2024 CSC Spring Convening: Presenters


Salamander Springs Farm

Known for its flavorful, nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, cornmeal, popcorn and dry beans, Salamander Springs Farm started on a logged ridge-top without topsoil in 1999. Susana Lein built fertile, living soils of high organic matter without fertilizers—using continuous no-till cover/crop cycles, poultry, farm-made compost, contour swales and rainwater catchments. Completely off-grid, she built a tiny house and farm structures with local wood, clay & straw. Learn how permaculture management mimics natural systems for high productivity: salamandersprings.wixsite.com/farm/about


Native American Indian Association of TN

Eleanor’s roots in Middle Tennessee go back six generations, with a majority of those generations running a family farm in Smith County. Eleanor has had the privilege to work with Indigenous groups across the continent, from teaching Indigenous Latin American migrants to read and speak Spanish to mentoring Native youth on navigating higher education systems, and currently as a volunteer board member and Treasurer of the Native-led 501c3 nonprofit the Native American Indian Association of Tennessee (NAIA). As Treasurer of the NAIA, Eleanor has aided in charitable grant funding for cultural revitalization efforts, essential services for Native people in need, job training and vocational supportive services, the Annual Tennessee Indian Education Pow Wow, and the planned Circle of Life Indian Cultural Center. Eleanor has been involved in creating community gardens for schools and at low barrier shelters for the unhoused. She believes in the healing power of plants for not only the Earth but in our relationships with each other. Her Doctoral work focused on diagnosing all things that can make plants sick – from environmental and soil nutrient conditions to nematodes, insects, and pathogens – her expertise is plant pest problem solving. Eleanor ran the UTK Extension plant pest diagnostic laboratory for 2.5 years, giving Tennessee plant growers guidance on correct identification and management of insect and pathogen pests. On the Grants Committee of the Cumberland Seed Commons, Eleanor is invested in how our effort can gain community, governmental, and Tribal participation that is reciprocal and supportive of Tribal priorities in our efforts to preserve biodiversity and center our waterways across the Cumberland River watershed, and create ways for all community members to participate. 


Sustainable Communities Network

Jim Embry considers himself stardust congealed in human form that represents the billions of years of Earth’s evolution. As an evolutionary being, his purpose is to contribute to a paradigm shift towards Sacred Earth consciousness and refers to himself as a Sacred Earth Activist. Often times called an “eco-activist” or labeled as Black & Green, as an activist Jim has for the past 50 years participated in most of the major social movements of his era: Civil Rights, Student, Black Power, Environmental, Anti-war and Peace, Women’s, Disability, Inter-faith, Food Justice and Local Foods. In 1972 Jim was a founding member of Good Foods Co-operative and in 2018 helped establish the worker co-operative Wild Fig Bookstore, both in Lexington, KY. Jim now serves as director of Sustainable Communities Network (sustainlex.org) and cultivates collaborative efforts at the local, national and international levels with a focus on food systems. 

Jim believes that we need some big ideas that connect humans in a sacred relationship with the Earth which will require us to think not just “out of the box” but “out-of-the-barn.” He is at home at every level, whether as a seven-time USA delegate to Slow Food’s Terra Madre in Italy, a visitor to Cuba to study organic farming, an organizer of urban agriculture projects, or serving as a land steward on a 30 acre family farm. Jim maintains that the local food and sustainable food/agriculture movement is the foundation of a sustainable community. Jim was a key contributor of the Slow Food USA Equity, Inclusion and Justice Manifesto. Working now on two books, Jim has contributed articles and photographs to the Sustainable World Sourcebook, Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky, the Kentucky African American Encyclopedia, Latino Studies, Biodynamics Journal, Stella Natura calendar, the African American Heritage Guide and numerous other publications. 


Caney Fork Farms

Asher has been working in regenerative agriculture since 2005, with a heavy focus on diversified crop and livestock systems. He loves all things related to agriculture and food systems. His career experience began at the agriculture program at Warren Wilson College, which led him to work on farms around the US and Central and South America. After his travels, he received an M.S. in Animal Science from Clemson University. While at Clemson, he researched forage-finished beef, studying both animal performance and the interface between meat quality and human health. Asher has a diverse career background working in both for-profit farm businesses and agriculture education. He is also an Accredited Professional with the Savory Institute. Asher is particularly excited about the role that Caney Fork Farms can play in the world and the opportunity to be a part of a team working to make a strong business case for regenerative agriculture through the integration of research and production agriculture.


Rooted East

Femeika loves speaking passionately about transforming your everyday dishes into healthy masterpieces using fresh ingredients to uplift the lifestyle of others. She started her health foods brand Meik Meals, in 2019 and continued to pivot in the entrepreneurial scene to address major health crisis within the black community such as mental health, postpartum medical and food apartheid becoming the founder of The Lotus Program Experience and the Rooted East Knoxville Collective.

Femeika brings her background of 6 years in whole foods education, sacred medicine and ancestral practice with over 10 years in the social work field serving marginalized and underrepresented communities.

Femeika founded Rooted East Knoxville to address the inequities of the American food system; recreating the food landscape—increasing access for East Knoxville residents.She enjoys being a social justiceprenuer and advocate for marginalized communities as Black health, liberation and restoration remains at the forefront of her vision.


AKA Farmer Brown Tha MC

Trevor is an author, illustrator, musician, urban gardener, & Aquaponincs educator at foodchain in Lexington, KY.

 In 2015 while earning his B.S. in Agriculture, Food, and Environment at Kentucky State University Land Grant College, Claiborn created and  developed “Farmer Brown Tha MC” through which he has made presentations about agriculture, diversifying agricultural and STEM fields, and  creative youth engagement strategies to tens of thousands of youth and families in Kentucky and  across the country. 

 Trevor, through his character and program “Farmer Brown Tha MC,” has directly engaged more than 10,000 students and parents through in-class presentations, community events, summer programs, church camps, conferences, tours, afterschool programs, and urban gardening workshops. Trevor has led community garden initiatives for 8+ years in Lexington’s West End and Northside communities as well as presentations around the country. In Trevor’s free time, he enjoys hiking, creating music, reading, and most importantly, spending time with his family.

About Trevor‘s ee360 Community Action Project: https://naaee.org/programs/cee-change-fellowship/ee360-community-fellows


Michael Linus Flores is an award-winning film, producer, restaurant owner, agroforestry farmer, storyteller, Griot, and Ghanaian warrior chief born in Dangriga Belize.

He migrated to the United States at twelve years old to Brooklyn New York in 1972. He went to high school at PS 138 then Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. After high school he joined the United States Navy for three years, he then attended Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, IL and the University of Illinois Circle Campus in Chicago IL. From there he worked for Barack Obama’s Developing Communities Projects (DCP) in Altgeld Gardens south Chicago. Michael married his wife and returned to Belize where she is a Supreme Court Judge. He also has one son in school in the United States, North Carolina.

He runs Entrepreneurship restaurant bar and hotel , Swinging Armadillo Hopkins village, and is involved in farming and activism in the community in Hopkins village. He farms at the New Garifuna Republic and is a warrior chief enstolled in Ghana in 2000. Michael is also a three time award winning movie producer in Belize and one time award winner CARIFESTA in Barbados.

Michael has been involved in self sufficiency farming, cacti fruit farming, conservation tree farming and agro forestry farming. At present he is involved in Dragon Fruit farming.


Vicki Assevero is an international lawyer with a longstanding interest in sustainable development. She represented multinational energy companies and international organizations early in her career with Duncan, Allen & Talmage in Cote d’Ivoire after working with The Commerce Department and the OECD in Paris. She shifted to representing developing countries in their negotiations with multilateral banks and investors as a partner at Holland & Knight, and she represented the Bar of the City of New York at Rio+20. She founded The Green Market in Santa Cruz, Trinidad, in 2012 as a practical experiment in community-based sustainable development concentrating on changing patterns of food consumption and production. She is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law Schoo


Bill Best came to Berea College as a student in the 1950s from a Haywood County, North Carolina, farm that has been in his family for generations. Except for his graduate studies, he has lived near Berea ever since, managing a farm not far from town that is renowned in area farmers’ markets. His interest and knowledge of heirloom vegetables is preeminent. 

Bill Best is already legend with over 700 varieties of discrete beans and hundreds of tomatoes stockpiled and catalogued  at the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center, which is at his farm in the Knobs country of Madison County just outside of Berea.

Best is distinguished not only for his collection of seeds, but for his keen interest in the stories that accompany them and his ability to weave those stories into the history of a people and a region, the Appalachian South.

He’s also continuing a way of life Appalachian farmers have handed down for generations: cultivating an appreciation for the tenderness and fresh flavor of favorite home-grown fruits and vegetables, teaching the process of producing and saving seeds from one season to plant in the next, and engaging the support of a like-minded community. You might recognize him as a long-time grower of ripe, juicy heirloom tomatoes, which he sells at farmers markets in Lexington and Berea. Best is the author of “Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia”.




Sustainable Berea

Richard Olson is chair of the board of Sustainable Berea, a community non-profit, and director of the Berea Urban Farm. He has advanced degrees in ecology and sustainable agriculture, and many years of experience conducting basic and applied research in forest ecology. He recently retired from the faculty of Berea College where he taught sustainability, environmental justice, and ecological restoration. 

 Cheyenne Olson is Executive Director of Sustainable Berea. She received her Ph.D. in communications from the University of Kentucky, and secured a Fulbright Post-doc in Australia to study the impact of Rupert Murdoch on the creation and presentation of news. Cheyenne has transformed her yard into an edible landscape and raises a small flock of chickens. In 2018 she designed and implemented Harvesting Hope, a job training program for women recovering from opioid addiction.


Janet is the Director of Farm Enterprises at Berea College. Previously, she worked with Berea College students and staff to produce and market certified organic plants, seeds, fruit, and vegetables. She graduated from Berea College with a B.S. in Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2005 and has more than 35 years of agricultural experience


Kiki Hubbard is an outreach program manager in the Department of Plant and Agroecosystem Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She brings more than 20 years of experience in the area of seed policy to support UW-Madison’s academic collaboration with the USDA’s Seed Liaison initiative. Before joining UW-Madison, Kiki held positions with Organic Seed Alliance, National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Rural Affairs, Organization for Competitive Markets, and other agricultural groups. She lives in Missoula, Montana, with her husband and son.


“Our Land Of Promise” 

Aaron Banther is a native of Berea, Ky and a 1996 graduate of Berea Community High School. Upon graduation he served 22 years in the United States Navy as an Aviation Fuels Specialist and retired as Naval Chief Petty Officer. Possessing a passion to learn agriculture and return to his roots, Aaron returned to Berea to take care of his family farm that’s been in their family name since the early 1900’s. His bloodline in Berea goes back to Frederick Watts who was a slave in the area and ultimately fought in the Civil War. He is also the nephew of Anne Peyton who was the first African American student to attend Eastern Kentucky University all four years and graduate.  Aaron enjoys interacting with individuals from all walks of life . His love for African American History and Heritage made him a Grass Root Organizer and led him to do historical preservation work in his rural community of Farristown. He hopes to not only display local African American Heritage throughout the Community but find ways to bridge gaps and understanding among people of different backgrounds.   Aaron is currently a federal employee at the Blue Grass Army Depot and works as a Contracting Specialist., Some of his hobbies include Outdoor Activities such as Fishing, Gardening,  Traveling and considers himself a BBQ Grill Master. 




Brian Chadwell, A native of Madison County (Richmond,Ky). I am a 4th generational black farmer. I am working on creating a supply line of fresh local organic Rice, dry beans as well other legumes and other cereal grains. I am a member of Jubliee Justice- The first African American rice based co-op out of Louisiana suppling SRI rice to Lotus Foods. I’m also a seed grower working with 3 seeds companies. 


Sarah L. Hall is associate professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Berea College. Her scholarly articles on restoration of native forests and grasslands in Kentucky have been published in a wide range of journals including Restoration Ecology and New Forests. She recently authored Sown in the Stars: Planting by the Signs (Univ Press of Kentucky, 2023) which was awarded the Henry Clay Service Award. This book documents the practice of planting by the moon or zodiac signs, centered on interviews conducted with nearly two dozen Kentucky farmers. Sarah lives with her family on 14 acres in Garrard County, an ongoing restoration project aimed at stewarding wildlife habitat and home gardening.


Jennifer Bailey’s lifelong passion for history has led her on a spiritual journey of family, and sharing stories of liberation of the Underground Railroad, and connection with the land. With familial roots in farming from both southwestern Ohio, and southwestern Georgia, Jennifer pays respects to her lineage by lifting up the land, food, and community to better know herself and understand her roots.   Jennifer grew up closely tied to the land and natural resources on her family’s multi-generational farm where she worked as part of her family-owned and operated Christmas tree farm, serving you-cut fir trees to the community.  Jennifer worked as an Environmental Educator in the Dominican Republic where she partnered with youth and women’s groups on sustainable community projects with animals, flora, and fauna. 

Jennifer developed a passion for long-distance walking in the footsteps of Freedom Seekers across the varied terrains and environments.  Through these long-distance walks, she connects to the strength and resourcefulness of our ancestors and their connection to the land.  In 2020, Jennifer co-founded the non-profit, Daughters of the Underground, with a mission of walking in the footsteps of our ancestors on the underground railroad to remember and share their stories.  To date, Jennifer has walked 277 miles including sections of the Underground Railroad from Harriet Tubman’s birthplace to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from May’s Lick, Kentucky to Ripley, Ohio, and from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.  In 2022, Jennifer co-led a Juneteenth community 10-mile walk for the village of Yellow Springs, Ohio.  The celebration partnering with community organizations including National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center, Antioch College, the Yellow Springs Public Library, and local public media.  The event featured African rituals, dance, and traditions to help heal the legacy of racism and enslavement in rural Ohio


Social/Cultural Anthropology, (Indiana University, Bloomington)

I am a Social/ Cultural Anthropologist specializing in African Diaspora cultures and the politics of race. In this capacity, I have taught at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, North Carolina A&T State University and several other institutions  over the last 20 years. Currently, I teach K-12 in Cincinnati area Schools and lead drumming workshops at the Hive Center for Contemplation and Political Action in Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood.  I studied djembe and dunun drumming  traditions with the late Guinean Grandmaster Mamady Keita for many years and endeaver to share these rhythms, the culture and the unity they create, with the world, and especially the African American community.  As part of our cultural heritage, this music connects us with each other, with Africa, and with nature, itself.  


Kenya Abraham, is a Fayette County, KY farmer and co-founder of the micro-dairy Slak Market Farm LLC. Her farm specializes in producing signature raw milk products, halal meat and pastured eggs. Kenya is strongly dedicated to utilizing the farm as a place for serving the well-being of both her family and community. She also operates Stack A Story Bookshop, a nonprofit bringing kids into agriculture through Writing Workshops, Family Farm Stays and Barnyard Expos. She has worked as a farmer liaison for Equity in Agriculture, building relationships and working to push beyond the issues and limitations of systematic racism and bottlenecks affecting small family farmers. In 2020, Kenya was awarded the Small Farmer of the Year Award from Kentucky State University and the Emerging Leader Award from the Community Farm Alliance. Kenya is a trained certified organic inspector for crop and livestock production through the International Organic Inspectors Organization (IOIA). Kenya  recently became the Organic Transition Program Manager at the Organic Association of Kentucky and delivers one-on-one organic certification technical assistance to Kentucky farmers.


Randall spent most of his life in sales and marketing, before becoming a sales coach, trainer and speaker with a passion to motivate & inspire people to work towards their greatness. His goal in teaching and speaking is to provide information that would render immediate improvement followed by long-term positive results. Our work is now in 6 countries. 

His passion is to equip with the tools and confidence to WIN, using his 30+ years of entrepreneurship to publish books, trademark the anti-violence character BOBO & create an anti-violence board game. BOBO stands for Better-Options- Better-Outcomes. BOBO advocates non-violence and teaches “Let’s Stay Alive & Put fighting Aside”. 

In 2022 Randall collaborated with the United Way to launch a BOBO Anti-Violence Pilot Project with enormous success. Materials are distributed to schools, YMCA’s, rec centers, churches, libraries & other places to spread the anti-bullying message, with additional efforts now beginning with medical centers & doctor’s offices. 


Charlie received his B.S. and M.S. in biology (emphasis on Wildlife) from Murray State University.  Following graduation, he worked for 31.5 years for the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources as a wildlife biologist.  During his career he oversaw operations on several waterfowl areas, a prairie/field trial area, and the state’s first outdoor recreation area.  Also, he was the state’s first elk restoration biologist involving the re-establishment of a free-roaming elk herd in eastern Kentucky.  In 1996 he received the Governor’s Land Heritage Excellence Award for prairie restoration on the West Kentucky Wildlife Management area using prescribed fire to stimulate native vegetation.  He has worked a seasonal biologist for Roundstone since April 2018.

JIM COLEMAN – Coleman Crest Farm, LLC

Jim was raised on his family’s farm, Coleman Crest, which was originally purchased by his great grandfather, James Coleman, on March 27, 1888, after he and his family had tilled the farm as slaves. Jim is the sole owner of Coleman Crest Farm today.

After the passing of his loving wife Cathy, of 37 years, Jim moved his life forward to Lexington Kentucky in August 2020 to restore his heart and Coleman Crest Farm. Jim rapidly restored Coleman Crest Farm into a hyper growth farming enterprise with three operating divisions including certified organic crop production, an Incubator for Aspiring Farmers and Agritourism.

On July 19, 2022, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture approved Coleman Crest Farm to be an Official Certified Organic Farming Operation, making Coleman Crest Farm the only African American Owned Farm in the state of Kentucky to be Certified Organic and the 117th African American Farm in the Nation.

Jim has established partnerships with the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University to leverage the latest approaches to agriculture management and to leverage the innovative spirit of their students to achieve his long-term vision for Coleman Crest Farm, which is to preserve the farm in perpetuity, as a teaching farm for aspiring farmers.


Farming is in Mike Lewis’s DNA. Born in the aptly named town of Farmington, Maine, Mike follows in his great grandfather’s footsteps as the first family member in two generations to continue the farming legacy. Raised throughout Maine, green farms and rolling acres accented Lewis’s childhood and cemented in him a love for the natural process of agriculture.

After serving in the Military, Mike landed in Kentucky and realized that it was farming that was calling to him. In 2009, he took an internship on an organic farm in Gravel Switch, Kentucky and founded Growing Warriors — the first Veteran-oriented food security project with a mission to equip, asset, and train military veterans in production agriculture to feed themselves, their families, and their communities. To date, the organization has provided education and training resources to hundreds of veterans and their families.

In 2014, Mike began farming hemp as part of the Kentucky Pilot Program. With the support of Fibershed and Patagonia, he became the first federally permitted hemp farmer in the U.S. since Prohibition. He has won numerous awards for his work in agriculture and farming, including the 2013 and 2014 Local Food Hero award, the 2015 Wendell Berry New Agrarian Kentucky Colonel award, the 2014 Yahoo People That Made the World a Better Place award, and the GRIST 50 award.

Today, Lewis is a regularly sought-after speaker who educates audiences on agrarianism, regenerative agriculture, farm safety, veterans in agriculture, and local economics. He has been recognized as a Farm Aid hero for his work with Veterans and sustainable agriculture.

Mike currently resides in Kentucky with his wife, daughter, and son. When he is not on the farm or working the fields, he enjoys reading and debating the relationships between religion and ecology.