Summit Workshops & Speakers

Hilton UF Conference Center - Gainesville, Florida

Monday includes workshops & talks by innovative organic farmers, extension agents, researchers, & advocates covering topics including climate change, pest management, urban agriculture, livestock, farm business, citrus greening, policy, and much more!

Marty Mesh, executive director of FOG, will be speaking during the summit luncheon sharing his experiences working on-farm and advocating for organics in Florida for over three decades.

The trade show will also be open all day Monday.

Elizabeth Henderson

Elizabeth Henderson

Elizabeth Henderson

Elizabeth Henderson farmed at Peacework Farm in Wayne County, NY, producing organically grown vegetables for the fresh market for over 30 years. She is on Board of NOFA-NY and represents NOFA Interstate Council on Board of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP). She wrote Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture and Food Book for a Sustainable Harvest for the members of Peacework Organic CSA in its 29th year in 2017. 

Angie Lavezzo

Angie Lavezzo

Angie Lavezzo

As a gardener for over 20 years and a seed saver for 10 of those years, the magic of a sprouting seed is still Angie's favorite thing. Taught from an early age to question the logic of big agriculture, the quest for truth and alternatives led her to her job working as General Manager for Sow True Seed. This gives her a perfect outlet for her passion for seeds and plants, and provides a good balance to her home life, where she is a farmer, beekeeper, maker of things, and an avid reader.

Kevin Athearn

Kevin Athearn

Kevin Athearn

Kevin Athearn is a Regional Specialized Extension Agent primarily serving North Florida. He has lived and worked in various parts of the United States, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maine, and Florida. He has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics, and some of his prior research focused on the economics of organic production and labeling. In his current position he provides research-based information, analysis, and Extension education to assist farmers with business start-up, marketing, and financial management.

Erin Silva

Erin Silva

Erin Silva

Dr. Silva is an Assistant Professor in the Plant Pathology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her research and extension program focuses on sustainable and organic cropping systems, including cover crops and cover crop-based no-till production, the impact of organic management on soil biological and physical properties. Her teaching responsibilities include, “Food, Sustainability, and Climate Change” and “Organic System Health”. With Anders Gurda, Erin has launched a comprehensive organic grain training program for farmers in the upper Midwest, “OGRAIN”. Erin works closely with organic farmers and industry members both in Wisconsin and the U.S. and serves as co-facilitator of the Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council.

Mario Velasco

Is Food Safety/GAPs Program Director at QCS. Mario earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. Mario has more than 17 years of experience working in high managerial positions and commands a high level of experience in supervision and coordination of private/public and private/private collaborations, project/budget management, project development, R&D+I, and technical directing and marketing.

He likes working at QCS because of its dynamism and the interaction between our two main divisions – Food Safety/GAPs and Organic – to better serve the food industry domestically and abroad. The department is willing to help everyone so every working day worth it at the office. He enjoys the outdoors and water sports.

Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman

Jennifer is an Extension Specialist with the UF/IFAS Entomology & Nematology Department. She has been involved in research, teaching and Extension on integrated pest management for over 20 years. She supports the utilization and development of educational material for state and county Extension faculty and agricultural and urban clientele. She is the Featured Creatures project coordinator and editor and the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department newsletter editor. Ancillary projects include the support of the Natural Area Teaching Lab (NATL), and activities relating to olive pest management, community sustainability, agricultural biosecurity, and landscape IPM.

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Mark Kopecky

Mark is the Soils Agronomist for Organic Valley and CROPP Cooperative.  Mark helps cooperative members and other farmers to improve their crop and soil management skills. Following service with the U. S. Marine Corps, he earned his BS and MS degrees in Soil Science from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls and Madison, respectively.  Prior to going to work for Organic Valley in 2012, he worked as a soil scientist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and as an extension agent for the University of Wisconsin.  As an extension agent, he provided education to farmers and other landowners throughout Wisconsin focusing on crop, soil, and natural resource management.   He and his family operated a small pasture- based dairy farm in northern Wisconsin for over 20 years (now owned and run by his youngest son) and joined Organic Valley as farmer members in 2007. Mark and his wife, Linda Hart, operate a small farm in Fellsmere, Florida where they use organic and permaculture practices to raise pastured poultry.

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Noah Shitama

Inspired by the mentorship of Patrick Ross at Sandhill Farm, and after traveling the country with his family to visit and learn from farms near and far afield, Noah founded Swallowtail Farm in Alachua, FL in the Spring of 2009, hoping to complement the simultaneous effort of helping to establish a community-owned grocery, Citizens Co-op. It is his dream in practice that Swallowtail Farm becomes a model of authentic sustainability, a place of deep learning and healing, a source of true nourishment, and a reflection of the community that it serves.

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Jordan Brown 

Jordan Brown is the farmer and founder of The Family Garden located in Gainesville, FL. Jordan grows Certified FAIR & Organic fruits and vegetables selling both wholesale to local restaurants and other businesses in North Florida and direct to consumers at the Alachua County Farmers Market and through a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, program.

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Herman Holley and Sundiata Ameh- El

Holley and his wife Louise Divine have been growing organically at Turkey Hill Farm in Tallahassee since 1999. They started with some worn out sandy land which they began rebuilding with mushroom compost and cover crops. Soon they started composting horse stable waste and about ten years ago added “fish and chips”. Fish waste and wood chips are now the primary feedstock; but they compost just about whatever will rot and someone will deliver.

Sundiata if a part of Compost Community. 

Marty Mesh

Marty Mesh

Marty Mesh

In 1987, Mesh helped form Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG), a nonprofit organization, and, in 1995, became FOG’s Executive Director. Mesh has served on the Board of Directors for many organizations, including multiple terms on the Organic Trade Association and the Accredited Certifiers Association. He was on the Organic Steering Committee for the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and then later on the Campaign Board. He served as a charter board member for the widely-utilized Organic Materials Review Institute. Mesh was also on the steering committee that helped form the Southern Sustainable Agricultural Working Group and served on its board for nine years.

Mike Meier

Mike Meier

Mike Meier

Mike is co-owner and head farmer at Ground Floor Farm, an urban farm, café, and community space in downtown Stuart. Before farming in south Florida, Mike was the farm manager at Brooklyn Grange in NYC and farmer at Seven Arrows in Rumson, NJ. Mike has organized with the Greenhorns, Farm Hack, and the National Young Farmers Coalition. Mike's current research focuses include added-value production as well as appropriate small calorie crop production.

Gerry Cohn

Gerry Cohn

Gerry Cohn

Gerry Cohn is the Southeast Region Pool Manager with CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley, the largest organic farmer-owned cooperative in North America.  He lives in North Carolina and serves as the primary liaison between CROPP and the 25 farmer members in the Southeast, providing technical assistance in grazing and forages, milk production, animal health, and business planning issues. Prior to joining Organic Valley, Cohn worked with the Rural Advancement Foundation International and American Farmland Trust.

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker is Associate Deputy Administrator of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) in Washington DC. She has been the second in command at the NOP for six years, guiding communications and outreach, training, technology development, and operations for the program. Before coming to NOP, she was a consultant specializing in strategic planning, communications, and leadership and team development. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Science and a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies.

 

Ute Albrecht

Ute Albrecht

Ute Albrecht

Albrecht is Assistant Professor of Plant Physiology at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (SWFREC), University of Florida/IFAS, in Immokalee. Her research and extension activities at SWFREC focus on the physiology of citrus and vegetables and ways to improve production by using alternative plant health materials and other methodologies. One of the priorities of her citrus program are the effects of different rootstocks on tree health and productivity and other strategies to mitigate the impacts of the devastating disease citrus greening. She is also exploring whether use of different soil amendments, such as beneficial bacteria and fungi, seaweed extracts, and humic substances, can improve root health and mitigate plant stress induced by disease or other adverse conditions.

Ramkrishnan Balasubramanian

Ramkrishnan (Ram) Balasubramanian earned his Ph.D. in Crop Sciences, Masters in Agricultural Engineering, and Masters in Ecological Agriculture. He also holds a Masters in Business Administration.Ram is an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor with extensive food safety/GAP and organic auditing experience. Additionally, Ram specializes in organic aquaculture standard and curriculum development. Ram is a FSPCA Lead Instructor for the Foreign Supplier Verification Program and Lead Certified Trainer for the Produce Safety Rule. Ram has served in on numerous boards of directors including serving as the Organic Material Review Institute Board Chair. He has has farming roots with experience in producing both crops and livestock. Ram is a firm believer in family values and family first and, in his free time, he loves swimming, spicy food, organic gardening and growing rare exotic and medicinal plants.

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Caroline Chomanics

Caroline is a passionate horticulturalist in the Central Florida community. She has earned her Associate's Degree in Landscape and Horticulture Technology from Valencia College and is currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Studies at Rollins College. For four years she was a Live-In Caretaker and Horticultural Specialist to Nehrling Gardens, a historic botanical garden in Gotha, Florida caring for 6 acres of historic plant genome. Now, she is Program Manager to the revolutionary non-profit program Fleet Farming. Fleet Farming is a pedal-powered urban agriculture program that turns lawns into farms. She also shares her knowledge for plants with her community as an Environmental Educator teaching Florida Ecology, ecological restorative practices, and agriculture at Nehrling Gardens, The Florida School of Holistic Living, and The Living School Orlando. 

Robert Kluson

Kluson is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent of UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Florida.  His Extension focuses on sustainable agriculture programs, such as community and resilient foodshed development; Sarasota Food Policy Council; the SW FL Small Farmer Network; market gardening/urban agriculture; farmers market training; organic farming/gardening, Annie’s Project; Climate Smart Agriculture, and the Sarasota County Farm to School Program.

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Linda Hart

Linda Hart is a farm girl who grew up in Paris, Texas on her family’s beef farm.  After attending school to become a Registered Nurse and working in that field for several years, she wanted to expand her horizons.  She returned to school at Texas A & M where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in biomedical science in 1992. She continued her nursing career, but soon had an offer for a job with more opportunities inFlorida.  Linda accepted the position and moved to the Sunshine State in 1995 with three horses, two dogs, a cat, and an assortment of other creatures.   While living here, she became interested in raising pastured poultry.  After visiting Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia with her local UF Extension Agent, Christine Kelly ,  Linda started Florida’s first pastured poultry operation, Crazy Hart Ranch,  in 2006.  She specializes in Narragansett turkeys and also raises broiler chickens, with a few ducks and laying hens in the mix, too. Linda and her husband, Mark Kopecky, live and farm in Fellsmere.

Jim Gibbons

Jim Gibbons has owned and operated Gibbons Organics with his wife Brenda in Fort Pierce since 2000. Gibbons Organics is a 2 acre farm (including one acre of greenhouses) which provides locally grown organic produce to the surrounding community by way of the Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market. They specialize in lettuce mix, heirloom tomatoes and other mixed vegetables, plus rare tropical fruits such as mangos, grapes, and bananas. Prior to starting the farm in Fort Pierce, Jim spent most of his life traveling the globe, using his bachelor’s degree in International Business as a consultant and farmer in Haiti, Belize, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Honduras. Jim will be sharing his expertise and experience in greenhouse production at the “Growing Under Cover” workshop at the Summit.