Speaker Bios

In Alphabetical Order

Jerry Allen, Irrigation Water Management Specialist, Shavano Conservation District

Jerry is the Shavano Conservation District Irrigation Specialist and soil health team member. He is a retired agriculture education teacher and current recorder for the Uncompahgre Soil Health Team. Email: jerry.allen@co.usda.gov

Gwen Cameron, Fruit Grower, Rancho Durazno

A second-generation farmer taking over from her dad, Gwen Cameron operates a stone fruit orchard east of Palisade, Colorado, where she grew up. She grows nearly 50 varieties of peaches, apricots, sweet cherries, nectarines, plums and pluots on 36 certified-organic acres. Gwen believes the best fruit is grown from well-tended soil and is harvested by workers with a deep connection to the land. She was named the Young Grower of the Year in 2018 by the Western Colorado Horticultural Society. She serves as President of the Mesa County Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. If she’s being honest, she doesn’t think apricots taste that great. 

Alejandro Carillo, President, Pasticultores del Desierto, MX

Alejandro joined his family ranch in 2004, after a successful career as an IT consultant in the United States and other American and European countries. He holds a BS in Computer Science from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and an MS in Technical Management from the Johns Hopkins University. Tired of the constant drought and suffering that comes with traditional ranching in the Chihuahuan desert, Alejandro searched for better ways to do things. In 2006, he adapted the principles of Holistic Planned Grazing Management to the ranch. The change from continuous grazing to planned grazing brought many challenges as well as positive results, such as tripling the ranch’s carrying capacity while lowering his inputs. The first thing Alejandro took on was educating himself on holistic, regenerative, and profitable ways of ranching in sync with Nature. He and his colleagues traveled to Argentina, Africa, and the United States to learn from successful ranchers. Alejandro is also the president of Pasticultores del Desierto, a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide ongoing education for cattle ranchers and to promote Holistic Planned Grazing across the world’s deserts. Pasticultores del Desierto means the culture of desert grasslands. Alejandro’s credo is to mimic and respect Nature to stay and thrive in the cattle business. Alejandro also assist ranchers across the US to adopt planned grazing management as part of the Understanding AG consulting team, along with Gabe Brown and Ray Archuleta.

Dave Dearstyne, Soil Scientist, USDA/NRCS

Dave is a soil scientist with NRCS in Montrose.  Dave works to help people understand and use the soil data collected as well as some specific on-site information. Dave has worked with the Selenium Task Force for thirteen years and with the local Soil Health Team since its latest inception. Dave believes that soil health has the potential to not only preserve and enhance our local soil resource for future generations, but can also improve the producer’s bottom line, while helping address several local soil and water resource concerns.

Eric Gallandt, Professor Weed Ecology and Management University of Maine

Eric’s research program focuses on the dynamics and management of annual weeds in organic farming systems.  As a general strategy, my group conducts research on the multiple stresses that can be used to suppress weeds at various points in their life histories.  This philosophy of using “Many Little Hammers” aims for cumulative effects that result in decreasing weed populations over time. Past projects have studied cover cropping and associated disturbance regimes to maximize debiting of the weed seedbank, as well as seed predation and improved crop competition, strategies to reduce credits to the seedbank.  Current research projects aim to support ecologically based management practices with improved physical weed control, achieved by “stacking” cultivation tools or using precision guidance and inter-row hoeing, and band-sowing to enhance competition in cereals and other grains. His teaching efforts support the University of Maine Sustainable Agriculture Program, including courses on the Principles and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture, Weed Biology and Identification, and Weed Ecology and Management.  Eric supervises the UMaine student organic farming enterprise, the “Black Bear Food Guild,” and started UMaine Greens, a student group growing produce for use in campus dining facilities.

Rudy Garcia, Regional Soil Health Specialist, NRCS NM

Rudy has worked with NRCS for 30 years. The last 4 years as Regional Soil Health Specialist for NM, CO, AZ, UT. Provide soil health training, workshops, to NRCS, and conservation partners. Emphasis on developing Soil Health Mgt. systems, using In-field soil health assessments to monitor soil health building, and teaching partners to implement soil health principles and practices.

Shawn Gardner, Director, ENGAGE

Shawn Gardner is the Director of the ENGAGE Initiative at the Technical College of the Rockies. He develops programs, resources, and relationships to build the entrepreneurial community in Delta County and connect it to regional and statewide ecosystems. While working with communities in Mozambique, Shawn developed a passion for empowering entrepreneurs. There he created a national association comprised of business, government, and community leaders that ran an education center, connected communities to microfinance training, and helped develop an agricultural apprenticeship. Following his community development experience Shawn got an MBA in International Development and went on to be the Director of an international Christian organization with staff and operations in Central Asia and also worked as a program manager in a premiere study abroad company before taking on ENGAGE. Shawn has a passion for strengthening local economies as well as networking people and inspiring them to engage in enterprises that serve both social and economic good. With his experience and passion, he is helping Delta County develop entrepreneurial networks, startup and innovation events, business support services, and organizational strategy to sustain these.

Courtland Kelly, Department of Soil and Crop Science, CSU

Courtland is a researcher at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Her work focuses on the effects on farm managements and diversification on soil health. Specifically, she is researching the effects of livestock integration, cover crops, dryland intensification and cultivar selection on soil biology and other soil functions. Her current work aims to understand how differences in root shape and size affect the microbial partners in the soil. She is most excited about work in the soil microbiome and understanding how farm management decisions can best leverage the functional potential of the microscopic soil community.

Nicole Masters, President, Integrity Soils LTD, New Zealand

Nicole Masters is an independent agro-ecologist, systems thinker, author and educator. She has a formal background in ecology, soil science and organizational learning. She has been providing agricultural consulting and extension services since 2003.  Nicole is recognized as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker on the topic of soil health. Her team of soil coaches at Integrity Soils work alongside producers in the U.S., Canada and across Australia, supporting producers who work with over 1.1 million acres to take their operations to the next level in nutrient density, profitability and environmental outcomes. She is one of a growing number of people who are facilitating a rapidly expanding world of quality food production and biological economies. Her book titled “For the Love of Soil” showcases examples of the tools and principles producers are using to regenerate their soils by describing a step-by-step triage of actions, so that you too can regenerate your land.  Her website is: www.integrity soils.co.nz

Adam Millsap, Urban Roots Farm

Adam owns Urban Roots Farm in downtown Springfield, Arkansas with his wife Melissa. The couple bought a home in the city’s depressed West Central neighborhood, planning to flip the house and buy a farm out in the country. Instead, they brought the farm to them, deciding to buy a nearby apartment building in 2009 and transform the adjacent 2-acre lot into a four-season urban vegetable farm. Urban Roots sells fresh produce to five local restaurants and MaMa Jean’s Natural Market as well as residents through its 60-member CSA program. Adam has a passion for building farm tools and engineering efficiencies. He joined the Farm Team in 2018 and recently moved to Bentonville with Melissa and their children to design and build out Red Barn’s urban farm.

Mike Nolan & Mindy Perkovich, Owner/Operators, Mountain Roots Produce

Mindy Perkovich and Mike Nolan own and operate Mountain Roots Produce in Mancos, Colorado. They raise 7 acres of vegetables, maintain a 110 member CSA and market stand, and sell to restaurants and grocery stores in Mancos, Cortez, Telluride, Durango and Rico. Focusing on reduced tillage, 5 year rotations and cover crops, they pride themselves on marketing high quality vegetables while building soil health on their farm.

Patrick O’Neill, Soil Health Services, PBC

Patrick is an experienced agronomist with a demonstrated history of work in the farming industry. He is skilled in soil health and soil fertility development, pest control, environmental awareness, agronomy, water resource management, and plant nutrition. Patrick is a strong research professional with a Master of Science (MS) degree in Soil Science from Washington State University.

Kerri Owen, Foreign Labor Certification Coordinator, Colorado Department of Labor & Employment

Kerri Owen is the Foreign Labor Certification Coordinator at the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and has worked in Workforce Development for 5 years. Kerri assists employers/agents with the H-2A and H-2B application process regarding job orders that must be placed in Connecting Colorado, housing inspections, and job referrals.

Bill Parker, Parker Pastures

Bill is owner of Parker Land Management, and specializes in grass finished lamb and beef and has experience with poultry, pigs, and dairy cows. A native of Gunnison, Bill returned in 2006 following acquisition of a BS in Soil Science from CSU and a cattle management position on the 87,000 acre Chico Basin Ranch. He and his family are dedicated to the principles of Holistic Management and also work with the Coldharbour Regenerative Network’s Savory Hub in Gunnison. 

Jim Parker, Parker Ranch

Jim is the owner of Parker Ranch and a practitioner of Holistic Management. He served two terms on the Colorado Ag Commission, 20 years on Holistic Management International Board of Directors, and is a lifetime member of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. He transitioned a 3,000 acre cattle ranch south of Rifle to Holistic Management in 1985 and currently raises organic hay on his ranch south of Montrose while trying to be retired. 

Laura Parker, High Desert Seed and Gardens

Laura Parker is a self proclaimed seed freak who owns and operates High Desert Seed and Gardens south of Montrose, CO. High Desert Seed and Gardens sells regionally adapted seed at outlets in the Southwest and online in collaboration with several area farms. Raised on a ranch in Western Colorado that practiced Holistic Management, Laura became fascinated with seed in the family’s vegetable garden at an early age.  Her love of the land drew her toward completing a biology degree at Colorado College and to organizing local food system initiatives. She managed the Colorado Farm and Art Market while working on area farms and eventually traveled to India to work with fellow activist and seed saver, Vandana Shiva.  After experiencing the struggles faced by Indian farmers to maintain their traditional seed varieties, she determined to focus on the issues surrounding seed sovereignty and genetic diversity in the US. As Executive Director of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), she worked with seed growers across the US. Laura returned to Montrose to help on the family’s ranch while working with Buckhorn Gardens. In 2013 she realized her dream of starting her own seed farm with the goal of providing varieties adapted to growing conditions in the Southwest. 

Barry Pennell, Agricultural Coordinator, ENGAGE 

Barry Pennell serves as the Agricultural Coordinator for ENGAGE, an initiative of the Delta technical School of the Rockies.  Born the son of a chef and restaurateur then marrying a chef, Barry has been immersed in the food business his whole life. Starting early in high school Barry worked weekends and summers at a Unilever food manufacturing facility that made butter and syrup and then held every job from a dishwasher to GM in restaurants to pay his way through college. Upon graduation from KU Barry dove into the beer industry and helped launch multiple brewpubs, restaurants and a microbrewery called Flying Monkey. Barry also worked for Coors managing special events and a regional sales team covering Summit County and the Vail Valley. After moving to the Western Slope Barry and his wife Megan started NoFo Food and ran a farm to table catering business, restaurant, Granola Bar Company and created various cottage food products. Barry possesses a combined twenty plus years of food and beverage knowledge in restaurants, breweries, catering and manufactured food production.

Todd Queen,  Bolinger and Queen

Todd is the manager of Bolinger and Queen, a 4th generation family business and provider of materials for irrigation systems since 1964. Todd is a western slope native with a Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. Bolinger & Queen started as a seed and fertilizer company and quickly saw the need for irrigation supplies in the Western Colorado. During its 56 years in business, the owners of Bolinger & Queen have built long standing relationships with some of the best names in irrigation such as Rivulis Irrigation, Fresno Valves and Castings, DEMA Engineering, Amiad Filtration, and many more. We strive to offer turn-key solutions for any irrigation project…large or small.

Jan Salisbury, MS, MCC, President, Salisbury Consulting

Jan is President of Salisbury Consulting and has partnered with diverse companies and nonprofits for over 30 years.  As an executive coach and consultant, she works with executives, leaders and leadership teams to create empowering, flourishing cultures and results.  She is a credentialed Master Certified Executive Coach focusing on “closing the gap” as leaders, teams and organizations grow to the next level.  As a Chair of a Vistage Small Business Owner/CEO Peer Advisory Board and Key Executive board, she works with entrepreneurs, family owned businesses, and key executives. Jan is the founder of Leaders Who Coach LLC, an evidence based interactive program that builds leaders to coach and develop others.  She is the co-founder and President of the High Country Coaching Association (representing Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah) and her current project includes writing a book for leaders who coach!

Kerry Scott, Program Manager, MAS Labor H-2A

Kerry Scott is Program Manager for MAS Labor, based in Lovingston, Virginia, the country’s largest supplier of H-2A and H-2B legal guest workers.  MAS provides H-2 services in 46 states and in virtually every eligible agricultural and non-agricultural sector from apiculture to viticulture; landscaping to hospitality.  Kerry originally made farm calls for MAS; advising clients on how to stay in compliance with the highly regulated H-2A program.  Kerry’s responsibilities now include business development for MAS, reporting directly to the owners of the company.  This work has him exhibiting and speaking to agricultural and horticultural groups all over the country.  Recent participants have credited Kerry as being the first speaker to leave them truly understanding the H-2A program.

MacKenzie Stoaks, American Ag Credit, CCW

MacKenzie is an AVP Credit Underwriter for American AgCredit who works with farmers and ranchers to achieve their agricultural aspirations through finance. MacKenzie was raised on a small cow/calf operation in Northeastern Colorado and is a past Colorado State 4-H and FFA officer. MacKenzie is trained to analyze and manage financial risk across a variety of farming enterprises including orchards, row crops, livestock, greenhouse nurseries, and confinements. She currently manages a $190 Million portfolio across four states including Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma. She is an Executive Board member for the Colorado CattleWomen and enjoys showing cattle with her family. MacKenzie holds a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and Agribusiness from the University of Wyoming.

Frank Stonaker, Research Scientist & Station Manager, CSU Western Colorado Research Center

Frank got his start as an organic market farmer and greenhouse grower back in the early 1980s – his interest in alternative pest management and production systems lead to graduate studies in biocontrol and horticulture. After working as a consultant in biocontrol and organic farm management Frank returned to CSU to initiate their specialty crops program and taught courses in vegetable production and greenhouse management. He and his partner Beth are now growing cherries, peaches and apples at Osito Orchard near Hotchkiss, CO. Frank recently accepted the position of Research Scientist and Station Manager at CSU’s Western Colorado Research Center near Hotchkiss where he is coordinating the restart of the research center.

Harrison Topp, Membership Director, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Harrison Topp is the Director of Membership with the Rocky  Mountain Farmers Union where he helps build the capacity of volunteer chapters and increase organizational membership.  Harrison is also the owner operator of Topp Fruits, a family orchard business growing high altitude, exquisitely pleasurable fruit in Western Colorado.  By straddling the worlds of commercial production, advocacy, and community organization, Harrison engages with the full gamut of agriculture to understand its strengths, weakness, threats, and opportunities.  He has received awards from Livewell CO, the Mt. Lookout Grange, and National Farmers Union.  Harrison Graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film/TV Production and Anthropology.

Melissa Young- Millsap, Urban Roots Farm

Melissa owns Urban Roots Farm in downtown Springfield, Arkansas with her husband Adam. She attended horticulture classes at Ozarks Technical Community College and ran a landscaping business with Adam before the couple decided to try their hand at small-plot intensive agriculture in Springfield’s center city. Urban Roots produces vegetables all year using natural and sustainable farming techniques. Melissa oversees the farm’s planting and marketing. She also started the Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition with Adam, which designed and installed 10 schoolyard gardens and developed K-12 farming curriculum. Melissa joined the Farm Team in 2018 and now lives in Bentonville, where she and Adam are overseeing development of Red Barn’s urban farm.

Jessica Washkowiak, Field to Fork Farm

Jessica owns and operates Field to Fork with her husband Scott in Palisade, CO on 14 acres of land. They own and operate a 2 acre market garden with 20,000 square feet of low tech greenhouses and movable catapiller tunnels. They also manage a small diverse stone and pomme orchard and incorporate a few annual traditional row crops and cover crops. They have owned and operated Field To Fork Since 2012. They practice growing  holistically with nature, are Certified Organic and also apply bio-dynamic methods. They grow food for a 150 member CSA, two regional farmers markets and quality restaurants. They are committed to producing healthy food from high quality seed and focusing on soil health.

Julie Zavage 

Julie studied organic agriculture at CSU and moved to the northeast to work in organic heirloom grain production. She has worked at all levels of heirloom cereal crops from production to milling to baking. Julie was the head miller at Maine Grains where she developed a process to create non-heat treated oats and many other cool temperature stone ground flours. She was a founder of Maine’s first Dry Goods CSA and Maine Grain Alliance’s heirloom grain trail that focuses on developing varieties of einkorn, black emmer and landrace wheat. She now homesteads with Adam on their farm near Salida, CO.