2019 Conference Speakers
Every year the TOFGA annual conference features speakers on a variety of topics in the organic farming, gardening, and ranching world, as well as the marketing, management, and policy realms. We hope you will join us February 14-16, 2018 in Corpus Christi, Texas for this exciting opportunity to learn, network, and build community around organic practices in Texas!
List last updated: 1/3/19 Register now!
Banquet Keynote Speaker: Ellen Polishuk
Other Speakers Include:
Scott Marlow is Senior Policy Specialist at the Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA, a non-profit organization based in Pittsboro, NC. Previously RAFI’s Executive Director, Scott also directed RAFI's Farm Sustainability program, providing in-depth financial counseling to farmers in crisis, education on disaster assistance programs and access to credit, and addressing the needs of mid-scale farmers who are increasing the sustainability of their farms by transitioning to higher-value specialty markets. Scott's specialty is financial infrastructure, including access to credit, risk management and disaster assistance programs, and how that infrastructure addresses food security and global climate change.
Scott Sroufe is a Marketing Coordinator with Texas Department of Agriculture’s Trade and Business Development Division where he works directly with Specialty Crop Marketing, Farmers Markets, and Certified Retirement Communities. Previously he worked for TDA in the Food and Nutrition Division as an Events Specialist working with exhibits, trade shows, and conferences for the agency. Before coming to TDA, Scott spent 20+ years in vocational ministry and several years in public education as a teacher. He received his B.A. from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Ellen Polishuk leverages her 35 years of vegetable farming experience to help growers around the country reach their farm dreams. She leads workshops and consults with farmers to improve their soils, labor management practices, and marketing to increase farm profits and achieve a joyful balanced life. One of three owners of Potomac Vegetable Farms in Northern Virginia, Ellen grew produce for 7 farmers markets, a 550 member CSA, and two roadsides stands. She is a co-author of the newly released book Start Your Farm and writes the farmer-to-farmer profile column for Growing For Market magazine. She and her husband live in suburban Maryland, where Ellen gardens as much as possible.
Sue Beckwith is the Executive Director of the Texas Center for Local Food (TCLF). TCLF collaborates with organizations across Texas and the U.S. to develop local food enterprises that support Texas sustainable agriculture and rural job creation. Sue is a former farmer and past president of TOFGA, and she was the start up project manager for Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill, the first certified organic commercial feed mill in Texas. She lives in Elgin, Texas.
Aislynn Campbell is the Founder and Executive Director of GROW Local South Texas, which provides affordable access to nutrient-dense food and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Aislynn created the Corpus Christi Downtown Farmers’ Market and works to increase the quality of life, health, and wellness within her community. She is the Region 7 Director for TOFGA, a member of the Texas Food Policy Council, a Board Member of Corpus Christi's Community Advisory Health Board, and a celebrated alumni of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. In 2012 Aislynn gave a Tedx talk titled The Food Revolution Begins in Your Home(Town). In 2016 she was awarded Capital Farm Credit’s Fresh Credit 100: Urban to Rural Connection. Aislynn spends free time gardening, working on the family farm, and enjoying live music, craft beer, and adventures in dining.
Dr. Jamie Foster is an Associate Professor of Forage Agronomy with Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Beeville and Corpus Christi. He uses a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to systems research focused on enhancing resource use efficiency by integrating legumes and agricultural co-products into animal, food, and fiber systems. Dr. Foster is a graduate of Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University, and University of Florida, and has been employed by Texas A&M AgriLife for almost 10 years.
Pamela Hornby is a research assistant for the Rose and Peach Breeding program in the Horticulture Department of Texas A&M University. She grew up in New Jersey and studied agronomy at Delaware Valley University, with the goal of becoming a farmer. Several decades later she received a B.S. in Horticulture from Texas A&M. Pamela's work has varied over the years including work as a commercial landscaper, nurseryman, job coach for disabled adults in horticulture, and manager of an organic vegetable farm and commercial canning operation. She served on the TOFGA Board for three years. Currently she oversees field and greenhouse operations at the Hortrec field and facility, provides technical support for graduate students, and is co-coordinator of the National Clean Plant Network Rose group.
Rebecca Hume graduated with a degree in Agriculture from Cornell University in 2011 and has worked in various sectors of agricultural production ever since. In addition to managing several vegetable and cut flower operations, she has also been a garden educator with FoodCorps and has worked in the commercial greenhouse industry. She currently manages crop planning for Johnson’s Backyard Garden and consults for vegetable farms in Central Texas.
Christy Tinsley Ilfrey and her husband, David, formed NativeDave.com in 2001 in the Dallas-Ft.Worth-Denton area. They relocated to the Coastal Bend in 2012, where they expanded the business, offering installation and maintenance services and a native plant nursery. Their designs have received numerous awards for their aesthetic appeal and their mission to conserve, preserve, restore, and celebrate Nature. A “volunteer” from Tennessee, Christy has lived in Texas for more than 35 years. She has a B.A. in English at Southwest Texas State, and she is a writer and public speaker. Together, the Ilfreys promote sustainable landscaping and lifestyle practices. They live with their daughter, Sage, and four-legged children (Daisy, Lupine, Grover, Marigold, Jones, and Bobby) in their tiny off-grid home in rural Aransas County.
Cody Bryant Creech found his way into vegetable gardening and homesteading over ten years ago and has been keeping chickens for 5 years. He was a tattoo artist for sixteen years, allowing his creativity to flourish. Later he took a job at Geo Growers in Austin making "hot rod" soils for every growing purpose. Now he cares for the grounds of Elgin Independent School District. His intuition with plants and the soil has always been firmly grounded, but working for Geo Growers opened doors into an elegant universe of soil structure, microbes, and mycorrhizae, and all that relates to the growing of vigorous plants. In Cody's own words, "Gardening is therapy...it is ALL love...it is hard work...and you reap what you sow. Live passionately!"
Stephen Janak was raised on a small farm in Victoria County, Texas. His family grew corn, sorghum, cotton, sugarcane, clover, poultry, pigs, cattle, and vegetables. His dad was the County Extension Agent for 20+ years, and Mr. Janak spent summers harvesting research plots in the Texas heat. Today they raise alfalfa, grass hay, and cattle. With a degree in Renewable Natural Resources from Texas A&M University in 2013, Mr. Janak worked on a 4,000 acre ranch in Colorado, before returning to Texas to serve as County Extension Agent in Colorado County. In 2018, he became an Extension Program Specialist in the Department of Horticulture at Texas A&M. In the Sustainable Fruit Project, Mr. Janak seeks to determine the economic sustainability of perennial fruit crops along the greater mid-coastal region of Texas.
Kara Kroeger, a fifth generation Central Texan, is a Certified Herbalist (Rocky Mountain Center of Botanical Medicine) and a Certified Nutritionist (American Health Sciences University), and she runs a private health consulting practice. She began training as a chef and has run Foundation Culinary, a private chef and catering business since 2012. Kara is devoted to improving human health and our ecosystems through agriculture and our food systems. She received a Bachelor of General Agriculture in 2018 from Texas State University, and she is now on staff at the National Center for Appropriate Technology in San Antonio, where she champions sustainable and regenerative agriculture in Texas and beyond.
Dr. Joe Masabni is the small-acreage vegetable specialist with Texas A&M Research and Extension Center at Overton. He works with homeowners, Master Gardeners, and commercial producers both organic and conventional. His interests include variety trials, pesticide trials, high tunnel production, and aquaponics. His latest research interest is on Asian vegetables and tomato grafting.
Greg Mast manages a 1 acre urban farm for the Central Texas Food Bank in Austin where he grows organic food for hunger relief with 900 volunteers, while teaching folks how to grow food. He is an ISA Certified Arborist with an MS in Geography with a focus on where and why people garden. With more than 20 years of first hand experience growing food in the Southwest, he enjoys working at the intersection of food production, urban ecology, non-profit program management, and education. Greg considers his spirit vegetable to be the artichoke.
Jarred Maxwell leads Austin Foodshed Investor’s venture relations, guiding clients through the fundraising process, business analysis, and presentation preparation. He is an active angel investor in more than a dozen local socially responsible companies. He has served as Local Leader for Slow Money Austin since 2011 and helped found the Sustainable Texas Investment Club in 2010, the same year he founded The Happy Land Company, which specializes in the preservation of rural land. Prior to this, Jarred worked with the Luedecke Group of Austin and as an engineer at Dell. Jarred is a lifelong Texan and rancher, managing a 400-acre family ranch near Lampasas. He has a B.S. from UT, and lives in Central Austin with his wife Sommer and their young son. He is dedicated to healthy food, local economic vitality, support of small-scale businesses, re-invigoration of small towns and small family farms and ranches.
Rene' McCracken serves as Region 6 director for TOFGA. She is Director of Agriculture at Northeast Texas Community College and lives in Mt Pleasant with her husband Tim and their girls, Samantha, Claire, and Audrey, on their 40 acre ranch where they raise cattle and boer goats. Rene' farms, teaches farming, and loves talking about farm issues, especially gardens and goats.
Judith McGeary is an attorney, activist, and sustainable farmer. After earning her Bachelors of Science from Stanford University and her law degree with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin, she clerked for a Federal Appeals Court and went on to private law practice. During that time, she became a passionate advocate of sustainable agriculture, and she and her husband established their own livestock farm. After seeing how government regulations benefit industrial agriculture at the expense of family farms, she founded the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) 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.
Glen Miracle and his wife, Kenan run Laughing Frog Farm, a small organic permaculture-based farm in Hempstead, Texas. In addition to hosting farm dinners and a CSA, the farm sells vegetables, chicken eggs and meat, lamb meat and wool, and fruit trees. Glen grew up in Berea, KY where many family members were and still are farmers. In 1978 he started a small front yard garden in Houston, while he was part owner and resident artist at Houston Stage Equipment Corporation, which built and painted scenery for the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, and others. Business experience combined with the necessary creativity of that work helped with speculative and experimental problems faced in trying different farming methods. Glen and Kenan moved to the farm in 2003 and began selling farm products in 2009.
Billy Mitchell plans, organizes, and instructs Produce Safety Alliance Grower Trainings, food safety field days, and shorter FSMA or food safety workshops with farmers and other farm service organizations around the country. Prior to this, he worked on diversified vegetable farms and worked with Global Growers coordinating on-farm food safety workshops all over Georgia. On the side, he is helping out on a farm-to-table operation on the coast
Ashley Pellerin, a Houston native, is an Extension Program Specialist for the Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, focusing on livestock and forage programming. She has a B.S. in Animal Science at Tuskegee University and an M.S. in Agricultural Science at Tennessee State University with a focus on Goat Breeding and Genetics. Her experience as a National Science Foundation Fellow solidified her desire to teach. Ashley was awarded the 2016 District 5 Early Career Agent Award from the Texas County Agriculture Agents Association, and she was recognized for coordinating donations from all over the US with the Harris Co. Livestock Supply following Hurricane Harvey. Ashley volunteers in the community, participates in her sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha), and is active at her church.
Dr. Reid Redden, AgriLife Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist and Associate Professor, has been in the animal science department at Texas A&M since March of 2015, where he develops and supports educational programs that benefit the sheep and goat industry. In addition, Dr. Redden supports youth development programs, such as wool and mohair judging. He serves on councils and committees including the American Lamb Board, the American Sheep Industry Association, and the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association. Reid and his wife have two kids who enjoy outdoor activities, such as baseball, golf, and fishing.
Sayuri Yamanaka works with Sustainable Food Center as Food Access Community Engagement Manager. She develops community engagement and outreach services for low-income audiences and communities experiencing food insecurity. She approaches her work with a multi-cultural and inclusive approach which includes building relationships with stakeholders, including local government, private sector, local NGOs, leaders, and community organizers. She has worked in community programs for children, youth, and adults for the past 15 years. She loves cooking with seasonal ingredients and spending time with family.
Rachel Spencer is the Farm to School Lead for the Southwest Region of USDA Food and Nutrition Services. She joined USDA with a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Arkansas, experience working with FoodCorps, and a desire for everyone to eat fresh, healthy food.
Carolina Mueller is passionate about bridging local food with food access initiatives. After graduating with a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from Rutgers University, she ran the New Brunswick Community Farmers Market in New Jersey. Once in Austin, she launched the Fresh for Less Mobile Markets program at Farmshare Austin. Now, as President of the Central Texas Young Farmers Coalition, she wants to support new and beginning farmers so that they may start and keep a farming business. In Carolina's own words, "Local food should be available to everyone, no matter their income!
Colin Mitchell is a Texas Hill Country native hailing from Boerne. He received a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in Government with a minor in Geography and the Environment. Colin received formal training during an internship at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, and he has managed sustainable agriculture and development projects in Texas and the western US. He is a Sustainable Agriculture Specialist for the National Center for Appropriate Technology in San Antonio. His focus includes livestock grazing, perennial food systems, soil conservation, carbon sequestration, earthworks and water availability, crop production, and more.
Kolby Monnig has years of experience in the political arena. As a former senior staff member in the Texas Legislature, Campaign Manager for statewide office and now business owner of her political consulting business, Blue Ocean Strategic Solutions, Ms. Monnig has extensive knowledge in navigating the legislative process.
Danika Trierweiler grew up on a horse ranch just outside of Austin, and has long been focused on sustainable agriculture and food systems. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016 as a Registered Dietitian with a focus on sustainability across the food supply chain. With PRO*ACT, Danika works with farmers, food service institutions, and produce distributors to connect the dots and strengthen regional food systems.
Erin Kimbrough earned her B.S. in agriculture education from Texas A&M University in 2013 and has worked for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension since 2012. She is the program coordinator for the BattleGround to Breaking Ground Program where she trains veterans and other beginning farmers/ranchers with and without disabilities to start or expand agriculture operations. She has developed numerous workshops, hands-on learning opportunities, online courses, and webinars resulting in thousands of educational hours. Erin is the co-owner of Growin on Faith Farm with her husband John, a former Marine and current first responder, and their 4 children. They raise cattle, goats, sheep, and chickens, and in 2014, they implemented Holistic Management International’s methods of farm management.
Joe Hilliard grew up working summers at his family’s business, Fencing Inc. of Texas, the premiere fence company in Corpus Christi, TX. After working in information technology in Houston's petrochemical industry, he was pleased to return to the family business in 2003. Today, Joe focuses mainly on commercial/industrial fencing applications. As a founding member of GROW Local South Texas he takes special interest in every farm and agricultural fence lead, educating customers on the best fencing options in terms of durability and value. When not building fence across South Texas, Joe enjoys shopping weekly at the CC Downtown Farmers’ Market and creating grand, local-food-based meals at home with his fiancée and four children.
Zach Halfin is a horticulturalist, arborist, avid gardener, and friend to the soil. He has been tinkering with Permaculture design techniques and working with farmers and land owners to implement landscapes that help conserve water and soil.
Hilda Gutiérrez is Food Access Director at the Sustainable Food Center where she oversees the Double Dollars Project, offering a dollar-for-dollar match to those who use federal nutrition benefits at farmers’ markets. Hilda oversees efforts to engage low-income communities in the local food system and identify community leaders that spearhead food access efforts, including operating farm stands located in high-needs areas. Hilda is a native of the Rio Grande Valley and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She holds a MA in Latin American Studies and a BA in Feminist Studies. For generations, members of her family have worked as farm laborers, and she has extensive experience working to end gender-based violence and in the immigrant rights movement. Hilda loves to cook, practice yoga, and go on nature walks with friends.
Theron Beaudreau has been a consultant, educator and practitioner within the field of ‘regenerative agriculture’ for over a decade. Theron has worked across the globe with some of the most prominent experts in regenerative farming and land design. Today, Theron manages Integrated Acres, a consultation firm that focuses on both the ecological and economic resilience of its clients and the lands they steward.