What : Conscious Kitchen hosted the Central Coast Organic School Food Summit, a two day convening with stakeholders from multiple food system sectors. We aim to collaborate on expanding access to organic and regeneratively grown food for school meal programs and cultivate an ecosystem rooted in local procurement featuring the bounty of the Central Coast.
Who: Guests represent multiple food system sectors, including farmers, food service directors, farm-to-table chefs, culinary directors, processors, aggregators, distributors, county, state, and federal agencies, elected officials, and community stakeholders.
When: Monday Jan 23 Tuesday Jan 24
Where: Paicines Ranch in the Central Coast: This educational center focuses on climate smart agriculture and is hosting our guests, giving a tour of the ranch, providing delicious scratched cooked organic meals and overnight accommodations
Why: By bringing together stakeholders from across the food system, we are cultivating a strong community that is committed to working through barriers preventing local organic food from reaching the plates of California kids in California school meal programs. This summit is the first step on a journey to design resilient local food systems.
“Organic farmers use natural methods that work with the earth to build healthy people and a healthy planet.”-The Organic Center
- To convene decision makers in the California school food system including food service
- To explore collaborations, commitments, and contributions for supplying organic food for school meals locally and statewide
- To support and elevate organic farmers and help eliminate barriers from USDA Foods school programs
- To build Central Coast values aligned supply chain, both accessible and preferential to schools
- To serve food that supports the health and wellbeing of our children, workers, lands, communities, and Earth
- Grow relationships, connect, and build community amongst food system stakeholders for support and collaboration
- Understand the organic farm to school supply chain from the perspective of each stakeholder group
- Depart with at sense of excitement and inspiration for the journey ahead as we improve the quality of school meals in schools in California’s Central Coast region and throughout Northern California.
Partner, Good Earth Natural Foods, Mill Valley / Turning Green Board of Directors
Al has co-led the growth of Good Earth Natural Foods since 1999. Since the early 1970’s, Good Earth’s mission has been to bring organic food into grocery stores in a consistent way, while supporting innovative and ethical organic growers and ranchers. Al’s dream was to be part of a marketplace that reflected the community it served. At the time he joined Good Earth, it was his intention that Good Earth would play a role as a “community hub,” while influencing and educating people and businesses far beyond its local community. Al is proud to have initiated an organic school lunch program through Good Earth in 2003. Good Earth’s school lunch program began with 4 schools, and currently is in 17 Marin County schools. Al and Good Earth’s support has been instrumental in the founding and growth of The Conscious Kitchen program.
Founder and Owner, Frog Hollow Farm, Brentwood
Farmer Al has been farming stone fruit in Brentwood, CA since 1976. He began farming organically in the early 80’s because of a commitment he wanted to make to the soil, water and community– stewarding the land with care and treading lightly, to foster healthy communities and ecology, while supporting the people who work the land. Throughout his farming career, Farmer Al has been a vigorous advocate for sustainable land use, conservation, and organic farming practices.
Sustainable Food Systems Entrepreneur, Turning Green Board of Directors
Adam is dedicated to cultivating a food system that grows in harmony with nature and the people who steward it and consume its bounty. As a chef and co-owner of Acre Gourmet, Adam collaborated with growers and producers to create a better food culture. Through his consultancy, The Lunch Trust, Adam brought his experience and passion for sustainable food systems to clients in the education and consumer packaged goods industries, developing innovative programs and products. Most recently, Adam was the Executive Director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a non-profit dedicated to education for sustainable living and school food reform, and the recent co-sponsor of California’s School Meals for All bill that led to California becoming the first state to fund Universal Free School Meals.
Sales, Earl’s Organic Produce
Alec is completely inspired by produce and its beauty, flavor, and life-giving properties. “Growing and consuming food is something that most folks don’t stop to think about – the many hands and mind-blowing elements conspiring to make it all happen, and the fact that this joy isn’t afforded to all, or even most.” His passion began in the kitchen, took root in the soil while farming for years, and continues to grow as he engages with the larger systems at play. Alec is fueled by how communities can work together to build healthier lands and communities. Now at Earl’s Organic Produce, he is thrilled to be in a position to support many farmers, create connections, tackle food waste, and bring the best quality produce to the people, and particularly of late, to school districts like West Contra Costa Unified.
Farm 2 Cafeteria Manager, Esperanza Community Farms
Alma is a student at Cabrillo College majoring in Environmental Studies. She currently works with a small farm called Esperanza Community Farms to provide local organic produce to students through a project called Farm 2 Cafeteria. While managing this project, she delivers vegetables and works alongside high school students to prepare salads. She was born and raised in Watsonville, CA. She plans to continue to work locally alongside her community in the future. She is passionate about creativity, youth empowerment, environmental justice, social justice, intersectionality, and community.
Director of Business Development, Straus Family Creamery
Anna is responsible for leading Straus’ specialty and wholesale business, including all traditional foodservice segments. She also heads the company’s consumer relations function. Anna has worked in the food industry for close to 20 years, cultivating the value and benefits of sustainably raised and organic foods within the industry. Prior to joining Straus, she held sales leadership positions in the sustainable meat industry, including Niman Ranch, one of the first branded companies to ban the use of antibiotics and hormones in meat production.
The Straus Family Creamery mission is to help sustain family farms in Marin and Sonoma Counties by providing high quality, minimally processed organic dairy products, and to support family farming and revitalize rural communities everywhere through advocacy and education. Straus Family Creamery is committed to creating a carbon-neutral dairy farming model on the Straus Dairy Farm by 2023.
Director Student Nutrition, Hollister School District
Ann has been involved with school nutrition for over 35 years. She started her career in a small community in Alaska and over the years has been responsible for supporting the school district’s quest to bring healthy food options to students with the budgetary constraints associated with schools. Ann moved to Hollister about 10 years ago and has been partnering with community organizations willing to be involved with the district’s students. “I feel they are an overlooked group that could use more support regarding nutrition education and healthy lifestyles”. She believes that the ability to reach students, parents and spread support throughout this community is key to building a comprehensive, lasting food culture change.
Food Service Director, West Contra Costa Unified School District
Barbara leads a team of over 240 food service professionals in serving 27,500 students across 54 sites in a high needs district where 67% qualify for free and reduced meals. Barbara is a motivated, results-driven food service professional who most recently took on the challenges of the pandemic to test and bring organic products into the food service program. She has since continued to procure roughly 50% of food for the district from organic supplies, prioritizing CA fresh and minimally processed foods. Barbara has led her team in achieving equipment, training, and sourcing changes that are allowing them to increase the amount of fresh, organic, scratch-cooked menu items that they make in the central kitchen for service across the district. Having served the district for 22 years, Barbara’s experience extends back to culinary school and restaurant management and she continues to work to improve the food service quality and experience for students across her district. Barbara has successfully worked with both CDFA and USDA grants to help set goals for the district, link farm to school educational opportunities to the food service programming, and achieve procurement and recipe changes that incorporate fresh, local, organic products into school meals.
Restaurateur and Caterer, Eating with the Seasons
Becky was born and raised in Hollister, CA and is the 5th generation in her family to devote her work to the food and agriculture industry. She founded Eating with the Seasons, a CSA Program that delivers fresh organic produce and hundreds of other local products to residents all over the Bay Area and has been doing so for the last 20 years. Being around fresh produce is what inspired Becky’s love of cooking and led to her creating a prepared food line for customers who want to eat healthy food, but are too busy to cook. After renting a commercial kitchen for a couple of years to cook the food, she opened Farmhouse Café in Hollister to share her love of seasonally prepared foods with the community. She continues to make prepared meals for Eating with the Seasons members and her recently acquired the company Amy’s Moveable Feast. In 2021, Becky was the recipient of the Best Chef Award in the Best of San Benito County voter’s poll, solidifying her role as a highly respected restaurateur and caterer in Hollister.
Program Coordinator, Conscious Kitchen
Caralee graduated from the University of California Berkeley in 2022 where she received a B.S. in Society and Environment and Food Systems minor. She started her journey with Conscious Kitchen as an intern in 2021, was promoted to fellow, and upon graduating became the Program Coordinator. She has worked on projects like the OEHHA Public Comment on glyphosate, Project Cereal and Project Salad, a comprehensive cost analysis of all organic scratch-cooked meals served at WCCUSD, data collection of all organic purchasing, and the CK Ambassador Program. Caralee is driven by a passion for protecting the health of the planet and all those who inhabit it, and believes that agriculture is the most powerful climate mitigation tool we have to accomplish that.
Chef, Paicines Ranch
Born in El Salvador, Chef Carlos has spent most of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learning to cook early in his career with Chef Regina Charboneau and Chef Wolfgang Puck, he built an impressive resume consisting of prestigious fine-dining restaurants in San Francisco, including Hawthorne Lane and Postrio, and has built food programs within corporate dining. Following his passion for farm-to-table cuisine and the use of local ingredients, Chef Carlos now calls Paicines Ranch home where he is creating a food program designed to use products grown on-property and from surrounding farms.
Director of Sales, Watsonville Coast Produce
Chris has been involved with the California Organic Produce scene since 2003. He previously worked for New Leaf Community Markets for close to 17 years where he oversaw produce and left the company as the Regional Produce Merchandiser Assistant Category Manager. He has also worked for Earl’s Organic Produce in San Francisco,, where he oversaw accounts from Aptos to Point Reyes to Reno Nevada. Currently, he is at Watsonville Coast Produce as an Organic Specialist helping to expand the organic offerings to retailers. He is very passionate about local organic growers and retailers.
Director of Business Development, Watsonville Coast Produce
Chuck has over 40 years of experience in the agriculture industry with the majority of that time working for Grower Shippers of row crop vegetables. He has spent the majority of his career as a Sales Manager or Commodity Manager on a National level, but is finding the Wholesale / Distributor role to be extremely rewarding. He appreciates that his position with Watsonville Coast Produce allows him to play a more active role in the local community.
Farmer Resource and Marketing Specialist, Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association
Daniel is the Farmer Resource and Marketing Specialist with the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA). ALBA a farm school and incubator that primarily serves farm workers in the Salinas Valley. Daniel provides technical support for farmers and facilitates connections between ALBA farmers and new markets for their produce.
Owner/Farmer, Hikari Farm, Watsonville & Doctor at Watsonville Community Hospital
Dr. Janet Nagamine
Janet built a successful career as a doctor treating patients with heart attacks, strokes, and other serious illnesses. After seeing how patients were sometimes harmed by medical errors, she got deeply involved in improving hospital systems to deliver safer care and led many national quality and safety initiatives. At the peak of her medical career, she was unexpectedly called back to her family farm to help wind down the company and lease the farm out. She planned on being away for a few months, and 8 years later, she is still there. She is still a doctor, but sees patients only one day a week. On all the other days, she is practicing Preventative Medicine on the farm. By providing fresh, beautiful, organic vegetables and fruits that taste delicious, she is helping people lead healthier lives – including the students of WCCUSD.
NoRegrets Initiative / Paicines Ranch Learning Center
As a team member of the NoRegrets Initiative, Elaine is working to inspire and empower individuals in ways that move us toward a more regenerative agriculture. She loves to create opportunities to gather community and convene discussions centered on the interconnectedness of soil health and human health. Through the Paicines Ranch Learning Center, Elaine directs innovative programs such as the Learning Journey, Groundwork, Gathering Fire, Women in Ranching, Health from the Soil Up, and workshops with pioneering leaders in regenerative agriculture. Along with her husband, Kelly, she lives and works at the Paicines Ranch and has transitioned from herding sheep and cows out in pasture to herding a diversity of humans and one small brown dog. With degrees in nutrition and journalism, she has also worked to grow community nutrition education programs while developing new avenues to support a local foods economy. On occasion, she will share her stories from the ‘Hollywood Years’ working as a photographer and location manager on movie sets in Los Angeles.
Fellow, Conscious Kitchen
Gabriela is a junior at Davidson College studying environmental studies and communications. She has been with Turning Green since the summer of 2021, when she joined as a summer communications intern. She continued into the fall as a Teaching Assistant for the Project Green Course, and then as the Turning Green Fellow the following spring. During her semester abroad in Buenos Aires, she discovered her passion for food justice. Upon returning home Gabriela joined the Conscious Kitchen team in December as a Conscious Kitchen Fellow to learn more about designing sustainable and equitable food systems.
National Sales Director, Nature's Path
Gary has 26 years of organic food industry experience working with privately owned organic food companies, General Mills’ organic foods division, and now with Nature’s Path, a family-owned organic food company that believes organic food is central to everyone, and that everyone should have access to it. With this company he is part of a team of pioneers that are trailblazing environmental topics, like sustainable packaging, carbon sequestration and more. Gary has been a strong advocate for organic cereal in K-12 schools, working closely with Conscious Kitchen and West Contra Costa Unified School District to taste and pilot Nature’s Path organic cereals in schools.
Value Chain Strategist, Kitchen Table Advisors
Heather currently builds power and develops supply chains with small and midsize farmers through her consultancy, SupplyChange, and in her role as Value Chain Strategist at Kitchen Table Advisors. She has an eclectic food systems background across service jobs, food justice organizing, farmers markets, local government, nonprofit farm to school and farm to institution efforts, and as a procurement professional for national ecommerce startups. She serves as the board chair of Real Food Generation, as a member of the California Farm to School Advisory Board, and advises a range of government and non-profit initiatives and trainings on supply chain justice and equity.
Senior Business Advisor, Kitchen Table Advisors
Henry is a born and raised Bay Area native with roots from El Salvador who arrived in San Benito county to work for Jayleaf in 2009. He began his passion for organic land stewardship and continued his pursuit to make a positive impact on the planet through sustainable efforts in business. Now working with Kitchen Table Advisors as a Senior Business Advisor to further his positive impact in the food system, he helps support farmers and ranchers in the region to become economically viable and leaders in their community. Growing up in the urban neighborhoods of the Bay Area, attending Bay Area public schools and being a father of two young boys starting in the public school system, it is important to him to see kids receive organic healthy food options all while supporting local organic food producers who care for their soil.
Director Nutritional Services, Gonzales Unified School District
Ida is a resident of South Monterey County, in the small town of King City. After eight years of employment with a bank, she decided it was time for a career change and started working in the food service industry for King City Unified School District. Ida started out as a Nutritional Services employee, and held that position for four years. Then, she was approached by the King City Nutritional Services Director about her moving up to a higher level position. Following that recommendation, Ida started working for Gonzales High School as a Nutrition Services 2 employee. From there she worked her way up to her current position as Director of Nutritional Services for Gonzales Unified School District.
Farm Owner, JSM Organics, Royal Oaks
Javier moved to the U.S. at the age of 20 after growing up on his family’s farm in Mexico. He founded JSM Organics in 2012 with the dream to own land, farm organically, support his family, and provide sustainable food for his community, and has been growing organic produce ever since. Known for their incredible berries, JSM Organics also grows a variety of vegetables and flowers that have become farmers market favorites around the Bay Area. Javier is a strong advocate for beginning farmers and federal conservation programs as he sits on the Boards of ALBA, Ecological Farming Association, and Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency, while also a member of the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.
Director of Food & Nutrition Services, Pajaro Valley Unified School District
Jeanie has worked in School Nutrition Services management for over 15 years. She has been with Pajaro Valley Unified School District since 2017 first as an Operations Supervisor and since fall of 2022, Director of Food & Nutrition Services. Jeanie is excited about the possibility of developing systems and partnerships with local farmers that will ultimately bring more fresh, organic, minimally processed and transported produce to the students of her district. She has degrees in Health Education and Culinary Arts & Restaurant Management. She started her career teaching high school Health Education and Home Economics. Through teaching Home Ec, she developed a love for Culinary Arts and ultimately ended up in School Nutrition Management.
Culinary Director, The Alice Waters Institute for Edible Education and Regenerative Agriculture
Before joining Edible Schoolyard Project, Jennifer spent most of her culinary career working with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse as a cook, co-chef, and General Manager as well as supporting Alice’s global projects and programs in edible education. Jennifer spent 10 years developing food product lines at scale for Rock Field, Japan, Ltd. She has served on the board and was the Culinary Director at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, a 30 acre educational farm and culinary program, and currently serves on the board of Chez Panisse. Jennifer received a Bachelor of Arts in History of Art from U.C. Berkeley and attended the California Culinary Academy and Le Cordon Bleu, Paris.
Jr. Regional Administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Western Regional Office
Jesus’ goal is to create a positive change in programs which serve vulnerable Americans by building partnerships with federal, state and local agencies to maintain the integrity, access and nutritional quality of these programs. In his position, Jesus oversees 15 nutrition assistance programs in Alaska; California; Hawaii; Idaho; Nevada; Oregon; Washington; the Pacific Territories of American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; and Indian Tribal Organizations in several western states. These programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Food Distribution Programs, and other food assistance and nutrition programs.
Jesus earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Southwest Texas State University and Master’s degree in International Development Project Management from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Jesus is a native of Laredo, Texas, and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
Executive Director Turning Green / Conscious Kitchen
Judi has spent the last 28 years of her life spearheading grassroots community projects. The dearth of answers around Marin County’s high cancer rates led Judi to found the nonprofit Search for the Cause, now Turning Green, a global student-led movement advocating for healthy food, safer products, and ethical businesses. She is also the force behind The Conscious Kitchen, a paradigm shifting model for school food service, transitioning school meals from pre-packaged, processed, heat-and-serve to chef-prepared, scratch cooked local, organic food, cooked in on-site zero waste kitchens. Believing that access to healthy food is a right, not a privilege, she began this work on a campus where 95% of children live below the poverty line, qualifying for free-and-reduced government-subsidized school meals. Moving to the Bay Area in 1989 and becoming a mother to daughter Erin changed the course of Judi’s life. Prior to this, she was an Emmy Award-winning television producer for 25 years with ABC Sports, FOX and Oxygen, founded The Diary Project forum for youth at the onset of the internet, and ran a successful student art exhibition, Celebrate Arts. Judi has been a consultant with the California Coastal Commission around public education for the past two decades.
Director, Community Food Systems Division, USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
Julie has over 30 years of experience helping communities identify and fill gaps in their food systems and has worked to improve nutrition and food security at the local, state, and national level. She led child nutrition and WIC policy teams at FNS for more than a decade and served as the program examiner for SNAP and Child Nutrition at the Office of Management and Budget before returning to FNS in 2019. Julie has a bachelor’s degree in Health and Human Performance and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Montana. She is the mother of four grown children and is excited to be promoted to grandmother in 2023.
Kindergarten Teacher and Conscious Kitchen WCCUSD Liaison
Kelly is a teacher at Peres K-8 School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. For twenty years, she has taught schools across the country aiming to promote academic achievement, alongside physical development and mental health. After seeing firsthand how students’ socioeconomic backgrounds directly impact the quality of school meals and nutrition, she spearheaded an effort to dramatically improve food service. In collaboration with Conscious Kitchen, Kelly helped organize a weeklong pilot in 2017 to prepare fresh, local, organic lunches for students at Peres Elementary in Richmond. That success led the district to approve a one-year CK food program at two WCCUSD elementary schools. In addition to teaching, Kelly leverages her Master’s degree in elementary education as the faculty lead for Conscious Kitchen Ambassadors, a student-centered project-based after school program that promotes food literacy. Kelly’s goal is to create programs that inspire student curiosity to learn about where food comes from, while strengthening eco-literacy, understanding of nutrition, and the nourishment of young bodies, minds, and souls.
MS, RDN, Food Service Director, Live Oak School District
Kelsey is a California based nutritionist and chef, specializing in working with individuals and corporations to improve health. In her current role she leads the Live Oak School District Nutrition teams in providing breakfast, lunch and supper daily to the district’s students. Kelsey previously worked for Santa Clara USD as a Food Service Technician and in the summer as their Food & Farm Camp Co-Director. Presently she serves as the President of the Northern California Chapter of the School Nutrition Association. Kelsey is passionate about feeding kids well. She attended Bastyr University and the Natural Gourmet School of Cookery in New York.
Strategic Consultant, Conscious Kitchen
Kevin has spent over eight years working in the organic food industry. Most recently, Kevin worked at Clif Bar where he held various roles ranging from managing grocery retail accounts to developing go-to-market strategies for new product launches. During this time, Kevin was a key advocate in expanding Clif bar’s focus in K-12. He is currently pursuing an MBA at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and is an Advisory Board Member for Conscious Kitchen and a Student Advisory Board Member for the Berkeley-Haas Center For Responsible Business. Kevin is passionate about the intersection of food, entrepreneurship, and social impact
Acting Community Nutrition Programs Branch Chief, USDA Food & Nutrition Service, Western Regional Office
Kristie oversees a team of six nutrition and food systems specialists who support the region’s work in nutrition education and farm to school, as well as a team of five program specialists who focus on household food distribution programs. Kristie has over 20 years of experience as a registered dietitian, earning her PhD from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and her MPH from Tufts University School of Medicine.
Farm Owner, Catalan Farms, Hollister
Maria is the owner of a small organic farm, Catalan Farms, in Hollister, CA. She moved to Salinas Valley, California when she was 25 years old with her four children to work as a field laborer for large-scale vegetable farms. In 1994, Maria was invited to join a 6-year organic farm training program at the Rural Development Center in Salinas and went on to become the first Latina migrant field worker to become a small organic farm owner at the national level. She has also worked with the non-profit PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights) and founded her own non-profit, Pequeños Agricultores en California (PAC), to help migrant farmers acquire their organic certification and assist farmers when applying for grants and loans for owning their own land. Maria was awarded national recognition from the USDA for her organic farm and community outreach programs.
Farmer/Owner, Narci Organics, San Juan Bautista
Maria was born in Guerrero, Mexico and at a young age immigrated to the United States looking for a better future. She has been around agriculture since she was a child and spent 20 years as a farmworker mainly as a strawberry picker. In 2016, she decided to start her own business in organic farming. Maria made the decision because she was starting to have a lot of health issues due to intensive labor and exposure to harmful chemicals in conventional agriculture. “I am very happy I made the change and very proud of how much I have been able to accomplish.” She currently has a farm in San Juan Bautista that grows a wide variety of vegetables and fruits on 8.5 acres. Fun Fact: “I named my business after my mother, who passed away when I was a child. Her name was Narcisa and Narci was her nickname.”
Director, Public Affairs, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Western Regional Office
Mary Kay Gominger
Mary assumed the role of Public Affairs Director for the USDA Food & Nutrition Service Western Region Office in July 2019. She has more than 25 years of public affairs experience in the federal government to include positions at Veterans Affairs, the Armed Forces Retirement Home and the U.S. Navy.
Manager, Lodging and Pastured Meat Sales, Paicines Ranch
Mary has been working at the Paicines Ranch since 2016 and currently manages the lodging and pastured meat sales. She loves the dynamic environment at the ranch and learns something new every day! Mary has recently discovered a new passion for tallow candle making and the highlight of her days is tending to the small flock of hospitality sheep!
District Lead Farmer, Morgan Hill Unified School District
Maxim helped to launch a district farming initiative just over a year and a half ago with an emphasis on sustainable practices. He has been the operator of a Freight Farm – a 40ft recirculating hydroponic shipping container – that harvests almost 1,000 heads of lettuce every week year-round for salad bars and lunches at 13 school sites. This system has allowed Maxim and his team to operate on only 5 gallons of water per day. Building on the success of the first Freight Farm, the district approved a second unit that arrived this past November, putting them in the position to meet and exceed 100 percent of their lettuce needs for the district. Maxim has goals to expand his team’s operation to include greenhouses, row crops and an orchard, as well as integrate more educational opportunities for students. He started his farming career with Morgan Hill Unified School District and is thankful for opportunities to expand and deepen his farming knowledge and experience.
NoRegrets Initiative / Paicines Ranch Learning Center
Megan guides the strategic communications for the NoRegrets Initiative ecosystem while working to convene people in conversation on the land through the Paicines Ranch Learning Center. Prior to joining the NoRegrets team, Megan was with RSF Social Finance where she worked to transform people’s relationship with money while utilizing her creativity and storytelling skills for social and ecological good. Megan has spent most of her career working for mission-based organizations in food & agriculture, social finance and public health, as well as joyful stints at a beloved Bay Area cheesemaker and a music management company in Los Angeles. Originally from a small island in Washington state, Megan received her BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California.
Director of Student Nutrition, Morgan Hill Unified School District
Michael has been the Director of Student Nutrition at MHUSD for the past five years, where he has championed efforts to bring fresh and nutritious meals to students. In 2021, he encouraged the school district to purchase a one container hydroponic farm from Freight Farms, and they have since purchased a second farm. He has worked in past roles as the Bon Appetit Executive Chef at Google, Executive Chef at La Rinconada Country Club, and as a Sous Chef for Bistro Elan. He also held an intern position at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco.
Culinary Arts Instructor, Hollister High School
Mike is a Hollister native who trained at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in Paris and went on to work at various high-end restaurants around the US before returning home to share his culinary expertise with his community. Mike’s current active roles include his catering business, Fisher’s Catering, and the Culinary Arts Instructor at Hollister High School. His mission is to inspire and teach the youth culinary and hospitality skills to develop a stronger, much-needed work force in the food service industry.
Administrative Co-Leader, Esperanza Community Farms - Watsonville, CA.
Mireya has a life-long connection to agriculture and cares deeply about ensuring access points to nutritious local food for all people, especially youth. Through her work at Esperanza Community Farms, she works closely with a diverse set of partners, including small organic farmers of color, to facilitate organic vegetables reaching local schools. The community farm is an access point where families, especially low-income families and those who want to be intentionally connected to local farms, can obtain their vegetables. Mireya is skilled in movement-building & project design and intimately understands the desires of central coast communities in realizing our collective full potential to create just food ways.
Farmer/Owner Chelito Organic Farms, Watsonville
Misael’s journey began in the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, where his love for the land and its bounty was nurtured from a young age. He spent his days foraging for wild edibles and cultivating crops with a deep connection to the earth. However, when he immigrated to the United States and began working as a contract picker, he was shocked to discover the widespread use of pesticides and the disregard for the health of both the land and the workers. This experience sparked a fire within him, a determination to do things differently and to promote organic agriculture. He enrolled in ALBA’s land-based training program and with the support of his wife Cecilia, they founded Chelito Organic Farms in Watsonville, CA in 2014. Misael is a farmer driven by a passion for ecosystems and community health, constantly experimenting with new techniques to improve soil health and crop yields. His ultimate goal is to educate and empower Mexican families by opening an educational “you-pick” plot on his farm, where they can learn about the benefits of organic food and reconnect with their agricultural heritage.
Manager Special Events, Paicines Ranch
Nancy began her pastry career making mud pies outside her family’s home in the suburbs of Detroit, MI. It would be many years before she finally followed her passion for desserts and enrolled into the Le Cordon Bleu program while living in Austin, TX. After working in Beverly Hills at the Four Seasons Nancy has worked in all areas of pastry from starting her own cupcake business in Austin to working at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. Most recently she spent 8 years at Google as the Executive pastry chef responsible for creating and producing sweets for thousands of guests daily.
Beginning a new chapter in life Nancy is currently managing events and baking for special events on Paicines Ranch with her husband chef Carlos
Food Service Director, Cupertino Union School District
Nicole attended California State University, Fresno, where she received her degree in Dietetics and Food Administration. In 2002, she started her career in school nutrition at Central Union School District in Lemoore, California. In 2004, she received her School Nutrition Specialist Credential from the School Nutrition Association. Over the years, Nicole has been very involved in the California School Nutrition Association. She has served in many positions at both the local and state level and is the immediate President of the Association and currently the Public Policy and Legislation Co-Chair. Nicole has been the Director of Student Nutrition at Pacific Grove USD, Pajaro Valley USD, and since 2015 is at Cupertino Union School District. Over her 20 years as a School Nutrition Director, Nicole has worked in varying socio-economically diverse school districts, which has given her the opportunity to see all types of programs and operations. She started a Breakfast in the Classroom program, implemented the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program, and also developed a robust and compliant list of à la carte offerings. Nicole is a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan and enjoys going to games whenever she can. Born and raised in Santa Cruz, she and her family returned to the Central Coast after college. She lives in Soquel with her husband Mike, son Jacob and dog Ringer.
Director, Sales and Procurement, Coke Farm, San Juan Baptista
Oliver has been involved in Organic agriculture and production for the better part of his life. Coke Farm is a 100% organic central coast food hub servicing a local and national customer base. They provide a platform for small and medium size farms in the region to gain market access that they might not otherwise be able to reach. As well, Coke Farm is an incubator on a local and national level for these smaller farms, enabling them to sell and market their crops while providing customers assurances of quality, compliance and logistics. Sales and marketing, crop planning, cooling, and packaging are just some of the functions of this unique food hub model.
Farm Owner, Nana Mae’s Organics, Sebastopol
Born and raised in San Francisco, Paul graduated from UC Berkeley in 1977 and began his career as an engineer for the US Geological Survey. He left that career to become a farmer when he purchased an apple farm in 1979 – now known as Nana Mae’s Organics. Paul is the original Sonoma County dry farm organic appleman, creating the first commercially available organic frozen fruit bars, organic applesauce, and organic apple cider vinegar. They farm over 200 acres of certified organic apples and pears in Sonoma County, and 65 acres of Forest Stewardship Council certified non-industrial timber management land in Mendocino County.
Farming Operations Manager, Frog Hollow Farm, Brentwood
Rachel is the Farming Operations Manager at Frog Hollow Farm, a 280-acre, family-owned, organic farm in Brentwood, California growing legendary fruit using regenerative practices. She graduated from Cornell University in 2016 with a degree in Sustainable Agriculture and has been working at Frog Hollow Farm since 2017. On the farm, she wears many hats including managing field activities, organic and food safety certifications, sales and marketing, soil health sampling, crop-planning, conservation grants, educational programming and school-food partnerships.
NoRegrets Initiative / Paicines Ranch
Sallie owns and manages the Paicines Ranch, a 7600-acre ranch in central California. She is also an impact investor, activist, and philanthropic funder in regenerative agriculture. Her work focuses on improving the health of agricultural soils and sequestering carbon in soil to mitigate climate change, while creating healthier people and planet. She is the founder of the No Regrets Initiative, which seeks to use a wide variety of forms of capital – human, natural, investment, and philanthropic to affect change in the agricultural system. Prior to becoming a rancher and farmer, Sallie spent almost 25 years as an engineer, COO, and high-tech entrepreneur. She worked in engineering and engineering management prior to joining her husband in founding Globetrotter Software, Inc. where she served as COO/CFO. They purchased the ranch after selling the company in 2001. Since then Sallie has had many adventures in ranching, grass fed beef, meat packing, holistic management, organic farming and much more. She is the managing member of Cienega Capital, an impact investing firm, and the president of the Globetrotter Foundation, a family foundation. She has served on a variety of for-profit and nonprofit boards, including Holistic Management International, Sierra Cascade Nursery, Agrarian Trust, and Estancia Beef. She loves to play tennis, hike, and travel.
Culinary Specialist, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District
Sara began her career in food in the hospitality industry, working in some of the finest restaurants across the state of California. She spent some years working in restaurants known for their sustainability practices, and carries that through into her current work and personal life. Sara’s experience in restaurant management carried her into her current position as Culinary Specialist for Monterey Peninsula Unified, where she focuses on creating healthy and tasty meals for students, with a particular interest in moving towards plant based dishes.
Director of Nutrition Services & Wellness, North Monterey County Unified School District
Sarah has been working in school food for the past 9 years. After graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with B.S. in Food Science, she completed a year of service with FoodCorps. Her service in New London, CT inspired her to pursue a career in school food to continue the great work of ensuring that all students have access to healthy nutritious foods at school. Since 2016 she has been the Director of Nutrition Services & Wellness at the North Monterey County Unified School District, where they are active participants in the farm to school movement and are dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of their students and community through the foods that they serve.
Program Coordinator, Turning Green
Sue has worked with Turning Green for 13 years and has helped bring all of our key programs to life. She is passionate about sustainability, education, and bringing our programs to students across the country and around the world. Working primarily on the Conscious Campus programs Project Green Challenge, internships, and fundraising, Sue supports the Conscious Kitchen program with procurement research, purchasing and event coordination. She loves working with students as they learn, become inspired and then take action toward climate solutions.
Sustainability Consultant, Turning Green
Wendy has supported Turning Green in applying for and implementing several USDA and CDFA grant projects. She brings her experiences from a career of designing, implementing, and evaluating Energy Efficiency programs to help create systems and communications materials to convey the impactful work that Conscious Kitchen and Turning Green are achieving. Wendy is involved in several local food system projects that are achieving equitable, sustainable, and climate positive impacts. She brings her love of numbers and the stories they can tell along with data analysis, program planning, and collaboration skills to support a variety of local food systems projects. Wendy has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and is rapidly learning more about the food system through local courses, connecting with community initiatives, and growing food at both a community and personal garden.
Fellow, Turning Green
Will works primarily on the Conscious Campus side of Turning Green with a focus on program leadership, fundraising and conducting grant research for the organization. Will graduated from Colorado College in 2022 where he studied History, Environmental Issues, and Spanish. He became a lead intern with Turning Green during his first summer out of college, where he helped write and edit Project Green Challenge’s overviews and challenges. Will entered Turning Green’s Fellowship program in September of 2022 and continued to help run Project Green Challenge as well as the PGC Campus Representatives program. Will currently volunteers with the Environmental Peacebuilding Association in his free time.
Director of Procurement, Alice Waters Institute
In her role, Yael partners with institutional dining leaders to create procurement programs that implement regenerative and local food procurement. Before joining AWI, Yael managed sustainable procurement strategy and execution at national restaurant companies sweetgreen and Chipotle. At sweetgreen, Yael oversaw national procurement for meat, dairy, and grocery items, with a focus on growing and scaling the supply chain. At Chipotle, Yael was responsible for creating and advancing the company’s ethical sourcing initiatives in over 2,700 restaurant locations. Prior to joining Chipotle, Yael was a founding member of the Supply Chain Strategy and Operations group at Blue Apron. During her tenure, Yael built Blue Apron’s ethical meat supply network of farms and processors and founded their animal welfare programs. Yael received her Bachelor of Science with Honors in Food Studies from New York University.
Farm Administrator, Narci Organics
Yesenia was born and raised in Salinas, California. Her 3-year-old daughter is her motivation. She graduated from Fresno State and achieved a BS in Agriculture Business. She works with and supports her mother, Maria, owner of Narci Organic Farms and has since day one. In 2021 she joined the family business full-time assisting in the business with everything from harvesting to communication with customers.
Farm to Market Program Manager, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)
Yousef is a Farm to Market Program Manager at Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), he provides technical expertise and assistance to farmers and food service operators on supply chain logistics, regulations, and best practices for Farm to Cafeteria sales. He studied Agricultural Economics and International Agricultural Development at UC Davis and has interests in food systems and agricultural supply chains. He has had several past experiences in food systems, from working at local farms, greenhouses, and farmers markets to supporting cafeterias.
Conscious Kitchen advances climate-smart school food based on five foundational values: fresh, local, organic, seasonal, nutritious. We believe that school-supported agriculture s a powerful tool to address climate change and model climate action to promote human and environmental health.