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Brandi 2016 2

Brandi Mack is a mother of three beautiful daughters,  a  Holistic Health Educator, Therapeutic Massage Therapist,  Trauma Informed Youth developer , Powerful Presenter and  Permaculture Designer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Service Management, and a certification from Star hawk’s Earth Activist Training.   Brandi has worked and trained  in holistic health  and ecological sustainability with youth and adults for over 15 years.

Brandi currently is the National Director of The Butterfly Movement  where we are committed to healing the wounds of our Soul (through Rebuilding and Re Framing our emotional selves), planting a Seed of faith as we Regenerate and Reconnect our hearts and our hands to the earth, leading ultimately to manifestation in the Soil of our Reactivated lives!

Currently, Brandi serves on the following boards:  The Northern America Permaculture Magazine ,  Northern California Resilience Network and the Northern California Women in Permaculture.



Maria Catalán has been an organic farmer for almost two decades. The 3rd generation in her family to carry on the farming tradition, her deep agricultural roots are based in Guerrero, Mexico. Her grandfather and father first came to the U.S. in the 60s as Bracero contract laborers, and Maria herself would follow their footsteps in the 1980s to work on California farms picking broccoli, peppers, and carrots.

 With generations of farming experience under her belt, Maria went on to become the 1st recognized female farm laborer to become a farm owner in the U.S.. Maria enjoys organic agriculture because it is healthy, sustainable, and allows you to see the fruits of your labor. Maria feels that by farming organically she can share with others not only a product but a farm experience, something that is impossible to share through conventional agriculture. –Mandela Marketplace



Ari de Lena. As a queer, mixed filipina farmer, I’m inspired by the ways that growing food can be an act of resilience and resistance. After a decade of doing environmental and food justice work around the country, I moved back to the Pacific Northwest to grow food and build my community here. Building Kamayan Farm is an experiment. It is driven by a vision to (re)connect my communities with land and to collaboratively share our cultural stories through food and medicine.



Willow Summer grew up in West Sonoma County, where she began her love of farming by planting an annual veggie garden with her Dad. Throughout her high school years she worked on a small organic farm, learning the ropes of production market farming. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from University of Oregon, Willow moved to the Bay Area in 1997.  From that time until 2008, Willow worked to strengthen local economies and improve community food access with a variety of organizations including the Women’s Initiative for Self Employment; Food First—the Institute for Food and Development Policy; the Organic Consumers Association; Berkeley Region Exchange and Development; and The West Oakland Neighborhood Improvement Initiative. In 2000 Willow founded City Slicker Farms, a non-profit urban farming project. In 2008, Willow successfully shepherded City Slicker Farms into a new phase of organizational development, passing management on to a new generation of community leaders.

After leaving City Slicker Farms, Willow started a small weekly subscription CSA in North Berkeley, taught urban gardening, and consulted with various groups to implement urban farming strategies. In 2011 Willow received her teaching credential in Waldorf Education, which brings an understanding of human development and Biodynamic practices to her farm and garden teaching. From 2013-2016 Willow led an urban farming intensive training for young adults at Berkeley’s Urban Adamah farm. Her how-to book “The Essential Urban Farmer”, co-authored by Novella Carpenter, was published by Penguin Press in 2011, and her forthcoming book “Growing Sustainable Children”, co-authored by Ronni Sands, will be released in September, 2017. Willow and her husband Lew, are currently beginning a new Biodynamic educational farm on a ranch near Bodega.



Megan Orpwod-Russell is the newest member of the La Cocina family, and is the Conference and Storytelling Project Manager. Raised in rural England where she was taught to grow her own fruit and vegetables, Megan took on the cooking duties in her family when she was 9 and has been bringing people together through food ever since. Megan studied English Literature, and continued on to do an MA in Creative Writing, both of which led (perhaps unsurprisingly) to communications roles. She organized academic symposia at the London Zoo and coordinated large scale literary festivals before moving to the US and working as a Marketing Director for a circus school. Megan is driven by stories, and by elevating voices who are often unheard. She has been working as a freelance writer and activist for several years, and is excited to bring diverse communities together through the La Cocina Conference to discuss how we make cities equitable through food businesses.


La Cocina storytelling-entrepreneurs joining us for the symposium include:

Stephanie Fields Sugarfoot Grits(photo by Matt Thomas)

Stephanie Fields of Sugarfoot Grits, a Southern comfort catering company & pop-up.


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Aileen Suzara of Sariwa Kitchen. Sariwa means “Fresh” in Tagalog. Our flavors come from the land of salt and coconut. Our menus reflect a deep love for the land and our agricultural roots. Join us as we gather community around the table and share vibrant Filipino cuisine.


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Monica Martinez of Don Bugito. Don Bugito, the Prehispanic Snackeria, is a San Francisco based company focused on planet-friendly protein snacks, featuring delicious edible insects in savory and sweet flavors. Born at La Cocina, Don Bugito focuses on treats inspired by Pre-Columbian Mexican cuisine and is always working toward re-inventing ancestral food.

Our mission is to feature and share the amazing quality of food native to the American continent. We conduct educational workshops within our communities in order to educate people about sustainable food practices and its health benefits.



Ariel Greenwood is a first generation rancher. For seven years she farmed and gardened in contexts ranging from rural farms to college and corporate campuses. In 2014, inspired by what she was learning about soil, climate, and animal management, she pursued pastoralism. For 2 1/2 years she learned about cattle and grassland restoration while living and grazing a research preserve in the Maycamas hills, and this year she was hired as Grazing Manager for Freestone Ranch, a privately owned and conservation-focused series of landbases in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. Ariel also manages the orchards at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and is passionate about agriculture oriented towards ecological and social restoration.


Renata head shot

Renata Brillinger is the co-founder and Executive Director of the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN). She has two decades of experience in sustainable agriculture policy and food systems projects and has held numerous non-profit administrative positions since 1992. Prior to CalCAN, she was Program Director at the Climate Protection Campaign, focused on renewable energy and on agriculture.



Doniga Markegard, author of Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild and regenerative rancher, brings a perspective rooted in nature. She has a background in wildlife tracking and permaculture. In her youth she was mentored by some of the leading wildlife trackers, naturalists and Native spiritual elders. She spent years alone and with a small group of passionate youth in the Western Washington Wilderness learning the ways of the ancestors, immersing in nature, bird language, survival skills and wildlife tracking.

Along with her husband and four children, Doniga owns and operates Markegard Family Grass-Fed LLC raising grass-fed beef, lamb, pastured pork, chicken and dairy supplying the Bay Area with local, nutrient dense foods. The family ranch leases coastal ranches throughout the Bay Area spanning over 10,000 acres.

She is dedicated to finding ways to regenerate lands and community through ranching practices that build soil, sequester carbon, capture and purify water and enhance habitat.


Miriam Volat founded the Farm School at the Permaculture Skills Center to plant successful ecological farms. Miriam works personally and professionally to promote health in all systems.  She is a small farm advocate, a community organizer and a researcher. She facilitates complex multi-party processes concerning food, agriculture and water systems focusing on the intersection of biological, political and socio-cultural diversity. She has an M.S. in Vegetable Crops from UC Davis with an emphasis in Soil Ecology and Nutrient Cycling. Her academic research has focused both on preventing nitrogen pollution to groundwater from non-point agricultural sources and small farm viability. Miriam is also a Policy Project Manager at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, where she lives with her 13 year old daughter, serves on the Boards of Sonoma Counties’ Daily Acts Organization and the Reach Athena Project and directs the Ecological and Bio-Cultural funding for a small family foundation.



Thea is a facilitator, farmer, educator, and artist, with roots in California and the Midwest. She is Co-Director of the Biodynamic Association and also holds several other roles including Biodynamic Education, Conference Weaver, People, and Teal Implementer. She lives in the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma County, California, and frequently visits other parts of the world. Her diverse experience includes farming biodynamic and organic vegetables, fruit and flowers; teaching gardening, nutrition, and beekeeping; designing, building and managing urban community and educational gardens; and organizing strategic communications training programs for nonprofit leaders. Since 2011, she has played a key role in developing the Biodynamic Association’s educational offerings, planning and implementing the biennial North American Biodynamic Conference, and exploring new ways to manage and evolve the organization. Thea earned a B.S. in Earth Systems from Stanford University, a permaculture design certificate from Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and is trained in the Art of Hosting and consensus facilitation. Besides growing food, making compost, and helping others to do both, she loves to hike, play her cello, throw pottery, cook, read, and spend time with her family and many beloved friends.


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Chavely Casimiro Rodríguez, 22 years old, was born and raised on her family’s farm “La Finca del Medio” on Cuba. Over the last two decades, she has helped turned their degraded landscape into a self-sustaining system of life and nourishment in the countryside, growing all their family’s food and producing 84% of their energy from the use of renewable energy sources. La Finca del Medio mixes agroecological traditions with technological innovations to increase efficiency and advance socioecological resilience on a community scale. Chavely is also an experienced painter and artist.



Amira Diamond joined Melinda as WEA’s Co-Director in 2007 to expand WEA’s programs, build the WEA team and create a community of support for its work. Active within the NGO community for over 20 years, she has worked for community health, environmental and food justice, LGBTQ, and women’s rights, directing organizations like Julia Butterfly Hill’s Circle of Life and Democracy Matters. She graduated from Colgate University with a degree in Women’s Studies, studied Women and Development at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, and attended Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley.  She holds certification as a Holistic Health Counselor and brings a holistic approach to all aspects of WEA’s organizational design.  Amira’s deepest inspiration comes from her two young sons, and her family of musicians, artists and dedicated community organizers.  In her spare time she plays the violin and directs the Social Prophet Choir.



Hedda Brorstrom, owner and farmer/florist of Full Bloom Flower Farm,  lives for flowers. Interest in agoecology took hold from a young age having grown up in agricultural rich Sonoma County. Hedda completed her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in Conservation and Resource Studies specializing in urban food landscapes and garden education. She worked in San Francisco for six years as a garden teacher and coordinator in the school system and at the Academy of Sciences. She holds a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz where her love for flowers grew out of control. Hedda also earned a certificate in herbalism from the California School of Herbal Studies and makes a line of herbal products. Hedda is a founding member of the North Bay Flower Collective.



Rosalie Z. Fanshel is a printmaker, illustrator, and textile artist. Her artistic and scholarly interests include representations of gender and sexuality in the food movement. Rosalie has spent over 15 years on (and in) the ground of the food movement in Northern California, Japan, and Australia. When not on the printing press, she is program manager at the Berkeley Food Institute, University of California, Berkeley. You can see her work at www.rosaliezfanshel.com