A Fair Food System: Summit 3 Recap

Summit Three
September 22, 2022 9:00AM–1:00PM EST


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 second session of A Fair Food System: A Summit on Scalable Solutions to Creating Community Food Systems. 


Ashley Mueller, USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture

Dr. Ashley Mueller is a National Program Leader in the Division of Family and Consumer Sciences within the Institute of Youth, Family, and Community. She provides leadership for programs in civic engagement and leadership which include the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN); Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grant Program; and the Healthy Homes Partnership, a partnership with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Ashley also co-leads the AFRI program Rapid Response to Extreme Weather Across Food and Agricultural Systems (A1712). Before joining NIFA, Ashley was a statewide Extension educator and disaster education coordinator for Nebraska Extension.



Betsy Whaley, Mountain Association

Betsy Whaley joined the staff of the Mountain Association in 2015. As Chief Strategy Officer, Betsy oversees the Energy, Business Support, and Communications & Policy teams. She also builds strategies for community development work. Betsy is particularly invested in developing collaborative relationships and building strong networks to support communities and businesses in East Kentucky. Prior to the Mountain Association, Betsy was the Vice President of Programs and Community Collaborations for the Julian Center, which serves survivors of domestic violence in Central Indiana. While there, she developed expertise in program development, project management, grant writing and partnership building. A graduate of the University of Tennessee and Christian Theological Seminary, and having grown up in the mountains of East Tennessee where her family has lived for seven generations, Betsy has a deep love for Appalachian people, culture and place.


Chris McKenzie, Grow Appalachia

Chris McKenzie (He/Him/His) is the Farmer Development Coordinator at Grow Appalachia, a strategic initiative of Berea College. He studied Agriculture and Natural Resources in Sustainable Systems at Berea College and managed the college’s sheep and goat operation as a student. Chris went on to work for the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in Berea, KY before traveling to work/intern on farms in 6 countries, gaining hands-on experience in sustainable livestock and specialty crop production in a variety of contexts and systems. Chris has a passion for serving the Appalachian region and for increasing the viability of small farm operations.



Debbie Phillips, Rural Action

Debbie Phillips was named as CEO of Rural Action in 2018, after having helped to grow the organization as its Development Director. She previously served as the area’s State Representative in the Ohio House from 2009-2016. While in office, Debbie served on the House Finance Committee, House Education Committee, House Agriculture & Rural Development Committee, the Joint Legislative Ethics Commission and the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. She is particularly proud of having successfully changed Ohio law to prevent schools from charging low-income students for the materials necessary for their participation. Debbie’s core purpose is to help connect people to a sense of agency and joy.



Gwen Johnson, Black Sheep Brick Oven Bakery & Catering

Gwen Johnson, a self-described hillbilly woman from the coal camp of Hemphill, Kentucky, is founder of Black Sheep Bakery and Catering and Board Secretary/Treasurer of Hemphill Community Center. Gwen is the daughter and granddaughter of coal miners. She graduated high school unable to read beyond a second-grade level; she learned to read while reading to her children and went to college the same year her oldest daughter, receiving a BS at the University of Pikeville and an MA at Goddard College in health arts and sciences. She has worked as an administrator in the University of Kentucky’s Early Childhood Development program since 2003, and has also served as Hemphill Community Center’s Outreach Coordinator.


Jennifer Weeber, 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.





Lindsey Ofcacek, The LEE Initiative

Lindsey Ofcacek is both a Co-Founder and the Managing Director for The LEE Initiative, which launched in late 2017 and has a mission of addressing issues of diversity and equality in the restaurant industry. Since launching The LEE Initiative, Lindsey has created several programs under its umbrella, including Women Culinary and Spirits Program; Restaurant Workers Relief Program; Restaurant Reboot Relief Program; and McAtee Community and Training Kitchen.

Prior to starting The LEE Initiative, Lindsey worked with Chef Edward Lee at 610 Magnolia as the General Manager and Wine Director, and still runs the award-winning wine program at the restaurant. She has worked in almost every part of the food business, from farming and distribution to cooking and managing. Prior to joining the team at 610 Magnolia, Lindsey helped open Decca, working as the Front of House Manager and then Events Manager. She has devoted years of tireless work in the local food community.


Lora Smith, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky

Lora Smith is the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky where she oversees strategic initiatives in the region and supports the CEO and COO with strategic planning, operations, and organizational development. Prior to becoming CSO, she served for five years with the Foundation as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Appalachian Impact Fund. Lora also worked as the Network Officer for Central Appalachia at the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation where she directed the Foundation’s strategic grantmaking and program related investments in the region.

Lora currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Appalachia Funders Network (AFN) and is a member of the Community Advisory Council (CAC) of the Federal Reserve. Feeding her love of the arts, Lora is a co-creator and member of the Waymakers Collective, a multi-million dollar regional fund, network, and democratically controlled collective supporting artists, arts and culture organizations, and culture bearers in Central Appalachia.


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.



Paul Patton, Rural Action

Paul Patton joined Rural Action in 2019 as Social Enterprise Director and was promoted to Chief Innovation Officer in 2022. Paul provides technical and development assistance to Rural Action’s three social enterprises — Zero Waste Event Productions, Chesterhill Produce Auction, and True Pigments, LLC — and evaluates opportunities for the development of new ventures.






Time   Topic   Presenters
9:00–9:10   Welcome to Day Three of the Summit Leslie Schaller, ACEnet
9:10–9:40   USDA Disaster Response Ashley Mueller, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
9:40–10:20   Eastern Kentucky Flood Response Gwen Johnson, Black Sheep Brick Oven Bakery & Catering
10:20–11:20   Nonprofit Response to Eastern Kentucky: Flood Relief & What’s Next Betsy Whaley, Mountain Association

Chris McKenzie, Grow Appalachia

Jennifer Weeber & Martin Richards, Community Farm Alliance

11:20–11:30   Active Break: What does Climate Resilience look like in Central Appalachia Jennifer Weeber, Community Farm Alliance
11:30–12:10   Climate Resilience & Climate Smart Agriculture

New CAN Working Group

Debbie Phillips & Paul Patton, Rural Action
12:10–12:50   Philanthropy Partners in Resilience Lindsey Ofcacek, The Lee Initiative
Lora Smith, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
12:50–1:00   Wrap-up & Highlights for Next Session Leslie Schaller, ACEnet