Mary Ellen Cory
Mary Ellen Cory resides in Central Iowa on the same farm where she was raised. She’s a lifelong “farm girl,” which has represented a variety of interests over the years. It began with a background on a conventional midwestern crop and livestock farm. Then, with her husband Tom and their five children, she began to learn more about human health and wellness. They could see the direct connection between soil, plants, animals and people. This led to transitioning cropland to managed grazing, including producing and direct marketing grass fed beef and lamb and other farm products in the Des Moines area for over twenty years. Recently, the opportunity arose to complete the transition of her father’s grain farm to become certified organic. This is a multi-year process and eventually led to the Corys’ desire to incorporate grazing and a variety of crops to have an organic rotation which maximizes nutrient cycling, plant, animal, and human health.
Jason grew up on a large conventional family grain farm in Indiana which always held soil health practices as a top priority. Recognizing the need to do better for the health of people and the planet, he started farming one 90-acre field organically in 2015. Today, Jason, his wife, and their two young children own Living Prairie Family Farms, which farms over 4,000 acres in the same location where he grew up. The entire farm is now farmed organically using minimal tillage with a diverse range of food and feed crops along with constant cropping and soil-building land sabbaticals. As the farm continues to refine practices and diversify, value-added grain and livestock projects are in the works.
Sara Williams Flewelling
Sara Williams Flewelling is a 2nd generation organic farmer, professional miller and baker. Along with her father, Matthew Williams, they own Aurora Mills and Farm, a hands-on, family owned business devoted to providing the very best Maine-grown, USDA certified, organic grains. They provide customers with fresh, milled-to-order products that they grow organically, truly farm to mill!
After a successful career as a landscape designer in Washington D.C., Sara returned home to join the farm in 2013. Aurora Mills is a pioneer in the resurgence of the grain growing economy in the State of Maine. Aurora started growing organic, food-grade wheat in 1998 and started the milling operation in 2001 to meet the needs of Jim Amaral of Borealis Breads, who was seeking previously unavailable Maine grown wheat. They continue to innovate within the Maine grain industry by specializing in regenerative organic growing practices and by diversifying and identifying alternative crops for grain rotations.
Shawn Gingue lives in Waterford, VT with his wife Sara and their four children Brooklyn, Whitney, Levi and Kenna. He is a 4th generation farmer with over 2 decades of experience working alongside his father and late grandfather. After the decision was made to sell the milking herd in 2015, Shawn has worked diligently to build a diversified portfolio of services and products that has helped to sustain and grow the family farm so that it can thrive for generations to come. He is a firm believer in cover crops from results he’s seen on his farm since 2008. The soil health benefits from his own experience pushed him to start custom seeding grasses and cover crops for local farms, which has grown to cover over 7,000 acres in the last 5 years. In 2018 he started growing barley, which is sold to a local malt house to supply the Vermont beer market, and added wheat to the crop plan in 2019. In 2020 he formed NEK Grains to bring Vermont grown grains directly to bakers and consumers. The new grain enterprise will bridge the gap between growing grains and getting them to market. He plans on building a grain facility that will specialize in drying, cleaning, storing, bagging and marketing the grains grown in Vermont’s beautiful Northeast Kingdom at Gingue Family Farm. He is a member of the Northeast Grainshed and Northern Grain Growers Association. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family, hunting, fishing, and skiing.
Jeff is a Midwest transplant, originally from Massachusetts. He moved to Illinois in 2014 to become the farmer training program manager for The Land Connection, and eventually met and married his wife, Katie Funk. They, along with her brother, now operate Funks Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains in McLean, Illinois, where they grow, process, and package flour, baking mixes, and fruit leather products in collaboration with the Funk family’s maple sirup operation. Jeff also consults on marketing and other food systems work in central Illinois, and is the president of the region’s chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition.
Born and raised in Eastern North Carolina, Fresh started remixing southern culinary traditions as soon as she could walk and hold a whisk. Transplant to the midwest, they now call Chicago home. An engineering and physics nerd turned farming chef, they have professionally studied cooking in Thailand and the US working in the kitchens of Google and Facebook. But their community-based edible activism among communities of color, elders, queer folx and youth is where their heart most deeply resides.
Granddaughter to sharecroppers, her connection to land started early. Long time grower, beginning farmer, Fresh is trying to transform & expand racial equity in the Regional Grain Economy as well to make quality fresh food accessible to her community. They currently farm in Chicago, Il while looking to expand to larger more rural land outside the city in the next two years.
Chef Fresh is the Director of Chicago Bread Club and founder of Fresher Together. Fresher Together is a collaborative food and farming project for healing, economic development, training and retreat.
Jalal grew up in Greenburgh, New York. He led the Black Student Union at Purchase College, SUNY and organized students to distribute clothes and food to homeless people in NYC. As part of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), Jalal co-created the Potential 2 Power project in East New York, Brooklyn, where he taught young people gardening, cooking, nutrition and know-your-rights skills.
In 2011 at Wassaic Community Farm in Wassaic, N, Jalal started growing produce to sell at farmers markets in the South Bronx. He also ran a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and a gleaning project. While at Wassaic, Jalal co-founded the Freedom Food Alliance and the Victory Bus Project.
The Freedom Food Alliance is a collective of small rural and urban farmers, activists, artists, community folks and political prisoners who use food as an organizing tool. Based at a farm in Millerton, New York, they offer opportunities to minority groups inordinately impacted by systemic mass incarceration. The Victory Bus Project connects urban and rural communities and support families of prisoners while transporting them to visit family members in prison in the Hudson Valley. Each passenger receives political education and a box of farm fresh food.
Jalal continues the work of the Alliance, while also having co-founded the Sweet Freedom Farm in Germantown, New York, where he conducts farm education, a maple syrup operation and is helping to build the Farms Not Prisons movement.
Shelley Spruit is the founder /owner of Against the Grain Farms of Winchester Inc. which focuses on the restoration of heritage grains adaptable to Ontario growing conditions. Shelley has worked closely with the participatory plant breeding program with University of Manitoba, Food Literacy, Education, Consumer workshops using Ontario grains and Product development for value added products made from these unique grains. She is also Partner/Owner Winchelsea Farms Inc. for 32 years. Alongside her husband she produces specialty grains for food markets internationally. Before founding Against the Grain Shelley was the founder and lead chef for 13 years of Winchelsea Farms Banquet Hall, a 150 seat banquet hall in which all food was prepared on sight, using locally sourced ingredients. Shelley is a strong promoter of agri-tourism and food education.
For well over half of her lifetime, Melissa has been immersed in the organic dairy sector. She is a second generation organic dairy farmer from Wisconsin, caring for 110 cows and 1200 acres with her family. On the farm, Melissa is the herd, employee and grazing manager. However, many know her best from her so far eleven year career with Organic Valley. Melissa serves her community as a Master Gardener volunteer, is on the Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council and can be credited for her contributions to the nationally recognized, start-up cooperative, Oshkosh Food Co-op. In 2019, Melissa was recognized locally as a “Fox Cities Future 15” Young Professional for her volunteerism, leadership and positive influence on her communities.