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You are here: Home ›› Events ›› Tilth Conference: Workshop Presenter Bios

Tilth Conference: Workshop Presenter Bios

Tilth Conference: The Future Is Abundant

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Andrew Corbin

Andrew (‘drew) Corbin leads Impact in the areas of Agronomy and Organic Food Production.  He specializes in field testing, education and training in sustainable agriculture, especially as it relates to the use of organic matter, compost, reduced tillage, and organic farming practices.  He has a Ph.D. in Crop and Soil Science, three decades of experience in Agronomy and has served as a County Agricultural Agent and Specialist for three US Land grant university extension systems. 

Kyong Soh

A Korean native, Kyong Soh managed a 35 acre Certified Organic farm in Central New York before transplanting to the Pacific Northwest, with a primary focus on cooperative farming systems, sustainable and organic production farming, nonprofit educational farming, and regional food security systems. She is the Senior Production Manager for Tilth Alliance, and operates the Sustainable Farming Education and Agricultural Business Incubator Program. 

April Thatcher

April Thatcher is the vibrant founder and heart of April Joy Farm. An entrepreneur in spirit with a degree in engineering, eleven years ago she built her certified organic and Animal Welfare Approved operation from scratch.  Today she is still committed to her original mission: Good Food, Grown with Love. Particularly passionate about livestock welfare and healthy soils, April is an energetic strategist and determined hands-on agrarian.  In partnership with Clark Conservation District and WSU, in 2017 April received a multi-year grant to create a Soil Health Roadmap, which will provide practical soil management tools specifically for diversified organic farmers across the state of Washington.  April is also an essayist who shares her perspective on the profession of farming through her blog, The Joyful Farmer. April Joy Farm is a 24 acre certified organic, diversified crop and livestock farm founded by April in 2006, and now owned and operated by April and Brad Thatcher.  AJF produce is distributed exclusively in Clark County through direct sales channels.  In addition to growing a healthy food economy, April and Brad are committed to supporting a new generation of land stewards.  In 2017, April Joy Farm became the first Clark County farm to be certified by the WA Department of Labor and Industries to operate a farm internship program.

Anthony Reyes

Anthony Reyes is currently the farm manager for the Homeless Garden Project (HGP) in Santa Cruz, Ca. HGP runs a year-long employment transitioning program for people experiencing homelessness that has a 91% success rate pairing participants with stable housing and employment by the end of their time.  HGP works closely with numerous organizations and farms in the Santa Cruz area, a town that is known as a hub for the sustainable agriculture movement. Prior to his work with HGP, Anthony worked at Tilth Alliance for a number of years with the Youth Garden Works program, overseeing the farm operations and supporting programming, and working at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. While there he strived to work and collaborate with as many local organizations and movements as possible while working to call people in and create a strong community network. Anthony also worked with numerous other agricultural-based non-profits as well as for profit farms between California, Oregon, and Washington, and studied Food, Agriculture, and Social Justice at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Brenda Book

With the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Organic Program since 2002, Brenda Book oversees all aspects of the agency’s organic certification services and staff. A native of Central Iowa, Brenda grew up on her family’s third generation grain and livestock farm and has been involved in the organic industry since 1996 as farmer, researcher, retail produce manager, farmers market manager. In addition to managing the WSDA Organic Program, Brenda has served on numerous local and national boards dedicated to advancing organic agriculture. Brenda holds a degree in sustainable agriculture from The Evergreen State College and studied botany at the University of Iowa.

Chris Curtis

Chris Curtis is the Executive Director of the Neighborhood Farmers Markets (NFM); a Seattle based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The NFM has been organizing and managing Farmers Markets in Seattle since 1993 and is responsible for the University District, West Seattle, Capitol Hill, Columbia City, Lake City, Magnolia and Phinney markets. The NFM is dedicated to supporting and sustaining local farms by creating farmers markets that prioritize local farms, artisan foods, low-income food access and educating the public about the benefits of buying local food from local farms. NFM markets host over 500,000 shoppers annually and in 2016 supported over $7,000,000 in direct market sales to Washington State farmers. Chris has been a board member of the Washington State Farmers Market Association, King County Agricultural Commission, the nationally based Farmers Market Coalition and City of Seattle Mayor’s Small Business Task Force.  She also sits on the advisory board of the Washington State Farmers Market Integrity Project. In 2016, she was recognized as a member of Seattle Magazine’s Hall of Fame listing  125 Seattleites who have shaped Seattle in significant ways over the past 50 years. Chris was raised in the Washington state’s Skagit Valley, is a graduate of the UW and currently resides in Wallingford.

Doug Farr

Doug Farr is the General Manager of Seattle Farmer Market Association (SFMA). SFMA organizes three markets, Ballard, Wallingford and Madrona. Raised on a farm in Utah, he has a background in business having owned five successful businesses previously.  Prior to managing SFMA,  Doug managed the Fremont Sunday Market for well over a decade. In his leisure time, Doug enjoys gardening, canning and trying new recipes. He also enjoys traveling, walking the beach and camping with his husband and their two dogs.

Chris Iberle

Chris Iberle coordinates WSDA Regional Markets’ Farm to School program and regional supply chain development projects. Chris develops materials, outreach and trainings and provides technical assistance to schools and farms, and leads research and implementation efforts to increase farm to school procurement with innovative approaches such as food hubs and regionally processed products for school and institutional markets. Chris and WSDA Regional Markets are also facilitating development of a statewide Farm to School network with schools, farms, agencies and non-profits across Washington State.

Clay Wesson

Clay Wesson has a wide range of experience with ornamental and native plant nursery management, and more recently practicing biodynamics in the vineyards in the Willamette Valley.  Clay lives in McMinnville, Oregon since moving from his home in Alabama in 2007 after receiving a degree in Horticulture from Auburn University. Originally discovering Biodynamics through the study of herbal medicine, he furthered his education as librarian and member of the Oregon Biodynamic Group, attending national biodynamic conferences and currently as board member for the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics out of Floyd, Virginia.  Recently in 2017 he became an IOIA trained organic inspector and a master gardener through Oregon State University extension. He is passionate about providing education through workshops and consultation to bridge the gap between the spiritual and practical aspects of growing quality plants through clean farming practices.  

Dave Hunter

Dave Hunter is the founder and owner of Crown Bees, located in Woodinville Washington.  He is the co-author of “The Mason Bee Revolution”. Dave is an advisor to USDA project Integrated Crop Pollination. He is also the founder and past president of the professional organization, Orchard Bee Association.  Solitary bees are an answer to creating more food for the increasing numbers of humans. Dave’s passion is to work with country leaders to find, manage, and increase the use of native bees in our world’s crops.

Diane Dempster

Diane Dempster is the Manager of Farmer’s Own Organic Produce which is a label of Charlie’s Produce and works in our Brokerage division. She has been in the industry for over 30 years and works directly with organic producers. She worked for two different Grower Cooperatives. She was on the Board of Directors for Tilth Producers for many years and currently serves on the Regional Food Policy Council. 

Amy Moreno-Sills

Amy Moreno-Sills has been a commercial organic farmer since graduating from The Evergreen State College in 2001.  She has managed small, medium and large-scale farms in both King and Pierce counties. Amy and her husband Agustin have owned Four Elements Farm since 2014.  Four Elements is located in the Puyallup Valley and is currently cultivating 10+ acres of mixed vegetables and 6acres of Blueberries.  They sell to both direct and wholesale markets.

Diane LaVonne

Diane LaVonne owns and has operated a cooking school in Seattle for over 11 years. Her classes are designed to de-mystify where good food comes from and how to create tasty dishes that also happen to be healthy. Virtually all of Diane’s ingredients come from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen.  She has found that one of the most significant barriers to purchasing and using locally produced ingredients is the lack of perceived value for doing so. With a background in anthropology (to highlight the social significance of dining as a family and it's concurrent opportunity for developing and transmitting cultural values and civil behaviors), more than 10 years in the health care industry, and 5+ in pharmaceuticals, Diane creates value around the long term health and wellbeing benefits of  "investing" in good food. Having raised 2 children while working at 3 part-time jobs she is able to discuss how to maximize resources for the best possible family meals.  

Doug Collins

Doug Collins is an Extension Faculty and Soil Scientist with WSU’s Food Systems Program. He focuses on managing and monitoring soil fertility on diverse organic vegetable farms and evaluating soil quality in different vegetable cropping systems - including organic reduced tillage. Doug is also interested in soil variability across landscapes and biological indicators of soil quality. Doug has a Ph.D. in soil science from Washington State University and an M.S. in Plant Pathology from Montana State University.

Emily Ciesielski 

Emily Ciesielski's familiarity with IPM and agricultural best practices combined with knowledge of multispectral imagery allow her to guide interested users to ensure future satisfied customers.

Robert Parker

Robert Parker has a solid background in GIS and remote sensing, Robert is passionate about education and enabling others to reach their goals. 

Gudrun Mahrt

Gudrun Mahrt is the “Lime Lady” with over 30 years of experience with liming materials. Gudrun and her team at Columbia River Carbonates in Woodland, WA research and develop natural calcium minerals for best suitability in all kinds of farming systems.  She and her husband Peter are hay farmers, serious gardeners and work with the Coyote Ridge Ranch organic vegetable project in La Center, WA.     

Harold Crose

As a retired Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) employee of 41 years, Harold Crose is an invaluable asset to the GCCD and the greater Columbia Basin.  Today, Harold mainly assists the GCCD as an adviser and technical specialist. He has recently taken on the role as VSP Coordinator.  He is most interested in helping expand the technical capacity of the GCCD and has a passion for soil health and all aspects of agricultural energy conservation.  In his four decades of service with NRCS, he worked in water quality and quantity in irrigated agriculture, dry-land farming, forestry, and served on numerous committees including the national team that developed the technical guidance on wind erosion.  Harold continues to be on the cutting edge, identifying and implementing progressive conservation practices that benefit our natural resources and stakeholders alike.

Jeff Salchenberg

Jeff Salchenberg has worked in produce retail since 1997, working with both conventional and organic produce. Jeff has developed a passion for providing the best tasting produce available to customers. Building lasting partnerships with farmers and packers is a priority. "I love getting out to the farms and seeing the processes first hand, meeting the people who are passionate about what they grow" says Jeff.

Jeffrey Wardwell

Jeffrey Wardwell is a Farm Loan Officer with Farm Service Agency with a passion for helping farmers and ranchers. He started with Farm Service Agency in 2015 in Wenatchee, Washington. Prior to FSA, Jeffrey served honorably in the United States Army. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, Accounting, and a Masters of Business Administration from Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon. He has been happily married for twenty-one years.

Jim Baird

Jim Baird has been farming for 40+ years.  In that time he has leased land from others, leased land out to other farms, subleased land, and been involved in numerous styles of farming operations.  He farms Orchards, Row crops and has mixed vegetable farms.  He has been involved in many aspects of farming and food production over the last forty years.  His land is in the Columbia Basin of Central Washington. Jim is a member of Tilth Alliance's Board of Directors.

Josh Volk

Josh Volk has been working on small farms, consulting and teaching for the last two decades. He is the author of the recent book Compact Farms from Storey Publishing and farms in Portland, Oregon. 

Karen Ullman

Karen Ullmann is an Education and Outreach Coordinator for the WSDA Produce Safety Program. In her role, she helps Washington produce farms understand and meet the requirements of the FDA Produce Rule mandated under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2016. For the last five years, Karen has helped coordinate various statewide efforts connected to Washington agriculture including hunger relief, Farm to School, direct market access and food safety.

Kate Smith

Kate Smith works as the Northwest Small and Latino Farm Educator for WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at WSU Skagit County Extension. She develops and offers bilingual educational programs including Cultivating Success for Small and Latino farmers in Northwest Washington.  Kate is also a graduate student in the WSU School of Environment and is conducting an impact evaluation of the Viva Farms Incubator Program for her research. She is fluent in Spanish and has past experience working in Agricultural Extension in the Peace Corps in Panama and as market manager for the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance in Seattle. 

Laura Ridenour

Beginning with an internship at California Certified Organic Farmers in 1994, Laura Ridenour has worked for an “alphabet soup” of farmer and community-led NGOs from California and Washington DC to Colorado and Washington State. Along the way, she gained extensive project management, marketing and fundraising skills, and was part of the establishment of two food policy councils. Laura chaired the Farm Fund from 2010-2016, developing successful grants and micro-loan programs for small scale organic and sustainable farmers. She is a former of the WSU Small Farms Team, and former manager of the Food and Farming Program at Sustainable Connections in Bellingham, Washington. Laura holds a M.A. in the Sociology of Food from Colorado State University, a B.A. in Food Systems and Social Change from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and a certificate in Organic Farming and Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Laura currently works from Bellingham, Washington as Development Officer for Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), a national public interest organization founded by farmers and organic advocates in 1990 to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems.

Lisa Remlinger

Lisa Remlinger has more than 10 years of experience in the environmental community. Before joining Washington Environmental Council, she was the Senior Project Manager at NatureBridge working on the Elwha Dam removal in Olympia National Park. She also worked as the Chapter and Government Relations Manager for Audubon Washington, where she led campaigns on urban forestry and helped author the state’s voluntary guidelines for wildlife management on clean energy projects. She recently completed a fellowship at the United Nations Environmental Program from Duke University. Finally, Lisa is proud to be a year-round bike commuter even on the rainiest Seattle days.  

Melissa Tatro

Melissa Tatro has worked at King Conservation District for over three years as Outreach Coordinator and Urban Agriculture Coordinator.  She owns a hobby farm and has utilized hügelkultur to improve the glacial till that makes up the soil on her farm.  

Jarret Griesemer

Jarret Griesemer, KCD's Hügelmeister, became interested in hügelkultur during his stint as an AmeriCorps IP placement at KCD through the Mt. Adams Institute.  Jarret began researching the applications, techniques, and benefits of hügelkultur and has been personally involved in siting and building dozens of mounds across King County.

Paul McClellan

Paul McClellan has 30 years experience advising and guiding business owners and managers. He’s held the roles of Educator/Clinician, Director of Marketing, Business Development Manager, Product Manager, Controller, MIS/IT Manager, Due-Diligence Analyst, Technology Evangelist and Web Developer/Designer. Paul has worked in consumer electronics, industrial distribution, systems integration, online retailing, media and hospitality, and food systems. He has worked in both product- and service-oriented companies, B2B and B2C. His project experience ranges from startups, market analysis and product/service definition to interim management, restructuring, mergers and acquisition. Paul has a particular interest in alternative education, open source and open business, public libraries, and local food initiatives.  

Leslee Dixon

Leslee Dixon has been in the food industry as long as she can remember, her formative years spent around a table or working on farms.  She has been a tireless advocate for local farms, bioregional systems, and food independence and sovereignty.  Leslee has founded and managed brokerage firms, food business incubators, farms, and restaurants. She’s held the title of Mother, Farmer, Founder, CEO, Director of Marketing and Development, Senior Managing Partner, Sales Director, Pastry Chef and Minister of Social Artistry. Leslee’s expertise is centered in farm and business planning,  and navigating Pacific Northwest market channels. She is experienced with micro-production, systems and operations development, organizational culture, regional menu creation, branding and marketing plans.  She creates innovative, personalized solutions for small scale farms and food business, and excels at startup, bootstrapping and funding strategies.

Max Webster

Max Webster joined WEC’s Forest Program after completing a Master’s of Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. While at graduate school, Max’s studies focused on community-based approaches to conservation and ways to support sustain land-based economies. In the past, Max has developed new enterprise opportunities for loggers and landowners in the northeast and worked with community members to create restoration plans for parks in underserved communities. A native of Ohio, he is also a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and spent seven years building community garden programs before working as a field team leader with the National Civilian Community Corps on conservation projects in Alaska, California, and Oregon. In his spare time, Max can be most often found in the garden, on the trail or in the kitchen.

Patricia Hennessy

Patricia Hennessy has two decades experience an array of industries and issues including education, specialty food brokerage, public health and creating built environments.  She believes food is essential to a quality life and is a powerful resource to bring all of us together around a common appreciation and understanding. Her expertise includes organizational development, start-up management, financial planning and strategic growth, fund development and cultivation, community and legislative engagement, capital campaigns, marketing and public relations, and innovative program design and oversight.  Patricia’s expertise includes food safety and HACCP planning, and is trained as a PCQI under the FSMA. In addition to her consulting work with Corvus NW, Patricia has deep experience in non-profit and community development organizations.  She is the founder and Executive Director of The Local Food Trust (, and currently the Interim Director of the WSFMA. Patricia is particularly drawn to efforts that support and create opportunities to empower healthy eating choices and promote sustainable development.

Ruth Watts

Ruth Watts has worked for BASF Corporation for over 38 years.  Ruth has a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina (Greensboro) and has attended several executive business programs through the Wharton School of Management - University of Pennsylvania and Darden School of Management – University of Virginia.  Ruth has worked in the Agriculture, Textile and Paper industries during her tenure with BASF in areas of sales, marketing and business development.  Ruth has worked for BASF’s Biopolymers Division for the past 8 years with the past 4 years focused on developing the ecovio technology into the N.A. agricultural market.  Ruth has held several advisory roles within the packaging industry and is currently an advisor on the USDA Special Crop Research Initiative.  Ruth also leads the organic efforts for BASF ecovio.

Sara Southerland

Sara Southerland is the Food & Farming Manager at Sustainable Connections where she works with food-based businesses of all kinds to connect the dots, facilitate business relationships, and build a strong local food system in NW Washington. With a background in communications and non-profit marketing campaigns, she works with farmers and food businesses to market their products and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Through the Eat Local First Campaign at Sustainable Connections, Sara works with local food businesses in telling their story to educate the community on why local food is important, where to find it, and how to use it. The Food & Farming Program is also home to the Whatcom County Farm Tour, NW WA Farm-to-Table Trade Meeting, September Eat Local Month, Whatcom Food & Farm Finder, and the NW WA Chefs Collective. Sara serves on the coordinating team for the Whatcom Food Network, and in 2014, co-founded Electric Beet Juice Co., an organic juice bar and café featuring delicious, artisan, locally sourced fare in downtown Bellingham.

Shaina Bronstein

Shaina Bronstein is the PNW representative for Vitalis Organic Seeds. Her work entails screening genetic material under organic conditions and identifying regionally unique traits to inform breeding strategies. She has worked in the seed industry since 2004 and has been running vegetable variety trials in the PNW for the last 5 years. Before working for Vitalis, Shaina farmed with her family in Southern Oregon and worked for Oregon State University’s Small Farms Program. A New Hampshire native, Shaina now lives in Newberg, Oregon with her husband and 1-year-old son. She is passionate about responsibly produced food and enjoys sharing meals with friends, live music, travel and messing around in the backyard with her family.

Shannon Borg

Shannon Borg is a poet, wine writer and marketing coordinator for the San Juan islands Visitors Bureau, focusing on agritourism, farms & food. She has a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston, and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. She has published three books: Chefs on the Farm: Recipes and Inspiration from the Quillisascut School of the Domestic Arts; The Green Vine: A Guide to West Coast Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wines, and Corset, a book of poems. Her poems have been published in The Paris Review, London Review of Books, Poetry Northwest and other journals. She lives in Friday Harbor, where she’s starting a new blog to feed her love of drawing and eating oysters: Find her at and @0ysterous on Instagram.

Sheryl Wiser

Sheryl Wiser is the manager of Business Partnership for Tilth Alliance. She was the manager of marketing and communication for Cascade Harvest Coalition and the Puget Sound Fresh program from 2009-2015, and continues to manage the annual Farm Guide program for Tilth Alliance. She has over 30 years of marketing, communications and community engagement experience, and is passionate about advocating for farmers and building consumer literacy in understanding food system issues. 

Tanya Murray

Tanya Murray is an Organic Education Specialist at Oregon Tilth where her work is focused on developing and delivering programming that supports farm viability. Prior to working for Oregon Tilth, Tanya worked on organic vegetable farms in California, Connecticut, and Oregon. From 2003 thru 2012 she was part of the management team at Sauvie Island Organics, a Portland-area CSA farm. In 2015, Tanya completed a Master of Business Administration degree program at Portland State University. 
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