Board of Directors
Meet our Center for an Agricultural Economy Board:
Tom Stearns, President
Tom Stearns began gardening at an early age at his family home in CT. Prior to completing a degree in Sustainable Agriculture from Prescott College in AZ, he began saving seeds. A hobby was born in 1996 in Vermont, when Tom began sharing these seeds with others through a small seed flyer. High Mowing Organic Seeds has since expanded into one of the leading organic seed companies in the U.S., supplying both home gardeners and commercial growers. Tom’s vision has always been to create a company that would help support the re-building of healthy food systems, first in Vermont, followed by the rest of the U.S. He has also taught numerous workshops since 1996 on many topics such as agricultural education, economics, community supported agriculture, genetic engineering, plant breeding, local food systems, sustainable business, investing and more. His informal, personal style, ability to explain complex issues and infectious enthusiasm makes him a popular and inspiring speaker. In addition to serving as the current President of the CAE since 2008, he has served on the board of several other agricultural organizations. He lives on 50 acres in Vermont, with his wife Heather, and their two girls, Ruby and Cora.
Andy Kehler, Vice President
Andy Kehler and his brother Mateo and their families have milked cows and made award-winning artisan cheese since 2002. They have also built a business model and infrastructure to age and market the cheese from other Vermont producers. The goals are both focused and broad: to produce cheeses of the highest quality from their own milk; to demonstrate that it is still possible to prosper on a rocky hillside farm; to create a vehicle for the renewal of the local dairy economy in the form of a business model that can be replicated on other dairy farms.
Andrew Meyer, Secretary
The Vermont Soy Company had its first incarnation in 1996, when Todd Pinkham began making tempeh. In 2007, Andrew Meyer and Todd began making products again and have now brought VT Soy to a whole new level, with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities and the ability to market more products to more places. In 2006, Andrew began Vermont Natural Coatings. The company’s patented natural wood finish formula is an important advance over existing water-based finishes in application, quality, and environmental safety. The formulations use whey protein as the bonding agent. Whey is a renewable resource and a natural by-product of the dairy industry. This use of a natural product in the professional finishes translates to low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) – and better in-door air quality. Their market is green builders and LEED contractors as well as individual homeowners. Andrew’s family has an organic dairy farm in Hardwick and after being raised in VT he worked in D.C. as the agricultural advisor to Senator Jeffords for 7 years.
Pete Johnson, Treasurer
Pete stated Pete’s Greens in 1995 growing primarily salad greens. He started gardening at a very early age and had his own thriving pumpkin business at the age of twelve. He now grows specialty vegetables of many types with an emphasis on baby greens, heirloom tomatoes, and root crops. Pete and his team sell to stores and restaurants throughout Vermont, as well as Boston and New York City. Recently he has focused on local sales direct to customers. In addition, Pete buys products from other farmers and producers and markets them through his “Localvore” Community Supported Agriculture shares.
Tom Gilbert, Director
Highfields began in 1999 and has been guided by Tom Gilbert since 2000. The organizations’ focus is on working to develop regenerative food systems through preservation and improvement of Vermont’s agricultural soils, watersheds, and agricultural economies through on-farm composting, organic materials recycling and soil health programs. They have offices in downtown Hardwick and a composting research and demonstration site outside of town. Highfields has many projects focused on soil and water health in addition to compost research and training. Highfields is a grant funded organization but also receives income from consulting services and selling compost.
Neil Urie, Director
On a 470-acre hilltop farm, Neil Urie makes sheep’s-milk cheese: subtly tangy natural-rind Ben Nevis, named for the highest mountain in Scotland, and Mossend Blue (named after Moss End, his family’s ancestral farm in Scotland), and more. He has won numerous awards for his cheese.
Annie Gaillard, Director
Annie Gaillard lives in Walden, Vermont in a passive solar, off the grid house that she designed. Partner Louie Pulver and Annie started Surfing Veggie Farm in 1985 where they grow organic vegetables with a focus on root crops for storage, plant starts and a small egg operation. She also works at the Buffalo Mountain Food Cooperative where she has been actively involved since it started in 1975 and officially on staff since 1985. Annie and Louie are the blessed parents of Heather who was born in 1984. Her interests include permaculture and gardening at home, building community, working with horses, hiking, canoeing, and cross country skiing.
Johanna Laggis, Director
Johanna Laggis is a dairy farmer in East Hardwick, Vermont. Along with her husband John and his brother Chris, the Laggis Bros. Farm milks 450 Jerseys with a total of about 800 cattle, caring for 500 acres of land. Besides the farm, Johanna regularly conducts tours and calf workshops for organizations and schools, has served on the Hazen Union School Board and the UVM Extension Board. She grows most of the food for her family and has a special love for growing flowers.
Past Board Members
2009 to 2011
Linda Ramsdell began her business life in Hardwick by opening The Galaxy Bookshop in 1988. In 2003, she opened a satellite of Galaxy,Stardust Books in Craftsbury. Stardust employs area youth as booksellers. With three partners, Linda opened Claire's Restaurant & Bar in Hardwick in May 2008, pioneering a community supported restaurant model. Linda is a 1980 graduate of Craftsbury Academy and graduated from Brown University in 1987. She is a past president of the New England Independent Booksellers Association and was a board member of the American Booksellers Association.