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Instructor Bios

2019 Instructor Bios

Alyssa Sacora
The Patchwork Underground
HALF DAY WORKSHOPS: “Making Paper With Appalachian Plants”

Alyssa Sacora is a maker that explores plant-based mediums in the form of papermaking, book arts, basketry and natural dyes. She finds inspiration and innovation in the garden. Her homestead and art studio, The Patchwork Underground, is in Fairview, NC.


Amy Landers
Gardens That Matter
POLLINATORS: “Gardens That Matter: Sharing Our Landscape with Pollinators”

Amy Landers is a nature nerd, garden writer, educator, mom, and co-owner of Gardens that Matter, helping families create gardens full of food. She wrote The Happy Garden Guide to Composting and leads classes to help others get started.



Angie Lavezzo
Sow True Seed
GARDENING: “Holistic Gardening”

As a gardener for over 20 years and a seed saver for 10 of those years, the magic of a sprouting seed is still Angie Lavezzo’s favorite thing. Her job as General Manager for Sow True Seed gives her a perfect outlet for her passion for seeds and plants. She is a farmer, beekeeper, maker of things, and an avid reader.



Ayanava Majumbar
Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University
FARMING – EXPERIENCED (Sunday Only): “Integrated Pest Management Techniques for the Market Farm”
GARDENING: “Easy Pest Management for the Garden”

Dr. Ayanava Majumdar is an Extension Entomologist for Integrated Pest Management with 18 years experience. He is the State Coordinator for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and the Beginning Farmer Programs funded by USDA-NIFA.



Ben Harper
Asheville Tool Library
THINKING BIG: “Taking the Maker & Sharing Economies to the Next Level”

Ben Harper is a co-founder and board member of the Asheville Tool Library and Sales Rep for Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. His has built Earthships, toured with the Sustainable Living Roadshow, and blockaded Monsanto’s global HQ with GMO art cars.



Bill Whipple
Acornucopia Project

Bill Whipple began his agricultural career as an apple picker at the age of 18, which has led to lifelong passion for growing fruits and nuts. He orchards in WV and Asheville and teaches horticultural skills to new enthusiasts through the Buncombe Fruit Nut club, Barkslip’s fruit school, and the Nutty Buddy Collective.


Brent Wills
Bramble Hollow Farm
POULTRY: “Pountry for Profit”

Brent Wills and his family have been working to improve soil fertility on their farm in Virginia since 2004. They use managed livestock rotations, heritage livestock breeds, composts, and manures to enhance production and diversity on their pasture-based operation.



Byron Ballard
HOMESTEADING: “Happy, Healthy Homesteading 101”

Byron Ballard is a WNC native, witch, folklorist, urban homesteader, and writer. Her most recent book Earth Works: Ceremonies in Tower Time explores cultural collapse. She is now writing The Ragged Wound: Salving the Soul of Appalachia.



Callie Casteel
A Greener World
COMMUNITY FOOD: “Understanding the Labeling Landscape”

Callie Casteel is the Southeast Farmer and Market Outreach Coordinator for A Greener World. She is passionate about connecting sustainable farms with new markets and teaching consumers about the intrinsic connections between animal health, environmental health, and human health.


Cathy Cleary
The Southern Harvest Cookbook
COOKING: “Value Added Southern Harvest”

Cathy Cleary is a cook, baker, gardener, event planner, and, author of The Southern Harvest Cookbook and The West End Bakery and Cafe Cookbook. She co-founded FEAST, which empowers youth and families through hands on cooking and gardening education.



Chad Miano
Miano Horse Powered Logging
SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY: “Horse Powered Logging”

Chad Miano, from Dungannon, VA, has traveled as far as Sweden to hone his craft of horse powered logging. He and his family manage forestland for clients throughout Southern Appalachia, and strive to be conscious stewards of Appalachian woodlands.

Chavo Krenek
Sugar Hollow Solar, Inc.
SUSTAINABLE LIVING (Saturday Only): “Solar Power for Home & Farm”

Chavo Krenek is the Director of Operations and Managing Partner with Sugar Hollow Solar, a local full-service solar installation company. His degree is in Appropriate Technology from Appalachian State University, and has worked in solar for the past 4 years.



Chloe Lieberman
Bittersweet Farm
COOKING: “Whole Food Nutrition”

Chloe Lieberman and her family tend a diverse homestead/farm where they raise about 80% of their food. She is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and a cook. She sees food and nutrition as a day-to-day opportunity to remember the mutual reciprocity that exists between humans and the living world.


Chris Link
Adaptive Design
SUSTAINABLE LIVING: “Small Scale Black Soldier Fly Production”

Chris Link manages operations at the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Community Farm, working to grow the Beginning Farmer Incubator Program while managing the varied projects and infrastructure. He holds a degree in landscape architecture from Clemson University and PDC from The Permaculture Institute.



Chris Smith
Sow True Seed
HOMESTEADING: “Seed to Stem: Using the Whole Plant”

Chris Smith is an enthusiastic grower and permaculturalist from a green-thumbed family. He has immersed himself into the world of seed and southern growing. On his urban homestead, Chris is experimenting with landraces, selective seed saving, crop trials, grow outs and edible seed oils. Chris works for Sow True Seed.


Christian K. Marr
MUSHROOMS: “Mycelium for Healthy Land”

Christian Marr is a mycology teacher, cultivator, researcher, and overall myconaut! He leads mushroom clubs, hosts workshops, facilitates sustainability and community projects incorporating fungi, consults on mycoremediation and fungi as a medicine. He currently works with Mushroom Mountain doing mycoremediation.


Christina Bouza
THINKING BIG: “Nature’s Recipie for Cultural Wellness, Healing & Resilience”

Christina Bouza is a food justice activist, permaculturist, holistic chef, founder (and owner 2010-2016) of Cubana Social, a Brooklyn, NY organic restaurant, leader of mindful social justice retreats, natural burial advocate, artist, musician, lover of wilderness and diversity, and Cuban-American.



Christina Gordon
Fun Frolic Farm
HALF DAY WORKSHOPS: “Beginning Cheese Making”

Christina Gordon is the founder and director of Women’s Wilderness Workshops in Canton NC. She and her partner own and operate Fun Frolic Farm, an Animal Welfare Approved dairy goat farm with a luxurious line of goat milk soaps and lotions. She has been teaching sustainable, homesteading and primitive skills since 2003.



Chuck Mashburn
Mill Gap Farm
SOILS: “DIY Soil Solutions”

Chuck Mashburn has been learning and practicing organic vegetable production for 22 years. His top priority is to learn, practice, and share effective, affordable, and truly sustainable growing methods.



Cornelia Cho, MD
Mushroom Club of Georgia
MUSHROOMS: “Medicinal Mushrooms”

Cornelia Cho is a practicing pediatrician, mushroom club president, educator and life-long explorer of the many paths to healing. She loves growing, preserving, fermenting, foraging, and cooking food as well as finding waste solutions, reclaiming traditional foodways and advocating food justice.


Dallas Robinson
The Harriet Tubman Freedom Farm
COMMUNITY FOOD: “Gaying the Garden: Cultivating Empowering Spaces for the LGBTQ+ Community on Land”

Dallas Robinson is a budding farmer, a lover of cats, and a racial justice activist. She is dedicated to healing the relationship of Black Southerners to land stewardship and agriculture. She is studying holistic farm management with OGS Farm Beginnings.


Doug Elliott
Possum Productions
EARTH SKILLS: “Woodslore & Wildwoods Wisdom”

Doug Elliott is a naturalist, herbalist, storyteller, basket maker, back-country guide, philosopher, and harmonica wizard. He has broad, practical, scientific and cultural knowledge of the area’s many useful wild plants and interesting critters. He has authored five books, and a number of award winning recordings, and is seen on PBS-TV.



Eileen Schaeffer, NTP & Amy Wright, NTP
Herb Girls Athens
HERBS: “Bitters for Better Digestion”

Amy Wright & Eileen Schaeffer work together in their new business, Herb Girls Athens; their mission is to reconnect their community with healing foods and herbal medicine by providing nutritional therapy consults, education, and high-quality, handcrafted herbal products.



Emily Ogburn
North Carolina State University
POLLINATORS (Saturday Only): “Eat, Prey, Bug!”

Emily Ogburn is a research associate at NC State with a research focus on the biocontrol of brown marmorated stink bugs. As an ecologist, she has researched a variety of animals from spotted owls, to fish, to parasitoid wasps.



Evan Chender
The Culinary Gardener
FARMING – BEGINNING: “Finding Your Niche: Developing a Farm Business with a Focused Market”

Evan Chender, a farmer and former chef, runs The Culinary Gardener, a one-acre intensive vegetable farm in Weaverville, NC. He grows over 200 varieties of crops per year and markets directly to restaurants in Asheville and Atlanta.



Indy Srinath
Southside Community Garden
PERMACULTURE (Saturday Only): “Diverse & Inclusive Permaculture: Cultivating Diversity Beyond the Landscape”

Indy Srinath is an avid homesteader, forager, educator, herbalist, and food justice activist. She manages the Southside Community Garden and is the resident herbalist at Eagle Rock Farm in Swannanoa where she specializes in medicinal mushroom cultivation.


Ira Wallace
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
GARDENING: “Collards: A Rich Southern Culinary & Garden Tradition”

Ira Wallace, author of Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast, is a Master Gardener and a worker/owner of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. She serves on the boards of Organic Seed Alliance and the Virginia Association for Biological Farming.


Isa Whitaker
Bountiful Cities
COMMUNITY FOOD: “Community Gardens for Good”

Isa Whitaker is a father, husband, poet, and Community Garden Network Coordinator with Bountiful Cities. He brings awareness of daily food and nature choices enhancing well-being. He has an AA degree, Doctor of Naturopathy diploma, and is a graduate of Green Opportunities.


Geoffrey Steen
Raven Ridge Farmscapes
HALF DAY WORKSHOPS: “Growing Fruit & Nut Trees”

Geoffrey Steen is an agro-forester, educator, farmer, orchardist, designer, and installer who has recently been involved in planting more than 15 acres of multi-specie orchards and silvo-pastures in three states. His style of instruction is engaging and helps people gain confidence to take action. He lives with his family in Marshall.



Jacob Crigler & Kara Dodson
Full Moon Farm
SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY: “Sawmilling on the Homestead”

Jacob Crigler and Kara Dodson own Full Moon Farm, an organic produce farm near Boone, NC. Jacob has forestry and woodworking skills including sustainable logging, sawmill operation, and construction. Kara works with draft horses to log and till in the garden.


Jason Contreras
Sow the Land
HOMESTEADING: “Digital Skills for the Homesteader”

Jason Contreras and his wife document their homestead journey on their YouTube channel and ‘General Store’, Sow the Land. They use their online presence to market goods for land-based living, including herbal products, tools, and artistic and functional fine woodwork.



Jeff Mattocks
POULTRY: “Nutrition, Feeds & Feeding of Your Flock”

Jeff Mattocks educates farmers about sustainable husbandry practices to increase animal health, productivity and income from poultry and livestock. With over 20 years experience, he hosts local farmer meetings and conducts field trials on controversial feeding methods.



Jeffrey Gottlieb
HALF DAY WORKSHOPS: “Kudzu Vine Basketry”

Jeffrey Gottlieb has been a naturalist, educator, craftsman and primitive skills practitioner for more than 30 years. He is the author of three books on primitive skills and teaches nationally at primitive skills gatherings.


Jill Sidebottom
NC Cooperative Extension
POLLINATORS (Sunday Only): “Getting to Know Your Pollinators”

Jill Sidebottom has 29 years of experience helping Christmas tree growers and landowners safely control pests using integrated pest management. Her emphasis has been on practical approaches to scouting for pests and understanding the biology and ecology of pests and their natural controls.



Jim Adkins
The Sustainable Poultry Network
POULTRY: “Introduction to Sustainable Poultry”

Jim Adkins has worked with poultry for over 35 years, raised over 50 standard bred varieties, and teaches workshops throughout the world. He founded the Sustainable Poultry Network USA in 2010. He speaks, instructs, and mentors poultry enthusiasts across the US.



Jim Hamilton, PhD
SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY: “Establishing & Managing Ginseng on Your Farm Forest”

Jim Hamilton, Extension Director for Watauga County, has been hunting, planting, transplanting, consuming, and teaching about wild-simulated ginseng for six years. He holds a PhD in Forestry from NC State and is an adjunct instructor at Appalachian State University.


Joe Candillo, PhD
EARTH SKILLS: “Traditional Agriculture in Native American Spirituality & Culture” THINKING BIG: “Sacred Space: Traditional Native American Perspective about Land & Environment”

Joe Candillo is a tribally enrolled member of the Pascua Yaqui Indian Tribe of Arizona. He holds a Ph.D. in American Studies with a concentration on Indigenous Studies, an MA in American Indian Studies, and an undergraduate degree in Anthropology.


John Henry Nelson
Stone & Spade
FARMING – EXPERIENCED: Panelist, “Practical Tools for Disease Management” (Sunday Only)
SUSTAINABLE LIVING: “Permaculture Principles of Homestead Water Management”

John Henry Nelson is a native of WNC and owns Stone and Spade a permaculture design and installation company with a focus on Earthworks and water harvesting systems. He has spent the last 25 years cultivating his relationship with design, agriculture and construction.



Johnny Rogers
North Carolina State University
LIVESTOCK: “Animal Breeding 101”

Johnny Rogers owns Rogers Cattle Company in Roxboro, NC. He and his wife raise Red Angus cattle, Katahdin Hair Sheep, and forest finished pork. Johnny works for NCSU’s Amazing Grazing Program, which allows him to combine pastured livestock with education.



John Todd
John Todd Ecological Design
THINKING BIG: “The Quality of Water = The Quality of Life: Restoring Waters for Planetary Healing”

Dr. John Todd has been a pioneer in ecological design for nearly five decades. He is the founder of John Todd Ecological Design. In 2007 he was named a top 100 visionary of the 20th century by “Resurgence & Ecologist” magazine.



Jonathan Todd
John Todd Ecological Design
THINKING BIG: “The Quality of Water = The Quality of Life: Restoring Waters for Planetary Healing”

Jonathan Todd is an ecological designer. He has overseen the development and design of many of John Todd Ecological Design’s most successful projects. Jonathan is located on the west coast and is focused on addressing the most pressing water issues there.



Karen Johnston
POULTRY: “Designing Systems for Fowl”

Karen Johnston is proud to be a Certified Breeder in the Sustainable Poultry Network USA. She is a life-long animal lover, Vet Tech, and boarding facility owner. Karen got her first chickens in 2013 and now breeds Black Australorp and Rhode Island Red chickens.



Kim Bailey
Milkweed Meadows Farm
POLLINATORS: “Seed, Flower, Fruit, Repeat: Full Circle Pollinator Gardening”

Kim has worked as an environmental educator for over 20 years. She first visited the monarch overwintering sanctuaries in Mexico in 2002 and has since co-led several trips to the area. She now grows milkweed, flowers, fruits, and vegetables at her family’s farm in Fruitland, NC.



Laura Lengnick
Cultivating Resilience
SOILS: “Carbon Farming for Climate Resilience”

Laura Lengnick is an award-winning soil scientist who has explored agricultural sustainability for more than 30 years as a researcher, policy-maker, educator, and farmer. She owns Cultivating Resilience, a private firm offering resilience planning services and her book, Resilient Agriculture, examines issues of climate change, resilience, and the future of food.



Leif Olson
MUSHROOMS: “Fungi 101”

Leif Olson, an environmental scientist and mushroom cultivator, focuses on organic “waste” utilization, low-tech bioremediation, low input soil enhancement, and dynamic relationships between fungi and environments. He is currently developing environmental restoration systems and researching interactions between fungi with contaminants.



Lindsey Jacobs
FARMING – EXPERIENCED (Sunday Only): “Navigating Farm Labor”

Lindsey Jacobs is an attorney and organizer who is living and working in Greenville, South Carolina. She regularly advises small farmers in North and South Carolina with a focus on cooperative agriculture and barriers to land access.



Luke Cannon
Astounding Earth
EARTH SKILLS: “Wonderous Wild Edibles of Southern Appalachia”

More than a botanist, Luke Cannon is an avid naturalist, long-time learner, and teacher of our astounding natural world. Luke offers regular classes in WNC on plants, birds, insects, lichens, and fungi. He has great enthusiasm for building closer relationships with the wilds around us.



Mari Stuart
Project Grounded
HOMESTEADING: “Urban Land-Based Living”

Mari Stuart is an ecological designer, teacher, and urban homesteader. She is the founder of Project Grounded, which helps people to connect with regenerative agriculture through their daily lives. Formerly, she was a college professor of Asian religions and environmental ethics.



Marissa Percoco
COOKING: “Wild Mead Making”
HALF DAY WORKSHOPS: “Vegetable Ferments”

Marissa Percoco is an avid fermentation enthusiast who spent the last eight years exploring fermented cultures, local plants, and their synergy. Traveling throughout the US, with her four amazingly adventurous children, Marissa has gathered cultures and recipes from far and wide.




Mark Dempsey
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
SOILS: “Soils 101”

Mark Dempsey is the Farm Services Coordinator at Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, helping farmers implement conservation practices and transition to organic production. His background is in soil microbiology, weed science, and cover crop research.



Matthew Bennett
Sundance Power Systems
SUSTAINABLE LIVING (Sunday Only): “Solar Power for Home & Farm”

Hailing from Athens, Ohio, with 22 years of solar experience, Matthew Bennett joined Sundance Power Systems in 2014. Previously, he founded Dovetail Solar & Wind and became a NABCEP Certified PV Installer in 2003; he has designed and installed hundreds of Solar PV systems. He enjoys hiking, paddling, playing Ultimate and working on his homestead in Madison County.



Marc Williams
Plants & Healers International
HERBS: “Opportunities & Challenges with Exotic Invasives”

Marc Williams is a teacher, ethnobiologist, and executive director of Plants & Healers International and has traveled in all 50 states of the USA & 29 countries pursuing biological knowledge. He has an Environmental Studies B.A. and an M.A. in Sustainable Development.



Marianne Martinez
Vecinos Farmworker Health Program
FARMERS – EXPERIENCED (Sunday Only): “Navigating Farm Labor” (PANELIST)

Marianne Martinez is the Executive Director of Vecinos Farmworker Health Program, the primary care provider for farmworkers and their families in the 8 western counties of NC. She grew up on a family farm in WNC.



Mary Ann Smith
Valley View Worms & Produce
SOILS: “Earthworms for Living Soil”

Mary Ann Smith is a supplier of composting worms, vermicompost, worm tea and organically grown produce to various Western NC businesses and farmers’ markets. She’s also an educator about sustainable farming practices in WNC. She lives in Waynesville, NC.



Meagan Coneybeer Roberts
Western Piedmont Community College
HALF DAY WORKSHOPS: “Equipment Operation & Maintenance For Women”

Meagan Coneybeer Roberts has led the Sustainable Agriculture Program at Western Piedmont Community College since 2011. She focuses on the production of organic small grains, heirloom crops, heritage breed livestock, agricultural machinery maintenance and operation, and field crop production.



Megan D. Naylor
Wild Mountain Farm & Mountain Goatscapes
FARMERS – EXPERIENCED (Saturday Only): “Surviving the Winter: Growing & Selling Storage Crops”

Megan Naylor is a lead farmer and co-owner at Wild Mountain Farm, a bio dynamic family farm based in the valley of Barnardsville, NC. She raises heritage breeds of cattle, goats, pigs and chickens on rotational pasture and in the woods.



Meredith Leigh
Mereleigh Foods
LIVESTOCK: “Conscious Omnivory: Buying & Growing Meat”

Meredith Leigh has, over the past 17 years, worked as a consultant, farmer, butcher, chef, educator, non-profit director, shop owner, co-op founder, food activist, and writer, all in pursuit of sustainable food and the reimagining of mindful foodways. She is the author of Ethical Meat Handbook, and the forthcoming Pure Charcuterie.



Natalie Bogwalker
Wild Abundance
PERMACULTURE: “Permaculture Plants of the Southern Mountains & Beyond”

Natalie Bogwalker practices and shares skills she considers vital to humanity’s future. She is the founder and director of Wild Abundance, a school focused on skills empowering adults and teens in using permaculture, primitive skills, organic gardening, wild foods and medicine, and farmsteading.



Natilee McGruger
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
COMMUNITY FOOD: “Sowing the Seeds of Racial Equity”

Natilee McGruder serves as the Educational Program Coordinator for Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. She is an alumna of the University of Alabama School of Law and the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, and enjoys facilitating difficult and important conversations.



Niki Irving
Flourish Flower Farm
FARMING – BEGINNING: “Introduction to Flower Farming”

Niki Irving is a flower farmer, florist, and owner of Flourish Flower Farm in Asheville. She focuses on growing specialty and heirloom cut flowers using sustainable and natural practices and creates lush, seasonally-inspired floral designs for weddings and special events.



Noelle Fuller
HERBS (Sunday Only): “Botanical Skincare”
HALF DAY WORKSHOPS: “Cultivating Medicinal Herbs”

Noelle Fuller has a Certificate of Herbal Medicine and an M.S. in Horticulture. Her research focused on holy basil. She now serves as the director of the medicinal herb program at UGArden, a demonstration farm at the University of Georgia.



Osker Brown
Glorious Forest Farm
LIVESTOCK: “Silvopasture in the Mountains”

Osker Brown manages Glorious Forest Farm where he develops wild staple foods (acorns and hazelnuts), silvopasture and coppice systems, and diverse ground forages, all which mimic healthy native ecosystems. His family, and their forested livestock live in rural Madison County.


Pam Dawling
Twin Oaks Community
FARMING – BEGINNING: “Sustainable Farming Practices”

Pam Dawling has lived at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia for 27 years, growing vegetables for 100 people on 3.5 acres, training members in sustainable vegetable production. Her first book Sustainable Market Farming is widely used and her new book The Year-Round Hoophouse is now available.



Patricia Kyritsi Howell
BotanoLogos School of Herbal Studies
HERBS: “Everything You Need to Know About Ginger & Turmeric”

Patricia Kyritsi Howell, author of Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians, has been a practicing herbalist for over 25 years. She is founder of the BotanoLogos School of Herbal Studies in the mountains of northeast Georgia.



Peter Bane
The Permaculture Handbook
PERMACULTURE: “My Permaculture Journey”

Peter Bane is the author of The Permaculture Handbook and publisher of the Permaculture Activist magazine from 1990-2015. He helped create Earthaven Ecovillage in Western North Carolina, pioneered suburban farming in Bloomington, Indiana, and is now living in rural Michigan.



“Pork” Rhyne Cureton
FARMERS — BEGINNING: “The Regenerative Revolution”

Rhyne Cureton AKA “Pork Rhyne,” is a domestic and international small farms swine educator who speaks on topics related to niche pig farming, increasing youth and diversity in agriculture, environmental awareness, and consumer engagement. Rhyne is a graduate of NC A&T.



Rachel Shopper
EARTH SKILLS: “Cordage 101”

Rachel Shopper is an outdoor educator, naturalist, and poet. She studied nature connection and earth skills at the Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, WA. She currently lives in Leicester, NC, and studies counseling at Western Carolina University.



Randal & Cassie Pfleger
Pfleger Pfarms
PERMACULTURE (Sunday Only): “Garden, Landscape, & Nursery: Three Integrated Enterprises Through a Permaculture Lens”

Cassie and Randal Pfleger are owner-operators of Pfleger Pfarms in Mars Hill, NC. The farm has four main enterprises: construction, landscape, nursery, and produce. They have grown food together since meeting at Appalachian State University in 2003.



Rhonda Sherman
North Carolina State University
SUSTAINABLE LIVING: “Trash to Treasure: Managing Waste for Income”

Rhonda Sherman is an extension specialist at NC State, Director of the Compost Learning Lab, and author of The Worm Farmer’s Handbook. She just held her 19th Vermiculture Conference, the only annual training on larger-scale vermicomposting in the world.



Richard Boylan
NC Cooperative Extension
FARMING – EXPERIENCED (Saturday Only): “Surviving the Winter: Growing & Selling Storage Crops”

Richard Boylan is the Area Extension Agent in the Watauga and New River Headwaters region, supporting diversified and sustainable agriculture and the success of local farms. He teaches the Permaculture Design Curriculum at Appalachian State University, and grows garlic and other crops as the owner and operator of Otus Branch Farm.



Sarah McKinney
Honey & The Hive
POLLINATORS: “Beginning Beekeeping in Today’s World”

Sarah McKinney is “kept by the bees.” As owner/beekeeper of Honey & The Hive and Old World Honey, she cares for anywhere from 80-150 hives. Storyteller and instructor, Sarah is enchanted by the magic of the bees and is known locally as the “Bee Whisperer.”



Sharon & Seth Dubuc
Black Thorn Farm & Kitchen
LIVESTOCK: “Rotational Shepherding”

Sharon and Seth Dubuc are shepherds and chefs on a small farm in Big Sandy Mush, NC. They tend a flock of mixed breed wool sheep from which they harvest meat, wool and sheepskins. They sell meat to farmstay guests.



Sunil Patel
Patchwork Urban Farms
COOKING: “Foundations of Indian Cooking”

Farmer, permaculturalist, and food thought-leader, Sunil Patel has studied natural farming methods throughout the U.S. including 4-season biodynamic vegetables, managing a grass-fed dairy, making artisanal raw milk cheese, natural building, and helping maintain permaculture sites. He lives in Asheville where he launched Patchwork Urban Farms in 2014.


Tarinii Shanai
Lionpaw Botanicals
GARDENING: “Africa to Appalachia”

Tarinii Shanai is a gardener, yoga instructor, educator, and mother. While living in rural Burkina Faso, Africa, she focused her graduate research on women-centric, biodiverse sustenance gardening, and has since become an advocate for neo-traditional food and medicine ways.


William Padilla-Brown
HALF DAY WORKSHOPS: “Grow Your Own Mushrooms”
MUSHROOMS: “Mushroom Value Added Products”

William Padilla-Brown is a social entrepreneur, citizen scientist, mycologist, amateur ‘phychologist’, urban shaman, writer, you-tube vlogger, non-profit director, researcher, poet, and father. William holds Permaculture Design Certificates. William is leading the country in the field of Cordyceps cultivation.


Zaire Sabb, RN, CLE, IPE
Mystic Momma LLC
HERBS (Saturday Only): “Healing the Womb: Clinical Use of Plants for the Female Reproductive System”

Zaire Sabb is a mother, healer, activist, advanced doula, nurse, priestess of Ifa/Orisha, and herbalist. She is dedicated to healing based in both traditional western healing modalities and ancient ancestral systems. She helps women reclaim their voice.



Zev Friedman
Living Systems Design
PERMACULTURE: “Societal-Scale Permaculture: Mutual Aid, Carbon Farming & Democratic Renewal”

Zev Friedman is a leading permaculture designer, researcher, teacher, and writer in western North Carolina. He grew up in a patch of kudzu in Sylva, NC and received his B.S. in Human Ecology from University of North Carolina Asheville. Zev specializes in hands-on, in-depth education in permaculture and earthskills.

Questions about the program or interested in speaking at a future conference? Email Sera Deva, Conference Curriculum Coordinator at


Author: OGS

Organic Growers School is a non-profit organization providing organic education since 1993. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and support people in our region to farm, garden, and live organically.

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