David Bell is Chief Marketing Officer for Houweling’s Tomatoes of Camarillo, California and Delta, British Columbia. David’s passion is bringing a strategic marketing and branding voice to the perishable produce industry where flawless execution is critical to success. Notwithstanding a few notables such as Sunkist and Chiquita, the produce industry is still in its infancy in terms of establishing brand recognition and awareness. But ever since Houweling’s restructured its operation to include an in-house sales and marketing department, Houweling’s Tomatoes has made significant progress increasing consumer brand awareness and enhancing retailer value. Growing the best tasting tomatoes, sustainably, is but one of several mounting brand benefits. Prior to Houweling’s, David honed his sales and marketing skills with top tier brands such as Nestle, Trident, Dentyne, and AG Hair Cosmetics. According to his Twitter profile (@Bellafuton), he is a marketing exec @Houwelings_ with a love for his wife, his dog, the Vancouver Canucks and BBQ.

Eileen Christensen is the President and Principal Scientist for BEC. She has more than 20 years of experience in environmental, health, and safety consulting. During that time she has been responsible for a variety of environmental projects for local, federal, and foreign governments, and private industry. Eileen’s responsibilities include oversight of BEC’s technical projects and programs, and supervision of BEC and sub-contracted professionals.

Eileen provides Brownfields Program management and consultation, conducts site characterization and remediation activities for contaminated sites, conducts environmental assessments, performs compliance audits related to hazardous materials management issues, provides hazardous materials management and general health and safety training, and prepares general and site specific health and safety plans and programs. Her experience includes Phase I and II Environmental Assessments; EPA and OSHA compliance audits, contamination assessments, remedial action projects, State and Federal environmental permitting, emergency response to hazardous materials incidents, hazardous materials management training, and training program development.

Mark Estee is driven by a love for authentic ingredients that create true connections between land, farmer, food and diner. Whether it is hand-choosing his restaurant’s produce or meat from a local organic farm or developing new dishes based on his “Whole Hog Philosophy,” Estee believes in building full-flavored food using every portion of every ingredient.

Estee is the current chef/owner of Campo Reno and the former owner of Moody’s Bistro and Lounge in Truckee. Estee’s downtown Reno riverfront restaurant, Campo was recently named one of Esquire magazine’s Best New Restaurants in America for 2012. Estee emphasizes passion, energy and learning in all he does. Communications through innovative social media practices at his Reno restaurant have drawn rave reviews

Jarrod Edmunds is the Chair of the Nevada Interagency Civil Rights Advisory Committee, is the Nevada NRCS Mentoring Coordinator, and serves as the Combined Federal Campaign Coordinator for the NRCS in Nevada.

He began working for the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) in March of 1992 as a soil conservationist in Grand Junction, Colorado.  At that time, the Grand Junction field office was operating under the Colorado River Salinity Control Program and was one of the largest SCS field offices in the country.

In June of 1998, he became a resource specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in October of 2003, he became the district conservationist for the Las Vegas field office.

In 2005, the NRCS in Nevada reorganized and the Las Vegas field office became the Mojave Special Projects Office (MSPO).  In November of 2005, Jarrod became the Mojave Special Projects Office Leader (SPOL) and a member of the State Leadership Team.

In 2008 he was assigned to supervise the district conservationist of the Caliente field office in addition to supervising the MSPO. The Las Vegas and Caliente offices became a subset area in Nevada.

Jarrod graduated from Texas Tech University in 1991 with a B.S. in Range Management.

David J. Foster serves as the Business and Cooperatives Specialist for the USDA-Rural Development in Southern Nevada.  He administers Rural Development’s financing programs that are designed to foster small business development and economic growth in rural communities.  He has been a small business lender and advocate for many years.  From 1996 to 2008, he was a dedicated government guaranteed lender focused on SBA 7(a) and 504 lending.  He worked for some of the largest SBA lenders in the country including non-bank lenders CIT Small Business Lending and Small Business Loan Source (“SBLS”).  He also worked for some of the largest SBA bank lenders in the Midwest including National City Bank and Key Bank.  From 2008 to 2010, David was a consultant working with small businesses helping them with business structuring and strategic planning and well as financing.  Additionally, he worked with franchises and lenders helping them structure government guaranteed loan programs for small businesses.  Prior to becoming a lender, David was a Federal Bank Examiner with the FDIC in Miami FL.  He has also been a small business owner.

He has become known as an industry expert and has frequently been called upon to train and inform others in the area of government guaranteed lending.  He has worked with numerous SCORE Chapters, economic development organizations and SBDC’s in informing the public in the various programs available for business start-ups, expansions, franchise financing and real estate loans.

Matt Geschke is a managing partner at Brotherhood Products, an engineering inspired hydroponic equipment manufacturer focused on addressing global food security issues.  These challenges often include a lack of adequate irrigation resources, adverse climatic conditions, remote site locations and volatile infrastructure.  Their team has found through the successful application of unconventional solutions to the  traditional problems, many of these pitfalls can be mitigated and some even eliminated.

Prior to joining Brotherhood, Matt spent nearly a decade as adjunct faculty at Kent State University and headed up a variety of cutting edge hydroponic projects ranging from the development and implementation of induction lights as a energy efficient, long term viable alternative to HID lamps in commercial greenhouse settings, to aiding in the final design and development stages of a recycled PET hydroponic substrate.  He has been named Educator Who Made A Difference by Kent State University and has published academic work on the contaminate fate and transport of anthropogenic contaminants in aquatic systems. His industry specific written contributions can be found in Maximum Yield and Garden Culture magazine and his Matt the Grower series of how to hydroponic videos can be viewed on a variety of internet outlets including YouTube where they have accrued over 2 million views.   He is an advocate for the PGTA and often consults on local community gardening projects.

Matt currently lives in southern California with his wife Megan and daughter Caley. When not working, Matt enjoys the outdoors spending his time scuba diving, cycling, rock climbing and fly fishing.

Paul Hardej is an architect by trade.  He studied architecture at Warsaw’s Polytechnic University, Poland, University of Detroit, MI and interior design and merchandising at the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Chicago, IL. He designed and developed many award winning project including restaurants, offices and multifamily housing.

Paul has always been involved in many non-profit organizations. He served as a committee member of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, IL.  He co-founded and served as a board member of Polish American Chamber of Commerce and has been involved in many local community organizations focused on revitalization of Chicago neighborhoods. In 2008 he received a Citibank Heritage award for his non-for profit community work. Mr. Hardej has a vested interested in promotion of the local food movement. He participated on the Mayor Daley’s task force on Vertical Farming.

Since 2010 Mr. Hardej oversaw a development and design of the first in-door vertical aquaponic farm in the Mid-West. He has an executive role at FarmedHere, which is the first commercial scale urban aquaponic and aeroponic farm of its kind. FarmedHere is the first and only USDA Organic Certified in-door aquaponic farm. The company is also developing job training programs for aquaponics and urban Ag. The farm’s products can be found on the shelves in many local grocery stores including Whole Foods, Mariano’s, Fresh Farms and the best local organic stores like Green Grocer, Dill Pickle and more.

Chris Higgins is general manager of Hort Americas, LLC (HortAmericas.com) and owner of UrbanAgProducts.com and BigBadflower.com. With over 15 years of experience, Chris is dedicated to the commercial horticulture industry and is inspired by the current opportunity for innovation.

At Hort Americas he leads their efforts to provide businesses, including commercial greenhouse operations from traditional ornamental production to state-of-the-art hydroponic vegetable facilities, vertical farms, tissue culture laboratories, seed companies and universities with the latest technologies from industry-leading manufacturers as well as developing some of its own products and brands. Chris’ role includes everything from sales and marketing to technical support and general management/owner responsibilities.

Urban Ag Products is Chris’ latest project. With the advice and guidance of a very experienced team of horticultural professionals Urban Ag Products is focused on providing educational content to a wide audience from professional greenhouse vegetable growers to those interested in starting businesses like urban and vertical farms.

Ken Kesick resides in Las Vegas, Nevada where he is owner and operator of both Advantage Landscape and Hydro Greens, a 30,000 sq ft hydroponic facility.  Ken has spent years perfecting the art of hydroponic indoor growing.  Hydro Greens supplies amazing local produce to visitors of Las Vegas through many of the hotels and restaurants on the strip.  Hydro Greens also fulfills the local residents desire for wonderful fresh local produce by delivering to local grocery chains.  Ken is a married father of three beautiful children.

Chieri Kubota is a professor in the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona and a faculty member of Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC). Dr. Kubota received a Ph.D. in Horticulture Engineering from Chiba University, Japan in 1994. Dr. Kubota’s research contributes to the development of science and technology in the area of controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Her research platform includes all CEA systems including greenhouses, growth chambers, postharvest storage and tissue culture. Her research interests include: 1) Plant responses in greenhouse controlled environment, 2) Controlled environment for enhancing greenhouse produce quality (overall and nutritional quality), 3) Environmental control in plant production under artificial lighting conditions, and 4) Modeling and simulation of plant growth and development. Kubota Lab website: http://cals.arizona.edu/research/kubota

Darcy Landis is a Whole Foods Market forager for both Arizona and Nevada. As the Local Forager for Arizona and Nevada, Landis is out in the community finding the freshest and most unique products for Whole Foods Market customers. She loves food – finding it, learning its story, cooking with it, and sharing it with others. She joined Whole Foods Market in 1999 and found her perfect fit developing community connections and seeking the best in locally made products. You will see her best finds throughout the store marked “LOCAL” and in case she’s missed something, let her know! If you know of great local product, send your suggestion to: darcy.landis@wholefoods.com.

Restaurateur, chef and cookbook author, Rick Moonen, has been one of the country’s leading advocates for the sustainable seafood movement his entire 30-year career. His restaurant, Rick Moonen’s rm seafood at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, showcases his commitment to sustainability without foregoing culinary creativity and innovation, and has been critically acclaimed by local and national press since opening its doors.  His cookbook, Fish Without a Doubt, featured as part of the Gourmet Book Club, is a practical, hands-on guide to buying, preparing and cooking a wide array of fish.  Rick has been featured in Food & Wine, SAVEUR, Bon Appetit, Food Arts, USA Today, Travel + Leisure, and seen on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate, Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, TODAY, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dan Rather Reports, and CNN. Rick has received numerous awards including being named Chef of the Year by Monterey Bay Aquarium for his tireless efforts towards sustainability.  Find him @RickMoonen, Facebook.com/ChefRickMoonen or www.rickmoonen.com.

Mark O’Farrell Hungry Mother Organics started over 20 years ago on a small farm in rural southwest Virginia. The idea was to figure out how to run a small -scale agricultural enterprise using local organic waste.  After a couple of moves,  years of research projects and part-tme commercial growing, Mark and his family revived Hungry Mother organics as a full-time enterprise in 2006.  This time in the dusty high desert of Northern Nevada.  For the past several years Hungry Mother has grown certified organic plants and produce under approximately 12,000 sf of greenhouse and hoophouse space, as well as a few acres of outdoor production. Hungry Mother partners with a local non-profit, FOC-US, to provide research, demonstration and educational opportunities  in food production and farming. The most recent innovation inside the greenhouse is a small commercial aquaponic seedling system.

As a specialty crops agent with NC State Cooperative Extension,  Mark was trained and worked extensively with local growers in the Research Traingle area to develop on-farm research in the areas of biological pest control, season extension, and organic soil management. Since 2006 Hungry Mother has received USDA/NDOA funding for a specialty crops grant project, “Producing organic transplants from recycled food waste”.  With direction from his son, Jake, Hungry Mother recently recieved USDA funding for a FSMIP project called the Northern Nevada Hispanic Marketing Iniative. Hungry Mother will be working with partners to increase access to local food in the hispanic community.

Zack Porter is an Operating Partner at Pegasus Capital Advisors and a successful entrepreneur with deep ties to Silicon Valley venture firms.  Mr. Porter focuses on developing investment opportunities in companies that offer solutions to food scarcity, food security, and improved nutrition.  He brings a deep understanding of technological innovations and systems-level thinking that are expected to generate strong investment opportunities, with a particular emphasis on shortening supply chains, increasing efficiencies, and substituting biology for capital.  Mr. Porter has particular expert knowledge in aquaculture where he has detailed experience with over 400 companies covering the spectrum of production, ingredients, feed, processing, logistics, and sales.  He is actively engaged in aquaculture and agriculture projects in China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, North and South America, Eastern Mediterranean, and Northern Europe.

Paul Selina is Vice President of Applied Research for Village Farms, one of the largest growers and marketers of hydroponic greenhouse production in North America. Village Farms developed the GATES greenhouse to provide the perfect climate for growing vegetables year-round. Paul has been a key member of the GATES team from the first greenhouse in Marfa, TX, in 2006 to the new 30 acre facility in Monahans, TX. He has an intimate knowledge of the engineering, systems, climate and crop management that all comes together to achieve record breaking levels of production.

Paul brings a huge wealth of experience to the conference as he has spent his entire working life in the greenhouse industry, starting in England where he earned a degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Nottingham. His career has taken him to Florida, Mexico, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas working in a wide range of climates and with diverse greenhouse technologies.

Pierre Sleiman is a young entrepreneur who has become involved in the mission of accelerating the movement towards local and sustainable farming and fostering interest in youth to choose agriculture as an exciting career.  Pierre is the founder and CEO of Go Green Agriculture, a local farming business that grows local, high-quality leafy greens.  He has been named as one of the “50 People to Watch in 2013″ by San Diego Magazine and has been featured in over two-dozen other publications and live news broadcasts.  He holds a Masters degree in Business from UC San Diego and a double Computer Science/Business bachelor’s degree from UC Riverside.  Pierre was also recently elected to the Board of Directors of the San Diego Farm Bureau.

Go Green Agriculture’s mission is to setup relatively small farms, a few acres in size, in major populated areas of the United States to supply healthy local food.  Go Green started in Pierre’s garage during his undergraduate degree and has been on an aggressive growth mode since.  Despite the company’s young age, and it’s owner’s, Pierre has raised private equity from industry leaders and has now deployed a new state-of-the-art facility that is five times the size of current operations, producing millions of heads of lettuce, spinach and kale, combined, per year.

Navin Kumar Twarakavi is an associate Professor at Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas. He  performs research in basic and applied sciences to better understand the movement of water,  nutrients  and energy between plants, soils and atmosphere. A recipient of the Soil Physics Early Career Award in 2011, his research has been well recognized among his peers.  He is interested in indoor growing using state-of-the-art technologies such as Aeroponics, Hydroponics and Ecopods.  He is particularly focused on making indoor-growing technologies scalable, energy-efficient and economically viable alternative to traditional agriculture. Dr. Twarakavi is a strong believer in fostering public-private partnerships in the field of agriculture. He has worked with private indoor-growing companies and looks forward to further collaborations in the future.

Doug TaylorU of Nevada Cooperative Extension (Producer to Chef Program)

Marilyn Yamamoto, founder of Cowboy Trail Farm started gardening over 20 years ago as a hobby.  As her garden grew, Marilyn became a Master Gardener to continue to develop her growing skills. As the amount of her harvest grew, she also became a Master Canner to make sure there was little waste from the hard work of growing.

Marilyn and her husband have worked to develop their family farm to share their passion of bringing fresh local food to the Las Vegas Community.  They have extended their outreach to support the community by educating families about sustainable growing in the desert .

Educating others on how to grow in their own backyard is an important mission of the Cowboy Trail Farm as well as providing food to families in need.  They have a membership of over 600  in their Garden Group, called Organic Edibles and continue to bring awareness on sustainability and getting back to basics.

They have 3 hoop houses to grow year round and experiment with Aquaponic Growing. This method uses fish to provide the nutrients to the plants and provides a closed loop process which is ecologically friendly.  The fish are also harvested as a separate food source.  It’s a full and efficient internal ecosystem.

It is Marilyn’s goal to “Connect the Community through FOOD”.

2 Responses to Speakers

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