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Local Host Committee

Our local host committee has committed countless hours organizing pre-forum tours, recommending reception sites and transportation options, connecting us to local restaurants, caterers and performers, and identifying local facilitators and speakers. Their service also went above and beyond due to the postponement of the forum.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown is an expert at turning adversity into opportunity. She is Founder and CEO of Food Equality Initiative, Inc.(FEI), a Kansas nonprofit founded in 2014 to address disparities in access to allergy friendly foods. Under her leadership, FEI established the nation’s first allergy friendly and gluten free food pantry. Since then, FEI has become a leader in the movement to increase access to healthy “free-from” foods and has distributed over $100,000 worth of foods to families in Kansas City. Not wanting her efforts to simply be a “band aid” to an increasingly widespread health issue, Emily works to increase education, policy change and civic engagement to create real systemic change in the fight for access to safe and healthy food. Emily regularly shares her passion and experience as a national speaker under her platform Emily Brown Speaks. Active in her community, Emily regularly participates in many boards, including the Greater KC Food Policy Coalition, Emily resides in Kansas City, Kansas, with her family where she enjoys gardening, cooking with love and a good book.

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Brien Darby

Brien Darby is the Executive Director of Cultivate Kansas City. She is a native of Kansas City, Missouri and returns to the area by way of Colorado and New Mexico. Previously, she worked as a farmer, farm educator and food systems expert at the Denver Botanic Gardens. With support from Colorado State University Extension service, she created the Beginning Market Farmer certificate course, a resource for beginning farmers in the Rocky Mountain region. Brien worked with the Denver Housing Authority to develop community farm projects to serve the region’s underserved and often most-diverse populations. Brien was a 2020 Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Fellow and previously served as a board member for the American Community Gardening Association. Brien has a Master of Public Health degree from the Colorado School of Public Health and approaches community work through the lens of healthy equity.

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Beth Dawson

Beth Dawson is a Principal Planner with the Mid-America Regional Council, MARC. Her work is focused on furthering regional sustainable development, land use analysis and managing the Planning Sustainable Places (PSP) program. In the past eight years, PSP has awarded over $7.5 million dollars in planning projects that have translated into almost $175 million dollars in implementation within urban, suburban and rural communities in the eight county MARC region. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and an Associate member of the American Institute of Architects. She was a member of the first class of the Urban Land Institute’s Real Estate Diversity Initiative (REDi) in the Kansas City region and a member of a team whose project tied for first place at the session end.

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Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is the founder and CEO of Techni CAL Media, a media company that uses the art of storytelling to bring visions to life. Calvin has worked with notable community organizations like Margaret's Place and The Front Porch Alliance to start community vegetable gardens and documented the process through his video work. He also worked with organizations such as MORE2, KC Soul Magazine, KC Public Library, Stokes Public Adjusters, Boys & Girls Club, and WEB Dubois Learning Center. In 2018, Kansas University featured Techni CALCal Media's film footage for their no-smoking campaign. Free for All, a Serendipity Films documentary coming in 2021 also features Techni CAL Media's film footage about the institution of the public library system. "Be the change you want to see" is one of Calvin Jones's favorite quotes as it aligns with TechniCAL Media's mission to provide a lens to the world through telling the story of everyday people and their change.

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Katherine Kelly

Katherine Kelly is the co-owner of Two Birds Farm and, most recently, the founder and former executive director of Cultivate KC, a non-profit organization established in 2005 that grows the local and sustainable food system in the Kansas City region. Her work in agriculture, food, community development and non-profit management has been characterized by social entrepreneurship and work with start-up and small businesses. She co-founded the Growing Growers Training Program (Kansas City) in collaboration with K-State University and University of Missouri, the Brookside Farmers Market in Kansas City, MO, Full Circle Farm, and, in her earlier work in the performing arts, she was involved in the start-up and growth of the Women in Theater Festival/ Nextstage, a non-profit organization that promoted women in the arts. She is currently farming and consulting on food, agriculture, and non-profit management.

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Teresa M. Kelly

Teresa M. Kelly has been working in the Kansas City food system as policy advocate, grass roots organizer, urban farm business consultant, consumer and grower for over 10 years. She served on the KC Food Policy Coalition Steering Committee and as chair and founding member of the Johnson County Food Policy Council. As city councilor for Roeland Park, Kansas, she co-chaired the Mid America Regional Council First Suburbs Coalition. She sees her role on different community boards and committees as a cross pollinator, bringing food policy into the conversations at every opportunity. She is inspired to action by Margaret Mead’s quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world…”

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Beth Low-Smith

Beth Low-Smith is Vice President of Policy at KC Healthy Kids (2012-present) and Director of the Greater KC Food Policy Coalition (2010-present). Ms. Low-Smith’s two decades of policy and advocacy experience also includes: serving three terms as Missouri State Representative (2005-2010), working as a political organizer for a statewide grassroots coalition, and time as a domestic violence social worker. Her advocacy efforts have earned awards from Missouri Bar Association, Missouri Immigrants’ Rights Association, Empower Missouri and others. As a professional windmill-tilter, there’s always room at Beth’s table, though not always on her plate.

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Dina Newman

Dina Newman is the Director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Center for Neighborhoods. Using an equity lens, the Center engages, equips and empowers neighborhood leaders by providing an Asset-based Community Development curriculum that focuses on neighborhood planning and development, neighborhood health and safety, communications and technology, and leadership and governance. Before her role at UMKC, Dina was the Health Initiatives Manager and Advocate for Change at the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, a not-for-profit neighborhood improvement organization located in the Ivanhoe Neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri. In partnership with several local and national organizations, Dina’s role included developing and implementing advocacy strategies that promoted and increased health, wealth and social equity in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Dina was instrumental in creating the award winning Grown in Ivanhoe Project which has been recognized as an innovative, grassroots effort that works synergistically with the residents, partners, community and the existing environment to address behavioral, environmental and barrier changes through urban agriculture and gardening efforts.

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Katie Nixon

Katie Nixon is a farmer and a local food systems champion who has been working with and for food producers for over 10 years in the Kansas City region. Katie co-operates Green Gate Family Farm, a certified organic diversified market farm where they produce vegetables, fruits, bedding plants, eggs and flowers. Katie is a founding member and current president of the KC Food Hub, a farmer-owned and run cooperative serving the wholesale market. She also serves as the food systems director for the West Central Missouri Community Action Agency. In this role, she has brought in over $1 million in USDA and other funding to improve the regional food system. She is currently serving a second term on the North Central Sustainable Ag Research and Education Administrative Council as vice-chair. Katie has participated in sustainable food and farming work in Washington, Ireland, South Africa, Mexico and New Zealand. In 2020, she was selected as a Zhi-Xing China Eisenhower Fellow.

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Stuart Shafer

Stuart Shafer is a Professor of Sociology at Johnson County Community College, and Facilitator of the Sustainable Agriculture Program. Credentials include a Bachelor of Arts in English and Environmental Studies from Western Michigan University, a Master of Arts in Sociology from Kansas University, and a Candidate for Ph.D in Sociology from the University of California at San Diego. His non-academic work experience ranges from farm hand to oilfield roughneck to consultant for Native American tribes and organizations. He owns and operates a small, organic vegetable farm in Jefferson County, Kansas, and is a grower in the oldest cooperative CSA in the Midwest, Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance. Shafer volunteers on the Board of Directors of the Kansas Rural Center and the Steering Committee of the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition, as well as the Kansas SARE Committee.

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T. Ed Smith

T. Ed Smith (Osage) is the Youth and Families Program Coordinator at the Heart of America Indian Center where he designs and implements youth and family programs for the center. He also runs the Youth Culture Camp and implements and manages the community garden program. Prior to that he was research program coordinator at the Center for American Indian Studies at Johnson County Community College. Ed has been farming for 10 years and is a forager of traditional American Indian foods and medicines. His work has focused on food sovereignty initiatives in American Indian communities, increasing healthy food access and decreasing health disparities. He also worked as the youth development coordinator for Haskell Indian Nations University Extension office.

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Jane Zieha

Jane Zieha is the owner of blue bird bistro, a restaurant mainstreaming organic, local food and honoring all food choices.