Who We Are

Our Mission

field day

NOFA-NY is an organization of farmers, gardeners, and consumers working together to create a sustainable regional food system that's ecologically sound and economically viable. Through demonstration and education, we promote land stewardship, organic food production, and local marketing. We bring consumer and farmer together to make high quality food available to all people.


Our Vision

A just and resilient farming system grounded in a diverse community now and for future generations.


Our History

Since 1983, NOFA-NY has been serving the organic and sustainable food and farming community. A year later, we became the first organic certifier in New York State. With the arrival of National Organic Standards in 2002, NOFA-NY established separate certification and education functions and offices, while maintaining a cohesive strategy to support the organic farming community. Today, we are New York State’s leading organization providing effective programs and services that promote sustainable, local, organic food and farming. NOFA-NY is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors elected by our membership. NOFA-NY is one of seven northeastern state organizations that work together under the umbrella of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)—the oldest grassroots organic farming organization in the country!  


Board of Directors

NOFA-NY is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, the majority of whom are farmers. The Board supports the work of NOFA-NY and provides mission-based leadership and strategic governance. Their role is to monitor the performance of NOFA-NY, provide fiduciary oversight, set the strategic direction for the organization, and serve as NOFA-NY ambassadors.

Board members come from the membership of NOFA-NY and may serve up to 2, consecutive 3-year terms. Each year members are asked to submit nominations to the board, which are then reviewed by the Board of Directors and voted on by the membership at the annual meeting. 

President

Crystal Stewart, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Johnstown, NY

Crystal has long been interested in commercial and consumer horticulture. She completed both her bachelor and master degrees at the University of Wisconsin. During her studies, she worked in the Department of Horticulture as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and as a Research Associate. After graduating, Crystal became a Regional Extension Educator with the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension providing horticulture support. She joined Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2007 as the horticulture and agriculture educator in Fulton and Montgomery Counties. Today, Crystal's areas of emphasis include organic horticulture, small and beginning farmers’ assistance, and basic farm business management.

Vice President

Maryrose Livingston, Northland Sheep Dairy, Marathon, NY

Maryrose and her husband, Donn Hewes, own Northland Sheep Dairy. The farm is the oldest sheep dairy in the country -- producing 100% grass-fed raw milk cheeses, lamb, mutton and wool products in Marathon, New York. Maryrose began her farming career milking high producing Holstein cows in Michigan and Indiana. She then worked as an environmental regulator in order to finance her own farm. Maryrose has served two previous terms on the NOFA-NY Board of Directors, and acted as Board President from 2012 - 2015.

Treasurer 

Chris Browder, Browder's Birds, North Fork, NY

Chris, a native of North Carolina, has lived in New York for over 20 years. He’s a former Bank of America corporate and investment banker, but prefers the life of a farmer including getting dirty every day, sleeping like a rock at night, planning and more planning and meeting lots of great people. Chris and his wife, Holly, decided to launch a pastured poultry business for the 2010 season and signed a lease with the Peconic Land Trust for a 5 acre parcel of preserved farmland in Southold. At the close of 2012, they purchased a new 16-acre farm and home in Mattituck! In January of 2014 he was elected to the Board of Directors of NOFA-NY serves as Treasurer.

Secretary

Jonathan Brown, Pace University, Nyack, NY

Jonathan is the Director of the Food and Beverage Law Clinic and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. The Food and Beverage Law Clinic provides transactional legal services to farmers, food and beverage entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations. The Clinic's legal services help clients expand access to local, healthy food in underserved communities, build community and create jobs through mission-driven business ventures, steward the preservation and transitioning of farmland for future generations of farmers, and implement innovative and sustainable production, processing, and distribution practices. Prior to joining the Pace faculty, Professor Brown was a Clinical Lecturer in Law and Eugene Ludwig/Robert M. Cover Fellow in Law at Yale Law School, where he co-taught the Community and Economic Development Clinic. Previously, he was a senior associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, in New York, where he primarily represented lenders and borrowers in large corporate finance transactions. His academic work has appeared in the Villanova Law Review and The Tennessee Journal of Business Law. Professor Brown received his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 2006 and his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003.

Board Members

Onika Abraham, Farm School NYC, New York City

Onika is the Director of Farm School NYC and founder of A Farmers Yoga. She is a farmer and educator with more than 10 years of experience in nonprofit management and an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship. She completed the Farm and Garden Apprenticeship and Certificate in Ecological Horticulture at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) in Santa Cruz and her yoga teacher certification is from Kripalu School of Yoga. Onika is a founding member of Black Urban Growers and the SeedKeepers Collective and lives and gardens in beautiful Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

Liz Bawden, Bawden Farms, Hammond, NY

Liz farms with her husband and son in Hammond, NY where they milk 60 cows and produce hay for sale. They have been certified organic with NOFA-NY since 2000. Her background before coming to full-time farming in 1996 was as an education coordinator at parks and nature centers in Massachusetts, Texas, and Ontario. Liz has been an active participant in NODPA (Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance), serving as President for the last 4 years. She is also a member of the NY Organic Task Force. Liz is an avid gardener, handspinner and knitter, pretty good tractor driver, and gets along well with round balers.

Bobcat Bonagura, Main Street Farms, Homer, NY

Bob “Bobcat” Bonagura is a co-owner of Main Street Farms, a local food educator, and a founding member of The Local Farmer’s Union, New York’s premier veggie-folk rock band. He first developed a taste for fresh veggies helping in his father’s garden growing up on Long Island. During college at SUNY New Paltz, he met his farming partner, Allan Gandelman. Together they started Main Street Farms in 2011. Bobcat has been a NOFA-NY member for several years and has served on the Education Committee for the last two years. When he’s not on the farm, Bobcat is often found educating local youth about making good food choices. Or singing about kale with the band. Bobcat also enjoys traveling, hiking, and eating. Before farming, he worked in radio, landscaping, and outdoor education.

Don Cimato, Homecoming Farm, North Amityville, NY

Don Cimato is a farmer at Homecoming Farm in North Amityville, NY. It is one of the oldest certified-organic farms on Long Island. Don joined as a CSA member in 2011 and became Director of Community Farming and Head Grower in 2012. A graduate of Yale University with a degree in Russian History, Don is conversant in both Russian and German. With a Master’s degree in Education from Columbia University and a local Lindenhurst resident, Don shares his love of learning with everyone he comes in contact with at the farm. He has a particular interest in heirloom vegetable varieties, seed saving and introducing others to different varieties not readily found at local markets. While living in New England, Don was an active member in his local CSA and grew his own food. A member of the Vestry at St. Boniface’s Episcopal Church in Lindenhurst, Don is community-minded and a great cook!

Laura Colligan, Dirt Rich Farm, East Aurora, NY

Laura Colligan has been involved with NOFA-NY since she was thirteen, when, in 2008, she first attended the NOFA-NY Winter Conference. During that time, she was first becoming interested in farming learning how to cook seasonally with vegetables from the CSA her family belonged to and also due to raising turkeys and chickens on pasture and selling their meat and eggs. Annual attendance at the Winter Conference was her first form of farming education.

After she finished high school, she continued her sustainable agriculture education by spending three years working on organic farms in Michigan, Vermont, and the Hudson Valley. She then returned to her native East Aurora (near Buffalo) to start Dirt Rich Farm in 2015. She supplies vegetables to about 36 households each year with her CSA and also sells produce to local restaurants and co-ops.

Laura is excited to help give back to the organization that helped shape her path in life as a NOFA-NY board member.

Elizabeth Henderson, Peacework Organic CSA, Newark, NY

Elizabeth Henderson farmed at Peacework Farm in Wayne County, New York, producing organically grown vegetables for the fresh market for over 30 years. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), co-chairs the Policy Committee, and represents the NOFA Interstate Council on the Board of the Agricultural Justice Project. For 20 years, from 1993 – 2013, she chaired the Agricultural Development Board in Wayne County and took an active role in creating the Farming and Farmland Protection Plan for the county. In 2001, the organic industry honored her with one of the first “Spirit of Organic awards, in 2007, Abundance Co-op honored her with the “Cooperating for Communities” award and in 2009 NOFA-NY honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award and then a Golden Carrot in 2013.  In 2014 Eco-Farm presented her with their “Advocate of Social Justice Award, the Justie.” Her writings on organic agriculture appear inThe Natural Farmer and other publications, she is the lead author of Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007), with a Spanish language e-book edition in 2017, and co-authored Whole Farm Planning: Ecological Imperatives, Personal Values and Economics with farmer Karl North (2004). She also wrote A Food Book for a Sustainable Harvest for the members of Peacework Organic Community Supported Agriculture (aka GVOCSA) in its twenty ninth year in 2017.

Bhavani Jaroff, iEat Green, LLC, Old Westbury, NY

Bhavani Jaroff is the founder of iEat Green, LLC, a multi-faceted organization providing chef services, and educational demos. She is the host of iEat Green with Bhavani, a weekly radio show on the Progressive Radio Network, and chair of Slow Food North Shore. Ms. Jaroff has a Master’s in Education, along with Waldorf Teacher Certification, which brought together her passion for cooking, teaching, nutrition, gardening and bio-dynamics. Ms. Jaroff transformed the cafeteria at The Waldorf School in Garden City into a holistic, educational, food service program, with a community service component. She has over thirty five years of experience cooking and teaching about nutrition and natural foods.

Patty Lovera, Food & Water Watch, Washington, DC

Patty is the Assistant Director of Food & Water Watch. Patty has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Lehigh University and a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Michigan. Before joining Food & Water Watch, Patty was the deputy director of the energy and environment program at Public Citizen and a researcher at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

Mary-Howell Martens, Lakeview Organic Grain, Penn Yan, NY

Mary-Howell, with her husband Klaas and son Peter, farm about 1600 acres of certified organic grain and processing vegetable crops, plus raise/board organic heifers and dry cows, in Penn Yan, NY. Their first certified organic crop was in 1992. Mary-Howell also operates Lakeview Organic Grain, a full service organic feed mill and seed operation serving organic dairy and small animal farmers with feed, and all types of organic farmers with seed, throughout the Northeast. She has written extensively for numerous publications, particularly Acres USA, the NODPA News and Rodale Institute’s New Farm, on a variety of topics concerning organic farming. She and Klaas speak frequently at conferences around the country. Mary-Howell holds a BS in Horticulture from North Carolina State University and a MS in Plant Breeding/Vegetable Crops from Cornell University. She has served on the USDA AC21 and ACAB advisory committees on agricultural biotechnology, on the Cornell University CALS Deans Advisory committee, and on her county Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Prior to Lakeview Organic Grain, she taught biology and plant physiology at Finger Lakes Community College, and worked in the grape breeding program at the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station/Cornell University in Geneva, NY. Mary-Howell and Klaas have 3 grown children. In her spare time, Mary-Howell enjoys cooking, gardening, homesteading, photography and reading.

Robert Perry,  NOFA-NY Staff Representative, Homer, NY


Management Committee

The Certified Organic Management Committee is appointed by the NOFA-NY Board of Directors to oversee the operation of NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC. Members must be qualified and free of conflicts of interest as determined by the National Organic Program requirements. They cannot be connected with operations that are certified by the LLC.

Certified Organic Volunteer Management Committee

Richard Andrus, Retired Professor at SUNY Binghamton
Sandy Crawford, Tioga State Bank, Rome, PA
Liana Hoodes, Agriculture Policy Consultant, Pine Bush, NY
Erin Summerlee, Food and Health Network of South Central NY, Whitney Point, NY
Arby Swift, Retired Vice President of Farm Credit
Gordon Thompson, Coughlin & Gerhart L.L.P., Binghamton, NY


Staff 

Administration

Andrianna Natsoulas - Executive Director

Andrianna Natsoulas has been a social and environmental activist for over two decades. She has created and implemented programs at several organizations, including Greenpeace, Food & Water Watch and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance. Andrianna has coordinated with the global food sovereignty movements and has served on national and international boards and steering committees to protect fishing rights, fight trade agreements and build alliances. She has developed policy initiatives at the federal and regional levels to ensure farmers and fishermen can provide local and culturally appropriate food to their communities. She also wrote the book, Food Voices, Stories from the People Who Feed Us, which tells the stories of farmers and fishermen across five countries. In August of 2016, Andrianna joined NOFA-NY as the Executive Director and now lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley. You can reach Andrianna at andrianna [at] nofany [dot] org.

Valerie Rezmerski – Certification Office Manager

Valerie started working at NOFA-NY Certified Organic in May 2014 as the Office Manager. Val handles all areas of finance and human resources for NOFA-NY. Her previous work experience as a Finance & Operations Coordinator to Northeast Rehab, Inc. for 14 years, and Barney & Dickenson for eight years, provides her with a strong background in all areas of finance, human resources, and small business operations. She attended Broome Community College in both the accounting and executive secretarial programs. Valerie has resided in Apalachin, NY for the past 20 years with her husband Chris, son Nolan, daughter Morgan, and granddaughter Mackenzie. Val spends most of her spare time attending Nolan’s baseball and basketball games, as well as enjoying her new granddaughter. You can reach Valerie at valerie [at] nofany [dot] org.

Donna Hickling - Finance Manager

Donna is NOFA-NY’s Finance Manager responsible for accounting and reporting.  Originally from Wisconsin, Donna earned a BA in Economics from Indiana University and a MBA in Accounting and Marketing from Rochester Institute of Technology.  Having grown up with summer vacations at her grandparents’ farm, she understands the work that goes into the food we eat.  When not at NOFA, you can find Donna teaching at Monroe Community College and Genesee Community College, reading, hiking, riding her bicycle and slowly working towards transforming her backyard to New York State native plants. You can reach Donna at donna [at] nofany [dot] org.

Shelby Lawton - Certification Office Assistant

Shelby joined the NOFA-NY team in August 2017 as an Office Assistant. Shelby grew up in both Broome and Chenango counties and was involved in 4H raising goats and rabbits, as well as showing horses in both English and Western, eventually moving on to barrel racing. Shelby studied at SUNY Broome earning an associates degree in Office Administration and currently pursing a Bachelors in Business Administration. Shelby resides in Endwell on the family farm raising and showing goats, and horses.

Education

Bethany Wallis – Education Director

Raised on a pasture-based dairy farm, Bethany earned an Associate’s Degree in Agricultural Business from SUNY Morrisville and a Bachelor’s Degree in Dairy Science from Cornell University. Bethany was first introduced to organic agriculture while managing the CSA at Grindstone Farm. Since joining NOFA-NY in 2006, she has worked in a variety of positions and now serves our the Education Director. Bethany continues to work on dairy and livestock programming, overseeing the Organic Dairy & Field Crop Conference and planning dairy and livestock field days. Bethany also organizes the food donation program for our annual Winter Conference. When not in the office, Bethany raises her four children and helps her husband on his family’s dairy farm in Pulaski, NY. You can reach Bethany at bethany [at] nofany [dot] org.

Robert Perry – Grain & Field Crops Coordinator

A fifth-generation farmer in Homer, NY, Robert has been involved with NOFA-NY since its founding in 1983. After studying horticulture, Robert settled on milking cows, running greenhouses, producing maple syrup, growing certified organic vegetables, and running a CSA. Robert has served on the NOFA-NY Standards Board, and worked for many years as an organic inspector for NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC before joining NOFA-NY Inc. as our Grain and Field Crops Coordinator. Today he oversees grain and field crop conference workshops and Field Days, and coordinates NOFA-NY’s renowned Winter Conference Trade Show. Robert brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to answer grain and field crop questions from all over the state, plus any other organic farming question. Robert holds a staff seat on the NOFA-NY Board of Directors. You can reach Robert at robert [at] nofany [dot] org. 

Paul Loomis – Organic Farmer Marketing Coordinator

A lifelong resident of NY, Paul has a Bachelor’s of Science from SUNY Brockport where he focused on applied research in agricultural food systems. Interested in nature, self-resilience, and conservation, Paul began homesteading with his family in 2004. While working in security management, he laid the groundwork for his career as a full-time farmer and discovered firsthand the dedication and commitment that goes into running a viable farm business. As NOFA-NY’s Organic Farmer Marketing Coordinator, he shares his passion for strong farm networks, healthy food, and land stewardship with our community of farmers and consumers. In his spare time, Paul runs Growing Family Farms in Spencerport, NY, a meeting place for family and friends, and harvesting and preparing full meals from gardens. You can reach Paul at paul [at] nofany [dot] org.

Jessica Donovan – Events Coordinator

Jessica Donovan is the Events Coordinator at NOFA-NY. Having spent the last ten years as an event planner and graphic designer in Manhattan, Jessica decided to leave the busy city behind for a calmer, quieter life in Syracuse, NY. Over the past several years, she has put a strong focus on health, fitness and eating organic and is excited to put her professional skills to work for an organization that shares her values. Jessica has an MA in Journalism from Syracuse University and a BA in Mass Communications from Virginia Wesleyan College. In her free time, Jessica enjoys exploring all that upstate NY has to offer and spending time with family and friends. You can reach Jessica at jdonovan [at] nofany [dot] org.

Maryellen Sheehan – Vegetable Coordinator

Maryellen Sheehan grew up working with horses and reluctantly helping in the family garden in Indiana before starting farming in 1998. She worked on diversified livestock and produce farms in Massachusetts, Russia, and New Hampshire before starting a market farm on leased land in New Hampshire in 2002. After six years operating the South Village Garden and relearning science during an MS program in Environmental Studies, she moved to NY in 2008 to manage a Hudson Valley vegetable farm. Maryellen and her husband started Hartwood Farm in Fenner, NY in 2012, where they produce five acres of vegetables for year round farmers markets and CSA. Maryellen is particularly interested in the adaptation of organic farming systems to deal with new pest, disease, safety, economic, and climate challenges, and she is excited to be back as a part of NOFA-NY’s education team helping farmers across the state on vegetable and food safety programming. You can reach Maryellen at maryellen [at] nofany [dot] org.

Morgan Hartman - Dairy & Livestock Coordinator

Morgan Hartman is Managing Partner of Black Queen Angus Farm, LLC, a small scale Registered Angus breeding operation in Berlin, NY, on the Massachusetts border. A graduate of Cornell University with a multi-disciplinary degree in Plant Science with areas of concentration in Horticulture, Landscape Architecture, and Natural Resource Management, Morgan combines the scientific and creative/artistic approaches to land management. For this reason, he uses Holistic Management principles in his farming and business development.

Morgan is co-founder of the nationally acclaimed Winter Green-Up Grazing Conference, an annual conference taking place in New York State’s Capital District. For his work with the Winter Green-Up and in developing a small scale branded grass finished beef program, he was awarded the Innovative Producer of the Year Award at the Grassfed Exchange Conference in August 2014, Columbia, MO. Part of Morgan’s holistic approach to farming and business is his dedication to research, education and outreach for farmers looking to enter the regenerative agriculture paradigm. To this end he holds numerous pasture walks and educational events at his farm in Upstate New York, the Berkshires of Massachusetts and abroad. These programs include the introduction of goats to the landscape of a local school and implementation of an integrated curriculum of arts and letters around the use of goats to mitigate the harm caused by non-native noxious species of plants.

As a breeder of Angus cattle specifically selected under a rigorous forage only program, Morgan was drawn to Sustainable Genetics, LLC as a marketer of top-end grass-finishing genetics. Over the last ten years Morgan and Bill Hodge from Sustainable Genetics have developed a very strong working relationship and good friendship. Morgan is taking on more of a marketing and development role with Sustainable Genetics in 2016.

All of this work; cattle breeding, research, education, and outreach, marketing/business development and the use of Holistic Management principles to manage the whole are dedicated to paradigm shift in Morgan’s corner of the world, starting at his own farm and working outward from there. You can reach Morgan at mhartman [at] nofany [dot] org.

Community Engagement

Briana Alfaro - Outreach Coordinator

Briana Alfaro joined NOFA-NY in October 2018, with the intention to support vibrant communities through a just and healthy food system. She sees organic and regenerative farming practices as a key component of this vision. Though originally from San Diego, she now calls Central New York home and is pursuing plans to work the land as a flower farmer. Briana completed her MS in Food Studies at Syracuse University in 2018 and holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Humboldt State University. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, gardening, road tripping, playing the ukulele and hiking with her dog, Saffron. You can reach Briana at balfaro [at] nofany [dot] org.

Emma Ertinger Communications Coordinator

Emma Ertinger joined NOFA-NY as the Communications Coordinator in July 2018. A (mostly) lifelong New Yorker, Emma grew up in Liverpool and holds an MPA from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a BA in Anthropology from Nazareth College. Prior to joining the NOFA-NY team, she worked for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, DC. As NOFA-NY's Communications Coordinator, Emma drives all our digital communication platforms to support the organic movement in New York State. She is happy be back Upstate, and on weekends you can find her hiking or at the Syracuse Regional Market. You can reach Emma at eertinger [at] nofany [dot] org.

Meghan Prestemon Administrative Coordinator

Meghan Prestemon joined the NOFA-NY team as an Administrative Coordinator in March 2019. Born and raised in Skaneateles, Meghan grew up in a family of small dairy farmers. After graduating from The College at Brockport SUNY in 2011 with a BS in Psychology she spent a number of years travelling the West Coast, learning and educating others about wellness and healthy living. Now Meghan is focusing on supporting and growing the organic community here in the Northeast. In her spare time you can usually find her practicing yoga, hiking, hanging out on the lake, or reading a good book. You can reach Meghan at mprestemon [at] nofany [dot] org.

Policy

Liana Hoodes - Policy Consultant

Liana Hoodes has worked on a wide range of organic and sustainable agriculture policy issues since 1994. She was the organic policy coordinator for the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture from 1994 through 2006. In that capacity she facilitated the successful effort to garner hundreds of thousands of comments to repeal and re-write the first organic regulation. From 2003 to 2015, she was the Executive Director of the National Organic Coalition and currently serves as their policy advisor. She has worked extensively on Farm Bills, annual appropriations, as well as on the implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act at the USDA National Organic Program and on organic standards at the National Organic Standards Board. She currently works on a variety of federal, state and local policy issues to support and advance organic and sustainable food and agriculture. Liana is currently the Policy Advisor to NOFA-NY. She grows organic food and lives with her family in Ulster County, New York.

Certification

Jessica Terry – Senior Certification Specialist

Jessica grew up on a farm in the Mohawk Valley region of Central New York raising beef cattle, goats, chickens, rabbits, field crops, and vegetables. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Plattsburgh State University, spent five years in graphic design with the Oneida Indian Nation, and volunteered in Peru and Ecuador teaching English and encouraging eco-tourism. Jessica joined NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC in 2008 and has been helping producers and consumers navigate the ins-and-outs of organic certification ever since. Jessica is a dedicated and hardworking member of the certification team who is proud to support the organic community and a healthier environment. In her free time, Jessica enjoys cooking, writing poetry, wilderness and her two sons.  

Heather Orr - Senior Certification Specialist

Heather became interested in agriculture at a young age. She was raised on a dairy farm and worked at a farm store selling a variety of fruits and vegetables. Heather attended college for business and has been with NOFA-NY since 2006. She has worked in a variety of positions, including Certification Specialist and Dairy Certification Coordinator, and is presently a Senior Certification Specialist. In Heather’s current position, she specializes in dairy/livestock—performing many certification tasks such as file review, product review, certification training and guidance to staff while handling complaints and setting procedures and policies. She enjoys working with producers and feels it helps bring her back to her agricultural roots. When not working at NOFA-NY, Heather enjoys four wheeling, fishing, and gardening, and helping out with her family’s farm.

Lauren Tonti - Senior Certification Specialist

With a passion for entomology and stream ecology, Lauren studied at her hometown community college in NJ. She moved to Binghamton in 2007 to study Environmental Studies/Natural Resources and received a Bachelor’s Degree in 2010. She was exposed to agriculture through various experiences which were a motivating factor in co-launching the Binghamton Urban Farm, a program of VINES. For over five years she managed a market garden, youth program, and educational programs with VINES. Lauren joined the NOFA-NY Certified Organic team in September 2014 and is excited to be part of a group of people all working hard to promote organic agriculture. Aside from verifying organic integrity, Lauren enjoys sewing, deer hunting, growing/preserving food, and singing in a nine-piece band.

Ashleigh Knecht – Handling Certification Coordinator

Ashleigh joined NOFA-NY Certified Organic in March of 2015 as a Certification Coordinator. Her previous work experience as a foreman and installation coordinator at ANC Heating & Air Conditioning provides her with a strong background in data management, effective communication, and meeting deadlines. She is also the owner and operator of Knecht Farm where she raises show horses and beef cattle. She graduated from the State University of New York at Cobleskill with a Bachelor of Science degree in AgriBusiness Management, along with an Associate in Science degree in Animal Industry. In her spare time, Ashleigh enjoys working on her farm and is an avid barrel racer competing on the state and national level.

Erika Worden – Dairy Certification Coordinator

Erika has been employed with NOFA-NY Certified Organic since January 2012 as the Dairy Certification Coordinator. Her experience working on her family’s organic dairy farm, and as a herdsperson on conventional dairies in New York, provides her with a strong background in milk production and quality, pasture management, and herd health. Erika graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science with a concentration in the study of dairy cattle and farm business management. She works with producers to help answer their certification questions and organizing and inputting data from producer files. In her spare time, Erika enjoys farming and working with her cows along with traveling and pasture walks.

Francesca VanDeWeert - Dairy Certification Coordinator Assistant

Francesca was born and raised on a small dairy farm.  She has extensive dairy background including working with her own animals both at home and in 4H.  While receiving her Bachelor’s Degree at SUNY Cobleskill, she had the opportunity to work on several larger scale dairy operations gaining knowledge on different methods of animal care and management.  She has a great passion for dairy farming and love for animals.  She is very happy to have the opportunity to work at NOFA-NY LLC as the Dairy Certification Coordinator Assistant. In this position, she works directly with farmers helping guide them through the certification process. She enjoys time with family and her animals, outdoor walks, operating equipment, and interacting with people.

Kristen Barker - Crop & Livestock Certification Coordinator

Kristen joined the NOFA-NY team in early 2017 as Office Assistant and became Certification Coordinator in July 2017.  . Spending many years in a high volume call center both on and off the phones, Kristen brings with her a strong skillset of communication, organization, financial and customer service skills. Kristen studied Equine Science and Management at Morrisville State College. When not at NOFA-NY, Kristen manages a private horse stable in Northern PA. Kristen also spends any free time competing at barrel races at the local and state level with her horse, as well as spending time with her mini donkey.

Kaysha Haile - Crop & Livestock Certification Coordinator Assistant

Kaysha joined the certification team in 2017. She is excited to be supporting producers who diversify the food market and carry the skills and knowledge of organic cultivation. Kaysha is passionate about sustainability, social justice, and food sovereignty. She is a tribal member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and holds a B.S. in Environmental Studies from Binghamton University. Prior to working with NOFA-NY Kaysha participated in a range of ventures including a reforestation effort in Costa Rica, a food cooperative, a campaign to end corporate personhood, the sustainable energy movement, a housing cooperative, and local community gardens. Kaysha grew up in Schenectady County with her mother, sister, and dog. In her free time, Kaysha loves to dance, bake, create, travel, and dream up projects to combine her many interests and passions.

Alexis Spoor - Materials & Inspection Coordinator

Lexi spent most of her childhood on her grandparents’ farm in Coventry, NY where her love for land and livestock was developed.  Her passion for animals expanded to horses; landing her in the stables by the age of seven. After obtaining a degree in Applied Science, she returned home to become more involved with her grandparents’ small beef farm. There she started a CSA offering a variety of produce, eggs, and turkeys. In her spare time, Lexi enjoys hiking, fishing, volunteering at church, and still rides horses at her childhood stable. 

Keri Wayman - Data Coordinator

Keri was raised around agriculture in Chenango County, NY. Spending much of her younger years deeply involved in the local 4-H program, Keri developed a love for horses and livestock. She studied Animal Science at Cornell University and joined NOFA-NY in 2010. Keri has a small farm where she raises horses, goats and sheep and maintains a small garden...

Rebecca Heller-Steinberg – Certification Specialist

Rebecca joined NOFA-NY as a Certification Specialist in 2014. Prior to that, Rebecca worked in health education before her love of eating led her to food and farming work. She helped start and co-managed the Binghamton Urban Farm, a project of Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES), and coordinated Binghamton Farm Share, a modified CSA designed to increase food access for people with lower incomes. Rebecca also started a winter local food business which she ran for two years, where she sourced local produce, cheese, pasta and other hard-to-find local items. In her work with NOFA-NY, Rebecca enjoys learning more about the wide variety of organic farms and farming practices in New York State. In her free time, Rebecca likes hunting for mushrooms, making herbal medicine, tanning hides, and eating ice cream.

Elena Braiotta – Certification Specialist

Elena is a proud advocate of the health and wellness field. After attending massage schools in Ithaca, New York and Ontario, California, she discovered a true passion to help heal others holistically. In addition to her massage therapy practice, working for NOFA enables Elena to make a contribution to this mission. Elena firmly believes that in taking care of our bodies and in achieving vibrant health, proper nutrition with quality food is essential. The field of organics meets this need and allows access to food that is untreated, unprocessed and hormone free. Elena is grateful to be part of this effort, as a member of the NOFA-NY team.

Abigail Simonin – Certification Specialist

Abigail joined the NOFA-NY Certified Organic team in 2016. Originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Abigail grew up inspired by a thriving agricultural community. Abigail received a B.S. in International Agriculture and Rural Development from Cornell University. She has experience in tropical agriculture in addition to work on organic vegetable farms in New York and Pennsylvania. Abigail helped design a young farmer training program in Lesotho, southern Africa focused on improving soil management, yields, and community food security. She is always interested in supporting new farmers and learning from experienced ones. As a Certification Specialist with NOFA-NY, she enjoys learning from diverse farms and supporting good food in economically viable food systems. In her spare time, Abigail enjoys all things creative, often found weaving, quilting, knitting, canning, soap-making or trying something new.

Kelly Christensen - Certification Specialist

Kelly started her position as a Certification Specialist, reviewing producer files for compliance to the National Organic Program Regulations, in March 2019. Kelly grew up on a horse farm in Western New York where she was allowed to run wild in the pastures and woods once her chores were done. Her childhood instilled a life-long love for the natural world as well as a sense of duty and respect toward domestic plants and animals. In college Kelly studied outdoor education and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation. Afterward she traveled the US for a number of years and served with a variety of non-profits including AmeriCorps NCCC. Kelly returned home in 2007 to apprentice on a small vegetable operation and has been farming ever since. She feels organic agriculture is essential because it contributes directly to the health of soils, animals, food systems, and communities. Kelly is pleased to be part of an organization that supports organic farmers. When not working for NOFA she manages an organic livestock farm with her husband and his family. In her spare time Kelly explores the woods with her young son, reads, and spends time with her horse and cats.