Future of Women in Food Entrepreneurship

Presented by Windham Grows

Thursday & Friday, June 5 & 6, 2019

Downtown Brattleboro, Vermont

How can we connect a community of like-minded individuals
seeking to expand women’s roles in farm and food systems?

The goal of Future of Women in Food Entrepreneurship 2019 is to give current and aspiring women in farm and food the tools, resources, and mentorship needed grow businesses, create positive change in their communities, and revolutionize the future of food. This has been a powerful year for women, and we want to explore the present and future of women in food-centric fields.


Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke

Executive Director, Honor the Earth

Winona LaDuke is a rural development economist and author working on issues of Indigenous Economics, Food and Energy Policy. She lives and  works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, and is the  Executive Director of Honor the Earth (HtE). She co-founded HtE with the  Indigo Girls, as a platform to raise awareness of and money for indigenous  struggles for environmental justice. She works nationally and internationally on the issues of climate change, renewable energy, and environmental justice alongside Indigenous  communities. In her own community, she is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project,  Anishinaabe Agriculture Institute, and Akiing: 8th Fire Project. She also runs Winona’s Hemp and  Heritage Farm. Globally and nationally, Winona is known as a leader in the issues of cultural-based  sustainable development strategies, renewable energy, and sustainable food systems. She is one of the  leaders in the work of protecting Indigenous plants and heritage foods from patenting and genetic  engineering. LaDuke’s work on food systems includes; the creation of Native Harvest, protection of wild rice (manoomin), and the promotion of food sovereignty for reservation communities. On her farm in  northern Minnesota, she grows traditional varieties of corn, beans, squash, Jerusalem artichokes,  melons, herbs, and tobacco. This work is documented, in part, in the book ​Food is Medicine​, available  from Honor the Earth. Work on the restoration of traditional corn varieties has received significant  support from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and a number of private  foundations. In 2015 -2016, LaDuke and Honor the Earth completed a Mille Lacs Band Tribal Food  Plan including policy and implementation plans for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Charles Merinoff

Charles Merinoff

Principal Founder, Breakthru Beverage Group

Charlie Merinoff is a principal founder of Breakthru Beverage Group (BBG), the innovative beverage wholesaler formed by Charmer Sunbelt Group (CSG) and Wirtz Beverage Group on January 1, 2016.  He currently serves as Co-Chairman of BBG’s Board of Managers. The operations of the company and its affiliates spans 16 markets throughout North America, and the company represents a portfolio of premier wine, spirits and beer brands totaling more than $6 billion in annual sales.

Previously Charlie was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CSG, one of the nation’s leading distributors of fine wines and spirits. Following his graduation from the University of Wisconsin in 1980, Charlie joined the family’s business, holding various positions in operations, purchasing and sales. In 1991, Charlie was named President of Charmer Industries, the family’s Metro New York business. In 1994, the family acquired Sunbelt Beverage Corporation, then operating distributorships in several Eastern states. The Sunbelt Beverage Corporation continued to expand through acquisitions and partnerships, and in 1997 the wholesale companies in which the family had an interest became known as The Charmer Sunbelt Group. In 2011, he was named Chairman of the Board of The Charmer Sunbelt Group.

Charlie devotes a significant amount of time and resources to charitable organizations. He has been a member of the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation since 1999, and is currently its Treasurer and an active member of its Board of Directors. Additionally, Charlie spent twelve years on the Board of Trustees of the Culinary Institute of America and is currently Trustee Emeritus. He presides on the Board of Directors of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Charles has previously been on the Board of Trustees of Northwell Health - formerly North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and Make-A Wish Foundation Metro New York.  Charlie spearheaded the annual “Wine and Wishes” tasting and auction, which raised nearly $8.0 million over 13 years for Make-A-Wish.

Charlie has been honored over the years by the Boys Town of Italy, the Boy Scouts of America, the UJA-Federation of New York, the American Cancer Society and received the George Washington Spirit Award at Mt. Vernon.  He is a Past Chairman of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America.

Dr. Jessica Shade

Dr. Jessica Shade

Director of Science Programs, The Organic Center

Dr. Jessica Shade is the Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center where she directs projects associated with communicating and conducting research related to organic agriculture. During her tenure at The Organic Center Dr. Shade has collaborated on a number of diverse research programs ranging from applied solutions to on-farm challenges to methods for improving environmental impacts of agriculture. Some of her most recent collaborations include projects aimed at decreasing nitrogen pollution from agricultural sources, increasing on-farm biodiversity, and developing integrated pest management solutions for organic growers. Dr. Shade has extensive experience leading groups of diverse stakeholders to successfully develop unified visions and project goals. She developed and leads the Center’s signature conference event, Organic Confluences, which brings together policy makers, researchers, farmers, industry members, and other non-profits to address and overcome challenges faced by the organic sector. Dr. Shade has been honored for her environmental accomplishments by the Audubon Women in Conservation through their Women Greening Food Special Recognition, the Ecological Society of America Student Section and Union of Concerned Scientists through their Ecoservice Award, and is a Switzer Environmental Fellow. She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.


Orly Munzing

Orly Munzing

Founder & Executive Director, Strolling of the Heifers

Orly is the founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers. Previously, she served as a learning specialist with the Windham Central Supervisory Union for 24 years. She has a BA in Psychology and Education from Boston University, and Master of Education degree in Psychology and Special Education from Keene State College. She also built a profitable private consulting business, training teachers in cutting-edge educational techniques. Drawing on this background, she gathered a group of volunteers in 2001 to help focus attention on the difficulties of small family farms in the Brattleboro region. Building an organization with no startup funding, under Orly’s leadership they organized the first annual Strolling of the Heifers in 2002. Orly attracted corporate sponsorships ranging from national brands to local businesses, and with the growth in the local foods movement since then, “the Stroll” has expanded to a full weekend which is annually rated one of Vermont’s Top Ten Summer Events (and was rated one of America’s Top 10 Summer Festivals in 2013, and one of North America’s Top 100 Events in 2014). Over the years, Strolling of the Heifers also launched educational programs, a microloan fund, and farm internship program for youth, which are now all carried on by other organizations; the farm/food business planning competition; the Locavore Index; and now the Farm/Food Innovation Center at the River Garden. Orly was named the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year in 2010, and in 2013 she received the Vermont Community Leadership Award from the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Under Orly’s leadership, in 2006 Strolling of the Heifers received the Harvest Wave of the Future Award from Glynwood.
Jim Verzino

Jim Verzino

Director and Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Jim is the Director and Entrepreneur in Residence of Windham Grows, a business accelerator that was created by the Strolling of the Heifers and is designed to nurture the next generation of innovative food and agriculture entrepreneurs in southern Vermont. Prior to running Windham Grows Jim co-founded and successfully exited three socially responsible businesses focused on energy and waste management automation systems, and workforce development. As a co-founder of Ruralogic, a "re-shoring" firm created to counter the trend in outsourcing US jobs to third world countries, Jim helped bring 2,900 high-tech jobs to rural Louisiana and Pennsylvania that would have otherwise gone overseas.
Cairn Cross

Cairn Cross

Co-Founder and Managing Director, FreshTracks Capital

Cairn Cross is a co-founder of FreshTracks Capital in Shelburne, Vermont, and serves as a managing director of the Fund.  He serves on the boards of FreshTracks portfolio companies Vermont Teddy Bear, NativeEnergy, Faraday, Budnitz Bicyles and Mamava. Prior to starting FreshTracks Cairn was a strategic and financial adviser to Vermont banks and growth businesses, the assistant general manager of Green Mountain Capital, L.P. from 1996 to 1998, and spent a decade working as a commercial banker. In 2014 he created Road Pitch — a four day motorcycle tour around Vermont bringing investors and entrepreneurs to seven towns to listen to entrepreneurs pitch their ideas. He is a former member of the Vermont Board of Public Accountancy and was formerly a director and vice chairman of Opportunities Credit Union and formerly a director of the Vermont Community Loan Fund. In 2011, the United States Small Business Administration named Cairn its Vermont, New England and National Financial Services Champion. He earned a B.S. (1981) from Montana State University and an MBA (1987) from New Hampshire College (now Southern New Hampshire University). He received a graduate certificate from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking in 1995.
Jennifer Brandt

Jennifer Brandt

Slow Living Summit Coordinator

Slow Living Summit Coordinator, Jennifer Brandt, brings years of marketing experience for a variety of clients ranging from Sony to small non-profits. Jennifer’s extensive marketing experience gives her access to a vast professional network of marketing and creative heavy-hitters that can be assembled for projects with even the most daunting marketing and creative challenges. Her passion for sustainable food systems makes her work with Strolling of the Heifers more like a dream than a job. While not working on organizing spectacular events or creating new marketing materials for clients, you can find her exploring new food around the world whether it be via food stall, beach shack and even the occasional high-end meal.

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Come and discover Brattleboro!

The Summit takes place in the non-traditional conference surroundings of Main Street, Brattleboro — a small community in southern Vermont, long renowned for its commitment to healthy, local, sustainable living and technology, for its vibrant communities of visual and performance artists, craftspeople, poets and writers, and for the diversity of its shops, restaurants and galleries. In turn Brattleboro is a gateway to the Green Mountains and Vermont.

Strolling of the Heifers, the organizer of the Summit, is a non-profit organization based in Brattleboro, with the mission of supporting

and sustaining family farms and local food systems by connecting people with healthy local food. We do this through a variety of year-round programs. Best known is our annual Strolling of the Heifers Parade and Slow Living Expo, which takes place during “Stroll Weekend” immediately after the Summit. We also organize a Vermont Farm/Food Business Planning Competition, and we publish the annual Locavore Index ranking the 50 states in terms of their commitment to local food, and other projects and events.


About Strolling of the Heifers

Strolling of the Heifers, the organizer of the Summit, is a non-profit organization based in Brattleboro, with the mission of supporting and sustaining family farms and local food systems by connecting people with healthy local food. We do this through a variety of year-round programs. Best known is our annual Strolling of the Heifers Parade and Slow Living Expo, which takes place during “Stroll Weekend” immediately after the Summit. We also organize a Vermont Farm/Food Business Planning Competition, and we publish the annual Locavore Index ranking the 50 states in terms of their commitment to local food, and other projects and events.

In a major new initiative to further our mission, in November 2013 we acquired a prominently-located downtown Brattleboro building, the Robert H. Gibson River Garden (where Summit lunches and receptions take place), which has 4500 square foot of open space used since 2001 for public events, performances, lectures and exhibits. Under our stewardship of this community resource, we plan to maintain the public uses of the building, but also to create exhibits and programming that are related to our own focus areas of local food, food systems, and healthy sustainable living — a Farm/Food Education Center.


Photo credits

Brattleboro Rainbow: photo by Craig S. O’Connell, used under Creative Commons License

Apple: Photo by Rick Payette, Used under Creative Commons License