Vice President-Lending Manager
As Vice President-Lending Manager at American AgCredit, Allison Paap helps provide financing for all segments of agriculture in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties. With 17 years of experience in agricultural finance, Allison has been an active participant in the Southern California agricultural community. She has had the opportunity to serve on the San Diego County Farm Bureau Board, serve as a member of California Women for Agriculture, and participate in a variety of local conferences and agricultural events. Allison uses her local knowledge and experience to serve as a resource to both young, beginning, and small farmers, and to Southern California farmers developing non-traditional marketing and sales channels. In her spare time, Allison enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters. Allison is a graduate of Arizona State University with a degree in Agribusiness.
Co-Founder and Projects Manager/Development Manager
Huerta del Valle
Arthur has worked in urban and community agriculture since 2008. Originally starting as a student in New York City he built a strong knowledge of community gardening and the necessary organizing required to not only start them but maintain them. From 2008-2011 Levine worked summers at community gardens in NYC and organizing youth service-learning trips to New Orleans to learn and educate about the systemic racial and environmental justice challenges from the events of Hurricane Katrina and the recovery/revitalization process. Spending extended time at Our School at Blair Grocery, a Growing Power ROTC, Levine was not only able to train in sustainable urban agriculture, but was also able to learn how urban farming can be applied as a tool for education, public health, economic development, and organizing. Levine studied at Pitzer College and graduated in 2014 with a degree in Neuroscience and while finishing he BA also collaborated with Pitzer in Ontario, Maria, Alonso, and the city of Ontario to co-found Huerta del Valle. Arthur's work at HdV has resulted in the large urban composting operation, the development of a working urban farm, the development of the community garden and he is currently working with a team to develop educational programming at the farm. Arthur has specialized in the last three years in organizational development and fundraising. He has helped to raise over $2million dollars through grants and partnerships for Huerta del Valle and has acquired access to over 40 acres of land for expanding the Huerta del Valle farm and garden network to a regional reach.
Senior Environmental Health Specialist
Riverside County Department of Environmental Health
Betsy Barone is a senior environmental health specialist with the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health. For over 20 years, she has worked in the District Environmental Services Division, which protects the public health and safety through the regulation and inspection of retail food operations, public pools, and tobacco retailers. She is currently serving as the secretary of the Citrus Chapter of the California Environmental Health Association and is a Master Gardener in the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Master Gardener Program. She received her B.S. at UC Riverside and a Masters of Public Health from Loma Linda School of Public Health. Betsy currently resides in Riverside with her husband Dan, two Boston Terriers and a cat.
Growing Hope Project
Brit Steele is the Systems Architect for the Growing Hope Project that focuses on growing community across educational and economic engagement through STEM, Career-Ready & Life Skills for the underserved which started at San Andreas High School. He is also the Chief Innovation Officer at Night Owl Bay, a Female Minority Owned Marketing Firm for Small Businesses and Economic Development Projects. Prior to this, Brit has been part of launching Non-Profit and Community Initiatives as well as serving as Project and Development Director for several organizations. Brit also has an extensive background in disaster preparedness and response leading out in organizations involved with September 11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike in the United States as well as international development projects in a number of other countries.
His focuses are where quality of life, economic development, and community wealth building intersect.
Christy was a long-time photojournalist starting in her native Kentucky, then in Los Angeles and Seattle. She fell in love with anti-hunger advocacy along the way, and has devoted her professional life to food justice for the past 25 years. Christy founded Hidden Harvest in the Coachella Valley in 2000. Hidden Harvest is produce rescue organization that “rescues” healthy local produce from the fields and packing houses of the Coachella Valley and distributes it free of charge through the local area. Hidden Harvest produce finds itself on the plates of 50,000 on average each month. Hidden Harvest has rescued over 20 million pounds of produce from being wasted in their 20 years of operation. They are the only produce organization in the country who pay their harvesters and do not rely on unskilled farm labor. This professional labor pool has made the phenomenal 20 million pounds of produce possible.
Farmer and Board Member (RFSA)
Twenty years ago, Deborah and her husband took over the family orange grove, started to diversify and converted it to a certified organic operation. It’s been a continual learning process and a wonderful experience. Along the way, they have experimented with all their favorite fruits and vegetables and everything that grows from October to June when they sell their products at farmers markets. In addition to her board positions on the RFSA and Riverside Food Coop, she is a master food preserver, soap maker, beekeeper and recently became a certified produce safety instructor. Still on the wishlist is raising sheep for fiber and learning how to spin wool. When not busy on the farm, Deborah and her family enjoy traveling to exotic places, exploring farmers markets and discovering new varieties to eat and grow.
Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Southwest Regional Extension Associate
Donna Clements has served as the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Southwest Regional Extension Associate since 2015. Based in Riverside, California, Donna’s role with PSA is to offer training courses on the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, provide technical assistance to growers and produce safety educators, and develop educational food safety resources. Before joining PSA she worked at the University of Maryland as a produce safety trainer. Donna's research included studying the effects of production practices and region on the microbial populations of fresh market crops and surveying the microbial quality of Maryland agricultural water sources. Donna's involvement in the fresh produce industry began while working on her family's fruit and vegetable farm. She received both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Plant Science from the University of Maryland.
VP of Marketing
Isaac O'Leary is an advocate of resilient community-run food systems, VP of Marketing for home cook collective Foodnome, and a graduate in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at UC Davis. He believes that equitable access to the food industry is critical for strengthening our communities.
CA Center for Cooperative Development
Luis experience spans many sectors between food, agriculture, and cooperatives. His formative years included studies in Agroecology at UC Berkeley, the Composting Collective worker cooperative, and several organic farms in California. Luis then worked at the Rural Development Center in Salinas, CA to train mixed fruit and vegetable farmers to organize their own cooperative and later became an employee of that cooperative. He gained more experience as a farmers’ market organizer and manager with Everyone’s Harvest (Marina, CA) and Davis Farmers Market. As a cooperative developer, he focuses on helping growers start farms and marketing cooperatives. In his personal life, he’s a member of Dos Pinos Limited Equity Housing Cooperative (and treasurer).
Huerta Del Valle
My name is María Alonso, I'm Mexican, I was born in 1964 and I grew up in a small town called Vista Hermosa, Michoacán. I am the ninth of 18 siblings and also the oldest of my sisters. My origins were very humble; it took a lot of hard work from my parents to grant me my primary studies in my town. I continued my education with secondary and technical studies focused on nursing. At the end of my studies, I offered volunteer services for the Mexican Red Cross. I had the opportunity to work for 3 years in a private hospital in the city of La Barca Jalisco, Mexico. In 1987, I was granted the joy of becoming the mother of one of my three great treasures, for which I thank God. Despite my happiness and the great joy of having my daughter with me, I had to take the courage to redirect my life in another direction. With the pain and lack of love from my family, I took the decision to immigrate to the United States. In October of 1989, I arrived at the city of La Puente, California. My residency in La Puente consisted of living in a modified garage with my brother and 13 other people. Despite everything, I overcame barriers, managed to find work and met my husband who has been a great supporter of my life till today. In 1993, we decided to move to Ontario, California. We created a beautiful home with 2 wonderful children. They have been the reason that has allowed me to start on this amazing path in Community Gardens. Starting in 2010, and still today, in 2018, I feel very humble and completely full filled being the founder of HUERTA DEL VALLE. I am filled with happiness to know that my family and my beautiful community are working towards bettering our health and well-being. It has been a great accomplishment that in the year of 2018, I was nominated by assemblyman Freddy Rodriguez for the woman of the year. With much love and gratitude, I appreciate to the different institutions: City of Ontario, Pitzer College, Kaiser Permanente who have supported us since the beginning of our organization. It is with great satisfaction that I am able to serve my community, always with love.
Santa Monica Downtown Farmer's Market
Mort Bernstein, the longtime manager of the Santa Monica Downtown Farmers' Market, has earned a reputation as a serious, highly professional manager who does not suffer fools gladly. He is thoughtful and intense, with a wry sense of humor, but he can be sarcastic in responding to what he perceives to be inane comments or demands. He cares greatly about market integrity, and over the years he ejected from the market more than half a dozen farmers he believed were selling purchased produce as their own. He devised a system of pennants on poles to identify organic growers at the market and designed a market kiosk at which customers can look up the farming practices used by each grower.
Recycling & Solid Waste Programs - Administrative Analyst
City of Riverside
Olivia Sanchez launched her career in the solid waste and recycling field in 1999, working in both the public and private sector. She had a tremendous opportunity to learn grant management and program implementation in the areas of household hazardous waste, solid waste and recycling program planning/implementation, waste/recycling analysis, school gardening education, composting, marketing, environmental outreach, and education. As her career progressed, she retained those skills and grew them to include franchise contract compliance, green building education, construction/demolition programs, landfill diversion programs, food rescue programs, and legislative compliance.
Operator and Board Member (RFSA)
Scott Berndt - operator of Fox Farm, a 2.5-acre urban farm in Riverside. Scott grew up on a Dairy/beef/grain farm in South Dakota. Moved to California in 1987 and worked in restaurant and Hotel Management until becoming the Food Hub Coordinator for RUSD in 2017. Board member Riverside Food Coop, Riverside Food Systems Alliance, Sherman Indian High School Agricultural Task Force.
Chair (RFSA) and Treasurer (Riverside Food Co-op)
Riverside Food Systems Alliance and Riverside Food Co-op
Sue Struthers is passionate about growing, cooking, sharing, eating, rescuing and talking about food. Sue is the Chair of the Riverside Food Systems Alliance and Treasurer of the Riverside Food Co-op. Sue is a retired librarian and an avid reader.