of homegrown produce.

Sam served on the food policy board in Jefferson County, Wash., and was awarded the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year. Sam earned his bachelor’s in international business from San Jose State University, is a local food advocate, long distance hiker, and lover of burritos.

 


ANNELIES LOTTMANN is the Central Texas Program Coordinator for the Texas Rural Cooperative Center of University of Texas/Rio Grande Valley. In that role, she assists groups seeking to form or strengthen cooperative businesses all around Texas. Before joining TRCC in 2015, Annelies co-founded Yard to Market Co-op, a producers’ cooperative that continues to provide sales and marketing services to small-scale food producers in the Austin area. She also serves on the Boards of Black Star Co-op and the Austin Cooperative Business Association.

Annelies has a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law and a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. When she’s not working with TRCC clients or tending her garden, she practices Brazilian rhythms with the Austin Samba School.

 


PATTY LOVERA is the assistant director of Food & Water Watch where she coordinates the work of the food team and focuses especially on meat inspection, food safety, labeling, and dairy issues. Patty has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Lehigh University and a master’s in environmental policy from the University of Michigan.

Before working at Food & Water Watch, Patty was the deputy director of the energy and environment program at Public Citizen and a research associate at the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice.

 

 


ALEXANDER MACE is the food access manager at Sustainable Food Center in Austin, where he leads the implementation of the Double Dollars project (soon to be Double Up) at SFC Farmers’ Markets and expansion sites. Alex has studied and worked in food systems at home and abroad, building community gardens in rural West Virginia, teaching youth about orchard care in Dakar, Senegal, and studying food system resilience in Italy.

While pursuing a master’s in public health at Tulane University, he worked with multiple food systems organizations in New Orleans, engaging with community members in garden and nutrition education while developing his own growing skills.

 

 


ROBERT MACE is the interim executive director and chief water policy officer of The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and a professor of practice in the Department of Geography at Texas State University. Robert has over 30 years of experience in hydrology, hydrogeology, stakeholder processes, and water policy.

He has a B.S. in geophysics and an M.S. in hydrology from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and a Ph.D. in hydrogeology from the University of Texas at Austin. He says his residential consumption of water is under 30 gallons per person per day and claims it would be lower if his wife were “more cooperative.”

 

 

 


ROBERT MAGGIANI: Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Robert Maggiani is a familiar face in the Texas produce industry and widely recognized as an expert on specialty crop production and marketing. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas in Austin. He was a commercial vegetable farmer in South Texas and North Mexico during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1985 he joined the marketing staff of the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) as a direct marketing specialist with statewide responsibilities. He was the first marketing specialist assigned to TDA’s efforts to establish an organic certification program in 1987.

After six years in Austin, he transferred to the newly created office of the South Central Region in San Antonio to become the chief of marketing. He served in that position for the next 20 years and developed extensive contacts in Texas with producers, retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, and trade associations. Robert currently works with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).

 


JAMES MAIOCCO is chief operations officer at Barn2Door, in charge of marketing, sales, and finance. Barn2Door helps farmers leverage technology to accelerate cash flow to fuel growth. James is a seasoned technology veteran with 20+ years’ experience at high-growth software companies, including Pushpay (IPO), Xero (IPO) and Gomez (acquired).

James was a founding member of Microsoft Ventures, leading investments in the United States, China, and Israel. He has domain expertise in technology partnerships (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft), payments (Paypal, Stripe, WePay), and financing (closing $175M+ in growth financing in his prior positions).

 


SUSIE MARSHALL is founder and executive director of GROW North Texas, a Dallas-based not-for-profit that cultivates healthy food communities by strengthening local food production and improving access to fresh, nutritious food. She has 13 years’ experience working with food producers and food assistance programs distributing surplus fruits and vegetables.

Susie is a long-time volunteer for the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, currently as grants administrator and previously as executive director. Susie has a bachelor’s degree from Texas Wesleyan University, a master’s degree in health and physical education from Texas A&M-Commerce, and a master’s of theological studies from the Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

 


JARRED MAXWELL leads Foodshed Investors’ venture relations, guiding business owners through the fundraising process, providing business analysis, and assisting them to prepare to present to potential investors. He has been the local leader for Slow Money Austin since 2011 and is dedicated to healthy food, local economic vitality, support of small-scale businesses, re-invigoration of small towns, and small family farms and ranches.

Jarred is an active angel investor in more than a dozen local socially responsible companies. In 2010, he founded The Happy Land Company, specializing in acquisition, restoration, and preservation of rural land. A lifelong Texan, Jarred is also a rancher, managing 400-plus acres of family ranch outside Lampasas.

 


STEPHANIE McCLENNY is the owner of Confituras, a small jam company she launched in 2010 after several years of preserving the local bounty from Austin farmers’ markets. It did not take long for the local food loving community in Austin to recognize and appreciate Stephanie’s commitment to quality, seasonality, and really good jam.

Since 2011, Confituras has been awarded five Local Hero Awards, four National Good Food Awards, and a Southern Living Food Award. The Austin Food & Wine Alliance awarded Confituras a culinary grant in 2013 for its “Preserving Austin” project, an emerging program that preserves not only the local, seasonal bounty but also local canning history and heritage. Confituras recently opened a brick & mortar community kitchen and jam & biscuit shop in South Austin, Confituras Little Kitchen, which churns out seasonal jams and biscuits made with locally milled, heritage grains and offers an incubator mentorship program for women starting out in the food business.

 


JUDITH McGEARY, the founder and Executive Director of FARFA and the Council for Healthy Food Systems, 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 been profiled in the Texas Observer and Edible Austin, appears in the documentary “Farmageddon,” and has been interviewed on numerous radio shows across the country. Judith previously served as the Vice Chair of the U.S. Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health and remains active with Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the Weston A. Price Foundation, and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.


GLEN MIRACLE is the owner of Laughing Frog Farm in Hempstead, Texas, a small permaculture farm near Houston. Laughing Frog sells vegetables, fruit, chicken eggs and meat, and lamb meat and wool. Glen seeks to work with nature to make farming as little work as possible by using plants, domestic animals, and wildlife to build the soil biology.

After growing up in a rural farming community in Kentucky, Glen ended up in Houston painting theatrical sets and murals. He started a small garden then eventually purchased the land that would become Laughing Frog Farm, building his own house, becoming a certified permaculture designer, and continuously expanding and improving the farm.

 


COLIN MITCHELL currently works as a sustainable agriculture specialist for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). Colin has a bachelor’s in government and a minor in geography and the environment from the University of Texas in Austin. He is a former project management intern for the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia and a PRI certified permaculture designer.

Colin spent the years after his internship working on and managing sustainable agriculture and development projects across central Texas and the U.S. For NCAT he currently works on projects related to soil health and carbon sequestration, ecosystem services, adaptive multi-paddock grazing, cover crops, local food, and other regenerative agriculture systems.

 

 


PAM MITCHELL has worked in the agriculture industry for 20 years, first managing and training horses. Her next endeavor was in wildlife management, which led to ranch management, including agritourism.

She and her husband own Montesino Ranch, a 225-acre working ranch located three miles outside Wimberley. It is the third Hill Country ranch in which Pam has incorporated holistic management practices to make the business not only sustainable, but profitable. In addition to vegetables and fruits, the Mitchells raise grass-fed organic cattle and pastured-raised chickens. The ranch also serves as an event and wedding venue and has been used as a film location.

 


KIM OLSON is a farmer, combat veteran, and advocate for public education. She currently is running for Congress to represent Texas’ 24th District, a suburban area wedged north of and between Dallas and Ft. Worth. In 2018, Kim ran statewide for Agriculture Commissioner, earning more votes than any Democratic woman in Texas history.

Kim entered the Air Force in 1979, later serving as one of the first female pilots. She retired as a full Colonel in 2005 after serving in Iraq, then continued her military service in the Texas State Guard. A fourth-generation farmer, Kim and her husband raise fresh fruits and vegetables and keep beehives for pollination and honey. She is also CEO of the non-profit Grace After Fire, helping female veterans make the transition back to civilian life.


HELENKA OSTRUM is a program specialist in the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Division. She oversees community and student engagement initiatives, stakeholder committees, and the Summer Meal Programs. Helenka launched TDA’s Health Ambassadors for a Ready Texas Initiative, which provides an opportunity for high school leaders to champion healthy eating within their school communities.

Helenka grew up in rural northern New York in a county with more dairy cows than people. She served as a FoodCorps service member in North Carolina for two years and taught students about cooking, nutrition, and gardening. She earned a B.A. in psychology and anthropology from Barnard College and master’s degrees in food policy and public health from Tufts University.


DIANA AND SAUL PADILLA own Yahweh All-Natural Organic Farms and Garden in the Harlingen area, a 75-acre, certified organic, urban farm. They raise cows, goats, lamp, rabbits, and chickens, and both earned a Permaculture Design Certificate in 2013.

Diana also organized and continues to manage a CSA “Food to U” vegetable basket program, operating in the Rio Grande Valley. She is founder and president of HOPE for Small Farm Sustainability, an educational farmer-to-farmer organic training organization, overseeing its primary organic farming training program, offering hands-on education from seed to sale. In 2017, Diana developed the only organic farmers’ market in the region.


JUAN AND SHAKERA RAYGOZA are owners of Terra Preta Farm, a certified organic vegetable farm in Edinburg, Texas. Juan holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture from Texas A&M-Kingsville.

He has been farming for over 10 years, and Shakera for 7 years. They share their love of farming with their three children.

 

 

 

 


EDDIE RODRIGUEZ has been a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2003. Before being elected, Rodriguez was an aide to state representative Glen Maxey. Eddie was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, studying government at the University of Texas at Austin, earning his law degree from the school in 2008. A champion of small farmers and local foods, Eddie authored this year’s House version of the Cottage Foods Bill and was joint author of the Local Health Departments Better Communications Bill, and the bill to eliminate permits for sampling at farmers’ markets, all of which become law September 1.

Eddie is the chair of the Texas House of Representatives Farm-To-Table Caucus, vice-chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and a member of the House Democratic Caucus, the Environmental Caucus, the Manufacturing Caucus, and the Legislative Study Group.


PEDRO SCHAMBON is the founder and president of My Father’ Farm in Seguin, Texas, and developer of ProFarmer software solutions, which helps manage day-to-day farm operations. He’s been a certified organic producer since 2008, managing 10 acres and 60,000 sq. ft. of greenhouses. In addition to organic certification, Pedro is certified as an organic inspector and for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and has extensive knowledge in meeting Food Safety Modernization Act regulations.

Pedro holds degrees in accounting and organic agricultural practices. He has traveled extensively; his experience ranges from consulting for Texas A&M in Guatemala, and founding an orphanage and sustainable farm in Columbia, to working closely with Comal ISD and Guadalupe County correctional facilities on agricultural initiatives.


DR. LANE SEBRING is the founding physician of the Sebring Clinic and the developer of Paleo Non-Pharmacy, located in Wimberley, Texas. Dr. Sebring earned a bachelor’s in biology at the University of Texas in Austin and obtained his M.D. from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He completed his family medicine residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Tyler, Texas.

Wishing to work as an independent physician, Dr. Sebring opened his private practice, the Sebring Clinic, in 1996. His practice centers on reducing the amount of prescription drugs patients take, instructing them on natural treatment methods and teaching about the nature of disease and how to avoid it through lifestyle changes.

 


PEGGY SECHRIST, a practitioner and certified educator in Holistic Management, lives in Texas Hill Country with her husband, Richard, where they were the first Texas ranchers to create a certified organic, grass-fed beef operation in 1995, adding pastured poultry three years later. She has advocated for sustainable agriculture in collaboration with agricultural and wildlife agencies such as Texas A&M University, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Dept. of Agriculture, and NRCS, plus served on the SSAWG Board of Directors and the USDA/SARE Administrative Council.

Peggy continues to provide training and coaching in Holistic Management throughout Texas. Currently she is the Hill Country Advisor for the Soil for Water Initiative, a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology focused on educating landowners on increasing the water holding capacity of their soils.

 


RICHARD SECHRIST has been a real estate broker for 35 years, specializing in farm and ranch properties in Central Texas. In 1995, he and his wife, Peggy, created the first Certified Organic Ranch in Texas. At that same time, they started Homestead Healthy Foods, a company that marketed certified organic, grass-fed beef throughout the country until 2006.

Richard was introduced to Holistic Management in 1993 and has been practicing that management system on the ranch since that time. He also managed a CSA in the Texas Hill Country and is presently the manager of farm operations for OrganicShopping.com.

 

 


MARGARET SMITH is a good-food advocate working to create new markets for local farmers and increase healthy food access in communities. She is director of The Common Market Texas, a nonprofit distributor of local farm foods based in Houston. She manages day-to-day operations including food safety systems, cold storage warehousing, trucking, sales, and community outreach.

Margaret graduated from William and Mary and went on to work as a farm hand, in restaurants, as a researcher, and at farmers’ markets before completing her master’s in crop and soil environmental sciences at Virginia Tech. She joined The Common Market team in 2015, contributing to the national expansion of the organization. Margaret is committed to collaborating to build an equitable food system in Texas and beyond.


WENDY TAGGART is co-founder of Burgundy Pasture Beef, launching the business in 1999 and turning it into a vertically integrated 100% grass-fed beef operation. The business starts at the pasture, through processing, and even encompasses retail operations – Burgundy’s Local Grass Fed Meat Market in Dallas and Ft Worth. Wendy manages aging, cutting, and packaging for their retail store in Grandview, while networking with other like-minded producers to increase the store’s selection.

Originally inspired by a desire for flavorsome, wholesome cooking and the challenge of raising young children in a “fast food” world, Wendy has helped Burgundy Pasture Beef evolve as a grassroots, primarily direct-retail business – responding to a growing trend of consumers demanding more wholesome meats and more transparency about the foods they eat.


BUTCH TINDELL has more than 35 years’ experience gardening, farming, and ranching. He has taught sustainable farming and ranching to hundreds of beginning and experienced farmers and gardeners as well as developed numerous courses and curricula, also serving as an instructor with The Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture. In addition, he has worked on farm and ranch projects and project design ranging in size and scale from small backyard gardens and farms of less than one acre to ranches of over 10,000 acres in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Idaho.

Butch holds a Permaculture Design Certificate from Oregon State University and has studied with leaders in regenerative agriculture such as John Jeavons, Dr. John Navazio, Darren Doherty, and Allan Nation. Butch, his wife Diane, and their children and grandchildren raise cattle, sheep, and pecans at Aquilla Valley Farm in central Texas.


TIM TRAISTER is a relationship manager with Capital Farm Credit, the largest rural lender in Texas, where he specializes in land financing, small producers, and niche farming loans. Before joining Capital Farm Credit in 2014, Tim worked in the commercial banking and real estate sectors, where he was involved in more than $1 billion in real estate transactions across the U.S.

Tim grew up in Austin and earned a bachelor’s in accounting and master’s in land economics/real estate finance at Texas A&M. He is also a graduate of the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at SMU. He resides in Austin with his wife and two children.

 


BERTHA T. VENEGAS is the state outreach coordinator for the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service in Texas. In her position, she serves as NRCS liaison, coordinating outreach efforts with organizations that work closely with minority farmers and ranchers. Bertha’s role includes providing program information for the planning and application of conservation work. She also manages the state outreach operations, including overseeing grant opportunities for conservation work in the state’s urban and rural areas.

Bertha was born and raised in Eagle Pass. She attended Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) in San Marcos and received a bachelor of science in agriculture.

 


HOWARD VLIEGER is a third-generation family farmer who has been a “student of the soil” since 1989. Howard lives on the farm where he was born and raised in northwest Iowa, assisting his son with farming duties. Since 1992 Howard has been a crop nutrition adviser and has founded two companies to help family farmers reduce dependency on chemical-based farming and transition to biological and/or organic production. Howard works as an independent crop nutrition advisor, helping crop and livestock farmers across the U.S.

Howard also works with scientists and researchers to develop solutions, based on the latest science, for problems farmers are experiencing because of GMO crops and glyphosate. Howard is a co-author and the primary coordinator of a scientific study on the feeding of GMO grain and non-GMO grain to hogs for their lifetime as a meat animal.


SEAN WALL is a professional forager and habitat engineer. He studied environmental science and wildlife biology at Texas A&M University and has worked in habitat management on several private properties. He teaches classes on botanical identification and uses, as well as species propagation and habitat remediation.

Previously he’s provided native ingredients to restaurants and developed unique recipes and culinary uses for native and wild plants. He’s also designed environmental education programs for school children and adults. Currently, Sean works with small farmers and landowners, developing sustainable food systems and alternative land management strategies. He’s also a professional artist, specializing in handcrafted paintings made with pigments and paints derived from native plant and mineral sources, and is the author of the book, The Cycle of Foraging.


ABBY WETZEL is a master of all things fermented–sauerkraut, pickles, hot sauce, ginger beer, kombucha, local sodas –you name it, she’s made it! Her love of ferments began in 2012 during her time at a New York farm. She became enthralled with the flavors, the bubbles, and the microorganisms that transform our foods.

Three years later, she began teaching fermentation classes and workshops and has fallen in love with spreading the culture of cultures. In April of 2017, she attended a Fermentation Residency Program with Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation. Abby looks forward to sharing ideas and knowledge about this ancient food preservation technique.

 


MATTHEW WILLIAMS is working to turn the farm that’s been in his family since 1860 into a regenerative agriculture demonstration site. The land that Matthew now calls Green Valley Gardens, located in Denton, Texas, was for most of its years used for cattle, deer, dairy, and coastal hay. Since Matthew’s introduction to permaculture techniques five years ago and his subsequent completion of permaculture design and teacher training courses, he has become increasingly successful at the growth and marketing of native plants and trees, as well as other high value crops.

He also spends his time educating others about how to transform their own land. Matthew is happy to call himself a “total plant nerd.”

 


ANGELA WORTH is the farmers’ market/Mobile Mercado manager for the San Antonio Food Bank. Mobile Mercado is a mobile mini-grocery store, farmers’ market, demonstration kitchen, and teaching tool that improves access to healthy, affordable foods with a focus on locally grown fruits and vegetables. The mobile market also provides nutrition education, traveling to a number of “food deserts” in the Food Bank’s 16-county service area.

In addition to serving as manager of the Food Bank’s numerous farmers’ markets in the area, Angela oversees the organization’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University, where she earned a bachelor’s in chemistry.

 


ZACHARY YANTA, state director for Texas Farm Bureau’s District 12, is a 5th-generation farmer and rancher with agricultural roots that run deep in Texas. He grows corn, grain sorghum, and cotton in and around Karnes, along with no-till cover crops, legumes, and sesame. He also runs a cow-calf operation, stockers, and fed cattle in the feed yard.

Zack joined Karnes County Farm Bureau shortly after he moved back to the farm in 1988, after earning a bachelor’s in agronomy and a master’s in soil and crop sciences from Texas A&M. He was elected to the Texas Farm Bureau’s (TFB) state board of directors in December 2014 and previously served as a state director from 1996 until 2002. Yanta also served on the State Resolutions Committee and Project 2000 Committee.


ERIN ZWIENER is an author, educator, and conservationist who is serving her first term in the Texas House of Representatives. She is a member of the Environmental Regulation Committee and Agriculture and Livestock Committee and is a founding member of the LGBTQ Caucus, serving today as its secretary. Rep. Zwiener also belongs to the House Democratic Caucus, Rural Caucus, Sportsmen Caucus, Farm-To-Table Caucus, Young Texans Legislative Caucus, Women’s Health Caucus, and the Legislative Study Group.

A fifth-generation Texan, Rep. Zwiener is committed to fighting for Texas values including healthy communities, inclusivity, and common-sense government. She holds a bachelor’s in natural resource conservation and a master’s in creative writing. She is a three-time Jeopardy! Champion and a member of the Long Riders Guild. Rep. Zwiener lives in Driftwood with her husband Quincy, daughter Lark, a dog, three horses, a mule, and a pot-bellied pig.