Learn from World-Class Experts at The Expo

Visitors to the National Heirloom Expo can learn from more than 30 locally, nationally, and internationally acclaimed speakers in lectures, panels, and roundtable discussion formats.  

2023 Speaker Schedule

Click here to download as pdf.

Santa Rosa Hall, Ventura County Fairgrounds

Zego Qi | Growing an Heirloom Seed Movement in China

10 a.m. Tuesday, September 12

Zego Qi is an avid heirloom gardener on a mission to cultivate appreciation for heirloom seeds in China. On his small farm, he works to preserve heirloom plant and poultry breeds. Zego is a graduate of Adelaide University in Australia with a degree in agricultural science and studied animal science at China Agricultural University, but only began learning about heirloom varieties and heritage breed animals after he began farming. His talk will speak to the current state of the heirloom movement in China and why heirlooms are important to the future of agriculture and food security in China. 

Alice Doyle | The Quest for the Best: Remarkable Plants & Fabulous Flowers

11 a.m. Tuesday, September 12

Log House Plants grows a remarkable range of fabulous edibles with amazing backstories and unforgettable flavors from around the world. From heritage cultivars passed down for generations to hand-bred hybrids designed by artisan hybridizers for the West Coast’s trendiest chefs, you’ll meet a fascinating lineup of colorful, tasty foodie delights. Best of all, these plants combine distinctive flavor with excellent vigor, resilience, and disease resistance. The Log House team has led the way with new techniques for grafting and growing ‘super vegetables’ that succeed beautifully in home gardens. Be ready to be excited and hungry after this eye-opening presentation by Alice Doyle, founder of Log House Plants in Oregon.

Brijette Peña | Crowdsourcing Climate-Resilient Seeds for Southern California 

Noon Tuesday, September 12

Brijette is the founder and owner of San Diego Seed Co., which produces organic, regionally adapted seeds for growers in Southern California and the American Southwest. She also facilitates participatory plant breeding, where growers and other stakeholders are an active part of making varieties more resilient. Brijette will talk about what that means, and why it matters. Brijette believes that urban farmers are the “wave of the future,” Her work with the Organic Seed Alliance and community growers focuses on sustainable and regenerative growing practices. https://sandiegoseedcompany.com/ 

Jon Jackson | “Seeds Tell the Story: Heirlooms of the African Diaspora”  

1 p.m. Tuesday, September 12

Jon is a market farmer, former Army Ranger, and founder of Comfort Farms in Georgia. He is also on a quest to document and preserve heirlooms connected to his familial story and cultural roots. In his presentation, he will explore the impact of forced migration from Africa to the Americas on the culture and cuisine of the Americas, and the importance of these drought-resistant, resilient varieties in an age of climate change.

Bevin Cohen | Let’s Talk Tomatoes: America’s Favorite Fruit!

2 p.m. Tuesday, September 12

Bevin is an author, herbalist, seed saver, and owner of Small House Farm in Michigan. He will share the exciting stories of how this South American fruit traveled around the world and influenced the cuisines and cultures where it spread. He will also offer tips on how to maximize your tomato harvest and demonstrate how to collect tomato seeds from your garden.

He offers workshops and lectures nationwide on the benefits of living closer to the land through seeds, herbs, and locally grown food. Bevin is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Mother Earth News, Hobby Farms, Grit Magazine, and the Baker Creek catalog. He is the author of four books, including Saving Our Seeds, The Artisan Herbalist, and his highly anticipated new book, The Complete Guide to Seed & Nut Oils. You can learn more about Bevin’s work at Small House Farm.

Gibron Jones | “The Power of Partnership: Farmers and Food Hubs Combating Diet-Related Illnesses”  

3 p.m. Tuesday, September 12

Gibron is the founder of HOSCO SHIFT and the North Sarah Food Hub in his home city of St. Louis. The nonprofit is focused on increasing access to healthy local food, and creating markets for farmers and jobs in communities that need them most.  In his presentation, Gibron will talk about the challenges they faced, the strategies to connect farmers with food hubs, and how he is working to replicate the model.

Steven Murray | A Life of Exotic Fruit Around the World

4 p.m. Tuesday, September 12

Steven Murray runs Murray Family Farms, an organic farm in Bakersfield, CA, where he grows about 700 species of more than 3,000 varieties of fruit. His family has deep roots in agriculture, and theirs was one of the first California farms to grow cherries. Over the years, Murray Family Farms has become a popular destination in Kern County. Steven has fond childhood memories of going to farmer’s markets with his parents and asking for rare fruits from neighbors. He has traveled to nearly 100 countries looking for rare and exotic fruits and participates in about 40 markets across southern California.  He will talk about his work collecting and growing this amazing diversity of fruits.

Ashlie Thomas | Holistic Approaches to Wellness: Gardening for Nutrition 

5 p.m. Tuesday, September 12

In her talk, Ashlie will draw on her training in nutritional science and wellness, as well as her experiences as a small-scale homesteader in North Carolina to offer strategies for maximizing nutrition density and enjoyment in the garden.

Ashlie is an author, food security, and home gardening advocate and entrepreneur known as The Mocha Gardener on social media. A few years ago, Ashlie and her husband started a small homestead in North Carolina. The experience gave her a new understanding of local food systems and their impact on human health. Ashlie’s mission is to raise awareness about food insecurity in vulnerable communities and empower people to take control of their health through growing good, nutritious food. In 2022, she published her How to Become a Gardener: Find Empowerment in Creating Your Own Food Security.  

Sara Patterson | From Gardening in Chocolate Soil with my Family to Farming in Red Sand for my Community: Sara’s Story

6 p.m. Tuesday, September 12

Born in the San Fernando Valley surrounded by agriculture, shopping at farmers markets, and growing a big family garden in mild weather and soil that she would later refer to as “chocolate,”  life changed at age 10 when Sara’s family moved to wind-swept rural southern Utah. With no agricultural diversity or farmers markets, she began growing at 5,900 feet, in red sandy soil, and only 60 – 90 days to grow food. At age 14, she started a CSA (community-supported agriculture farm).

Where is Sara now? At age 28, Sara owns and runs Red Acre Farm and co-founded Red Acre Center, a nonprofit for food and agriculture.
She advocates and teaches by example that no matter where you live, whether in the city, country, or rural America, you need to know where food comes from, why gardening and raising a flock of chickens is essential, and to grow enough for yourself and your community, whether in a pot on your balcony or a plot in your backyard. 

Panel Discussion | Perspectives on Seed Saving with Bevin Cohen, Stephen McComber, and Brijette Peña

7 p.m. Tuesday, September 12 

Bevin, Brijette, and Stephen each bring a unique set of experiences and perspectives to the practice of seed saving and seed keeping. Seed saving is an act with profound personal, social, cultural, and spiritual significance. It helps to connect and reconnect communities with ancestral varieties and identity, and to promote biodiversity, resiliency, and sustainability. Our panel will address all these aspects, and more. 

Wednesday, September 13

Santa Rosa Hall, Ventura County Fairgrounds

Richie Ramsay | Traditional and Subsistence Farming in Jamaica

10 a.m. Wednesday, September 13

Richie is an accomplished farmer who manages Baker Creek’s trial growing operations in Jamaica. He learned about Baker Creek nearly 10 years ago, when he was just a teenager, as he was researching what he could grow to feed his goats. In his talk, Richie will offer perspective on traditional and subsistence growing practices and how they influence agriculture in Jamaica.

Makeda Dread Cheatom and Mariko Davis Gifford| Moringa: The Most Nutritious Plant on Earth

11 a.m. Wednesday, September 13

Makeda is Executive Director and Founder of the WorldBeat Cultural Center in San Diego. For 30 years she has produced programs and presented artists from various cultural genres in the cultural center. Makeda has received numerous awards for her service to the community. She is also an avid gardener who advocates for the wider use of moringa, a drought-tolerant superfood found to have many benefits for soil as well.

Mariko Davis Gifford has been growing Moringa in San Diego, California, for 25 years.  By co-creating with Moringa, she has learned many clever ways it can be grown, as well as, the essential way to produce the highest quality Moringa possible. 10 years ago she began teaching others her methods and now has students in more than 37 countries around the world.  Her courses are available online, which has enabled those in remote and disadvantaged areas to participate and learn how to grow the highest quality Moringa in their regions.  

From her experience as an Organic Inspector, and a long time student of renowned soil scientist, Dr. Elaine Ingham, she has practical methods for ensuring soil health.  Her favorite quote is “If it’s not in the soil, it’s not in the Moringa.”

Larry Santoyo: Permaculture Principles for Every Garden

Noon, Wednesday, September 13

Larry is Programs Director at The Permaculture Academy and Senior Planner at Earthflow Designs, a permaculture design & build firm based in Los Angeles. He is a leading Permaculture educator and accomplished designer recognized for harmoniously integrating the demands of development with artistic and ecological sensitivity. Since 1989, has managed design & build projects ranging from regenerative farm and ranch operations to healing retreat centers. Larry Santoyo is a Lecturer at California Polytechnic University and has taught environmental design and systems thinking at colleges and universities nationwide. He will introduce permaculture principles and describe how they can be implemented in projects regardless of size.

Rachel Parent | Going Back to Our Roots: Combating the Lab Grown, Synthetic Food Revolution

1 p.m. Wednesday, September 13

Rachel Parent is a journalist and Founder of Kids’ Right to Know, a non-profit organization based in Canada and focused on education and policy change regarding GMOs. Rachel’s interest in non-genetically modified foods was sparked while researching GMOs for a school project and she was dismayed to learn that the Canadian government did not require food producers to label genetically altered foods.  She will explain the current happenings in our food system and what it means for people and the environment. She will also share how fixing the food system is possible through regenerative agriculture and activism.

Jeffrey Smith | The GMO 2.0: Addressing the Unprecedented Assault on our Food, Nature, and Future

2 p.m. Wednesday, September 13

Jeffrey is one of the leading activists promoting non-GMO choices, and he is an author and founder of The Institute For Responsible Technology. In his talk, Jeffrey will take on the unprecedented existential threats from GMO 2.0. The most urgent need is to block release of engineered microorganisms, which can travel, mutate, swap genes with other microbes, promote disease, and collapse ecosystems. He will describe how the Institute for Responsible Technology is building a new movement to establish national laws and international treaties to protect human health, the environment, and future generations.

Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture | Finding Common Ground Between Farmers in the Global South and Global North

3 p.m. Wednesday, September 13

Lauren Augusta founded and serves as Executive Director of the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), the first U.S. State Department-designated training and cultural exchange program to promote sustainable agriculture. This will be a panel discussion including some of MESA’s global partners, including:

Sasika Konara, South Asia Partnership Sri Lanka (SAPSRI)

Sasika Konara is a development professional with a diverse background in nonprofit strategic planning and innovation within the international development arena. With his diverse background, he has consistently demonstrated a passion for empowering farmer communities and he continues to make valuable contributions to community development, driving positive change and fostering sustainable development within rural communities. As the South Asia Regional Coordinator for the Multinational Exchange Program for Sustainable Agriculture, Sasika plays a pivotal role in fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the region. Currently he serves as the Technical Advisor-Program Design and Management at South Asia Partnership Sri Lanka. 

Hemantha Abeywaradhana, South Asia Partnership Sri Lanka (SAPSRI)

Hemantha Abeywaradhana is a highly esteemed community development expert and consultant specialized in sustainable agriculture. With over 30 years of experience in the field, he has earned a reputation as an expert in traditional farming techniques and sustainable agricultural solutions. Hemantha has served in many national and international organizations. He is the course facilitator for the MESA Global Food System Certificate Course in Asia.

Samuel Nderitu, Grow Biointensive Agriculture Center of Kenya (G-BiACK)

Samuel is the director and founder of the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center of Kenya (G-BiACK), a non-governmental organization that specializes in farmer training in Ecological GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming. He is the African representative for MESA, and the Kenyan International partner for Ecology Action, an NGO based in the USA which developed the GROW BIOINTENSIVE techniques some 46 years ago. 

Samuel Kangethe, MESA Steward alum & Board Director/ G-BiACK instructor

Samuel is the founder of Community Empowerment through Sustainable Biointensive Agriculture Program (CESBA KENYA) a community-based organization based in Kiserian township Kajiado County Kenya. CESBA Kenya works with local smallholder farmers in Nairobi and Kajiado Counties, equipping them with skills on how to address food insecurity issues brought about by poor and unsustainable farming practices, and climate change and creating more food-sufficient and resilient households through economic strengthening strategies and sustainable agroecological food raising systems. 

Maria Franco, Instituto Perucano-CISAS, Peru

Maria is a Peruvian professional in international development with 7+ years of experience in youth empowerment, agriculture, food systems, coffee, and youth. She holds a BSc in Chemistry from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, and a Masters in Coffee Economics and Science from the University of Udine, Italy. Based in Peru, she is a MA candidate in Government and Public Policy with a focus on Sustainable Development and Social Inequalities in the Andean Region from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Maria’s aim is to keep providing equitable and more inclusive opportunities along the Food Systems worldwide. Her efforts include being the LAC Representative for MESA and the Director of the Center for Innovation in Sustainable Food Systems of Instituto Perucano in Peru. She is currently the MEL Specialist of the ‘Specialty Coffee Community’ USAID project in Peru.

Christy Wilhelmi | Growing Fruit in Small Spaces

4 p.m. Wednesday, September 13

Christy Wilhelmi is the founder of Gardenerd, where she publishes newsletters and her popular blog, podcasts and YouTube videos. Her gardening obsession started on the balcony of her Los Angeles apartment in 1996; eventually she became a member of Ocean View Farms Organic Community Garden in Mar Vista, CA, and served on its board of directors from 1998-2020. Christy specializes in small-space, organic vegetable garden design, consulting, and teaching. Most of her family’s produce comes from her small (less than 300 sf) garden. She is the author of books including Gardening for Geeks, 400+ Tips for Organic Gardening Success, Grow Your Own Mini Fruit Garden, and her debut novel, Garden Variety, published in 2022. She loves to share her knowledge about organic gardening!  

In her talk, Christy will address topics including soil preparation, design strategies, combination planting, and growing in containers.

John KohlerGrowing and Eating for Optimum Health

5 p.m. Wednesday, September 13

Host of the immensely popular YouTube channel Growing Your Greens, where he shares his boundless passion for gardening and healthy eating. Since 1995, John has been helping people sustainably grow high-quality food. John is a great friend of Baker Creek and always one of our most popular speakers!

David Shields | The Ark of Taste: Delicious and Distinctive Foods That Define the United States

6 p.m. Wednesday, September 13

David Shields is known as “the flavor saver” in the South.  He tracks down the classic food crops of the region and assists in restoring them to fields and tables:  Carolina Gold Rice, Cocke’s Prolific Corn, Rice Peas, Purple Straw Wheat, the Dyehouse Cherry, Benne, Carolina African Runner Peanut, Purple Ribbon Sugar Cane, Hick’s Mulberry, Seashore Black Seed Rye, and Bradford Watermelon. Writing award-winning agricultural and culinary histories—Southern Provisions (2015), The Culinarians (2017), Taste the State (2021)—and now The Ark of Taste (2023) (with Giselle Kennedy Lord)—Shields documents the extraordinary creations of two centuries of American plant breeders, farmers, and chefs while showing the forces at work that marginalize flavor and nutrition in the nation’s food system.  He chairs the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, heads the Ark of Taste Committee for the South, and holds the Carolina Distinguished Professorship at the University of South Carolina.   He is the Southern Foodways Alliance’s “Keeper of the Flame,” a James Beard finalist in food history, and Slow Food’s Snailblazer for Biodiversity.  Subscribe to his excellent Substack newsletter, Food Lore and More.

From heirloom tomatoes to Tupelo honey, David’s talk will focus on the foods that embody our national culinary diversity and explain why championing them “promotes a more equitable alternative to industrial agriculture.”

Indy Srinath | Farm Dreams and Food Security

7 p.m. Wednesday, September 13

Indy is a forager, educator, urban farmer, and steward of both her environment and her community.  She is currently transforming a small plot of land in Los Angeles to create a mutual aid model demonstration farm. Her work is centered around the amplification of black and brown communities and food insecure regions. She is the host of Nat Geo’s “Farm Dreams.” Instagram: @indyofficianalis 

Indy will screen clips from the new series and talk about the idea behind it.

Thursday, September 14

Santa Rosa Hall, Ventura County Fairgrounds

Jeff and Sandy Bragg Reclaiming the Potato as Health Food

10 a.m. Thursday, September 12

Jeff and Sandy Bragg are advocates for organic, heirloom potatoes that are a world apart from the Potato Industrial Complex ones you’ll find in the grocery store. Before walking away from it, Jeff spent decades in the world of commercial potato production, where he introduced dozens of varieties. Now the couple focuses on producing organic, low-glycemic and high nutrition spuds. Jeff’s own health was a catalyst for change: In 2011, he was diagnosed as having Type 2 diabetes. As he dug into the nutritional research, he realized that others could benefit from having access to nutrient-dense, low-glycemic potatoes.  They will address the diversity of potatoes available, far beyond the commonly known varieties. They will also talk about the history of potatoes and potato farming, as well as their many nutritional benefits.

Ligia Parisi | Growing Heirloom Seeds in Chile: Our Story

11 a.m. Thursday, September 14

Ligia Parisi and her husband, Raul, left their high-powered careers in Santiago for the solitude of a farm in the Andes. They describe themselves as “self-made agronomists,” and Ligia will share their experiences and lessons learned. 

Dennis Sharmahd | A Lifetime of Rare Edible Plants 

Noon, Thursday, September 14

Dennis Sharmahd is an edible landscape artist, herbalist, and mycologist who grew up with a rare fruits garden in Lemon Grove, California. He has spent extensive time exploring in Mexico and Brazil for rare fruits, herbs, and mushrooms, many of which he propagates at his farm in Escondido. In his talk, Dennis will introduce the audience to his collection and talk about the importance of rare fruit collections such as the one he curates. 

Helen Juarez | Engaging the Senses Through Agricultural Therapy

1 p.m. Thursday, September 14

Helen Juarez is a professor at the University of Guadalajara and a promoter of urban agriculture. She has experience in therapeutic horticulture projects with men and women inmates and children with disabilities. She is also a founding member of the network of seed guardians of western Mexico. Since 2016, she has been involved in organizing seed festivals, workshops, and seed exchanges. Helen will reflect on the stories and impacts of her work with incarcerated people and children with disabilities.

Wendi Phan | Gardening in a Small Space 

2 p.m. Thursday, September 14

Wendi took a deep interest in gardening at a young age. When she outgrew her outdoor space, she began to create for the indoors. Plants are like an extension of her family — they are given lots of love, nurturing, and nourishment to build a strong foundation to grow happily when they get to your home. She will offer strategies and tips for getting the most from the space you have! https://wendiland.com/

Stephen Silverbear McComber | Seed Keeping and Planting By the Moon

3 p.m. Thursday, September 14

A traditional Haudenosaunee elder from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake in Quebec, Canada. He is a member of the Bear Clan and a faith keeper and manager of spiritual, traditional ceremonies at the Mohawk Trail Longhouse. Stephen is also a celebrated artist and has received The Canada Council for the Arts Award twice. As a traditional Haudenosaunee seed keeper, he has shared his knowledge with international audiences. Since 2007, he has worked as a native elder for Corrections Canada. He is also the proud grandfather of 12 grandchildren. Stephen will share stories of his seed keeping work and collection, as well as describe the practice of planting by the moon.

Steve Sprinkel | Farmer and Cook: Our Best Crop Has Been Organic People

4 p.m. Thursday, September 14 

Over the past 23 years, Steve Sprinkel and Olivia Chase’s Farmer and the Cook in Ojai has worked with over 3,000 employees, many of whom are still involved in food and agriculture. Steve says “We have been able to impart to them the principles of organic food and farming and with their help grow a consumer community that’s local and global.” Steve will reflect on the stories and impact of nurturing this community.

Joseph Lofthouse | How to Garden with Less Work and More Joy

5 p.m. Thursday, September 14

Joseph Lofthouse has adopted the principles of landrace gardening in response to the harsh growing conditions in a high-altitude, short-season, desert garden. Instead of relying on expensive poisons, materials, and labor to coddle the plants, he encourages genetic diversity, cross pollination, and survival of the fittest, allowing the plants to adapt themselves to the current and ever-changing ecosystem, thus simplifying gardening and seed saving. Joseph is the author of Landrace Gardening: Food Security Through Biodiversity and Promiscuous Pollination. He will share how you can adopt these strategies in your own garden.

Evan Gregoire | Starting Your Ancestral Seed Collection

6 p.m. Thursday, September 14

Saving seeds from your ancestors preserves unique varieties that are in danger of being completely extinct. Having your ancestral genetics allows you to maintain biodiversity and continue cultural traditions that are truly special. Creating this culture through seeds preserves and passes down traditional knowledge, stories, and practices that will be lost forever unless we act now. This informative panel will explain how to make this happen.

On his farm in the Pacific Northwest, Evan Gregoire supports over 500 different plant varieties each year, offering them internationally through the online store: www.HeirloomSeedhouse.com. For the past 20 years, Evan has cultivated culinary gardens for chefs and home gardeners, collaborating to enhance the level of creativity on his farm and in kitchens. His collection is primarily European but loves to share his knowledge and the stories of varieties from around the globe that are in need of stewardship. 

David Shields | The 10 Most Wanted Lost Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains in the U.S.

7 p.m. Thursday, September 14

David Shields is known as “the flavor saver” in the South.  He tracks down the classic food crops of the region and assists in restoring them to fields and tables:  Carolina Gold Rice, Cocke’s Prolific Corn, Rice Peas, Purple Straw Wheat, the Dyehouse Cherry, Benne, Carolina African Runner Peanut, Purple Ribbon Sugar Cane, Hick’s Mulberry, Seashore Black Seed Rye, and Bradford Watermelon. Writing award-winning agricultural and culinary histories—Southern Provisions (2015), The Culinarians (2017), Taste the State (2021)—and now The Ark of Taste (2023) (with Giselle Kennedy Lord)—Shields documents the extraordinary creations of two centuries of American plant breeders, farmers, and chefs while showing the forces at work that marginalize flavor and nutrition in the nation’s food system.  He chairs the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, heads the Ark of Taste Committee for the South, and holds the Carolina Distinguished Professorship at the University of South Carolina.   He is the Southern Foodways Alliance’s “Keeper of the Flame,” a James Beard finalist in food history, and Slow Food’s Snailblazer for Biodiversity.  Subscribe to his excellent Substack newsletter, Food Lore and More.

David’s talk will focus on the most endangered — or lost — varieties in America.