Bryon has been active with Bay Area child and animal advocacy organizations since 2010 as a volunteer, foster parent for dogs, and as a member of the 2012 Protector’s Circle at the Child Abuse Listening, Interviewing, and Coordination Center (CALICO) in San Leandro, CA. Bryon has spent decades exploring one passion after another, from music to mineralogy, web design to wine making, and many unique points in between (ask him about camels sometime) but the one that never wanes is his interest in plants and self-sufficiency as it pertains to food production. After struggling for many years as a backyard farmer (and loving every challenging minute of it), Bryon has decided the time has come to take on an even bigger challenge and is currently looking for a bigger place to continue his experiments in sustainable agriculture on a larger scale. He hopes to become an active voice in the growing body of work to develop effective methodologies for starting small, owner- and community-operated farms and developing resources specifically designed to help ensure the success of first-time farmers.
Mary Collins aka “Mary from Maryland” has worked with animals ranging from cattle to cheetahs. Working in wildlife conservation made her question its connection to sustainable agriculture, so she joined the Peace Corps to learn first-hand how people farm and eat. In Panama, she worked side-by-side with famers and families to implement sustainable agriculture techniques. She extended a third year to serve as Regional Coordinator, a role in which she served as a bridge between Peace Corps, local government agencies and communities. Currently she is getting a Master of Public Policy at University of California, Berkeley and plans to work with sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation.
Bill’s entire working life has had some connection to the family farm. Growing up, the family farm included a small dairy and farming much of the feed for the dairy herd. Also about 36 acres of walnuts on two separate ranches. About 10 years ago Bill began farming vegetables on about 2 acres carved out of the original family farm using sustainable practices and selling all of the produce locally (within 40 miles of the farm). He sells to restaurants, sold at nearby farmers market for about 6 years, operates a semi-weekly farmstand, and runs a small CSA.
In the past three years Bill hosted two MESA stewards, financially supported by Gustine Rotary Club. Although originally intimidated by the thought of trying to teach valuable lessons on such a small farm, Bill now finds that the small scale of Contented Acres Produce provides working and learning experiences that are often much more useful to stewards from small farms than time spent on larger operations in the U.S. Working with farm stewards and with MESA have cultivated Bill’s passion to continue the spread of information and experience to support small farms and sustainable communities.
Marie earned her B.A. in Sociology with an emphasis in Latin American Studies and a minor in Spanish from Bates College. She has spent extensive time living in the highlands of Ecuador working with a non-profit organization, Ecovida, focused on promoting sustainable agriculture, revaluing indigenous culture and empowering indigenous farmers. Previously, she worked at Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) where she assisted in the coordination of the farmer exchange program and was a liaison with MESA’s global partners. She continues to support and volunteer with MESA and is the fundraising point person in the U.S. for Ecovida.
Marie is dedicated to creating a more socially just and sustainable world. She brings a wealth of experience with international non-profits, sustainable agriculture, program evaluation and project administration as well as knowledge of Latin America to share with MESA. She worked most recently as part of her graduate program at CISabroad, a third party study abroad intern abroad provider. Prior to that, she worked with Fair Trade USA on the Supply Chain Services team on their impact reports. She has lived in Ecuador and Argentina and traveled in Peru, Uruguay, Guatemala, Mali and Italy. She first became involved with MESA in 2004 as an intern and has continued to be a loyal supporter of MESA. She has worked with MESA in a number of different capacities since then, as an assistant program coordinator and conducted an evaluation of MESA’s Ecuador program. On the side she is a Project Manager for Ecovida, an Ecuador-based NGO working to improve the quality of life for Ecuador’s Andean indigenous population through community development and sustainable agriculture. Marie is fluent in Spanish, and received her B.A. in Sociology with an emphasis on Latin America and Spanish from Bates College and her M.A. from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT.
A former MESA Host, organic farmer, and sustainable development consultant, Scott has 32 years of organic agricultural production experience in the United States and Mexico. Scott’s recent project experience includes the restoration and development of an organic agricultural project and education program on a 250-acre historic farm owned by the County of San Diego. Scott designed and built a 15-acre organic farm supplying the boarding high school on site and selling to the Whole Foods stores of Southern California. Scott has served as an elected California Conservation official for the last 12 years managing a $ 3.5 million dollar annual budget for conservation projects in North San Diego County.
Scott serves as the president of the South Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council which covers two-thirds of California’s population. He has worked extensively on conservation projects with the National Resource Conservation Service in California. He specializes in farmland preservation projects utilizing Smart Growth Principles.
Sean Gillon grew up in Iowa interested in the farms, cornfields, and the agricultural product processing industry around him. He began his engagement with sustainable agriculture and food systems managing and interning on small farms and as a produce clerk in cooperative groceries. He has conducted research projects for non-profit organizations working for social justice in food systems and improving opportunities for farmers practicing sustainable agriculture. Currently, Sean is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His dissertation research focuses on the social and ecological dimensions of US Midwestern corn ethanol production. This research examines relationships between corn ethanol production, rural economies, and farmers’ agricultural and conservation practices, as well as analyzes related agricultural and environmental policy. Sean has also co-authored work on the politics of organic food regulation and taught courses on building socially just and ecologically sound food systems. In fall 2011 Sean will join the University of Wisconsin – Madison as a postdoctoral research fellow.
Stef currently works for the National Park Service (NPS) where she is Partnerships Branch Lead at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Prior to joining NPS she worked for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) where she focused on communicating the economic value of restoration and developing new approaches to conservation financing, specifically in California’s workings landscapes. She earned her MBA from Cornell’s Johnson School of Management where she concentrated on the theory and practice of creating competitive business opportunities by addressing social and environmental issues. Prior to business school she worked in corporate public relations in both New York and Amsterdam and specialized in corporate responsibility, diversity, and internal positioning. From 2008-2010 Stef also worked with a start-up travel company, Roadmonkey Adventure Philanthropy, designing volunteer projects with nonprofit partners and co-leading expeditions. She has a B.A. in international relations and government from Harvard University.