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Speakers

SPEAKERS AT THE 42nd CT NOFA WINTER CONFERENCE

Dr. Ana Legrand

Dr. Ana Legrand is an entomologist with expertise in IPM and biological control. She obtained her PhD in entomology from the University of Maryland and currently works in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at UConn. Research projects in her lab focus on conservation biological control for brassica caterpillar pests, trap crops for brassica insect pests, and the use of remote sensing and drones for monitoring potato leafhoppers.

Dr. Kimberly Stoner

Director of Advocacy for CT NOFA since January 2023. Former CT NOFA Board member and co-founder of the Organic Land Care Program. Still learning how to advocate effectively. Long-time activist for climate, environment, and peace. Retired scientist at the CT Agricultural Experiment Station.

Melody Wright

Melody Wright is the founder of Pleasant Valley Botanicals, a “farmlet” in northwest Connecticut committed to growing vibrant medicinal and culinary herbs for the local community. Melody is passionate about growing and teaching about plants because of her belief in medicinal herbs as integral parts of affordable and holistic health care and agricultural systems.

Monique Bosch

Monique has built over 30 edible school and community gardens and farms around the northeast, including a 2-acre urban farm in Bridgeport, CT. These days she works as a Soil Health Program Manager for CT NOFA and runs a worm composting business with her son, Justin. She also teaches Soil Management for Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

This past year Monique worked with staff and students at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in the Berkshires to launch a Food and Resilience center. She studied ‘The Soil Food Web’ under Dr. Elaine Ingham, and teaches microscopy, soil health, and composting to farmers and organizations. Through microscopy and test trials, Monique explores the relationship between living soil and healthy, nutritious food.

Dr. Yonghao Li

Dr. Yonghao Li, a plant pathologist, works in Plant Disease Information Office at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, CT. He has more than 30 years of experience in gardening, disease diagnosis, and pest management.

Mike Nadeau

Mike Nadeau is a long-time practitioner of conventional and organic land care (56 years and counting). He transitioned to organic land care in 1982 and is a founding member of the CT NOFA’s Organic Land Care (OLC) program. He has served as an OLC course instructor and is a grateful recipient of NOFA awards. He is a lifetime student of Nature.

Freedom Gerardo

Freedom Gerardo is co-founder of SEAmarron Farmstead and E&G Community Builders, both of which were founded with one thing in mind: building people power in BIPOC communities. His life is dedicated to organizing youth, teaching them about their individual and collective power – and the power and potential of their communities. Coming from a career focused on ending food insecurity, he is now building a multi-layered, long-term agenda to leverage farming and community organizing to build power and reimagine a new justice and equity centered food system connected to a regional economic ecosystem and revolution in natural building, materials, medicines, and urban revitalization.

Christine Dzujna

Christine is a paralegal and certified compliance professional. She obtained a master’s in Food Studies at NYU and is a legal and policy manager at Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, helping farmer and food producer members across the country navigate the food regulations that govern their ability to get their products to their customers.

Dr. Danielle Larese

Danielle Larese owns and operates BOTL Farm, a pasture-based livestock farm in Connecticut where she rotationally grazes pigs, sheep, goats, and laying hens. Her farm is Animal Welfare Approved for all species. Danielle graduated from Yale University in 2013 with a PhD in molecular physics.

AliRose Grabarz

AliRose Grabarz began working at the Connecticut Department of Agriculture in October of 2021. Before DoAG, AliRose studied Animal Science and Agricultural Economics at the University of Connecticut. At DoAG, AliRose manages grant programs for the advancement of Connecticut farms and promotion of agricultural viability in Connecticut

Eric Fuchs-Stengel

Eric is the Founder of MEVO, an environmental not-for-profit organization he founded when he was sixteen years old. While there, he worked with a team of student volunteers to build two different community farms which provide food for local residents via CSA, Farmers Market, and a Farm to Table Dinner.

Nick Wallick

Nick Wallick has served in the Town of Hebron as a firefighter since 1999 and has held many officer positions, including that of Fire Chief, for eight years. Nick holds numerous training certifications, including Fire Instructor. He teaches as a Hazmat/WMD 472 Instructor and covers many other topics in fire safety.

Benée Hershon

Benée Hershon is a farmworker with a background in digital communications and social media. She is passionate about connecting others with farming, food, and conservation through community engagement and storytelling. As a farmworker, Benée planned and farmed a 3 acre no-till vegetable farm for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hadley, MA, and wwoofed on vegetable farms in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maine. Benée currently works as the Program Support Specialist for CCCD and as an Assistant Grower for Zeigler’s Market Garden in Norfolk, MA. She is thrilled to offer her social media management and digital communications expertise through her own consulting company.

Paula A. Kovecses

Paula Kovecses, AOLCP, is a semi-retired professional after a 30-year career in the horticultural field. Paula attended the Thompson School at UNH and has been an Accredited Organic Landscape Professional for 12 years. She has been active in the landscaping/gardening field and has many experiences in the green industry.

Andy Dappollonio

Andy Dappollonio has been involved with organic growing since the 1980’s. He is a member of CT NOFA, NOFA Mass., Naturally Grown, Northern Grain Growers Association, and the Grain Shed Alliance. Andy currently grows and sells wheat berries and flour as well as rye berries and corn meal. He has experience growing greenhouse raspberries for a few years as well as growing organic veggies for sale at farmers markets and a food co-op. He’s been in the small grains business for about 15 years and still learning.

Christopher Roddick

Christopher Roddick was the head of Arboriculture and Foreman of Grounds at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for 30 years before moving to CT this past summer. Chris practices Conservation Arboriculture, a holistic approach to caring for trees and land that uses a modern understanding of tree and soil biology, ecology, and organic practices as a base for maintenance and cultivation decisions. Chris is an ISA Certified Arborist and a NOFA AOLCP. Chris looks at trees as the center of tree-based ecosystems, and consults on veteran tree care, tree species selection, and conducts specialized pruning. He advises on landscape design, selecting shrubs and herbaceous plantings that support trees and work together for beauty, function, and ecology.

Nigel Palmer

Nigel is a lifelong gardener relying on the amazing complexity of nature to inspire his gardening practices. He is the author of The Regenerative Grower’s Guide to Garden Amendments and develops curriculum for and instructs the Sustainable Regenerative Garden Program at The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition. We are all experimental growers who are given a new canvas each year.

Kaitlyn Kimball

I co-founded Sunset Farm, a diversified vegetable and flower farm, with my husband in 2018. I am a first generation farmer that has built my business from the ground up. We purchased raw land that we’ve brought into production. Since 2018, our farm has grown to almost 4 acres in active production of over 50 different varieties of vegetables and 30 varieties of flowers. My farm became Certified Organic by Baystate Organic Certifiers in April of 2023. We have a 50 person CSA that we marketed and created, that now has sold out five years in a row. We have several wholesale accounts, attend 5 farmers markets, and have Farm to School orders. We’ve participated in several NRCS projects, received numerous agricultural grants from the state, as well as lead community programming in our town centered around seasonality and sustainability. We now grow year round in unheated high tunnels. The success of our farm has allowed my husband and I both to step away from our desk jobs and pursue farming full time. As I begin to exit out of the beginning farmer stage in year 6 of my farm, I would love to share some of my experiences to assist other farmers in their first years. I recently began working at CitySeed in New Haven as the Director of Agriculture. I oversee four farmers markets and lead our efforts in sustainability and longevity of local agriculture.

Yingxue (Charlie) Yu

Yingxue (Charlie) Yu is currently an Assistant Scientist at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in the Department of Environmental Science and Forestry. She received her Ph.D. in Soil Science with emphasis on soil physics and vadose zone hydrology from Washington State University. She also holds a B.S. in Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering from Shandong University of Science and Technology and an M.S. in Hydrogeology from China University of Geosciences in Beijing. Her research interests include fate and transport of contaminants, colloidal processes of contaminants in the vadose zone and in the aquatic environment, and characterization of water flow and soil physical properties.

Ben Crockett

Ben Crockett manages the Climate Smart Agriculture Program for Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, and is passionate about helping farmers adapt their land care strategies to navigate extreme weather and mitigate agriculture’s contributions to greenhouse gasses. Ben earned his B.S. in Sustainable Landscape Horticulture at the University of Vermont, worked on and ran his own farm operations, chaired the department for Kennebec Valley Community College Sustainable Agriculture associate degree program, and was part of the 1st group of vegetable and small fruit producers to complete the Northeast Climate Adaptation Fellowship in 2021. He got his start in farming throwing hay bales for local farmers, picking fresh peas with his mom, helping his dad with apple orchard chores, and still enjoys sharing with others the joy of perpetual growth and learning that farming and gardening provides!

Yoko Takemura

Yoko Takemura co-owns and operates Assawaga Farm in Putnam, CT with her partner, Alex Carpenter. Assawaga Farm is a diversified organic vegetable and cut flower farm that grows on 1 acre intensively. Cover crops are an integral part of the fertility program and are utilized extensively on the farm – every field bed receives at least one cover crop per season, and almost half of those beds receive two cover crops per season.

Edward Kutchmanich

Edward Kutchmanich is a Project Manager at Botanica Land Care and focuses on meadow installation. He works on high end residential properties in the Boston, Rhode Island, and Cape Cod regions for this growing Ecological Land Care company. Edward has over fifteen years of land care/organic farming experience and has his sights set on growing Botanicas ecological division. Edwards background is in Forestry where he learned the importance of plant relationships in New York States Adirondack mountains. Edward started out at R.P. Marzilli, Botanicas parent company, five years ago and transitioned to the edible/ecological land care company after one year when it was purchased.

Madalyn Becker

Madalyn Becker spearheads Botanica Land Care’s meadow division and has over eight years of sustainable agriculture experience. Madalyn has managed several education programs for youth outdoor schools and other community projects. She works on everything from newly installed meadows to maintenance to client education of meadows with her coworkers at Botanica. Madalyn is obsessed with ecological plant relationships, learning from them, and educating others on their importance in our region. Madalyn loves to share the humble lessons taught by all meadows and seeks to educate industry professionals and clients about their beauty, senescence and evolution. Madalyn is also an MCH & AOLCP.

Cynthia Flores

Cynthia Flores founded Labor-Movement LLC in 2020 with the mission of working with farmers and farmworkers to train body mechanics and movement patterns used in farming. Cynthia farmed in Western Maine for 20 years and is a Certified Personal Trainer, Functional Movement Specialist, and Licensed Massage Therapist.

Craig Floyd

Farmer Craig is a 10th generation farmer from Old Mystic. He is currently retired as the Farm Manager of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center’s Giving Garden at Coogan Farm. Craig teaches many classes in regenerative agriculture to students all over the country, but his focus is in making a difference in the local area by managing a volunteer workforce of over 300 people to grow nutrient dense food for those in need. Using regenerative techniques, Craig will address soil health, nutrient quality and the emergency situation pertaining to soil degradation.

Domingo Medina

Domingo Medina is a human geographer, UCONN Master, USCC and State of Vermont Certified composter. He is the founder and Director of Operations of Peels and Wheels Composting LLC, a neighborhood pedal powered pickup and “community composting” processing service for residents, schools, and small businesses in New Haven, to amend urban soils for growing food and mitigate environmental pollution from waste incineration and landfilling.

Stacey Stearns

Stacey Stearns focuses on strategic communications and agricultural programs in her role as Communications Specialist for UConn Extension and Strategic Implementation Coordinator for the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.

Vivian Felten

Vivian Felten serves as Outreach Coordinator for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Connecticut. She works statewide to help connect farmers with technical and financial resources available through NRCS.

Nadine Nelson

Chef Nadine Nelson, Green Queen of Cuisine, is the eco-chef and social entrepreneur of Global Local Gourmet, a community-supported kitchen. Chef Nadine was born in Toronto, Canada of Jamaican heritage. She has always loved cooking and her vegetables. She has studied the culinary arts in Paris at the Ritz Escoffier, has a certificate in food styling from the New School and a certificate in Philanthropy and nonprofit management from New York University in New York, and earned a teaching degree from Tufts University in Boston. Consequently, she brings a worldly perspective to seasonal food. She is a social activist, cooking instructor, chef, writer, recipe developer/tester, food consultant, experiential epicurean event producer and culinary artist. She is an expert in interactive cuisine and has worked with such clients as Yale, Harvard University, The Apollo Theater, the City of New Haven, Boston Office of Conventions and Tourism, The National Park Service, The Food Project, Disney, Bain and Company, Columbia University, International Association of Culinary Professionals, and the Tobago Jazz Festival designing and delivering cooking classes, culinary team building, wellness workshops, culinary tours, and epicurean event planning.

Susan Mitchell

Susan Mitchell is the owner/operator of Cloverleigh Farm, which celebrates it’s 10 year anniversary in 2024. Located on a classic New England farm property in Columbia, Cloverleigh has operated on three previous properties before landing in Columbia in 2021. Susan is a co-founder of the New CT Farmer Alliance and currently serves as a Land Advocacy Fellow for the National Young Farmers Coalition.

Josh Carnes

Josh Carnes is the owner/operator of Ramble Creek Farm. He raises Hereford-Angus cross beef cattle on pasture, pigs in the forest, and chickens and turkeys on pasture. Culinary mushrooms are produced in a converted truck body turned growing chamber. Born and raised in Colorado, he has been farming on the east coast since 2018.

Jacqueline Kowalski

Jacqueline Kowalski is an Associate Extension Educator for the University of Connecticut and is the Extension lead for urban agriculture. Her focus is to provide resources for urban farmers, community gardeners, and others interested in agricultural production in the city. Her previous work includes several years in Extension at Ohio State University and prior to this she served as Director of Horticulture and Agronomy for the Department of Agriculture for the US Virgin Islands territorial government. Additionally, Jacqueline is an urban farmer. Her farm, St. Croix Farms, founded in 2013, features vegetables and flowers (and hopefully, in 2024, strawberries).

Shane Rogers

Shane Rogers is committed to building equitable and inclusive food systems that work for people through effective narrative building, collective action, and communications. He is currently the communication director at Food Solutions New England where one of his key functions is supporting and connecting food system communicators across the region to better align messaging, share resources, and ultimately build a stronger movement towards the sustainable agricultural system we need.

Christine Tyler Hill

Christine Tyler Hill is the former Marketing & Communications Director of NOFA-VT. Through her creative studio, Tender Warrior Co., she works with change organizations and uses illustration and content creation to tell stories and engage people in social change work.

Anne Hulick

Anne Hulick is the CT Director of Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund, a national environmental advocacy organization. For more than 12 years, she has been a leader in environmental health, advocating for policies that protect our waters, mitigate climate change, and reduce toxic pollution that harm health and the environment. She has written and lectured extensively on the health impacts of toxic chemicals like PFAS, contributed to the Environmental Health E-Textbook for Nursing, and co-authored the Water and Health Report and several other publications. She is part of a national coalition working on toxic chemicals and a member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, where she serves on the Steering Committee and co-chairs the Policy and Advocacy Workgroup. Anne was a critical care nurse and director of nursing prior to pursuing a law degree and developing her career in environmental health. She has a BSN from University of Hartford, a MS degree from UCONN, and a JD from Western New England School of Law. She was admitted to the CT Bar in 2007. After law school, Anne worked as an environmental analyst at CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection before coming to Clean Water Action.

Dr. Leigh Whittinghill

Dr. Leigh Whittinghill started as an Assistant Agricultural Scientist on October 8, 2021, in the Department of Environmental Science and Forestry. She came to the station from the School of Agriculture, Communities, and the Environment at Kentucky State University where she was Assistant Professor of Urban Agriculture. Leigh’s research has focused on urban vegetable production. One of her areas of focus has been the use of green roof technology to produce vegetables and how that changes the environmental benefits of green roofs, in particular the impact on runoff water quality. More recently she has also been investigating nutrient leaching in various ground level systems, including small plastic pool containers, raised beds, and on urban farms. She has worked on a variety of high value crops including greens and saffron and is currently examining cut-and-come-again, or repeat harvesting, in greens. Dr. Whittinghill was awarded the 2023 Jeffrey L. Bruce Awards Of Excellence in Research by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.

Christopher Laughton

Chris Laughton is the Director of Knowledge Exchange at Farm Credit East. He coordinates Farm Credit East’s customer education and beginning farmer programs. Farm Credit East is a farmer-owned financial services cooperative. They have more than $10 billion in loans to Northeast farmers, fishers, and forest product producers. They also offer a number of financial services including recordkeeping, tax prep, and payroll, and have dedicated programs for young, beginning, small, and veteran farmers.

Ruben Parrilla

Ruben Parrilla works as the Education & Technical Assistance Director for NOFA-Mass. Ruben has taken the Soil Food Web course and has been doing microscopy for clients and demonstrations for the past 3 years.

Caro Roszell

Caro Roszell farmed for 10 years while concurrently working for NOFA/Mass, and now works as the New England Soil Health Program Manager for American Farmland Trust. She designs and implements programs that combine financial assistance, technical knowledge transfer, and peer learning models.

Laura Davis

Laura Davis has her own certified organic farm and works as Soil Health Technical Advisor, Certification Coordinator, and TOPP Mentor Coordinator for NOFA-Mass, as well as an Organic Inspector.

Dr. Bryan Connolly

Dr. Bryan Connolly has a Ph.D. in Plant Science and is an Associate Professor of Biology at Eastern Connecticut State University where he teaches the Cannabis Cultivation course and is coordinator of the Cannabis Minor.

Dr. Patty Szczys

Dr. Patty Szczys is a conservation biologist who studies endangered and threatened seabirds using genetic tools to inform management decisions. She earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Biology from the University of Massachusetts and currently serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainability at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Ryan Vassar

Ryan Vassar, B.S. Biology, has over a decade of Cannabis cultivation experience and is an industry supplier. He is the Founder of Project Noah’s Ark a consulting, education, and supply institution for sustainable cultivation techniques.

Michael Goodnough

Michael Goodnough is the co-owner and chief technology officer at Connecticut’s first hemp grower, an extraction and human consumables and cosmetics manufacturer, as well as Chief Executive Officer of Himalayan High LLC.

Bryan O’Hara

Bryan O’Hara has been growing vegetables on his Connecticut farm, Tobacco Road, for over 30 years. He speaks throughout the Northeast and beyond on vegetable production techniques and is known for providing mountains of details in a concise, practical, and cohesive manner.

Allie McConnell

Allie McConnell is a certified permaculture designer with a particular interest in urban applications and permaculture for renters. She’s also an indoor health professional with Wellness Within Your Walls and a UConn Master Composter. Her work engages environmental justice, climate crisis adaptation, and applied feminism through design, skill sharing, and mutual aid. She consults for homeowners, small businesses, municipalities, and community groups. Allie has a BA in political science from the George Washington University in DC and an apparel design degree from Parsons at the New School in New York. She lives in Greater Hartford.

Jackie Algon

Jackie Algon is an Advanced Master Gardener and a Board member of the Pollinator Pathway. She recently completed a 10-year stint on the Wilton Conservation Commission and chaired that group for several years. She participates on the Wilton Garden Club’s Conservation Committee, having served as its co-chair for six years. Jackie teaches an adult class at Norwalk Community College each semester on topics related to natives, invasive species, and the Pollinator Pathway.

Lori Martin

Lori Martin, executive director of Haven’s Harvest, is a lifelong environmentalist and community organizer who founded the food rescue/environmental group in 2017 after growing concerned at the amount of good food that was being destroyed locally when it could be transported to communities that could eat it. She has grown the all-volunteer corps of Haven’s Harvest to a group of 250+ committed individuals who use an app to rescue food locally and transport it to organizations that can distribute it in their communities. In 2023, Haven’s Harvest rescued approximately 1.5 million pounds of food (worth about $3.93 million). Haven’s Harvest was recognized for its efforts in October by the Black and Hispanic Caucus of the City of New Haven, who bestowed an annual Achievement Award on the food rescue organization for its work in the city.