Meet Our Staff and Board of Directors
Kristin joined the Center for an Agricultural Economy in March 2015. She is a financial and project manager by training with seven years of experience supporting local and international community development programs. In the last several years her work has focused on a portfolio of USAID-funded agricultural and natural resource management programs in sub-Saharan Africa, during which time she also provided support to the UN FAO Committee on World Food Security through the negotiation of the international Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. Kristin is a native of Vermont and now lives in Burlington.
Facilities Manager: Connor Gorham, of Rochester, NH, has worked for the CAE/VFVC since May of 2011. He has a BA in Culinary Arts from the New England Culinary Institute and has a passion for food that only few can match. Connor spent a 9 month internship in Boston, MA at a fine dining restaurant and more recently has spent the past two years working at Vermont Soy in preparation of landing a spot at the VFVC. Since May, Connor has received Better Process Control Certification at Cornell University to certify food products with specific FDA requirements as well as become a registered ServSafe Instructor and Test Proctor. This allows the CAE/VFVC to offer food safety courses and certification under Connor's tutelage. Connor has had a vision of working with food businesses and entrepreneurs for several years now and feels that he is living out his dream each and every day. Now living in Johnson, VT, Connor enjoys playing basketball, hitting the slopes, and spending time with his dog Bert.
Farm and Food Business Advisor: Daniel Keeney is a St. Johnsbury, VT native who has joined the Center for an Agricultural Economy after graduating from the University of Vermont’s Masters’ Program in Community Development and Applied Economics. His work there examined potential market demand in emerging agricultural markets, particularly for compost. He has worked with several Vermont farmers, in on-farm production and maintenance as well as direct market sales and delivery. He has worked at Montpelier’s Hunger Mountain Co-op in cheese sales, and he continues to work part-time as a junior partner at Dunc’s Mill Artisanal Rums in Barnet, VT. He spends his free time in the Plainfield, VT community, growing food, cooking food and singing to his cat.
Executive Director: Prior to joining the Center for an Agricultural Economy in February 2013, Sarah Waring served as Program Director for the Farm & Wilderness Foundation, a 73 year old non-profit outdoor education organization. Sarah has also managed a comprehensive statewide campaign called Council on the Future of Vermont for the Vermont Council on Rural Development, has worked in the non-profit world in conservation, land use planning, and rural development, as well as for the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Glover, Vermont, Sarah earned her B.A. from Haverford College, and her M.A.A. from the University of Maryland. Although she has lived in various places on the East Coast and in the Rocky Mountains, Sarah is proud to call Vermont home.
Community Projects Coordinator: Bethany M. Dunbar came to the Center for an Agricultural Economy in April 2014, and her role expanded in September. She works on food access issues, education, and planning for the historic Atkins Field property owned by CAE. These include working with the Hardwick Area Food Pantry, the Hardwick Community Gardens, and helping support Hardwick Elementary School's efforts to make the school a Sustainability Academy with its new Kitchen Classroom. She grew up in Craftsbury and studied education at Lyndon State College. Her background is in dairy farming, journalism and photography. Most recently she worked as Managing Editor at the Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Barton, where her specialty was covering agriculture, the local food movement, and human interest profiles. She has won numerous awards for news writing and photography. In 2012 her first book, Kingdom's Bounty, was published by Umbrage Editions. It is a series of essays and photographs of farmers and food providers in Northeastern Vermont and serves as a guidebook. She lives on a back road in West Glover and loves gardening, cooking, hiking, and horseback riding.
Alissa Matthews grew up working on her family's produce farm in southwestern Pennsylvania and moved to Vermont with her family when she was in high school. After completing a degree focused on geography and community development at the University of Vermont, Alissa relocated to Philadelphia where she continued to develop her interest in agriculture and community development by assisting the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission with its Greater Philadelphia Food System study and obtaining an M.A. from Temple University. Alissa is thrilled to return to Vermont after several years of experience with community outreach, marketing, strategic planning and facilitating networking opportunities for farmers and food businesses as a Buy Fresh Buy Local Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. She is eager to bring all of her skills and her passion for agriculture to help promote and grow Vermont's regional food system.
Meet our Center for an Agricultural Economy Board:
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 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.
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.
Linda Markin got her start in high finance doing payroll for an apple orchard in Vershire, Vermont. She was too short to command a reasonable piece rate picking apples and found she was better suited to indoor work with numbers. Currently she serves as Director of Finance and Administration at the Vermont Community Loan Fund. Previously she was the CFO at Concept2, Inc. She has a BA from Dartmouth College, and received post-graduate training in finance and administration at St. Michael's College and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.Lindahas a strong commitment to issues of social and economic justice and has been involved in organizations with social change missions since the mid 1980's. Currently she applies her business skills for CAE as Treasurer of the board and leads the Finance Committee for Vermont Works for Women. She lives in Hardwick, VT with her wife Marie, where she enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, hiking and making connections between people who together can make a positive difference in the world
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.
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.
Emily bought the Craftsbury General Store two years ago after a decade long career in restaurant management and event planning in Los Angeles. Inspired by the community’s willingness to try new things, Emily pushed the envelope and expanded her grocery offerings to include an array of locally made products, as well as produce and meats from the store’s neighboring farms. With the help of her fun loving staff, the store and deli business continues to grow. A natural “people person,” Emily has loved becoming part of the Craftsbury community. She is an active member of the Craftsbury Planning Commission, and recently created a platform in which to bring the Craftsbury businesses together.
Jon grew up on his family’s dairy farm located in Greensboro. Jon continues to manage the farm now raising Black Angus cattle for both breeding stock and beef, and pastured poultry. Jon is the Director of the Farmland Access Program at the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) focusing on farm affordability for new and beginning farmers statewide. Prior to becoming the Director of the Farmland Access Program Jon worked in VLT’s stewardship program as an intern in 1998 and was hired fulltime June of 1999. Jon continued to work in stewardship at VLT until 2001 when he became the Agricultural Project Manager for VLT in the Champlain Valley office. Between 2006 and 2009 he was VLT’s Agricultural Stewardship Manager working statewide. Jon graduated from the University of Vermont in May 1999 with a B.S. degree in Natural Resources Ecology. Jon, his wife Selina and their son Jin live on the family farm, where they enjoy gardening, walking trips to Long Pond and enjoying Caspian Lake during the summer.
Paul Costello grew up in Burlington next to the cemetery where Ethan Allen is buried. He's the son of Judge Edward J. Costello from Rutland and Dorothy Wimett of Pittford, After obtaining a BA in Psychology he worked for several years in human services then as a carpenter and rural jack of all trades living in Fairfield while he earned a PhD in intellectual history from McGill. Paul has served as the Executive Director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development since 2000. Paul believes that the Vermont working landscape is crucial to the future success of rural communities, to our sustainability as a state, and to the model Vermont offers to other parts of the country and world for creative and balanced rural development
Past Board Members