Speaker Bios

Upper Midwest Farmland Summit

Speaker Bios


Suzanna Denison, American Farmland Trust 
Suzanna is the Program Manager and a Land Access Trainer for the Farms for the Next Generation national initiative. She is a passionate advocate for farmland access and preservation and grew up on a vegetable farm in Maine.

Kate Edwards, Wild Woods Farm and Renewing the Countryside
Kate is a Farmland Access Navigator for Renewing the Countryside in Iowa and farmer/owner of Wild Woods Farm serving the Iowa City area residents with CSA shares.

Kate Graham, Fafinski Mark & Johnson P.A.
Kate is an Associate in the Agriculture and Trusts & Estates practice groups and uses her experience working on farms and with farmers to serve her clients’ legal needs including estate planning, farm succession planning, elder law, and agriculture and food law matters.

Jan Joannides, Renewing the Countryside
Jan is the Executive Director and is an advocate and organizer for rural communities and citizens who are working to stimulate economic growth and enhance their communities through sustainable uses of their landscapes and resources. 

Fred Kirschenmann, Leopold Center and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
A longtime leader in sustainable agriculture, Fred shares an appointment as Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center in Iowa and as President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. He also manages his family's 1,800-acre farm in North Dakota.

Amy Moreno-Sills, PCC Farmland Trust
Amy has been a farmer and land conservation advocate for 20+ years. As owner and operator of Four Elements Farm in Pierce County, Amy helps support the viability of farmers and farmland in that community through her coordination of the Farm to Farmer project.

Jennifer Nelson, Humble Pie Farm and Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service
Jennifer and her husband co-own Humble Pie Flower Farm in Plum City, Wisconsin and works as a Farmland Access Navigator at MOSES helping new farmers secure land to grow.

Brett Olson, Renewing the Countryside
Brett is co-founder and the Creative Director at Renewing the Countryside. He works on community and local foods system development and is a Farmland Access Navigator in Minnesota.

Greg Padget, Practical Farmers of Iowa
Greg oversees the Next Generations programming at PFI ensuring resources, events and learning opportunities are available for beginning farmers and farmers looking to transition their farm and land.

Kristen Pearson, Pearson Organics
Kristin owns and operates a farm in Oronoco and sells her produce in Rochester and the Twin Cities through Community Supported Agriculture and wholesale accounts.

Thom Petersen, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Commissioner Petersen is a long-time resident of Royalton Township near Pine City where he lives on a horse farm. Before being appointed Commissioner, he served as the Director of Government Relations for Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU), working on behalf of MFU’s farmer-members in both Washington, D.C. and St. Paul.

Holly Rippon-Butler, National Young Farmers Coalition
Holly grew up on her family’s multi-generation dairy and beef farm in Upstate New York, where she continues to farm with her parents. Holly’s work focuses on the intersection of food, farmland protection, and policy. She is the Land Access Program Director at NYFC.

Julie Ristau, Main Street Project
Julie grew up on a small diversified farm in Southern Minnesota and has years of professional experience in the agriculture arena. She serves as the Executive Director at Main Street, and has founded and/or led a number of organizations including Principle of Regeneration LLC, Homegrown Minneapolis, On the Commons, and League of Rural Voters.

Kathy Ruhf, Land for Good 
Kathy is a nationally recognized leader in farm entry, succession and tenure. She served as Executive Director at Land for Good before stepping into the role of Senior Advisor. She has co-authored guidebooks on these topics and manages projects, leads workshops and works closely with farm families on these topics.

Liya Schwartzman, California FarmLink
Liya is the Central Valley Program Coordinator and has been working in partnership with hundreds of farmers and ranchers in accessing land, securing strong tenure agreements, exploring financing, and facilitating farmland and business succession plans.

Sam Smith, Intervale Center
Sam is a Farm Business Specialist who works closely with farm families. He has an MBA in Sustainability, has been involved in the Vermont agricultural community for over 15 years, and has worked as both a livestock and vegetable farmer.
Karen Stettler, Land Stewardship Project
Karen has worked in LSP’s Farm Beginnings program for over 20 years, 8 of which have been focused on Land Access and Farm Transitions. Karen works with retiring farmers as they are beginning their farm transition planning and beginning farmers in various stages of land access.

Susan Stokes, Lind, Jensen, Sullivan & Peterson
Susan is an attorney with a broad range of experience in employment, administrative, and agricultural law. She recently served as Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and served as the Executive Director for Farmers' Legal Action Group for ten years.  

Jaime Villalaz, Latino Economic Development Center 
Jaime is the Business  Development Director for the Latino Economic Development Center. He leads a team that provides training and business consulting including assisting Latino farmers on farmland access and market development.