Meet Our Staff and Board of Directors
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.
Vermont Small Business Development Center, Certified Business Counselor: As a partner staff with the Center for an Agricultural Economy, Heidi Krantz has been an independent business owner and consultant for over 30 years with extensive experience in personnel management and training, strategic planning and implementation and organizational development. Her education and career have led her on a "scenic" path including work with state and federal agencies, non-profits and private businesses. Heidi’s diverse background affords her a unique perspective on the challenges faced by her clients. Her background in experiential education and training provides resources to encourage clients to explore new ways of addressing their business needs and to develop responses intentionally. She was a founding owner of Umiak Outfitters in Stowe, VT. She left her position as the Community Development Coordinator for the Town of Morristown, Vermont to work with CAE as the Vermont Small Business Development Center Area Business Advisor for the Northeast Kingdom. Heidi and her husband are restoring an 1830’ s hillside farm in Craftsbury.
Financial Manager: Traci Lamarche joined the Center for an Agricultural Economy the summer of 2011, bringing with her a wealth of accounting, financial and systems experience spanning 13 years. Prior to joining the CAE, Traci and her husband Andre owned and operated the Albany Market in Albany, VT for 8 years, all the while serving as the Assistant Comptroller at Sterling College from 2007 to the recent present. As a CPA from 1999 to 2007, Traci worked with both a public accounting firm as well as a consultant. Traci, who is an active member of her church, lives, gardens and rides bikes in Albany with her husband, two children Megan and Andrea and their dog Jade.
Program Manager: From Craftsbury, Vermont, Annie Rowell joined the Center for an Agricultural Economy in 2011 after graduating Middlebury College. As a political science major, her senior thesis looked at the formation of policy change in small communities, specifically looking at an effort in Craftsbury to incorporate more local food into the Craftsbury school menus, examining the interests of the Craftsbury community and the school itself. At Middlebury, Annie was a member of both the women’s soccer and track teams. In the spring of 2010, she spent four months in the D.C. office of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy’s office. In addition to her work at the CAE/VFVC, she works part time as a licensed real estate agent for the Peter D. Watson Agency.
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.
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.
Linda Markin, Treasurer
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 Johnson, Director
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.
Paul Costello, Director
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