2020 MFMA Annual Conference Speaker Bios
Ashley Bress oversees grantmaking in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Ag Marketing and Development Division. In this capacity, she is responsible for the MDA’s investments in schools, farmers, value-added businesses, researchers, and non-profit organizations, as well as programs that improve local food access. Prior to coming to the MDA, Ashley worked at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service where she worked on policy for programs that provide food to schools, food banks, and Tribal communities. Ashley has an undergraduate degree from Morningside College in Sioux City, IA, and a Masters in Public Policy from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Sazzy Calhoun is an actor, model, and assistant film director/producer who started the Farm Direct Minnesota Facebook page in the midst of the global pandemic to connect farmers with customers. "With the pandemic, I was seeing all the news about farmers having to plow under crops, and the farmer in Idaho who took all his potatoes and dumped them into his field. TONS of potatoes! He posted to his Facebook where he dumped them and said that people should come and get them. AND they DID! He got rid of them all!" she stated. While Sazzy didn't grow up on a farm herself, she comes from a long line of farmers and understands the importance of local agriculture. "Is there anything I can do to help?" she thought. She was already the administrator of several facebook sites, so she had the knowledge. With the support of her husband Oskar Granquist of Granquist and Associates, she asked herself, "What if I can get all these farmers and customers together?" And Farm Direct Minnesota was born! "It has restored my faith in humanity,'' says Sazzy. Check out her Farm Direct Minnesota Facebook and website to see her work in action.
Jesse Davis is Member Services Director for the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association.
Kim Guenther has been with MFMA since early 2019. She is also the coordinator of the Marshall Farmers' Market in Southwest Minnesota. As a strong advocate for locally grown whole foods, she loves working with producers and market managers across the state to promote and support their markets. Kim has spent most of her career in higher education at colleges and universities across the Midwest. She'll help you paint a social media canvas for your biz or your market.
Rachel Holmes joined Hunger Solutions in March 2015 as a Minnesota Food Helpline Associate. Rachel graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Political Science and is an strong advocate for social programs that equip Minnesotans with the resources they need for success. Prior to joining us, she was a passionate volunteer with Dress for Success, an organization helping women to enter the workforce with style and confidence. Rachel keeps busy with a constant stack of reading books, her 3 beautiful nieces, and a mischievous tabby cat named Dan.
David Nicholson is a consultant for the Minnesota Department of Health, offering technical assistance to farmers' markets, particularly with the food access government programs.
Thom Petersen was appointed Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture by Governor Tim Walz in 2019. Commissioner Petersen is a long-time resident of Royalton Township near Pine City where he lives on a horse farm. Before being appointed Commissioner, Petersen served as the Director of Government Relations for Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) since 2002, working on behalf of MFU’s farmer-members in both Washington, D.C. and St. Paul. Prior to his work at the Minnesota Farmers Union, Commissioner Petersen spent most of his life working for his family and his own horse and farm business. He has a wide range of experience in state and federal farm policy, and travels to almost every county in Minnesota each year to fully understand how these policies affect farmers’ daily lives. He has served on many boards and committees, including the University of Minnesota Extension Citizens Advisory Committee, Farmers Legal Action Group, Citizens Utility Board, Minnesota Ag in the Classroom, Minnesota State Organic Task Force, Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, and the Minnesota Fair Plan. Commissioner Petersen received his Associate’s degree from Normandale Community College and studied at both the University of Minnesota and University of Georgia. The Commissioner and his wife Alana live in Pine City with their two sons. The Petersens show horses around the state and have competed at the Minnesota State Fair for over 25 years.
Kathy Zeman is Executive Director of the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association and an organic and pastured livestock farmer in Rice County. Since joining MFMA in 2012, she has helped MFMA broaden and deepen Minnesota's local foodshed by leading public policy endeavors that help people grow and make good food. She's a lead trainer for "Blazing Trails," a statewide effort to train people in all 87 counties on MN's food laws, food licenses, and food code. Zeman serves on the steering committee for Minnesota's Local Food Advisory Committee; the Board for the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture; MDA's Produce Safety Advisory Group; and is an officer on the Faribault Foundation.