2022 Conference Presenter Bios

By December 10, 2021VABF News

Amyrose Foll

Virginia Free Farm

Amyrose Foll is seeking to dismantle and transform the regional foodshed and create community-driven systems based on collectivism and respect for nature. Amyrose founded The Virginia Free Farm, which works to provide free nutrient dense food assistance to those in need and plants and seeds (free of charge) to community gardens, schools, and community-based organizations. It is a hub for educating young people in the Richmond metro area about indigenous agriculture & lifeways. Amyrose’s strong background in healthcare and her native heritage (Penobscot/Abenaki) is what prompted her to begin advocating for food sovereignty, security, and preservation of indigenous food culture through seed saving & distribution.
AmyRose is also a U.S. Army veteran, former fire fighter-paramedic, and nurse. She has a background in Biology & Healthcare, in addition to a Master’s in Health Information Management, and digital marketing. She holds certificates in viticulture & fruit tree production, poultry production, and well as woodlot management from Cornell University.

April Jones

Pinehurst Farmers Market

April Jones is the founder of the Pinehurst Farmers Market located in downtown Columbia, S.C., in the Pinehurst neighborhood. April advocates for her community as part of the food justice and food sovereignty movement. She is passionate about community, gardens, and farmer markets. She is a writer, photographer,blogger, you tuber, recipe developer, book reviewer and more. She contributes content to her blog Frolicking Americana, Columbia Living Magazine at and to national magazines Mother Earth, Country Lore, The Natural Farmer, Grit, Ark Republic, and Ecoparent Magazine.Emerging Leader in food and agriculture nominee, Farmers Market Coalition writer
Connect with April at Pinehurst Community Action on Facebook and at Pinehurst Farmers Market on Facebook.

Audrey Epp Schmidt

Propagate Ventures

Audrey Epp Schmidt has been working at the nexus of regenerative agriculture and environmental conservation in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond for over 10 years. She holds a masters in Geography & Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. As the Director of Business Development at Propagate Ventures, Audrey works directly with farmers and landowners to help them develop profitable agroforestry systems on their land. She lives in West Virginia and runs Sweet Potomac Farm with her husband.

Benjamin Shorofsky

Common Grain Alliance

Ben supports CGA’s Farmer Education Program creating curriculum, web resources, and resource guides for producers interested in integrating food-grade small grains into their operations. Ben brings close to a decade of project development, management, and facilitation experience working with a variety of nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Before joining CGA as a consultant, Ben co-founded the Artisan Grain Collaborative and served as the first program coordinator of the organization. Ben returned home to Baltimore in 2019 where he continues to work with farmers throughout the region.

Billy Mitchell

National Farmers Union Foundation,  Local Food Safety Collaborative

Billy Mitchell teaches with and learns from small scale vegetable producers all over the country to develop creative and practical solutions to common farm problems. How do we train better? Make our wash/pack easier to navigate? Meet and exceed food safety expectations? Create an environment that reflects our desire for a healthy community, healthy farm, and healthy life? Currently the FSMA training coordinator at the National Farmers Union, he’s had the opportunity to work on and manage diversified vegetable farms, bake all the cookies at a seitan factory, and work in outdoor education.

Brent and Anna Wills

Bramble Hollow Farm & Wills Soil & Stream

Brent Wills has been involved in restorative agricultural systems and conservation for over 20 years and is the owner of Wills Soil & Stream in Montvale, Virginia, providing ecological land management services for farmers and land managers in the mid-Atlantic region.
Since 2004, Brent and his family have operated Bramble Hollow Farm in the mountains of Bedford County, Virginia, and use managed livestock rotations, composts and soil-building techniques to diversify their pasture-based operation where they specialize in the production of heritage breeds of cattle, pigs, and chickens. He also serves as President on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming, promoting soil health, resilient farming practices and the production of nutrient-dense and ecosystem-friendly food.

Bryan O’Hara

Tobacco Road Farm

Bryan O’Hara has been growing vegetables for a livelihood since 1990 at Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut. He works with natural systems to build complex and balanced soil life, the result of which is a highly productive, vibrant growing system. Bryan was named Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Farmer of the Year in 2016. He speaks throughout the Northeast and beyond on vegetable production techniques and is known for providing mountains of details in a concise, practical, and cohesive manner.

Cedric Shannon

Weathertop Farm

Cedric Shannon, with his wife, Sarah, own and operate Weathertop Farm, LLC. Through rotational grazing, they raise sheep, cows, hogs, layers, broilers, turkeys, and occasionally some duck. All animals get rotated through the pastures in one form or another, providing delicious and nutritious meat, all while improving and building the soil—the true foundation of the whole operation. Cedric also has a small podcast called Can Your Beans Do That?, and writes on medium.com under the handle Farmer Sledge. The website weathertopfarm.com can give you a tour of the operation, as well as links to Cedric’s writings and podcast.

Cerruti Hooks

University of Maryland

Cerruti Hooks is currently a Professor and Extension Specialist at the University of Maryland. He holds a MS degree in Weed Science from North Carolina State University and as PhD in Entomology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has 20 years of experience using plant diversification including cover cropping tactics to manipulate weeds, nematodes, insects, spiders and more recently pollinators and greenhouse gas emissions. His research specialty is conservation biological control and ecological pest management. He conducts research in conventional and organic farming systems and covers agronomic and vegetable crops.

Cindy Conner

Homeplace Earth

Cindy Conner researches how to sustainably grow a complete diet in a small space at her home near Ashland, VA, and has produced videos on cover crops and garden planning. Cindy, a former market gardener, was instrumental in establishing the sustainable agriculture program at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Goochland, VA and taught there from 1999-2010. She is the author of Grow a Sustainable Diet and Seed Libraries. Her newest interest is to go from seed to garment with cotton and flax/linen grown in her garden. HomeplaceEarth.com

Dan Kittredge

Bionutrient Food Association

Dan Kittredge has been an organic farmer for more than 30 years and is the founder and Executive Director of the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA), a non-profit whose mission is to “increase quality in the food supply.”
Dan grew up on Many Hands Organic Farm in central Massachusetts with his parents, Julie Rawson, NOFA-MA Executive Director, and Jack Kittredge, Natural Farmer publisher. After a global career in food and seed activism where he worked with farmers across India, Russia, and Central America, Dan returned to the U.S. and launched the BFA in order to ignite a movement around food quality.
Dan has become one of the leading proponents of “nutrient density,” and works to demonstrate the connections between soil health, plant health, and human health through workshops and speaking engagements across the country and globe, the annual Soil and Nutrition Conference, and an increased presence online through social media, a YouTube channel, and an upcoming online course.
In 2018, Dan launched the Real Food Campaign, now the Bionutrient Institute, that, with open-source science partners Our-Sci and FarmOS, are leading the effort to identify and increase nutrition in the food supply. The Bionutrient Institute has engineered and unveiled a prototype of a hand-held consumer spectrometer, the Bionutrient Meter, designed to test nutrient density at point of purchase and bring transparency to the marketplace. Via the Bionutrient Meter, the goal is to empower consumers to choose for nutrient quality and thereby leverage economic incentives to drive full system regeneration.

Dr. C Elizabeth Hamilton

Better Nature LLC

Plant evolutionary ecologist, Dr. Hamilton has a patent for a microbial mix to increase crop output while reducing water and nitrogen inputs. In her business, Better Nature, she is both a tree doctor and working to change the local horticultural paradigm by increasing use of microbes to build healthy soils and the use of complex, native plant dominated landscape designs. The outcome of these changes are more resilient urban forest systems with decreased pesticide and herbicide inputs, and increased opportunities to provide biodiversity buffer zones.

Eric Pawlowski

Although not born to farming, Eric Pawlowski has extensive experience managing certified organic and biodynamic diversified farming operations, and over 15 years as an independent organic inspector. Eric has also occupied many growing seasons assisting urban populations in organizing community gardening initiatives. Presently Eric is providing technical support to certified organic farmers across a 12-state region – which includes the Old Dominion. Anthropologist by education, organic farmer by training, agricultural educator by employment and community activist by necessity. Feed the people!

Francesca Costantino

Francesca Costantino is a policy advocate for sustainable agriculture and local food systems. She had a career in food security and climate change with the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy. Since 2019, Francesca has worked in local food system investment for community development finance institutions in Virginia, including Virginia Community Capital and Foodshed Capital. For Foodshed Capital, a microlender offering low-cost capital and technical assistance to sustainable farms and local food businesses, she served on the Board, and now is project manager to implement a partnership for a regenerative meat value chain in the Mid-Atlantic, supported by a USDA grant. Francesca is policy liaison for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Francesca had a brief stint as a suburban chicken mama. She has degrees in economics, agricultural development, and business. labella_francesca@yahoo.com

Frank Holzman

Recovery Eco Agriculture Project REAP

I have worked in organic horticulture and small scale sustainable farming since the early 1970’s. My work, mainly with my non profit REAP, has allowed me to work in various parts of the US and seven countries, Southeast Asia, Central and South America. I utilize Biodynamic methods combined with Permaculture design and IPM. My role is to regenerate land and teach others how to develop balanced ecosystems and how to become good stewards of the land. My workshop is based on information from my book, Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming. 

Gary Scott

Twin Springs Farm

Gary Scott has a background in software & IT systems integration business development. He co-founded Twin Springs Farm of Nelson County Va. with his wife Jeanne after purchasing 76 acres in Nelson County VA in 1996. They started from scratch meaning there was no driveway into the farm, no structures or infrastructure.  We planted Blueberry bushes in 2002. We built our first high tunnel in 2001. Over time we have added equipment buildings, two more high tunnels, seeding and processing room. We installed an underground irrigation system throughout the farm. We were members of Nelson County Farmers Market, Lexington Farmers Market, and the Lynchburg Market. We were one of the founding members of the Local Food Hub in Charlottesville. We also continue to wholesale to local restaurants, and larger commercial customers.

Gwynn Hamilton

Stonecrop Farm

Gwynn and her husband Bert Webster are celebrating their sixteenth year of growing at Stonecrop Farm in Newport, Virginia. What began as a vegetable farm with a few flowers has shifted to a flower farm with a few vegetables. Together with a crew of four to five they provide weekly bouquets for a 70 share CSA and all the pieces for approximately 40 weddings a year, and flowers for special events and two farmers markets a week. In addition, the Stonecrop Team served their 245th wedding clients in 2021.

Ira Wallace

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Ira Wallace is an organic grower, author, speaker, visionary and worker/owner of the cooperative Southern Exposure Seed Exchange where she coordinates outreach, education and new seed grower contracts. Ira serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance. She is the author of 6 regional gardening books and numerous magazine articles. Ira is a proud supporter and mentor to the emerging Ujamaa Cooperative Farmers Alliance.

Jay Dunbar

River Ridge Organics

Jay Dunbar founded River Ridge Organics in 2015 on 2 acres of bottom land in Grayson County, VA. Using organic and regenerative farming principles, the berry farm supplies organic raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries to retail markets, regional craft breweries, bakeries, and other value-added producers. Since 2015, Dunbar has expanded to 10 acres of organic berry production and developed a line of small-batch organic berry jams.
In addition to his farm work, Jay is a member of the advisory council to the Virginia Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Coalition and a private consultant.

Jeff Poppen

Barefoot Farmer

Jeff Poppen, the Barefoot Farmer, lectures and consults widely, helps get new farms going, and has a long list of young farmers he has mentored. His style of old time farming comes from the study of how farms were managed before artificial fertilizers, and from 45 years of operating Long Hungry Creek Farm in Red Boiling Springs, TN. The 250 acres farm supports 40 head of cattle, an eight-acre market garden, and a vibrant community supported agriculture (CSA) program. Jeff has made a living by selling what he grows and, like his animals, gets his food from the farm.

Joel Salatin

Polyface Farm

Joel Salatin, 62, calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. He co-owns, with his family, Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. Featured in the New York Times bestseller Omnivore’s Dilemma and award-winning documentary Food Inc., the farm services more than 5,000 families, 50 restaurants, 10 retail outlets, and a farmers’ market with salad bar beef, pigaerator pork, pastured poultry, and forestry products. When he’s not on the road speaking, he’s at home on the farm, keeping the callouses on his hands and dirt under his fingernails, mentoring young people, inspiring visitors, and promoting local, regenerative food and farming systems. Salatin is the editor of The Stockman Grass Farmer, granddaddy catalyst for the grass farming movement. He writes the Pitchfork Pulpit column for Mother Earth News, as well as numerous guest articles for ACRES USA and other publications. A frequent guest on radio programs and podcasts targeting preppers, homesteaders, and foodies, Salatin’s practical, can-do solutions tied to passionate soliloquies for sustainability offer everyone food for thought and plans for action.

Jordan Green

J & L Green Farm & FarmBuilder

Jordan Green is the founder of FarmBuilder, co-owner of J & L Green Farm in Edinburg, Virginia, a United States Marine Corps veteran and graduate of the apprentice program at Polyface Inc.

Karen Washington

Rise & Root Farm

Karen is a farmer and activist. She is Co-owner/Farmer at Rise & Root Farm in Chester New York. An activist, food advocate; in 2010, Co- Founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS) an organization supporting growers in both urban and rural settings. In 2012, Ebony magazine voted her one of their 100 most influential African Americans in the country and in 2014 was the recipient of the James Beard Leadership Award. Recently in 2020 Essence magazine name Karen one of their Essential Heroes recipient. Karen serves on the boards of the New York Botanical Gardens, Soul Fire Farm, the Mary Mitchell Center, Black Farmer Fund, and Farm School NYC.

Lee Rinehart

National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)

Lee Rinehart has been a grazing specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology for over 16 years, currently serving farmers and graziers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. A graduate of Texas A&M University, he has former experience as a beef cattle ranch manager in central Texas, an Extension agent in Texas and in Montana, and an organic educator in Pennsylvania with PCO.

Mark Jones

Sharondale Mushroom Farm

Mark Jones is the owner and mycologist at Sharondale Mushroom Farm in Cismont, VA. Sharondale grows the highest quality certified organic mushrooms and organic mushroom spawn. Sharondale Mushroom Farm is a United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary. Sharondale offers workshops, tools and supplies for mushroom and microbial cultivation.

Maureen Diaz

Weston A. Price Foundation

Maureen, her husband George, and their rather large family live a very full life on a Virginia mountaintop where she enjoys learning, teaching, growing, cooking, creating, and playing with grandchildren. She has produced 3 separate DVD’s pertaining to traditional foods preparation, healing and weight loss with traditional foods and now, together with her daughter, has started a new business to bring this important information to a broader audience via God’s Good Table, a Weston A. Price-inspired company. Maureen is also a long-time chapter leader, writer, and Outreach Coordinator for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Michael Carter Jr.

Carter Farms/ Africulture

Michael Carter Jr. is an 11th generation farmer in the United States and is the 5th generation to farm on Carter Farms, his family’s century farm in Orange County, Virginia where he gives workshops on how to grow and market ethnic vegetables. With Virginia State University, he works in the capacity of the Small Farm Resource Center Coordinator for the Small Farm Outreach Program. He sits on the board of directors of the Virginia Association of Biological Farmers (VABF) and Virginia Foodshed Capital respectively. Michael was recognized as a 2020 Audubon Naturalist Society Taking Nature Black Regional Environmental Champion, and the 2020 VSU Small Farm Outreach Agent of the year. He acquired an agricultural economics degree from North Carolina A&T State University and has worked in Ghana, Kenya and Israel as an agronomist and organic agricultural consultant. Michael presently consults with numerous governments, organizations, and individuals throughout the region and nation on food access, food security/insecurity, market outreach, social and economic parity/equity/evaluation programs, racial understanding, immersion, history and cultural trainings, among other areas. Carter Farms has birthed Hen Asem (Our Story) and Africulture, the 501 c3 arm of Carter Farms that teaches, shares and expounds on the contributions of Africans and African Americans to agriculture worldwide and the many stories that history almost forgot.

Michelle McKenzie

Bellair Farm

Michelle McKenzie is the manager of Bellair Farm, Charlottesville’s largest CSA farm and the only CSA in Central Virginia to offer free-choice and CSA to their members. Michelle has farmed for 11 seasons, all on Bellair. In addition to her farming experience, Michelle is also an expert in food preservation and commercial food product production, serving as the director of Virginia Food Works in 2019

Pam Dawling

Twin Oaks Community

Pam Dawling is the author of two books: Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, and The Year-Round Hoophouse. She also writes for Growing for Market and Mother Earth News. Pam has grown vegetables for over 25 years at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia, where the gardens feed 100 people on 3.5 acres. She blogs at www.sustainablemarketfarming.com.

Mary Cush

We should be comfortable in our bodies. With proper alignment and movement skills, we should be able to perform all of our farming duties without experiencing pain at the end of the day. I enjoy inspiring others to improve their wellness by motivating with a good sense of humor and individual attention based on sound anatomy principles. My training has focused on yoga that is accessible to everyone. It’s The People’s Yoga Professional Courses and Certifications. I teach private classes that address individual needs, community yoga at the Pamplin Depot and have started prison yoga program at Nottoway Correctional Center.

Patrick Johnson

Diversity Permaculture

Patrick Johnson has been practicing organic, regenerative, and permaculture growing of over 30 years. He has worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines with the Philippine Department of Agriculture promoting organic farming and garden. He has a Masters Degree in Agriculture from Cornell University and was an apprentice with Agroecology Program at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He currently is a farmer and sustainable agriculture consultant based in the Richmond Virginia Region.

Rick Hood

Summer Creek Farm

Certified organic farmer for over 30 years. Past president of several Maryland organic organizations. Inventor and manufacture of entire line of Summer Creek Farm sustainable organic horticultural soils as well as our new product, Capture for mineralizing soils. www.SummerCreekFarm.com

Shawn Jadrnicek

Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension Service

Shawn has nourished his interest in agriculture through his work as a farmer, nurseryman, extension agent, arborist, landscaper, manager of Clemson University’s Student Organic Farm and manager of Wild Hope Farm. From his earliest experiments with no-till farming in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California to his highly functional bio-integrated designs in the Southeast, Shawn has learned how to cultivate food in a variety of climates and landscapes over 24 years of working with the land. A snapshot of his knowledge is available in his book The Bio-Integrated Farm.

Dr. Thomas P. Kuhar

Virginia Tech

Dr. Kuhar is a Professor in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech, where his research and Extension efforts focus on the biology of agricultural pests and developing and evaluating sound integrated pest management solutions on vegetable and row crops as well as turfgrass. He has published over 120 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, several book chapters and over 200 non-peer reviewed trade journal and Extension publications geared around insect pest management. He has advised over 20 graduate students during his 18-year tenure as a faculty member. Dr. Kuhar has also served as President of the Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America and has been an associate editor for three entomology journals Journal of Integrated Pest Management, Plant Health Progress, and Arthropod Management Tests.

Sheila Guarnagia

The Bea-ing Center for Holistic Health

Sheila Guarnagia, M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., Dipl.C.H., holds a B.A. in Biology from Smith College, a Master of Acupuncture from the New England School of Acupuncture, and completed a three year program in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine with renowned Master Herbalist Sharon Weizenbaum, L.Ac. Sheila is certified by the NCCAOM as a Diplomate in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology. She has worked and published in the fields of ecological and medical research and completed over 4 years as an apprentice home birth midwife in Arizona. Since 2004 she has studied Appalachian Folk Medicine with Phyllis D. Light, AHG, and Traditional Western Herbal Medicine with Matthew Wood, M.Sc., AHG. In 2018 Sheila completed the Eagle Condor Council Healing Intensive, went on pilgrimage to the Sacred Valley of Peru, and is now initiated as a lineage carrier of this traditional Andean Spiritual Healing modality. She carries the Fourth Level Teaching of the Teqse Ñust’as and offers initiation rites for these Cosmic Feminine Healing Powers of Nature.

Drawing on over three decades of experience as a research biologist, herbalist, and naturalist, home birth assistant, natural childbirth educator, lactation guide, and mother, and incorporating spiritual guidance informed by Sacred Indigenous Wisdom traditions, Sheila offers a level of comprehensive care which translates into a vital, holistic, and empowering experience for her clients. She provides nurturing and informative support for women concerned about fertility issues, miscarriage, pregnancy, childbirth and lactation, postpartum issues or menopause, and can assist them in achieving rejuvenation and revitalization from these potentially draining events. She alos works with children, teens, and men who wish to access their full health potential, and achieve and maintain well being and balance through all stages of life. Assisting families in discovering their pathway of health is especially important work as balancing constitution and lifestyle is so essential for radiant health and longevity of both individuals, families, and our community.

Sheila provides holistic health care rooted in the Traditional Asian Medicine paradigm to the Greater Roanoke Valley community with an office at The Bea-ing Center for Holistic Health at 1420 3rd Street SW, Suite 204, in the Historic Old Southwest neighborhood of Roanoke. She offers Traditional Asian Medical therapies including Chinese and Japanese acupuncture styles, Traditional Chinese and Western Herbal Medicine, dietary therapy according to the Five Flavors Theory, and integrates spiritual healing technologies from her training in Andean Nature Mysticism. Her area of specialty is women’s health care, with a particular emphasis on providing support for menstrual disorders, fertility, healthy pregnancy, natural childbirth and lactation, postpartum rejuvenation, raising healthy children, and healthy menopause.