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.
Jennifer Seilern runs Seilern Farm with her husband, Mathias, and their three young children, near Kincardine, Ontario. Their 300 acre cash crop and livestock farm is certified organic and biodynamic. Jennifer joined the board in 2015 to fulfill her desire to begin giving back to the ecological farming community that has supported her learning and farming so much over the years. Jennifer holds a degree in agricultural science and a postgraduate diploma in agricultural communications from the University of Guelph. She is excited to put all of her skills to work in helping to propel the ecological farming movement forward.
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.
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.
Eric Blondin and his partner Peggy-Gene Baillie operate Three Forks Farms, a certified organic farm in Warren, Ontario. They serve direct and wholesale markets in Sudbury and North Bay with mixed vegetables and pasture-raised chicken. Eric has seen firsthand that one of the best tools for ecological growers is farmer-to-farmer support and cooperation. He joined the Board to help EFAO continue to provide a framework for this support and to help foster a growing community of ecological farmers.
Michael (Mike) MacGillivray runs Kirkview Farms with his partner, Cora, along with assistance from their family, near Alexandria, Ontario. Their 196 acre diversified livestock farm, which consists of pasture-raised chicken, heritage pork and grass- fed beef, is in the process of organic certification in 2019. The farm’s goal is to provide ethically raised, nutrient-dense food, at a fair price for the farm and its customers. Mike joined the board in 2018 to be more involved in the ecological farming community, especially as he transitions to organic. Moving the ecological farming agenda forward is a key priority for Mike, and he works to continue to challenge the status quo of the current food system.
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!
Katie leads events and training, including the annual EFAO Conference, and membership-engagement including the Advisory Service, member committees, and online Forum.
Katie holds a B.A. in Political Studies from Queen’s University and has worked in ecological agriculture since 2010. She brings experience in education, events and marketing with various Ontario farms and not-for-profit organizations to her work as Education Director with EFAO. Katie is thrilled to support farmers and organizations working toward a resilient agricultural and food sector in Ontario.
Sarah leads the Farmer-Led Research Program and supports research components of EFAO’s training programs, including the Soil Health Benchmark Study.
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. Originally from Toronto, Sarah spent 10 years in Iowa, where she studied soil microbes and learned about Big Ag and local food. Through her involvement with Practical Farmers of Iowa, she also saw the power of farmer-to-farmer networks and farmer-led research. In 2015, Sarah moved back to Ontario and 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 on her farm, Three Ridges Ecological Farm, where she grows pasture-raised livestock and diverse perennials with her partner, Drake Larsen.
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. Following this, she spent 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 small market garden in Wellington County. 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 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!
Research & Seed Program Coordinator
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.
Special Events & Newsletter Coordinator
Ami supports events and communications in celebration of EFAO’s 40th Anniversary, including the annual EFAO Conference, as well as the redesign of EFAO’s quarterly print newsletter, Ecological Farming in Ontario.
Ami has a lifelong love of nature, animals and growing things, whether showing cows and pigs in 4H to cultivating her own vegetable garden at the age of 10, to traveling throughout New Zealand working on all shapes and types of ecological farms. When not working with the team at the EFAO, Ami can be found collecting eggs from her five chickens, maintaining her backyard beehive, mountain biking, practicing aerial silks, and her biggest love, spending time with her husband and two children.