A Fair Food System: Featured Speakers

Speakers

We are proud to welcome a litany of talented food systems experts from across Appalachia. Below, you can read about each speaker slated to present at the first session of A Fair Food System: A Summit on Scalable Solutions to Creating Community Food Systems. Speakers are listed in the order in which they first appear on the agenda.
Leslie Schaller, Director of Programs & Business Development, ACEnet

Leslie joined the ACEnet staff in 2002. Originally the Food Ventures Business and Marketing Director, she is now the Director of Programs & Business Development. She directs multiple training and technical assistance programs which assist micro-entrepreneurs through small business curriculum development, contract services and the formation of support networks of resource providers. Leslie secures public and private funding through grants and fees for services to support regional brand initiatives, targeted sector training, financial management support and capital access. Leslie is responsible for working directly with entrepreneurs throughout the intake and assessment process, start-up and expansion stages. Leslie is currently a partner of the Aspen Institute’s Scale Academy, the Central Appalachian Network, the Ohio Food Policy Network, the Ohio Food Hub Network and UpGrade Athens County.

Martin Richards, Executive Director, Community Farm Alliance

A graduate of UK’s College of Architecture, Martin Richards has farmed his family’s land in Woodford County, been a partner in Prajna Design/Construction, and most recently was the economic development organizer for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, working on energy and sustainability issues. Martin has been an active member of CFA since 1995, serving as the CFA President in 1998. He was the first CFA Fellow during the passage of HB 611 that created the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund. Martin became the Executive Director of CFA in November of 2010.

Kathlyn Terry Baker, CEO, Appalachian Sustainable Development

Kathlyn joined ASD as its first Business Operations Manager in 2006 and took over the leadership role in 2011. Ms. Terry uses her 20+ years in private industry along with her experience with food systems development to identify and implement collaborative, cross-sector opportunities that increase the health and economic wellbeing of individuals and communities. She is a member of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative National Fund Manager Advisory Board which provides guidance to the National Fund Manager’s efforts to reduce food deserts by deploying grant and loan funds while also using new market tax credits and other investment vehicles. She is also on the boards of Turnrow, Appalachian Farm Collective and the Blue Ridge Plateau Initiative. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Texas A&M University.

Atlas Charles, Business Management Consultant, Rural Support Partners

Atlas Charles is a business management consultant at Rural Support Partners with expertise in equitable, sustainable community economic development who serves as the Network Manager for the Central Appalachian Network (CAN). Atlas provides thought-partnership and participatory facilitation support to CAN’s Food and Agricultural Systems Working Group as they, and the larger Network, build local and practitioner capacity and collectively grow key economic sectors that will create resilient, diverse, and inclusive communities throughout Central Appalachia. Atlas brings their diverse life and professional experiences to bear in their deep commitment to and thought-partnership in cultivating equity and sustainability in rural places through efforts like food systems reform. Atlas’ commitment comes from their lived experiences in the mountains of Southwest Virginia where Atlas grew up as a poor, neurodivergent, queer kid in a coal community that, like many others, faced a devastating economic downturn, community degradation, and public health crises including food insecurity, unsafe drinking water, and a diabetes epidemic.

Mae Wu, Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP), USDA

Mae Wu serves as USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP). MRP supports local and regional food systems, facilitates domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products, protects U.S. plant and animal health, regulates genetically engineered organisms, administers the Animal Welfare Act, and carries out wildlife damage management activities. Prior to joining USDA, Mae served as a Senior Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, helping to lead the organization’s health and food work. While there, she was working to design a holistic approach to NRDC’s food-based advocacy to build towards making local and regional food systems healthier, more resilient, sustainable, and equitable. This work has covered strengthening pesticides policy, antibiotics use in raising livestock, environmental impacts of animal feeding operations, support for farmworkers, and food waste. Mae holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Rice University, a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Cambridge, and a Juris Doctor from Duke University.

Tom Redfern, Director of Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Action

Tom Redfern is the Director of Sustainable Agriculture. He has been with Rural Action since 2004, working with both the Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Forestry programs during that time. He is a founding member of the Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA) Advisory Board and has been closely affiliated with the CPA since its inception in 2004. Tom helped originate RA’s concepts of peer to peer, producer compensated education. He has lead the development of several “tool-kits”- printed materials based on producer knowledge and needs, designed to increase production and sales of local foods. Prior to 2004, he spent 20 years working in commercial and public horticulture, including managing a $1 million nursery and working as a Horticulturist for Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Tom is a graduate of Hocking College and Ohio University where he studied Natural Resources Management, Botany, and Environmental Geography. Tom spent 2 years in the U.S. Peace Corps where he helped to develop an agroforestry curriculum for the Kenya Ministry of Energy. Tom currently serves on the Advisory Board for Morgan County OSU Extension, and also serves on the Farm to Ohio Working Group; a multi-stakeholder committee working to increase local food purchasing at Ohio University.

Molly Sowash, Sustainable Agriculture Program Manager, Rural Action

Molly is the Sustainable Agriculture Program Manager. She began with Rural Action in 2019 as an AmeriCorps member, serving two terms with the Sustainable Agriculture program after moving home to Ohio. In 2016 she graduated from Macalester College with a Bachelor’s degree in English (Creative Writing) with a minor in Religious Studies. After college, Molly worked with youth on urban farms with Youth Farm and taught food education in the Minnesota public schools with Midwest Food Connection. During summers, she worked on produce and cattle farms that were the inspiration for her current operation raising grass-fed beef on her family’s property in Athens, Ohio. Outside of work and farming, Molly makes jewelry, tends a large garden, plays music, and writes poetry.

Maribeth Saleem-Tanner, Executive Director, Community Food Initiatives

Community Food Initiatives fosters communities where everyone has equitable access to healthy, local food. As a partner in the Appalachian Accessible Food Network, CFI works alongside others to empower community-driven efforts to meet the food security needs of our region. Maribeth’s commitment to community-based work is informed by her experience serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA and VISTA Leader through the Pocahontas Communications Cooperative, her degree in Conflict Transformation from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, and 20 years of living and working in Appalachia, including serving previously as Co-Director of High Rocks in Hillsboro, WV and Director of Civic Engagement at Marietta College in Marietta, OH.

Jennifer Weeber, Northfork Local Food Coordinator, Community Farm Alliance

Jennifer’s work focuses on helping farmers to scale up, opening markets up to local food, and engaging the community, particularly households who are low-income, in accessing local food. Prior to her involvement in local food, she worked for over two decades on food security, homelessness, and housing issues in her community. She holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Kentucky and resides in Busy, Kentucky.

Tiffany Bellfield El-Amin

Tiffany Bellfield El-Amin, raised in rural Madison county, has found herself volunteering and advocating for local food and local food system for well over a decade. A 4th generation farmer, Tiffany continued to steward her family land with family creating a pollinator conservative and safe place for community. She is also a doula (birth worker) in Central and Eastern Kentucky. Her full time career is with Community Farm Alliance Berea,KY. In the past 4 years Tiffany’s titles varied from Northeast Kentucky Farm to Table Coordinator to the current position as Local Food Equity Organizer.

Heather Fuston, Business Development & Marketing Director, Snowville Creamery

Heather Fuston is the Business Development & Marketing Director at Snowville Creamery and has been part of their team for 10 years. She specializes in social and digital marketing creation and management, packaging and brand image creation, as well as sales and account development. Snowville Creamery is a fluid milk processing plant in Meigs County, Ohio that processes and bottles grass-grazed, 100% A2/A2 milk, cream, yogurt, and cheese.  Snowville is on a mission to enrich the planet, the lives of our farmers, customers, and employees by producing premium and wholesome dairy products.

Shelly Keeney, Market Director, The Wild Ramp

Shelly is a Huntington native and has a long history within the local food system. She has worked in the non-profit sector for close to 10 years. In her role as Market Director, Shelly oversees all aspects of The Wild Ramp-including working with other local regional food systems in an effort to expand access to local food. Prior to her current role as Market Director, she managed a commercial kitchen where she worked with regional farmers to create value-added foods and canned goods. Shelly also co-owned a small, local herd share business where she became skilled at producing farmstead goat cheeses, and learned the importance of knowing where your food comes from. When not working, in her spare time Shelly enjoys cheesemaking, gardening (especially herbs & lavender), and spending time visiting other farmers markets.