Keynote Speakers

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.

Speakers

Stacy Carroll

Stacy Carroll

Director of Partnerships, Hungry Harvest

Within Hungry Harvest, Stacy Carroll created “HarvestRX,” a farm to patient food access platform that supplies preventative health programs with affordable access to fresh fruits and vegetables, delivered. To date, Hungry Harvest has recovered and delivered 9 million pounds of surplus and cosmetically imperfect produce while donating 700 thousand pounds to our hunger relief partners.

Carroll holds a masters degree from Wagner College and has spent the majority of her career consulting for the hospitality and consumer food industries.

Christine Hallquist

Christine Hallquist

Former CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative & 2018 Democratic Candidate for Governor of Vermont

Christine Hallquist moved to Vermont in 1976, first living in Essex Junction, and then settling with her spouse Pat in 1984 in Hyde Park. In 1998, she joined Vermont Electric Coop as an engineering and technology consultant, bringing a background in process engineering from her work with leading information technology companies and consulting for top manufacturers. In 2000, Christine became Engineering and Operations Manager, and then its Chief Executive Officer in 2005, after the Coop acquired the assets of a larger investor-owned utility. At the beginning of Christine’s tenure as CEO, the Coop was in severe financial distress, and the state was considering pulling its certificate of public good. Christine’s experience as head of VEC and her national prominence as an expert on the electric grid and climate change inspired her cinematographer son Derek to direct the biographical documentary about her entitled Denial. While in the process of filming Denial in 2015, Christine made the decision, after years of holding it inside, to come out as her true self, a transgender woman, becoming the first business leader in the country to transition while in office. For relaxation, Christine is happiest when floating on the reservoir in summer in her old tractor tire inner tube. She also enjoys playing the piano, telemark and backcountry skiing, running, fishing, and sharing stories with friends and family. One of the things people often recognize Christine for is her great sense of humor and positive energy. Working to ensure that Vermont remains the special, inclusive and progressive place that it has always been, not only for her children and grandchildren but also for future generations of Vermonters.
Susan Knight

Susan Knight

CCO, Commonwealth Dairy

Susan Knight has 25+ years of experience in selling and marketing food brands in the U.S. She built her foundation in marketing, starting as an Assistant Brand Marketing Manager in 1993 at International Home Foods, with increasing roles and responsibility through VP Marketing. In 2007 she added responsibility for Sales, as the VP Sales and Marketing for Vitasoy. Currently she is CCO at Commonwealth Dairy in Brattleboro. Susan has built her career and reputation by helping small, typically natural or organic brands, grow into larger brands. She has expertise in the retail landscape, distributor networks, broker networks, managing and optimizing marketing budgets, new product development and launching, data interpretation, merchandising opportunities, pricing and trade marketing strategies. Susan received her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and her MBA from UMass Isenberg School of Management. She has three grown children and spends her free time traveling with her husband and dog and at her house on Cape Cod.
Christine Ng, Ph.D.

Christine Ng, Ph.D.

Manager & Principal Engineer, Nutrition & Technology Solutions, General Mills

Christine Ng is a senior expert at General Mills who leads technology development in food ingredient and process systems to deliver innovative food product experiences to consumers. With over 20 years of tenure, she has successfully led and created diverse, innovative solutions that span all key food manufacturing platforms, product categories, food safety, and supply chain. Christine also leads long-term technical strategy development in new opportunity spaces. She formulates technical strategies to meet future consumer trends with demonstrated successes in converting front-end innovations from concepts to tactics to deliver new and impactful business solutions.
Gwen Pokalo

Gwen Pokalo

Center for Women & Enterprise, Vermont Director

In 2016, Gwen Pokalo joined CWE’s exciting tradition of developing & delivering high-quality programming and technical assistance to women in business. Gwen has worked in local economic development in a variety of capacities and environments. She holds an MS in Community Development & Economic Development from the University of Vermont, where she developed a microbusiness incubator to assist emerging Vermont value-added-food and artisan entrepreneurs through a retail store and academic technical assistance model. She owns a small business consulting firm offering business plan and pitch writing, finance and operation strategy support, and delivering marketing presentations. Most recently, Gwen worked as Director of the Women’s Small Business Program. While there, she further developed the 25-year-old organization to expand offerings in business planning, personal finance, and networking. She held a contract with the Vt Small Business Development providing one-on-one technical assistance to nascent and early-growth stage entrepreneurs. She has taught entrepreneurship and business skills at a variety of institutions, including the University of Vermont, Green Mountain College, the Community College of Vermont, and the Governor’s Institute of Vermont. Gwen has also worked in rural development research, human services, and brief stints in Honduras and Costa Rica.
Louisa Schibli

Louisa Schibli

Co-founder, Milk Money VT

Louisa is an entrepreneur who thrives on the ability to find creative solutions to any problem. After developing several websites tailored to local living, Louisa drew on that experience and her passion for technology and all things local to co-found Milk Money VT, Vermont’s first “invest local” equity crowd-investing platform. She brings her energy and enthusiasm to her many passions whether it's volunteering, technology, photography, Vermont or a variety of sports.
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.

Stacey Vanek Smith

Stacey Vanek Smith

Co-Host, The Indicator from Planet Money; Correspondent, Planet Money

Stacey Vanek Smith is the co-host of NPR's The Indicator from Planet Money. She's also a correspondent for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. In this role, Smith has followed economic stories down the muddy back roads of Oklahoma to buy 100 barrels of oil; flew to Pune, India, to track down the man who pitched the country's dramatic currency devaluation to the prime minister; and spoke with a North Korean woman who made a small fortune smuggling artificial sweetener in from China.

Prior to coming to NPR, Smith worked for Marketplace, where she was a correspondent and fill-in host. While there, Smith was part of a collaboration with The New York Times, where she explored the relationship between money and marriage. She was also part of Marketplace's live shows, where she produced a series of pieces on getting her data mined.

Smith is a native of Idaho and grew up working on her parents' cattle ranch. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in comparative literature and creative writing. She also holds a master's in broadcast journalism from Columbia University.

Nicola Williams

Nicola Williams

Founder, The Williams Agency

Nicola Williams founded The Williams Agency in 1995. Nicola, with over 20 years of industry experience and international respect, is recognized for superior problem-solving, project management, relationship building, and strategic planning skills. The Agency's core competencies are in sustainable food and culture. She has a strong marketing background in marketing management, market research, brand development, advertising, public relations, sponsorship development, and event promotions. She is passionate about making a difference and is constantly sought after for public engagements. Williams was the producer and one of the founding organizers of the Boston Local Food Festival, Boston’s premier food event and top 10 food events in the City. She is the brainchild of Boston JerkFest and Vermont JerkFest, Caribbean-style foodie events that launched in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Nicola also developed the concepts for and produces Hyper-Local Craft Brewfest and Local Craft Spirits Festival in the Greater Boston area. Williams is a recipient of many awards, and she has been featured in Black Enterprise magazine, the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and the Boston Business Journal. Nicola Williams currently serves on the board of The Sustainable Business Network of Boston and Cambridge Carnival International, Inc. and Harvard Square Neighborhood Association. Nicola can be found at a local farmers market, at a local concert, in her urban garden or in her or someone else’s kitchen improving upon her culinary skills for one of her favorite passions- cooking. photo:Adam Detour

Summit Hosts

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.

Strolling of the Heifers prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation,
religion, age, disability, marital or family status. Strolling of the Heifers is an equal opportunity employer.