Keynote Speakers


Tuesday, April 30

Gary Paul Nabhan

A first-generation Lebanese American, Nabhan  has an M.S. in plant sciences (horticulture) from the University of Arizona (1978), and a Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary arid lands resource sciences also at the University of Arizona (“Papago Fields: Arid Lands Ethnobotany and Agricultural Ecology”, 1983). During this time he started working with, and learning from farmers and foragers in several indigenous communities on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border.

He co-founded Native Seeds/SEARCH while working at the University of Arizona, with both organizations co-hosting the first-ever national conference on community-based seed banks and heirloom seed saving. Native Seeds is a non-profit conservation organization which works to preserve place-based Southwestern agricultural plants as well as knowledge of their uses (1982-1993). He then served as director of conservation, research and collections at both the Desert Botanical Garden (1986-1993) and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (1993-2000), where he did the research to help Secretary Bruce Babbitt create Ironwood Forest National Monument.

He then became founding director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ (2000-2008). In 2008 he moved back south to Tucson and joined the University of Arizona faculty as a research social scientist with the Southwest Center, where he now serves as the Kellogg Endowed Chair in Southwestern Borderlands Food and Water Security. There, he founded the Center for Regional Food Studies and catalyzed the initiative to have UNESCO designate Tucson as the first City of Gastronomy in the U.S.

His latest book, Foods from the Radical Center, is about how community-based food recovery and restoration of food-producing landscapes is helping to heal America's divides.


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Wednesday, May 1

Steve Sossaman

Steve Sossaman is a farmer at Sossaman Farms in Queen Creek, Arizona.  He attended the Air Force Academy and went on to Arizona State University and received his B.S. in Agri-Business. Married 40 years to his childhood sweetheart, Chris Sossaman. They have three daughters who are the fifth generation to live on the farm.

Steve farms and manages approximately 800 acres, which includes heritage grains and alfalfa. He has been farming full time for 40 years on the Sossaman family farm, which was homesteaded in 1919. Steve has over 25 years of land planning experience and enjoys doing land development in the East Valley. He is also working with Hayden Flour Mills and Grain R and D, which are both located on Sossaman Farms.

Steve is a past Mayor and Council Member of the Town of Queen Creek, served on the Queen Creek School Board and is currently on the Planning and Zoning Commission. He is a past board member and past Vice-President of Arizona Cotton Growers, past Vice-President of Desert Wheat Growers Co-op, past President of Queen Creek Irrigation District and also served on the Board of Cotton Incorporated. Steve was a Commissioner for Maricopa County Parks Department and has served on the Arizona Grain Council and Arizona Alliance for Food and Fiber. He has participated in Valley Leadership, the Center for Rural Leadership and the Cotton Leadership Program. Steve was proud to be named the Cotton Achievement Award Recipient in 1994 by Cotton Grower Magazine, and has received the High Cotton Award, a national award to recognize the contributions farmers make in protecting the environment and the use of cutting edge technology.

Steve is very active in his church, Calvary Chapel Queen Creek.

In his SPARE time, Steve enjoying traveling, golfing, snow skiing, and mountain biking.

Session Speakers

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ROSANNE ALBRIGHt, City of Phoenix

Rosanne Albright is serving as the acting Environmental Programs Administrator for the City of Phoenix Office of Environmental Programs. Rosanne has been with the City of Phoenix for 17 years.  She is responsible for management of the department, whose mission is environmental protection, regulatory compliance, and sustainability for the city. OEP is responsible for air quality, pollution prevention, remediation (soil, groundwater, asbestos, lead), 404 program, stormwater management, sustainable purchasing, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and local food systems.  Rosanne is part of the City’s team leading the effort to achieve Phoenix’s 2050 Sustainability Goals in the areas of Clean Air, Carbon Neutrality, and Local Food System. Rosanne is a founding member of the Maricopa County Food Systems Coalition and serves on the Valley of the Sun Ending Hunger Leadership Council. Rosanne is also responsible for the city’s STAR (Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating) Communities national sustainability certification and serves on the STAR Steering Committee.


Kevin Fort, Regenerative Business Institute

Kevin holds a Bachelor's degree in Accounting and a Master's degree in Business Administration (MBA). He has more than 20 years of finance, accounting, and business development experience and has spent the last 6 years studying cooperative and ESOP business structures. Kevin's true passion is working with entrepreneurs to build financially viable, ecologically focused, and community-centric businesses. 

In 2015 Kevin temporarily relocated to New Zealand with his family to run a Permaculture Research Institute and further his knowledge in heritage seed production. Hired to save the seed and company from imminent failure, it become blatantly obvious that cooperation from like-minded individuals was the key to regenerative sustainment of both.

Upon his return to the U.S., Kevin began transitioning his urban home’s landscape into an edible, food producing, carbon-sequestering, water-harvesting, nutrient-dense, bio intensive landscape. Later this year, Kevin will be rolling out a cooperatively structure company that will specialize in installing and maintaining urban food production systems designed to build the regenerative capacity of our local ecology and economy.

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Rachel Burgoyne, Accion

Rachel Burgoyne is a Community Loan Officer with Accion in Tucson and has been with the organization for over 2 years now. In this role, she gets to travel all over the state helping small business owners receive financing from Accion when more traditional paths to finance haven’t worked out. Her favorite parts of this job include the privilege of meeting and supporting incredible entrepreneurs around AZ, as well as traveling to all corners of the state - from the smallest towns to the larger cities. Rachel lives in Tucson with her husband Taylor and their adorable dog Cotton.



Megan A. Carney is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Center for Regional Food Studies at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include transnational and gendered migration, migrant health, and food systems with regional expertise in North America with Latin@, Mexican, and Central American communities and in the Mediterranean, particularly southern Italy. Her first book The Unending Hunger: Tracing Women and Food Insecurity Across Borders (University of California, 2015) received the CHOICE award for Outstanding Academic Title. She served an advisory role for the national Real Food Challenge campaign pressuring universities and other institutions of higher education to adopt more ethical, humane, and environmentally-friendly food practices and held the post of Sustainable Food Coordinator in residential dining services at UC Santa Barbara.



Chris Chappell, Sustainability Liaison for Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co, AZ Water Projects Administrative Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy.  Chris holds a Bachelor of Sustainability and a Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management. He served two years at an AmeriCorps Member at the Arizona chapter of the Nature Conservancy doing outreach and community building.  More recently, he served as the Social Media Coordinator for Arizona Wilderness, telling their story of sustainability, quality craft beer, and a “localist” approach to sourcing ingredients for beer and food. He currently works on the Arizona Water Projects Team at The Nature Conservancy, assisting in administrative and financial tasks.



From his toddler days of fighting his grandmother for the hose to water their home garden, Juan Chavez has always been an avid gardener. His fascination with gardening drew him to study Plant Science in college and his passion for sharing knowledge eventually led him to Southern Arizona where he joined the team at the Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture, a non-profit urban farm in Ajo AZ that works to provide community members with the knowledge and tools for success in growing their own gardens in the harsh Sonoran Desert climate. Juan serves the Ajo CSA as a beginning farmer and as the program coordinator for the Adopt-A-Sonoran-Desert Program.



Dr. Lauren Chenarides is an Assistant Professor at the Morrison School of Agribusiness at the Arizona State University, where she teaches courses on food advertising and promotions, food supply networks, and food policy. Her research focuses on understanding barriers to accessing affordable, healthy foods and the consequences of poor food access on consumer spending, diet, and health; and analyzing trends and developments in food retailer competition, market concentration, and marketing strategies. 

Dr. Chenarides completed her doctorate in agricultural, environmental, and regional economics at Pennsylvania State University. Her dissertation investigated how food access in underserved areas in the U.S. differs by explicitly examining food retailers' decisions that might exacerbate or mitigate the hardships consumer face living in food deserts.



Anne is the Nutrition Outreach Coordinator at Desert Mission, the community service arm of the HonorHealth hospital network. Desert Mission Food Bank is uniquely situated within a hospital network to not only address the medical needs of the community, but to address the underlying determinants of health including food insecurity, healthy food access, and nutrition education. For the past five years, Anne has worked diligently to bridge gaps in the Sunnyslope community in Phoenix through federal, state, and local programs, community gardens, and non-profit organizations. At Desert Mission, she has increased programs to support nutrition access and education including the HonorHealth Community Supported Agriculture Program, Desert Mission Gardening program, and is leading the charge to adopt a food bank nutrition policy. Anne graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition.



Karalea Cox, a fifth generation rancher, has a deep understanding of rural and agricultural complexities pertaining to economic and community development and planning. Her passion for rural issues and rural advocacy creates a backdrop for communities to engage in meaningful dialogue and problem solving. She is a champion for community members and believes the success of every community effort lies in the knowledge and efforts of the individuals who are most affected by the issues. Her strengths as a consultant and facilitator enable stakeholders and community members to get to the heart of the challenges they face and create dynamic, meaningful solutions with deliberate action steps and measurable outcomes that work. Cox is the Executive Director for the Southern Gila County Economic Development Corporation. Her graduate work is in Higher Education Administration. Cox has served as a facilitator, capacity builder and planner for numerous organizations and rural communities.



Kate Cox is the Editor of The New Food Economy, an award-winning non-profit newsroom investigating the forces shaping how and what we eat. The digital magazine was launched in 2015, after it had become clear that a wave of radical changes in how we grow, produce, package, transport, sell, and consume food was precipitating a revolution that urgently needed to be brought to light. Kate and her staff, some of the most subject-experienced journalists covering food and agriculture today, provide readers around the world open access to independent coverage—news, insight, analysis, and perspectives on the intersection of food with business, technology, science, health, and culture. Prior to The New Food Economy, Kate spent several years reporting on the American aging experience for radio and text as a freelance health reporter. She has written extensively about end-of-life issues, elder incarceration, and the plight of living organ donors. She also reported and produced a three-part radio documentary on the nation’s first emergency shelter for victims of elder abuse. @newfoodeconomy



Katie Critchley is currently the Farm Director of The Farm at Agritopia and a long time resident of the nationally recognized and award winning  “agrihood”, Agritopia. She is also a founding board member of The Johnston Family Foundation for Urban Agriculture, for which the foundation is committed to promoting and preserving Urban Agriculture throughout the State of Arizona. She has also been a part of the development team at Johnston Properties maintaining and expanding their commercial holdings.  Her last role at Johnston Properties was co-project manager for the award winning craftsman community, Barnone located in Agritopia.




Connor Descheemaker serves as the Community Planning Manager for Local First Arizona, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to local business advocacy and equitable economic development as a means of cultivating connection to place. Descheemaker founded and directs the organization’s For(u)m program, focusing Local First’s mission on the built environment, working with businesses and nonprofits across sectors for more equitable, sustainable, and place-conscious development, with a focus on infill and adaptive reuse. Mr. Descheemaker was born and raised in the Phoenix metro and graduated in 2015 from Arizona State University-Downtown, with a B.A. in Urban & Metropolitan Studies with a minor in Urban Planning. Connor’s professional affiliations include: City of Phoenix Development Advisory Board & Technical Subcommittee, Member; City of Phoenix Complete Streets Advisory Board, Member, & Design Guidelines Subcommittee, Chairperson; Arizona Partnership for Healthy Communities; Phoenix Community Alliance; Modified Arts, Gallery Manager; The Trunk Space, Vice President, Board of Directors.



Cindy Gentry brings 30 years’ experience in non-profit hunger prevention and healthy food systems development to her three-year tenure as Food Systems Coordinator, Maricopa County Department of Public Health. She has worked statewide to nurture local food production, distribution and food access and support local farmers’ markets, including spearheading the work to establish the Phoenix Public Market. Other activities and achievements include developing resources to start up the Arizona Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the SNAP at the Market Project in Arizona. She is also active in developing working relationships to expand a Farm to Cafeteria program in Arizona, facilitating the incorporation of Sun Produce Co-op (SPC). SPC is an agricultural cooperative distribution and marketing program that helps smaller-scale producers open new market opportunities.

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Dr. Carola Grebitus is assistant professor of food industry management in the Morrison School of Agribusiness at Arizona State University. Carola’s current research includes consumer preferences and willingness to pay for local food, produce from urban agriculture, as well as, healthy and sustainable food products. She teaches “Introduction to Agribusiness” and “Food Product Innovation and Development.”




Elyse serves as the Executive Director of Farm Express by Discovery Triangle, a fleet of non-profit, mobile produce markets that sell high quality, affordable fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods with limited access to healthy food. She is Vice Chair of the City of Phoenix Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission and is also adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, where she teaches courses in the areas of budget and finance for healthcare organizations. Elyse is a passionate proponent of health in all aspects of public life and works everyday to make Arizona inclusive and equitable for all.

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Pamela Hamilton is the founder, publisher and editor of Edible Phoenix, a local food magazine. She has enjoyed living, food shopping and dining around the world and is an avid cookbook collector.

Pamela is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier. She is a past Governor for Slow Food Southwest and past co-leader and Treasurer of Slow Food Phoenix. Pamela has served as a board member for Community Food Connections and on the advisory board for Edible Communities. She was formerly a management consultant and holds a Bachelor degree from Stanford University.



Jeff Hays connects rural communities and service providers to funding and assistance. He is entering his 33rd year of work in rural America, spanning all facets of community development. Initially he was with USDA Rural Development in Arizona, Colorado and California, then was non-profit Executive Director in Coachella, CA and is now back in Arizona. Hays earned his master’s degree in Public Administration at California State University (San Bernardino) in 1997 and his baccalaureate in Agri-Business at Truman University in Kirksville, Missouri (1984).  He served three terms as a California Governor’s appointee to the Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board and as a Gaming Commissioner for the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. Hays also served on multiple community service boards focused on rural services.



Ingrid's education is in social work and community organizing. While raising her children she worked in various administrative functions in small businesses including her own. Eight years ago, she started Community Cuisine in a desire to be a positive force in the city. Primarily a meal service, Community Cuisine holds high standards in the areas of health, environmental protection and community building. Reusable packaging, recycling and composting are some of the ways these values are realized. A weekly “Pay As You Can Community Dinner”, the only one of its kind in the valley, is another important aspect of Ingrid’s work. Being part of implementing a viable model for the El Rancho kitchen allows Ingrid to continue to follow her passion - to help realign the food industry with healthy values.



Eight years ago, after 30+ years in the restaurant business RJ decided to get his hands dirty! For as long as he can remember, he has had a passion for farm to table cookery and it was time to embrace the other side of that equation. RJ spent 5 years, learning everything he could at one of the Valley’s premier organic farms. What he learned could fill volumes (and someday it may) but what RJ came away with in spades was a burning desire to do something to help small local growers, the organic movement and Arizona agriculture. RJ now owns two local focused businesses here in Arizona, a small batch from scratch wholesale food business in Phoenix and a retail store in Prescott. Plus he also runs the Local and Organics side of the business for Peddler’s Son Produce and Provisions here in Phoenix.



Sterling Johnson was born and raised on the Tohono O’odham reservation in a traditional ranching family. He spent his youth excelling in rodeo and training horses while learning language, culture and land stewardship from the elders. He completed Tohono O’odham Community Action’s beginning farmer training, and joined Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture in 2014 to expand the heirloom seeds preservation and cultural foods education program. He now runs Ajo CSA’s 2.25-acre composite farm, and mentors the new generation of farmers and market growers.




As Executive Director of Community Investment Corporation (CIC), Danny started a Social Impact Lending program which incentivizes community minded borrowers through preferred rates and terms.  CIC’s first such program partnership with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona supports budding food entrepreneurs with low interest microloans. Danny believes that investing in people’s entrepreneurial spirit is a powerful and underutilized way to address community needs. He has nearly 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector in various programmatic and executive management roles. As cofounder of Single Focus Web, a website development company he started with his wife, Danny also brings the perspective of an entrepreneur to his work. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and holds masters degrees from the University of Arizona and Rutgers University.  To this day, Danny ranks “Middle School English Teacher” as the best job he ever had.



Jeremy D. Krones is the program manager of Diablo Trust, a collaborative environmental ranching nonprofit in Flagstaff, AZ. Jeremy has his BA in ecological anthropology from the University of Maryland-College Park. He was introduced to Arizona his senior year of college as part of the Grand Canyon Semester, an experiential, interdisciplinary program at Northern Arizona University. During that program he was hired as a farm hand on the Flying M Ranch; he returned in 2014 to manage the ranch’s commercial vegetable operation, and then transitioned to his position at the Diablo Trust in January 2015. Jeremy has worked in state and national forests, and on a wide variety of farms and ranches in Europe, Israel, the Caribbean, and the US. He values his local agriculture very much, and not only because his cat, Gus, was born on the ranch.

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Cameron Kulik

From his earliest recollection, Kulik has been working and volunteering to better his community, contributing more than 3,000 volunteer hours in Phoenix's nonprofit sphere. Kulik's fire for helping others and passion for implementing positive change brought him to the doorsteps of Local First Arizona, where he saw the implementation of sustainable economic practices leading the nation. Now, Kulik has discovered a passion for working with local businesses and invested community members as they discover how their dollars matter and play a critical role in our economy, and quality of life.

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Hailed as one of the top innovative Chefs of the Valley, Executive Chef Danielle Leoni has lived up to that distinction with an avant-garde approach to blending local farm-fresh ingredients with tropical traditions. Under her stewardship, in 2008 The Breadfruit and Rum Bar introduced an entirely new cuisine to the Valley, while redefining perceptions of tropical dining. Her passion for sustainability, supporting local and being an ardent proponent of the farming community has given her national and local recognition. When looking to fill her panty her first stop is local farms, she is a nationally recognized advocate for food system change, and works tirelessly to educate up and coming chefs on the virtues of sustainable procurement.  



Applying his education, experience, and an entrepreneurial spirit, Jeff compiled lists of “market gaps” he discovered during a 6 month journey across Latin America in 2011, eventually focusing on the limited choices and availability of peanut butter. Jeff sought to correct this, to better meet the palate and budgets of people across the Americas. He sought to create a social venture that would both contribute to the alleviation of extreme poverty in the Americas and fill a market gap for quality products. Jeff founded Peanut Butter Americano, Arizona's exclusive peanut butter line.

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Jennifer McClellan

Jennifer McClellan is a food reporter for The Arizona Republic/azcentral, part of the USA Today Network. She writes about restaurants openings, food trends, local food makers and various food-system issues such as consumer food waste. She’s a Phoenix native and a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. McClellan is an active member of the Association of Food Journalists. She’s proud to be living, working and eating in Arizona.



Dorie Morales is the publisher and editor in chief of Green Living magazine, Arizona’s premiere eco-conscious lifestyle publication. A magazine veteran, Dorie has been in magazine publishing since 1997. She started in sales at Apartment Guide, then went on to start-up the print publication Apartment Showcase. In 2010, Dorie partnered in her second start-up, Green Living magazine. The monthly magazine educates, inspires and empowers readers to make eco-conscious choices for a healthy life and healthy planet. Currently, she sits on the board of the USGBC Arizona chapter and the planning committee of the Arizona Foundation of Women 2018 Annual Luncheon. Dorie is also a former board member for the Arizona Green Chamber and the Phoenix Final Four sustainability committee. In previous years, she served on Arizona Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards committee, a board member on the central branch of the USGBC and was co-chair of the Arizona Multi-housing Association trade show.



Jonathan Netzky is a local food systems entrepreneur, focused on creating better access to the most meaningful protein options.  His company Local Alternative Foods operates in Flagstaff where they develop, produce and distribute products that match the expressed needs of consumers and food-service for fresher, local, whole food plant-based ingredients.

Post engineering school at the University of Iowa, Jonathan had the opportunity to live, work, eat and develop business around the world.  Learning product and systems design, LEAN Manufacturing and technical marketing his passions never faded for growing food and sustainable systems.  In 2007 he moved to Flagstaff, Arizona and combined his unique abilities to solve a need for a locally sourced, delicious, plant based meat substitute for a local restaurant chain. The rest, as they say, is history in the making…



Chip Norton, President of Sinagua Malt- Chip is a third generation Arizonan, lives next to the Verde River in Camp Verde. He retired from his project management career in 2008 and currently serves on several nonprofit, municipal and regional boards and commissions. Chip is an advocate for community-based solutions to conservation challenges, and he is excited about the prospect of working with a diverse group of partners to achieve conservation goals in the Verde watershed.  Chip founded Sinagua Malt in 2015 as a benefit corporation that aims to restore flows to the Verde River through “market-based conservation.”



Joseph Oddo is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Produce Safety Rule (PSR) Grant Manager at the Arizona Department of Agriculture.  Mr. Oddo was hired by the Department of Agriculture after a 30 career with Eagle Produce LLC. Dba Martori Farms. During his tenure at Martori Farms he was responsible for Food Safety and Human Resources.  Mr. Oddo developed and maintained the Food Safety Program utilizing third party auditors under the Primus GFS scheme. Over 60 audits were performed (9 annually) achieving scores over 90%. Additionally he recruited and trained workers thru the H2-A guest worker program.  Mr. Oddo possess 2 Masters Degrees from the University of Santa Clara and the University of San Francisco and makes his home in Phoenix. His current responsibilities include the training, education and outreach regarding the Produce Safety Rule. As Stakeholders become compliant trained and educated his responsibility will include inspection.



Kristen Osgood is the Regenerative Strategy Manager for Stern Produce where, in less than a year, she effectively launched a local buying program, Arizona Fresh Together. She is pursuing her mini-MBA in Sustainable Food Supply Chains through the Agribusiness Academy. She also has a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability with a minor in Urban and Metropolitan Studies from Arizona State University. Throughout her 18 years of professional experience, she has lead and managed teams and projects, provided job training, facilitated communication with a wide variety of stakeholders, and given subject matter education to co-workers and customers.



John has 17 years of utility and cooperative experience including 9 years at Salt River Project (SRP). At the same time, he taught microeconomics, at Mesa Community College for 5 years. At CFC, he created and managed the Cooperative Financial Professional Certificate program, conducted macroeconomic analysis, and ad hoc financial and economic analysis. Since starting his own consulting firm, John has consulted with electric and agricultural cooperatives and has created and delivered programs for directors and staff. He holds a BS degree from Auburn University and a dual Master’s Degree from the University of Arizona (MBA) and Thunderbird, the American Graduate School for International Management (MIM). Prior to attending graduate school, he worked in the consumer electronics industry for 4 years.




Kate Radosevic is the Local Foods Development Coordinator for Local First Arizona Foundation. Radosevic grew up milking goats in the northern Arizona town of Cornville. At the age of 12, she received a loan from the USDA Farm Service Agency to launch a business manufacturing and wholesaling goat milk soap, and was in the black within the first two years. This experience in food business developed into a passion for food justice, sustainable local food systems, and rural prosperity. Radosevic now holds her Permaculture Design Certificate from the Sonoran Permaculture Institute, is a Master Gardener in Maricopa County, sits on the Maricopa County Food System Coalition, and serves on the board for the Sun Produce Cooperative. At Local First Arizona Foundation, Radosevic works to strengthen local economies by supporting small-scale food producers and localizing supply chains to ensure that good food is accessible to all Arizonans.



Kimberly Roland is the Director of Entrepreneur Programs for Better Business Bureau Serving Central, Northern and Western Arizona (BBB). She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Humanistic Studies from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame and her Master of Arts in Social Justice and Human Rights with a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership Management from Arizona State University. Kimberly is responsible for the design and implementation of entrepreneur programming at BBB, including the development of new services for both accredited businesses and small business startups.

Kimberly also serves on the Young Nonprofit Professional Network Phoenix Board of Directors and the Arizona Technology Council Startup + Entrepreneurship Committee in addition to being the City Organizer for the House of Genius Phoenix Chapter. She is a native Arizonan with a passion for serving and supporting local businesses.



Sajovec pursued a graduate degree in environmental anthropology that brought her to Southern Arizona almost 10 years ago. She founded Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture (Ajo CSA) shortly afterwards in order to support a grassroots, community-based effort of growing a more sustainable and just food system in Ajo and the surrounding region. Ajo CSA's activities include the Authentically Ajo Farmers Market (accepts WIC, SNAP and Double Up Bucks, and has incubated over 60 microbusinesses); Ajo Gardeners Network; Adopt-A-Sonoran-Desert-Crop (citizen participation crop conservation program); food-based entrepreneurship incubator; beginning farmer training; educational programs; and events such as Kids at the Farm, annual Ajo Food Festival and Baja Arizona Pomegranate Festival. Sajovec is a founding member of the Ajo Regional Food Partnership and a board member of the Arizona Small-Scale Farmers Alliance (AZ chapter of National Young Farmers Coalition).



Fred A. San Nicolas II is a Farm Loan Specialist with the USDA, Farm Service Agency Arizona State Office.  He is born and raised from the island of Guam and received his B.S degree in Finance and Economics from the University of Guam.  He started his career with the agency about 9 years ago providing loans and financing to producers and ranchers in Guam, the surrounding Micronesian Islands, and Hawaii.  Fred has been with the Arizona FSA for about three years. Fred provides a wealth of knowledge working with different types of agriculture operations, and understanding the unique challenges they provide.  He is passionate about producers that want to become viable, contributing members of the agriculture community.



Ashley Schimke, DTRN is an education program specialist at the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), Health and Nutrition Services. Ashley specializes in Farm to School and School Garden Program development, working to provide access to local food for use in school meals. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Dietetics and a minor in business.



Kim Schonek is the Verde River Program Director for The Nature Conservancy.  Ms. Schonek has been with the Conservancy since September 2008 and is currently the Verde River Program Director. In this role, she leads implementation of the Verde River Conservation Plan and its strategies to restore and protect flow in the Verde River and its tributaries. The strategies identified include irrigation and municipal water management to increase the efficiency of use and to reduce consumptive use. To implement these strategies, strong relationships are developed and maintained with water managers, local elected officials and key community members.

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Dr. Renée Shaw Hughner is an associate professor of marketing in the Morrison School of Agribusiness at Arizona State University. Renee’s research lies in the areas of food marketing as it relates to consumer behavior, health and education. Current research includes the examination of information on food labels and alleviating food insecurity. Renee serves as Vice-Chairwoman on the Board of the Arizona Food & Drug Industry Education Foundation.



After a decade working as a chef in restaurant kitchens around the country Erik Stanford decided do step away from the stove to start Pivot Produce. With a mission of developing wholesale revenue streams for small scale farmers, Pivot distributes exclusively Southern Arizona grown fruits and vegetables to Tucson's best restaurants.



Two years ago, a small group of farmers in Maricopa County found themselves working 80 hours per week, growing delicious and beautiful vegetables, yet barely able to make ends meet. Despite this hard work, each farmer’s individual efforts were not enough to sustain their farms and compete with giant, industrial, & conventional operations. Seeking support from others, they met and discussed how they could work together to improve the local food system. They needed to find a different way to do business, because it’s not sustainable the way it is. To be a part of the solution, Sun Produce Cooperative was formed in 2017 to keep small, local farmers on the ground, & transform the local food system in Arizona. Sun Produce Cooperative currently sells to Elementary School Districts in Maricopa County and is launching a CSA program in partnership with school PTAs.



Tamara Stanger was born and raised in a tiny mining community in rural Utah. She cut her teeth in the culinary industry at an early age in her family’s restaurant. Instead of running the streets, she was mopping floors, blanching fries and making sauces. Although she tried to escape to different careers such as film and journalism, she inevitably always found herself in front of some type of grill. In 2000, Tamara moved to Arizona where she had the opportunity to train all over the Valley under many exceptional and awarded chefs. Now with over twenty years’ experience and a modest following, she is more than ready to call Helio Basin home. She plans to bring a contemporary cuisine with a strong southwest ethnicity, tied together with heirloom family recipes. Tamara spends her free time in the gym choking and punching people (yes, she is a trained fighter), and at home trying to master mathematics with her kids. She enjoys baking rendered fat pastries and old world fermented bread, which she considers her specialties. She also loves the occasional craft beer (Belgian-style Saison is her favorite).



Adrienne is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and has received numerous national and state recognitions as a nutrition leader. She is a social innovator fueled by a passion for advocacy and good food. Her career has been dedicated to Prevention work with over a decade of experience working with government, nonprofits, and healthcare groups. She excels in facilitating collaborative solutions to complex challenges to shape healthy communities.

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John is the Director of the Orchard Community Learning Center and Incubator Farm Coordinator at Spaces of Opportunity. The Orchard is a non-profit in south Phoenix founded in 2011. It’s work centers on urban food systems, organic farming, STEA³M programs for youth, and economic justice in the local economy. John is an educator by profession, serving 22 years as principal of Valley View Elementary School in the Roosevelt School District. The dual language, K-8 school specialized in project based and multi-aged learning opportunities which included gardens and adventures in the creation of an edible landscape on the campus.


Food & Farm Forum

May 8 & 9, 2018
The Farm at Agritopia  |  gilbert, arizona