2012 22.1 A Message from the President

Tilth Producers of Washington Board President


I ’d like to extend a special thank you to our sponsors and to the speakers, volunteers, conference committee members, and staff for a successful conference. Our attendance numbers exceeded all previous eastside conferences we’ve held. We tried something different on Friday, by having four concurrent symposia – Dryland Organic Farming, Research, Policy and the Microdairy farm tour – all of which were well attended. Tilth has received positive comments about the impact of workshops, the resplendent silent auction, and overall event organization.

The conference keynote, Miguel Altieri, delivered an inspiring address titled Agroecology: Designing Resilient Farms for a Changing Planet. Altieri described the negative impact of largescale conventional farming on the environment and communities around the world. He offered ample evidence of sustainable solutions drawn from both the field of agroecology and indigenous farming communities.

Tilth Producers is proud to be part of the solution by teaching folks how to farm with methods that are good for the earth. We empower growers through education on farming, policy and marketing, and the work we do is part of the needed change in our food system.


We offer special thanks and best wishes to three retiring Board members who will be sorely missed.
Kia Armstrong has been on the Board since 2006. She served on committees for the annual conference, publicity, and policy, and held the position of Vice President for three years. Her inexhaustible energy, intelligence, practical mind, and go get ‘em attitude is intoxicating. We are grateful she continues to serve on the policy committee.

Jules Riske was elected to the Board in 2005. She served as Secretary for four years, has been instrumental in our Farm Walk program, and worked tirelessly on the annual conference and journal committees. Riske is dedicated, determined and thoughtful and we’re thankful she continues to serve on the Farm Walk committee.

Gary Middleton brought the voice of fruit tree growers to our board and served as liaison with the Organic Advisory Board. He gave great guidance on the needs of mid-sized tree fruit growers in today’s market.


Each year at the annual meeting, members elect the Board of Directors. Each elected member serves a two-year term. This year we had ten positions open, and elected five incumbents and five new members. This board has a great set of skills and I am excited about what we will accomplish together.

Erik Zakarison is a diversified Pullman area farmer who shares his knowledge with WSU students nearby. He has both certified organic and sustainably managed fields of grain and raises pastured poultry, eggs and sheep. He is a graduate of WSU Crop and Soil Sciences, has worked with WSU Extension, and was the Director of Wheat Research.

Halli Winstead is the Organic Farm Manager at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, organized the Food Summit in Thurston County, and is a backyard farmer. She brings strong outreach and communication skills to the board.

Eddie Hill works with Somali farmers in the Farm Works program of Seattle Tilth. He has a background in urban agriculture, planning, multi-cultural education, public affairs, radio, video production, curriculum writing, and program development. Hill farms with immigrant growers, and has worked with tribes on Native Food Sovereignty and the USDA Minority Farm Development Office in Pullman.

Ann Leason works with the Northwest Ag Business Center, runs a 2.5 acre herb operation with her husband, and plans to attend graduate school at Bastyr University. Leason has a background in event management and brings public relations and outreach skills to the board.

Brenda Book is the Managing Director of the Organic Food Program at Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). Her commitment and knowledge of the organic program and organic growers in Washington State will be a great asset to Tilth Producers.


Executive Committee officer positions of President, Vice Presidents, Secretary, Treasurer, and Member at Large were elected at the December board meeting. The Executive Committee meets once a month and works to implement Tilth’s work throughout the year. We are grateful for all their time and talent. We will undergo strategic planning, budget development, and annual work plan development at the board retreat in early January. New officers are: myself as President; Mary Robinson and Carey Hunter as Vice Presidents; Halli Winstead as Secretary; Sally Lovell as Treasurer; and Anne Schwartz as Member at Large.


Tilth Producers continues to evaluate its fundraising strategy and secure new sources of revenue. We are expanding our individual donor program and pursuing support from foundations and private sector. Current programming will expand and our staffing committee is evaluating our needs and developing necessary strategies to address them. We know we will expand our current programs. The staffing committee is working hard to evaluate our needs for staff and how best to fill them.

We have a great team and I am excited for all the possibilities in the upcoming year.

Diane Dempster, Tilth Producers Board President

Tags: 2011 Conference, Ann Leason, Brenda Book, Eddie Hill, Erik Zakarison, Gary Middleton, Halli Winstead, Jules Riske, Kia Armstrong, New Board Members, Officers, Retiring Board Members