ASAP Connections

Local Food. Strong Farms. Healthy Communities

2017 Conference Presenters

2017 conference presenters

Every year, the Business of Farming Conference features a wide range of business, marketing, and agricultural professionals offering practical experience and expertise for beginning to established farmers. These 2017 conference presenters are sure to widen your perspective on making a living through your farm.

Marilyn Ball is a leading expert in developing solutions for business growth. She is the founder of 12Twelve Marketing and has over 20 years of experience in communications, marketing, and business development. Her current work focuses on speaking, teaching, business coaching, and training. She is the author of The Rise of Asheville: An Exceptional History of Community Building and host of the weekly radio show Speaking of Travel.

Chuck Beane has been growing hydroponic vegetables for eight years in Jackson and Haywood counties, selling primarily to restaurants and the local farmer’s market in Waynesville. While Chuck has grown a variety of crops in the past, he now focuses on producing greens, including fancy lettuces. Chuck picks and delivers daily to provide the freshest possible product for his customers.

Margaret Bloomquist works with the NCSU Research and Extension program to bring information to growers in Western North Carolina and beyond. She delves into all aspects of producing and marketing alternative crops and organics. Her current projects include the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition, Eastern Broccoli Project, Tomato Organic Management and Improvement Project, and early research into biodynamics.

Martha Calderon has been farming for than two decades and currently co-manages Calderon Produce Inc., based in Vale, NC. She specializes in growing peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers for wholesale markets. Four years ago, she helped found the Hispanic Women in Agriculture Cooperative to help Latina farmers grow their businesses and opportunities as farmers and landowners.

Amanda Carter owns Cool Hand Meats, Inc., providing comprehensive pastured poultry supply chain development and management services to farms and individuals across the Southeast. Cool Hand Meats also operates the Foothills Pilot Plant facility in Marion, NC, processing poultry and other small livestock under USDA and FDA inspection for independent growers throughout the region, where Amanda has served as General Manager since 2012.

Christina Carter co-owns Ten Mile Farm along with her husband, Kevin Toomey. They provide over 40 varieties of vegetables and annual fruits throughout the growing season. Ten Mile sells their produce through a CSA, at two farmers markets, direct to restaurants, and by wholesale. Christina and Kevin commuted to a leased farm for eight years until purchasing a farm in Old Fort, NC, in December 2014.  

Tracy Cotton is an insurance agent for Morrow Insurance Agency in Marion, North Carolina. She’s worked in Western North Carolina since 1996 and specializes in farms and other small businesses such as artisan food manufacturers, tailgate markets, coffee houses, and restaurants. She’s passionate about the farm-to-fork community and a strong supporter of local business throughout WNC, both in real life and through her active social media presence.

Bill Durr is leader of the Litigation Practice Group at Ward and Smith, P.A., and his practice experience encompasses civil litigation in both the state and federal courts. He has represented clients in a broad variety of complex construction, business, and commercial disputes.

Anna Eason is the Marketing and Human Resource Director of Sunburst Trout Farms, a third-generation, family-owned rainbow trout farm located in Haywood County, NC. Anna loves telling the story of Sunburst. She is married to Ben Eason, one of the third-generation brothers running the farm, and mom to three girls who hope to be the fourth generation of the family business.

Gary E. Guinn is the Farm Loan Manager for the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania counties. FSA offers a variety of low-interest loans, including farm ownership, farm storage, farm operating, and microloans. Targeted loans are also available for minority and women farmers, youth, and beginning farmers.

Barry Gupton received a Masters in Business Administration from Western Carolina University, has led workshops on financial topics for farmers specializing in poultry and other farm enterprises, and is a business consultant and facilitator with Mountain Bizworks and Birds Eye Business Planning and Adventures. He grew up in Western North Carolina with entrepreneur parents and helps manage a family construction business — as well as the family farm.

Kimberly Hunter is the Entrepreneurship Program Manager at Mountain BizWorks. As a former entrepreneur, she works with business owners in understanding where and how to better capitalize their businesses within their current life cycle. Kimberly will review various methods for capitalizing your business by discussing capital infusion through the lens of business life cycles.

Zac Lamb is certified by the North Carolina State Bar as a Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Probate Law. His practice experience encompasses estate planning, estate and trust administration, and multigenerational tax planning. Zac’s practice also involves assisting closely-held business owners in various transactional matters and business succession planning.

Robin Lenner is the Events Coordinator for ASAP, where she oversees the annual Business of Farming Conference, Farm Tour, and CSA Fair. Her work includes managing ASAP’s volunteers and interns, supporting the organization’s communications and social media, and providing assistance to farms and businesses interested in conducting farm tours.

Charles and Pamela Leonard grow and process artisanal medicinal herbs on five acres and in a custom-built herb house at Gentle Harmony Farm, located outside Winston-Salem, NC. The farm’s herbs are carefully tended, transplanted by hand, and transferred quickly for processing, which helps to preserve their volatile compounds. Gentle Harmony Farm has been USDA certified for organic herb production since 2012.

William Lyons and his wife Marie farm full time in Morganton, NC. At Bluebird Farm, they raise pastured pork and chickens with certified organic feed, graze sheep and layer hens, and raise three acres of vegetables with organic methods. Bluebird Farm sells at farmers markets, a CSA, and a few restaurants. William and Marie are passionate about growing good food and crunching the numbers to make farming a financially viable project.

Craig Mauney has worked as an agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension for over 20 years. He is presently the Extension Area agent specializing in commercial vegetable production in 39 counties in Western North Carolina. Craig ran a small sustainable farm for many years and has experience in all aspects of commercial vegetable and fruit production, home gardening, and landscape design. His special interests are woodland botanicals and unusual edibles such as pawpaws.

Mike McCreary works for ASAP as manager of the Asheville City Market, a farmer-led market with locations in downtown Asheville and South Asheville. His work with ASAP also involves training, consulting, and supporting farmers markets and vendors specializing in sales, marketing, promotion, management, operations, and SNAP access.

Margaret McGinnis raises mixed vegetables with her husband, Thomas Charles, at Fork Mountain Farm, a small, certified organic farm in Madison County, NC. The two have been selling commercially since 2006 and to restaurants since 2008. Fork Mountain presently sells to six area restaurants, with an emphasis on Italian and French varieties.

Casey McKissick is co-founder, co-owner, and general manager of Foothills Meats. He has over 15 years of experience working in local food systems, including production, processing, retail, and supply-chain development. Casey also works as a private consultant to meat producers, processors, and food-service professionals, as well as educational and governmental agencies.

Joel Mowrey is the owner of Smoking J’s Fiery Foods, a farm-based business in Candler, NC, that grows a wide variety of chile peppers and manufactures a diverse line of hot sauce, salsa, barbecue sauce, and more. Joel is a passionate entrepreneur and enjoys interacting with others who share his love of business, farming, and food.

Katie Murray brings a heavy dose of enthusiasm and experience to CAKE Websites and More, a full-service marketing firm in Asheville, North Carolina. Officially the Social Media Coordinator, Katie does everything from crafting content that engages users to be a part of the conversation to building and implementing strategic advertising campaigns.

Molly Nicholie is the Local Food Campaign Director for ASAP. Her focus lies in helping farmers with market connections and planning, as well as working with area businesses to better feature local food. Her responsibilities include guiding the marketing efforts of ASAP’s Local Food Campaign, supporting farmers markets, and providing farmers with training, resources, and technical assistance around marketing and promotions.

Clifton Parker was raised on a small family farm in coastal North Carolina. He is a graduate of NC State University in agriculture and retired after 30 years of service with the USDA as Assistant Deputy Administrator for the Risk Management Agency. Clifton now works as an agriculture risk management consultant.

Ben Paynter is a staff member at the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) in Pittsboro, NC. He works mostly with specialty crop farmers in the Central and Eastern regions as the project manager for the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund grant program. Ben spent several years in the mountains studying sustainable agriculture at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and as a farmhand on several small-scale operations throughout Southern Appalachia, including the ASU Sustainable Development Teaching and Research Farm in Ashe County, NC.

Jen Pearson opened Guadalupe Cafe (Sylva, NC) in 2004 with a handful of farmer contacts and a passion for creative and delicious cuisine. Open the cafe’s menu and you’ll see “Fresh. Local. Organic.” written across the page. This isn’t just a motto — it’s a creed. The restaurant has built relationships with local producers so that your food comes straight from their gardens to the kitchen.

Peter Pollay has been heavily involved in the local farming community since opening his restaurant Posana in 2009: he launched his own urban garden in 2015 and hosts an annual benefit dinner supporting ASAP’s Growing Minds Program. Peter has served as president of Asheville Independent Restaurants and led efforts to secure Asheville’s title as the first “Greenest Dining Destination” in the US. Peter has over 20 years of experience working in kitchens with distinguished chefs.

Jodi Rhoden is a writer, baker, activist, and entrepreneur. She is the founder and former owner of Short Street Cakes in West Asheville, and she uses her 10 years of small-scale business experience to mentor entrepreneurs through Birds Eye Business Planning and Adventures and Mountain Bizworks. Jodi is also the author of Cake Ladies: Celebrating a Southern Tradition.

Afton Roberts and her brother Nate Darnell are second-generation farmers at Darnell Farms in Bryson City, NC, where they grow produce for wholesale and direct markets on their 70-acre farm. Darnell Farms also serves as an educational tool to teach visitors the importance of agriculture in Southern Appalachia. The farm welcomes visitors for field trips, special events, seasonal u-pick, and its farm store.

David Smiley is the Local Food Campaign Program Coordinator for ASAP. His work includes facilitating the operations of the Local Food Guide and Appalachian Grown branding program, managing the cost share program, and providing marketing and promotions assistance to farms, businesses, and tailgate markets. David is the former market manager for Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market in Waynesville and continues to be involved on their market board.

Wallace Souther is a Registered Tax Preparer with Franklin Tax Services, Inc. Originally from Asheville, Wallace moved back to the area in 2008 and now operates a small medicinal herb farm while preparing tax returns in the family services business.

Frances (Franny) Tacy owns and operates Franny’s Farm with her husband Jeff in Leicester, NC. Franny’s Farm practices sustainable, organic methods and is home to many animals, including chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, and a donkey. The farm features vegetable, fruit, flower, bee, and pollinator gardens, as well as a u-pick blueberry hill. As an event venue, the farm has hosted weddings, festivals, and a farm camp every summer for children.

Daniel Walton is a communications intern with ASAP and has a keen interest in the issues of agricultural sustainability and local economy. His eclectic background combines five years of freelance writing and promotions experience with an MS in crop sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MA in professional writing from the University of Cincinnati.

Devon Williams focuses on a wide range of labor and employment issues, including wage and hour matters, federal contractor compliance, employment discrimination and harassment, employee discipline and termination, personnel policies, and background checks. In matters relating to employee benefits, she concentrates on issues confronting welfare benefit plans (such as medical, dental, and other plans) and their sponsors, including the provisions and impact of the Affordable Care Act.


2017 Conference Workshops

Block One: 9:45–11:15 am Direct Marketing Strategies: Connecting with Your Customer Base Whether you are a new farm trying be noticed or a more established producer looking to expand your customer base, targeted marketing strategies will make better use of […]Read More ▶▶

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