Brent Preston and his wife Gillian Flies own and operate The New Farm, a certified organic vegetable operation near Creemore, Ontario. When they established the farm in 2007, Brent and Gillian grew a wide variety of vegetables that they sold in the Creemore Farmers’ Market, and through a single wholesale distributor. They now specialize in cut salads, beets, potatoes and cucumbers, exclusively for the wholesale market. The New Farm serves fine dining restaurants, specialty retailers, home delivery services and institutional clients through a number of distributors, and also has a long-standing relationship with The Stop Community Food Centre. Prior to starting the farm, Brent worked in journalism, international development and human rights.
Raised on a hobby farm, Melissa’s interest in agriculture began when she came to realize that her barnyard friends eventually made their way to the dinner table. Today she is the Project Director of Food from Thought: Agricultural Systems for a Healthy Planet, a research program led by the University of Guelph. She also managed the research programs of the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, U of G’s partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. She was the Director of Operations and Farm Succession Program Manager at FarmStart from 2008-2015 and was the founding Executive Director of the Ontario Farmland Trust before that. With decades of board governance experience, she brings leadership in not-for-profit finance, HR, and partnership development to the EFAO Board.
Crista Thor, along with her partner Mike and son Kjell, operate a farmstead east of Kingston, Ontario. In their first years, they operated a 100+ member vegetable CSA. In the past four years, they have been no till vegetable gardening, rotationally grazing cows, sheep and goats, chasing chickens and geese, managing water and woods, planting hedgerows and developing a small agroforestry project. Farming has endured as the fire that burns brightest in Crista and her impulse to find a voice within the regenerative farming movement grows daily. Deeply committed to the values of the EFAO, Crista is keen to work with the organization to further its vision.
Brett Israel farms in Wellington County as part of 3Gen Organics Family Farm. Along with his parents and grandparents, Brett farms 750 acres of certified organic cropland and raises organic pigs as part of their farrow to finish swine herd. Brett is committed to biological, regenerative agriculture and is passionate about the interaction of livestock and diverse cropping systems.
Brent Klassen and his wife Val Steinmann have lived at Heartwood Farm in Erin, Ontario since moving from Toronto 14 years ago. During that time, they’ve raised a variety of grass-fed livestock, made maple syrup, and planted fruit and nut orchards. In 2015, Brent explored cider-making as a way of utilizing some of what the orchards produce. From there, Heartwood Farm & Cidery was born and now produces a variety of hard ciders that are commercially available at Heartwood’s farm store, a few farmers’ markets, and at selected local restaurants. Prior to establishing the cidery, Brent was the founding partner of a couple marketing firms: Blue North Strategies and Blue ID.
Katrina McQuail, with assistance from her husband Ben and support from other family members, owns and operates Meeting Place Organic Farm. They raise certified organic pastured pigs, grass-fed cattle and meat chickens. They farm with Suffolk-Punch draft horses, have a couple milk goats and an old apple orchard from which they make their apple butter. They also have a pet pig named Pickle. They are part of the Southwestern Ontario C.R.A.F.T farm network, committed to experiential and practical education for prospective farmers. Katrina is excited to be raising animals and growing food, contributing to regenerative agriculture, providing more nutritious and local food for her community and creating less unnecessary plastic waste. She looks forward to supporting the EFAO through serving on the board.
As an urban farmer, experiential educator and Organic Master Gardener, Eric has been growing food for over 20 years. He has taught courses on local sustainable food systems at McMaster University, St. Lawrence College, and the University of New Mexico and, most recently, Eric worked for the organic certification body Ecocert Canada. He is now the Regional Event and Education Manager for the Canadian Organic Growers in Ottawa, Ontario. He is incredibly excited to join the Board and help EFAO continue to grow.
Ricardo Ramírez brings many years of experience in different countries, with the last 22 as an independent researcher and consultant based in Guelph, Ontario. He collaborates with other consulting teams in Ontario and internationally as a project evaluator, and providing training in strategic planning, evaluation and communication.
His first job after completing a degree in Crop Science (Guelph) was building a demonstration farm in Colombia and producing training materials with farmers. Later he worked for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and with several international agriculture projects. He was Associate Professor in Capacity Development and Extension for two years with the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph; and remains as Adjunct Professor. His son & daughter-in law own and operate Zocalo Organics where he likes to get his hands dirty.
Annie Richard is one of three operators of Kitchen Table Seed House on Wolfe Island, near Kingston, Ontario. In addition to growing organic vegetable, herb and flower seeds of regionally-adapted varieties, Annie has a keen interest in research and plant breeding. She was fortunate to spend the 2017 season at Cornell University working with Dr. Michael Mazourek and his team in the plant breeding department to further develop her understanding of plant breeding for organic systems. She continues to learn as a farmer-researcher in cooperation with EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program and is currently working to develop new sweet pepper varieties as part of the Southern Ontario Pepper Project, among other farm-based breeding endeavours. Annie is energized by the dynamic community of farmers in the EFAO and strongly believes in its work.
Ali guides EFAO’s work, ensures the organization’s financial sustainability and fosters relationships with organizations and stakeholders to support the interests and needs of ecological farmers.
Ali holds a B.Sc. in Food Production and the Environment from McGill University and a M.Sc. in Agroecology from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Prior to working with EFAO, Ali spent a number of years working on farms and helped to start and run a CSA farm business. She also spent 6 years working at FarmStart, where she developed training opportunities and resources for new farmers across Ontario. Ali became ED in 2015, and loves supporting ecological farmers – the growers, innovators and community builders who are doing such valuable work!
Research & Small Grains Program Director
Sarah (née Hargreaves) leads the Farmer-Led Research Program and Small Grains Program and supports soil health components of EFAO’s education programs.
Sarah holds a Ph.D. in Soil Microbial Ecology from Iowa State University with experience designing and teaching undergraduate courses, graduate seminars and outreach programming. Raised in Toronto, Sarah spent 3 years studying nutrient cycling in the sub-Arctic, where she found her love of soil microbes as the ultimate recyclers and relationship builders; followed by 10 years in Iowa, where applied her passion for soil microbes to agroecosystems. Through her involvement with Practical Farmers of Iowa, she also saw the power of farmer-to-farmer networks and farmer-led research. In 2016, Sarah launched EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program, where she continues to support the curiosity and innovative spirit of ecological farmers in Ontario. When she’s not geeking out on research, you can find Sarah tending the land with her partner and daughter at Three Ridges Ecological Farm, and rekindling the sacred fire of her Michif (Red River Métis) roots.
Administrative & Membership Manager
Martina maintains the daily behind-the-scenes operations that keep EFAO running smoothly, manages the member database, and publishes EFAO’s e-newsletters, as well as being a support to other members of the team in their roles.
Martina holds a B.Sc. in Animal Biology from the University of Guelph. She has been involved in southern Ontario’s ecological farm network since 2011, when she completed an internship at Ignatius Farm. She spent the next 4 years farming in Perth County and on the West coast, and worked with the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training. In addition to her role at EFAO, she runs a human-scale, low-till market garden in Wellington County which provides for a small CSA program. Martina’s farm journey is fueled by strong connections and mentorship, and she is pleased to further these connections for fellow farmers through her work with EFAO.
Northern Outreach & New Farmer Program Director
Allison leads EFAO’s Northern programs, from Ontario’s northernmost District of Kenora all the way down to Muskoka. She also coordinates a pilot program (launching in 2020) to support and encourage new and young farmers in Northern Ontario through training, mentorship, and start-up grants.
Allison holds a B.Sc. in Biology from Queen’s University. Previous to working with EFAO, she worked for FarmStart from 2013-2016 and was one of five founding members of Eat Local Sudbury Co-operative, where she worked in various roles including staff, Board member and producer-member. In 2010, Allison started a small, mixed farm business, Rowantree Farms, in Sudbury. Although no longer running Rowantree Farms as a business, Allison continues to grow meats, fruit and vegetables to feed her family. She is passionate about supporting ecological farmers and is truly delighted to join the amazing EFAO staff team!
Seed Program Manager
Rebecca supports farmers to learn about regional seed production, and to implement participatory variety trials and plant breeding projects as part of The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program.
Rebecca holds a M.S. in Anthropology and International Development from the University of Guelph, with a lifelong curiosity for the plants around her and the connection between plants and culture. In 2013, she joined Whole Circle Farm as a CRAFT intern, and stayed on as staff to co-manage the 10-acre CSA and reintroduce seed production to the farm. During this time she also started the Southern Ontario Pepper Breeding Project with three other farmers in southern Ontario with support from plant breeders at Cornell University and in cooperation with EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program. In farming, plant breeding, and seed saving she seeks to honour the past, present and future.
Communications & Government Relations Manager
Laura manages EFAO’s web and print communications, and acts as a liaison between EFAO and the Farmers for Climate Solutions coalition. Prior to working for EFAO, Laura served as Communications & Membership Manager for the Organic Council of Ontario, where she gained in-depth knowledge of the organic sector, and became familiar with the diverse approaches that make up the ecological agriculture movement.
Laura holds a B.A. in English Literature from Carleton University and a Certificate in Corporate Communications & Public Relations from Seneca College. Over the course of her career, she has had a wide range of work experiences with public, private, and non-profit organizations, including a season as an apprentice on a permaculture farm in Nova Scotia, and one running a CSA and market garden on her family farm. Laura is passionate about environmental issues, and is thrilled to contribute to real-world solutions to climate change through EFAO’s work with Farmers for Climate Solutions.
Research & Soil Health Program Coordinator
Dillon supports EFAO’s farmer-led research and soil health programs. He has a passion for agriculture and food systems and has a broad range of research interests including agroecology, sustainable production, community food systems, integrated pest management, and agricultural education and outreach.
Dillon holds a M.Sc. Degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Guelph. His research focused on agroecology, pest management and pollinator conservation in the Holland Marsh. He received his B.Sc. Honours from Trent University in Sustainable Agriculture with a focus on entomology and community food systems. Before that he completed his Red Seal in the culinary industry where he worked with regional producers to procure local ingredients for his kitchens. Prior to joining the EFAO team Dillon worked at Lakehead University Agricultural Research Station where he managed variety and production research trials for grain, oilseed, pulse, and forage crops in northwestern Ontario.
Equity and Organizational Change Manager
Angel is guiding EFAO’s work to increase its understanding and take action on anti-racism towards Black, Indigenous and other people of colour, and to better meet the needs of members and farmers who are currently underrepresented in the organization and systemically marginalized within the ecological farming movement at large. As Equity and Organizational Change Manager, Angel also supports connections between EFAO and other organizations across the sector and has served in an advisory capacity for the Equity Project at Farmers for Climate Solutions as well as the Anti-Racism in Farmers’ Markets Toolkit.
As an Organic Master Gardener, educator, consultant and facilitator, Angel has worked in Urban Ag, landscaping and food justice non-profits for many years. Prior to working with EFAO, Angel managed a social enterprise eco-landscaping company which employed folks facing barriers such as mental health, addiction, street involvement and newcomer challenges. Supporting equity-deserving farmers and climate action through regenerative growing practices is close to Angel’s heart. She is delighted to join the EFAO team.
Events & Resources Manager
Cassie supports the educational components of EFAO’s programs, and coordinates events and resources in line with the learning and training needs of EFAO’s members. If you’ve got a great idea for a farm tour, webinar, workshop, or other educational event, please drop her a line!
Cassie grew up surrounded by farm country and Carolinian forest in Norfolk County, which fostered her lifelong interest in the connections between ecology, food, and growing systems. She went on to complete a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences at the University of Guelph, and a Masters in Environmental Studies degree at York University, where she focused on farming and food systems, environmental and food education, and social justice. Cassie then spent six years creating and facilitating social justice focused experiential learning programs for postsecondary students. She is delighted to combine her love of education, food, and farming to support a vibrant learning community among ecological farmers in Ontario! When she’s not working, you’ll find Cassie and her partner in the woods hiking, mountain biking, camping, and foraging, or at home tending the garden and trying to catch their backyard chicken escape artists.
Naomi helps with the organization of the annual conference. She has been a part of the EFAO team on and off since 2015. Naomi is passionate about event organizing and loves the opportunity that the conference provides for the EFAO’s network of farmers to celebrate and learn together each season.
Naomi holds a B.A. in International Development Studies from the University of Guelph. Her international experiences in agriculture ultimately led her full circle back to the family farm. Naomi manages Manorun Organic farm, a CSA vegetable and livestock farm in Hamilton. Working for the EFAO and setting down roots in her community have provided meaningful ways to tackle important farming and food system issues.
Small Grains Program Manager
Jackie manages EFAO’s Small Grains Program, helping to encourage farmers to realize the benefits of incorporating small grains in field crop rotations. She is passionate about innovation and collaborative research across the agri-food industry, and connecting farmers with the resources they need to improve the sustainability of their operations.
Jackie holds a B.Sc. in Agriculture and M.Sc. in Sustainable Cropping Systems from the University of Guelph, where she studied cover crops and soil health. She has worked on a broad range of research projects based in diverse settings such as the terrace farms of Nepal, soybean fields in Nebraska, and corn fields and crop biotechnology labs here in Ontario. A two-year stint as an Agriculture Journalist bolstered Jackie’s appreciation for the hard work and problem-solving efforts of farmers as they work to grow safe and nutritious food for a growing population while mitigating the impacts of climate change, and she’s eager to facilitate that goal in her role at EFAO. When not answering your Small Grains questions, Jackie is likely out training for a marathon, or home snuggling her foster cats.