The Cornucopia Institute will engage in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture. Through research and investigations on agricultural issues, The Cornucopia Institute will provide needed information to consumers, family farmers, and the media.
The Cornucopia Institute is recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public interest group. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of law.
Cornucopia's Co-Founders - Mark and Will
Mark Kastel is co-founder of The Cornucopia Institute, a populist farm policy research group based in Wisconsin and acts as its Senior Farm Policy Analyst. He directs its Organic Integrity Project. Read More
Will Fantle is co-founder of The Cornucopia Institute. He is also the organization's Research Director. Mr. Fantle's previous professional experience is varied Read More
Cornucopia's Board of Directors
The Cornucopia Institute has worked hard to maintain a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds on our board of directors. They represent key stakeholder constituencies within the organic and family farming movements including pioneering organic agricultural producers, consumers, scientists, public policy experts, environmentalists/conservation experts, entrepreneurs and retailers. They hail from almost all regions of the country and they share a common dedication to protecting the economic interests of family farmers, the environment and the quality and integrity of the food we all eat.
Helen Kees, Durand, Wisconsin (Board President)
Ms. Kees is an organic beef farmer and fresh-market vegetable producer. She grew up on a dairy farm near Durand, Wisconsin. A tussle with a neighbor's pesticide overspray in the early 1990s opened her eyes to the health and environmental concerns associated with the use of agrichemicals. She later became the first certified organic beef farmer in the state of Wisconsin.
The cattle are raised on the family farm. She is a direct marketer and a member of the Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool.
Kevin Engelbert (Board Vice President)
Kevin Engelbert is the owner/operator of Engelbert Farms, the first certified organic dairy farm in the US, certified since 1984. He farms about 1,800 acres with his wife Lisa and three sons, and produces organic milk, veal, beef, pork, pasture, hay, corn, soybeans, and vegetables. Kevin is a fifth generation dairy farmer in New York State, and recently completed a five-year term on the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board.
Kevin was involved with NOFA NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York) from the early 1980s until the late 1990s, and helped with the development of NOFA NY’s organic standards. He has hosted many on-farm tours and seminars dealing with organic crop and livestock practices and management intensive grazing, and has spoken at numerous organic farming conferences and meetings around the northeast over the last thirty years. Kevin graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with a minor in Mathematics. He and his family reside in Nichols, NY.
Dr. Barry Flamm, Montana (Secretary)
Dr. Barry operates a certified organic sweet cherry orchard in Montana. He is the immediate past chair of the National Organic Standards Board, his term concluding in 2012. Dr. Flamm previously served on the Montana Governor’s Council helping develop the Montana Department of Agriculture Organic Certification Program, and he was a founder and vice chair of the Montana Organic Association.
Dr. Flamm is a natural resources and environmental consultant specializing in biodiversity conservation for such organizations as the Asian Development Bank. He led the development of the Mongolian Biodiversity Action Plan, was a team member on the World’s Bank assistance to China to develop its Biodiversity Action Plan, and was Chief of Party for the Nepal Forest Policy Project funded by USAID. He previously served as Chief Forester at the Wilderness Society.
Dr. Flamm served 27 years with the Federal Government as: Director of the Office of Environmental Quality, USDA during President Carter’s administration, and was Senior Staff Member for natural resources and agriculture at the President’s Council on Environmental Quality from Richard Nixon’s to President Carter’s administrations. He was the U.S. Forest Service’s first Environmental Coordinator developing procedures and monitoring the agency’s actions which affected the environment.
Roger Featherstone, Tucson, Arizona (Treasurer)
Mr. Featherstone grew up on a small family dairy farm in southern Wisconsin that has been operated continuously by the Featherstone family since 1847. His rural Wisconsin farm background has been instrumental in his success in working with rural constituencies to protect wildlife and wildlands for future generations.
Since May of 2004, Mr. Featherstone has been the Southwest Campaigner/Circuit Rider for Earthworks, working to protect communities and the environment of the West from the impact of hard rock mining. Prior to this he spent a year in Alaska as the Campaign Director for ARM. In 2001, Mr. Featherstone was the Stop the Rollbacks Campaign Manager for the Mineral Policy Center campaign. In 1995 he founded and directed the Grassroots Environmental Effectiveness Network (GREEN), based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As Director of GREEN, Mr. Featherstone built a nationwide network of farmers and ranchers working to protect wildlife and wildlands.
Mr. Featherstone has been National Grassroots Coordinator of the Endangered Species Coalition; is a founder and Board Chair of the Mount Graham Coalition; was founder and producer for the GreenFire Project, an educational and inspirational organization that promoted wilderness values; and organized for both the Rainforest Action Network and Earth First! He also has worked on and off for 27 years with Northern Thunder, a Wisconsin-based community environmental organization.
William Heart, Ashland, Wisconsin Mr. Heart is a hunter and fishermen and a very active member and officer of a number of conservation, environmental, and watershed protection organizations. He is past president of the Wisconsin chapter of Trout Unlimited. It is our thesis that organic agriculture is the best thing that ever happened to wildlife and he wholeheartedly agrees. A commercial printer by trade, he previously owned a printing company in Ashland and also produces maple syrup on his land in northern Wisconsin.
Goldie Caughlan, recently retired after a long and noteworthy career as a nutrition educator with the nation's largest member-owned food cooperative, PCC Natural Markets in Seattle, is a former member of the national organic standards board.
Amanda Love, also known as "The Barefoot Cook" is a Certified Healing Food Specialist, Natural Foods Chef, Nutrition Educator, Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) Conference Chef and recent recipient of the Weston A. Price Food Activist Award. She emphasizes eating fresh, local, seasonal, organic and nutrient rich food. Ms. Love knows food from the seed to the table intimately. All over the United States, farmers, growers, educators, food vendors and chefs know the committed and passionate Barefoot Cook, and appreciate her as someone who also advocates politically for organic growers and consumer rights. She teaches cooking classes and workshops where she empowers others to take healing food into their own hands. She also has a line of organic, herbal iced teas called "Soothin' Infusion". Amanda currently resides in Austin, Texas.
Her website can be viewed at: www.thebarefootcook.com
Dave and his wife Florence live on the farm that Dave’s Grandfather bought 85 years ago. Dave is a third generation dairy farmer who stopped using agricultural pesticides in 1974, after a reaction to an herbicide that he was using.
The farm was converted to a grass based dairy farm in the early 90’s, and a direct marketing meat business was started with grass fed and finished beef, pork, turkeys and chickens. This evolved into an on-farm creamery and retail store where extra value was added to the milk. Currently, Cedar Summit milk is distributed throughout the upper mid-west.
Dave has served as Board Member of: Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Agriculture—Minnesota Grown program, Scott County Farm Advisory Task Force, University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center.
In 2007 Dave and Florence were named the Farmers of the Year by Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).
Cornucopia Staff & Volunteers
The Cornucopia Institute has adopted a progressive approach for staffing our organization-we are "virtually officed." There are six staff members, in six separate offices, in four states. Not only does this model leverage our contributions, so they can be applied to our program work, in support of our mission rather than paying for bricks, mortar, and utilities, but this has also allowed us to cast the widest possible net when searching for prospective staff members. We have some extremely qualified colleagues, located on both coasts, who would not have entertained a position with Cornucopia if they would have had to move to Wisconsin (we might be prejudiced but those of us who are based here love living in America's Dairyland!).
Gayle Nielsen is the membership coordinator. She has a BA in Visual Communications, with a digital design emphasis, from American Intercontinental University as well as an Associate of Science in Electro-Mechanical Technology. With a black belt in several martial arts, she teaches those as well other types of mind/body/spirit movement and exploration through her hypnotherapy practice. She is also currently finishing her work on a PhD in Clinical Hypnotherapy.
After a sixteen year career with a large corporation in the Information Technology field, she now focuses on her true passion of educating people in healthy, sustainable lifestyles through her practice and through her work with The Cornucopia Institute.
She and her husband live on a small farm near Westby, Wisconsin.
Melody Morrell, Cornucopia's Data Analyst and Research Specialist, has been with the organization since mid-2012. She has over a decade of experience in nonprofit administration and programs, working on issues ranging from gender and developmental disability to sustainable living. Melody earned a BA in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Harboring a deep love of the land and living things, Melody, her teenaged children and her carpenter husband live in a tiny house on Peace Lake in Minnesota where they study life and grow food.
Jason Cole is our Research Associate. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Ecuador where he helped small-scale farmers to employ sustainable agricultural practices in order to minimize their impact on highly valuable cloud forest habitat. In partnership with a local NGO, he developed agro-forestry projects that improved pasture productivity and reduced the need to clear virgin forest for new pasture. Prior to his Peace Corps service he worked for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in the fields of forestry, botany, and hydrology.
Jason holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Arizona, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. He lives in western Wisconsin with his wife and three children.
Mr. Munsch raises organic beef on his farm in western Wisconsin. He is a volunteer for The Cornucopia Institute and is leading the organization's challenge to the USDA's approval of Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa. Cornucopia is a party along with several other organizations in a lawsuit contesting the USDA action. Mr. Munsch farms with his family near Coon Valley, WI.
Mr. Cox is a volunteer who has been handling Cornucopia's legal representation before USDA and in federal district courts. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Gary Cox has been a public servant, an organic vegetable farmer, a dad, a civil war enthusiast and very "green" all his life. As an environmental lawyer, Mr. Cox prosecuted polluters for 14 years while with the Ohio Attorney General's office, representing Ohio EPA and prosecuting several of the largest Fortune 500 firms in the country, including lawsuits against Sun Oil Company, General Motors, BP Chemical and Phillips Electronics.
His current law practice includes clients such as small, family dairy farmers producing raw milk that are battling the Ohio Department of Agriculture, a non-profit organization taking on Horizon Dairy, and several individuals battling the Ohio Department of Transportation. Mr. Cox resigned from the AG's office to become an organic vegetable farmer and sold produce at restaurants, farmers' markets and operated a small CSA as well. He enjoys being a soccer dad (yes, he owned a minivan at one time), gardening, the outdoors and has studied the Civil War nearly his whole life. Mr. Cox hopes to return to sustainable farming someday, hopefully near Gettysburg, PA, and living in peace and quiet where he can nurture rather than litigate.
Celeste Gibson acts as Cornucopia staff accountant and serves as an active member of its management team on fiscal issues.
As an independent Certified Public Accountant, Ms. Gibson has provided tax and accounting services to individuals, farms, and small businesses in southwestern Wisconsin since 1994. She holds degrees as a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Master of Business Administration, both earned summa cum laude at Minnesota State University-Mankato. She passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination in 1984, earning an Elijah Watts Sells Award for grades among the top 1% in the nation.
Ms. Gibson has two daughters, one a senior at Minnesota State University-Winona and the other a sophomore at Viroqua High School. As a licensed foster care provider, she is also raising her foster daughter, a high school freshman. Her extensive community service background includes service as an elected public school board member and as a court-appointed special advocate. Her favorite hobbies are gardening and bicycling. As a lifelong learner whose interest is sparked by all pursuits intellectual, Ms. Gibson is a third-year independent study law student at Taft Law School of Santa Ana, California.
Elizabeth Wolf is our development director. A fourth-generation Nebraskan, she is a sometime city girl whose grandparents were corn and dairy farmers. Elizabeth recently returned to the Heartland after 20 years in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she built a successful consultancy in communications and development. Her clients included NGOs, universities, and publishers.
Prior to joining Cornucopia, Elizabeth coordinated a USDA Community Food Project and aided nonprofits in organizational and revenue development. She graduated with honors from the University of California, Davis, with a degree in English, and holds a master’s in adult education. She studied medicinal plants at the New Mexico School of Natural Therapeutics.
An avid organic gardener, Elizabeth lives in the prairie capital of Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband, farm author Steven McFadden. She serves on the executive committee of Slow Food Nebraska and is active with Open Harvest Co-op, Community CROPS, and other local friends of the good food movement. Elizabeth and her husband are on the prowl for a small farm where they can sink deeper roots and cultivate vegetables, herbs, and native flowers.
Linley Dixon, PhD
Farm and Food Policy Analyst
Linley Dixon owns a vegetable farm (marketing through a CSA, farm to school, and at farmers markets) in Durango, Colorado, with her husband Peter and 4-year-old daughter Raina. Prior to farming, she spent 15 years studying the impact of farm diversity on plant disease levels. Collecting and studying plant diseases on varied farms throughout the world has provided perspective on the various inputs required given different production practices.
Linley holds a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of Florida and a Master’s in Plant and Soil Science through West Virginia University’s Organic Farm Project. In addition, she held a 2-year post-doctorate with the USDA’s Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory where she used DNA sequencing and cloning techniques to identify fungal plant pathogens from around the world. Linley is actively involved in supporting the local farm movement in Durango and in her spare time enjoys pruning tomatoes to one main stem.
Farm and Food Policy Analyst
Rebecca Thistlethwaite has spent the last 17 years involved with all facets of sustainable agriculture and the food chain: as a farmworker, food retailer, agricultural researcher, educator, business owner, non-profit manager, and consultant to farms of all sizes.
She holds a B.S. in Natural Resources Management and a M.S. in International Agricultural Development and Agroecology. She is fluent in Spanish. Rebecca previously worked nearly seven years at the well-respected farm incubator ALBA in the Salinas Valley of California where she developed and delivered programs for beginning and more experienced growers as Director of Programs. She also operated a successful pastured livestock and poultry farm business, called TLC Ranch for six years, with her family near Watsonville, California.
Her first book, Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business, a business guide for new and experienced farmers, was published by Chelsea Green Publishing in November 2012. Rebecca currently lives in Oregon near the beautiful Columbia River Gorge with her family of three. She spends free time volunteering, trail running, gardening, raising pigs, and fermenting foods.
Cornucopia Policy Advisory Staff
We are very proud to have some of the most respected thinkers in the organic community and family farm movement among our advisors. In addition to our formal Policy Advisory Panel, dozens of others have generously contributed their time and professional and technical expertise in support of Cornucopia's mission.
Tom Willey, Madera, CA
Organic Vegetable Grower
Tom, with his wife, owns a seventy-five acre farm that is part of the Central San Joaquin Valley in Madera, CA. He has been a farmer since 1980, and T & D Willey Farms has been certified organic since 1987.
Mitch Blumenthal, Sarasota, FL.
Mitch Blumenthal, President and Founder of Global Organic/Specialty Source, Inc., is a resident of Sarasota, Florida. Mitch purchased ten acres of organic farmland in 1995 and continues to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, and specialty items at Blumenberry Farms.
In 1999, he opened Global Organic/Specialty Source, now one of the most significant organic distributorships in the Southeast United States. Celebrating its 15th year in business, the company’s mission is to get organic foods into as many mouths as possible.
Mitch remains involved with the Sarasota based All Faith's Food Bank (as Past Chairman of the Board) and he supports The Manatee Food Bank through major food donations. He is a founding member of the Organic Produce Wholesalers' Coalition (OPWC).
Francis Thicke, Fairfield, Iowa
Organic Dairy Producer
Francis Thicke and his wife, Susan, own and operate an 80-cow, grass-based, organic dairy near Fairfield, Iowa. They process their milk on the farm and sell bottled milk, cheese and yogurt through local grocery stores and restaurants. Francis grew up on a dairy farm and began farming organically in 1975. He has a Ph.D. in soil fertility and has served as National Program Leader for Soil Science for the USDA-Extension Service in Washington, D.C.
Francis has served in many leadership positions, including on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Iowa Food Policy Council, the USDA State Technical Committee and the Organic Farming Research Foundation Board. He has received many awards, including the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award from the Practical Farmers of Iowa, Steward of the Land Award from the Iowa Sierra Club, and Friend of Extension Award from the ISU Extension Service.
Francis has been a Fellow of the Kellogg Food and Society Fellows program (2002 – 2004) and a 2010 candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. His recent book is titled A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture.
Tony Azevedo, San Joaquin Valley, California
Organic Dairy Producer
Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance - President
Tony T. Azevedo is a second generation dairy farmer. He has been farming for 35 years, the last 12 as an Organic producer. Before making the transition to organics, he was a conventional dairy farmer although not satisfied with the practices.
Mr. Azevedo's father was an immigrant from the Azores Island of Portugal. He came to the Central San Joaquin valley in 1948 at the age of 35. Seemingly late to start a new life but determined to create a better life for his daughters and eventually his son. Being a skilled cooper, or barrel maker, he soon discovered there wasn't much work in that trade. He then went to work as a farm hand, gaining the experience necessary to start his own dairy. In 1951, the senior Azevedo went out on his own with about 20 cows.
The San Joaquin Valley was a difficult environment but the Azevedo family, but they successfully dedicated themselves to creating a fertile, sustainable farm.
Tony Azevedo became the first organic dairy producer in central California. He has been instrumental in helping many other families convert to organic practices. He is the current president of the Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.
Michael James was born in New York City in 1942. He was raised in Connecticut on an old onion farm, and while growing up he helped old man Burtche around the farm down the road, feeding livestock and helping with harvesting. He was a member of the 4H club and raised rabbits, muscovy ducks, King pigeons, African Tumbler pigeons, and Bantam chickens.
James was active in sports, playing football at Lake Forest College where he took an interest in politics and social justice issues. In the summer of 1962 he drove a Triumph motorcycle to Mexico City, where he studied at Mexico City College and took photos. An exhibit of these photos, Mexico 1962 has been shown in a number of galleries, and will appear in book form in 2012. James graduated in 1964 and received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, going to the University of California, Berkeley where he studied sociology. There James was involved in the Free Speech Movement, and joined Students for a Democratic Society, of which he became a national officer.
James left school in 1966, heading to Chicago's Uptown to organize poor Southern whites in an attempt to build an interracial movement of the poor with an organization known as JOIN Community Union (Jobs or Income Now).
After the Democractic Convention in 1968, James founded Rising Up Angry, a newspaper and organization of poor and working white people, that allied with the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords Organization, the Young Patriots, and the American Indian Movement, collectively known as the Rainbow Coalition.
In 1976 James founded the now legendary Heartland Cafe, a wholesome foods eatery and community center. The Heartland Cafe (www.heartlandcafe.com) is about serving up Wholesome Food for Mind and Body. In addition to the Heartland Cafe, the enterprise now includes the Buffalo Bar, Heartland General Store, the Redline Tap, the No Exit Cafe, and Heartland Cafe on the Lake—altogether adding to the ambience the unique urban enclave of the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Through his work at the cafe, he recently won an Illinois Stewardship Alliance "Golden Beet" award for bringing local food to Illinois communities.
James is a host of Live from the Heartland Radio (Saturday's at 9 am on WLUW 88.7 (www.wluw.org), is the publisher of The Heartland Journal (www.heartlandjournal.org), a member of the board of Athletes United for Peace (athletesunitedforpeace.org), President of Chicago's 49th Ward Democratic Party Organization, and an actor, appearing in a number of films, including The Package, The Fugitive, Stony Island, Above the Law, Code of Silence, Under Siege, Chain Reaction, and The Guardian.
He is married to Paige James, a "hellova cook,” and is the father of seven wonderful kids!
Jim Gerritsen, along with his wife Megan, is an organic farmer who has owned and operated Wood Prairie Farm in northern Maine for 38 years. Wood Prairie Farm has been a MOFGA-certified organic farm since 1982. The Gerritsens are focused on the production of organic early generation Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, seed crops, vegetables and grain.
In addition to farming, Jim has been active in the organic community with NGOs for four decades. He co-founded and now serves as President of the national farmer-run membership trade organization, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA). OSGATA is headquartered in Washington, Maine and acted as lead plaintiff in the landmark organic community Federal lawsuit, OSGATA et al v. Monsanto. OSGATA's mission is to develop, promote and protect the organic seed trade and its farmers.
In the past, Jim served as President of the educational and research NGO, Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) in Washington State. Additionally, he served for over twenty years on the Certification Committee of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). Last year, Jim helped MOFGA pass the State of Maine’s GMO Labeling law, the second such law passed in the United States. Jim also serves on the MOFGA Ag Services Committee. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the 80-year-old Direct Gardening Association. Jim has served for many years on the Steering Committee of the local St John-Aroostook Resource Conservation & Development Council, formerly an arm of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Jim is co-founder of Slow Food Aroostook and co-founded a local chapter of Organic Crop Improvement Association. He has been a frequent speaker at farmer conferences in the United States and beyond. Jim has cooperated in numerous on-farm research trials with scientists, including those from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Maine. He serves as an advisor to the UMO Northern New England Organic Bread Wheat Project. In October 2011, Jim was named as one of '25 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World' by Utne Reader magazine. In January 2014, Jim was a participant in the week long Agrarian Elders Gathering held in Big Sur, California.
The Gerritsens reside on their farm in the Aroostook County town of Bridgewater with their four children.