2018 Speakers

Welcome to the Nevada Small Conference! The 2018 conference planning committee is excited to announce our speakers – we have a host of new and local speakers bringing their expertise to you. Check out our final conference program here.


Tom Adams, Seven Troughs Distilling, Reno, NV
Born and raised in Reno, Tom attended the University of Nevada, Reno where he received bachelors and masters degrees in geological engineering. He worked in construction and mining for almost 20 years. In 2009, he wrote the final draft of what would become Nevada’s Craft Distillery Law, and in 2012 he founded Seven Troughs Distilling. Tom is still an active consultant to the construction and mining industries and stays active with the Nevada legislature. He is co-founder of the Nevada Craft Distillers Association.


Catharine  Anderson, United  States  Department  of  Agriculture, Risk Management Agency, Davis, CA Catharine has worked as a Risk Management Specialist for the USDA-RMA since 2005, after graduating from the University of California-Davis with a bachelors degree in Biotechnology and a masters degree in Geography/GIS. The regional programs that she maintains are Whole Farms Revenue, Mint, Forage Production, Small Grains, and Pecans and Forage Seeding. Besides working for RMA, Catharine is a professional seamstress. For the past 25 years, she has taught children and adults how to sew at her sewing school in Suisun City, California.


Chris Bernau, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fallon, NV
Christopher Bernau is the Great Basin Plant Materials Center (PMC) Manager for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. He joined the NRCS in January 2016 as the Rangeland Management Specialist. Prior to joining the NRCS, Chris was a Research Specialist for Extension at the University of Arizona. As an Extension agent, he was primarily involved in monitoring vegetation response after an assortment of treatments such as mechanically removing trees, seedings, grazing strategies, and herbicide applications.


Rebecca Burgess, Northern California Fibershed, San Geronimo, CA
Rebecca Burgess, M. Ed., is the Executive Director of Fibershed. A trained weaver, natural dye practitioner, and small- scale agrarian, she is a practitioner and life-long learner in the art and science of “growing our clothes” in a manner that enhances soil health. She practices and shares what she learns, and has taught at Westminster College, Harvard University, and has created workshops for a range of NGOs and corporations. She has built an extensive network of farmers and artisans within our region’s Northern California fibershed to pilot the fiber systems model at the community scale.


Jaclyn Coleman, Muse Group, Reno, NV
Jaclyn Coleman, public relations director at Muse Group, works with a variety of clients to help grow their business through public relations, online marketing, design and social media. The social media aspect involves managing her clients’ pages and providing consultations for their small business. She has a degree in journalism emphasizing in public relations from the University of Nevada, Reno. Jaclyn has been practicing public relations/marketing and social media for nine years.


Jerri Conrad, Nevada Department of Agriculture, Sparks, NV
Jerri Conrad has been with the Department of Agriculture since 2014 and has more than 20 years of experience in both the public and private sector as a facilitator, communications professional and personnel manager. She received a bachelor of arts from the University of Nevada, Reno’s Reynolds School of Journalism and a masters of business administration from the University of Phoenix. In her role as Deputy Director, Conrad oversees agency operations and personnel.


Jeffrey Creque, Marin Carbon Project, Petaluma, CA
Jeffrey Creque is a co-founder of the Marin Carbon Project and Director of Rangeland and Agroecosystem Management at the Carbon Cycle Institute, where he is engaged in training ranchers, farmers, resource conservation districts and others in strategies for increasing carbon capture and sequestration on working lands within a whole- farm planning and implementation framework known as Carbon Farm Planning. Jeff has over 35 years of experience in bio-intensive agriculture, rangeland management and watershed restoration. He holds a Ph.D. in Rangeland Ecology and is a California State Board of Forestry Certified Rangeland Manager and USDA-NRCS Certified Conservation Planner.


Jake Dick, Nevada Department of Agriculture, Sparks, NV
Jake Dick is employed with the Nevada Department of Agriculture working with the NDA’s produce safety program coordinator to help prepare Nevada producers for upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements. He also works with the drought initiative project and issues producer and vendor certificates for produce, eggs and honey. He previously worked in the NDA’s noxious weed program working with landowners to identify and control noxious weeds. His background is in conservation working with the Nevada and Utah conservation corps and vegetation monitoring in northeastern Nevada.


Lani Estill, Lani’s Lana ~ Fine Rambouillet Wool, Cedarville, CA
Lani and her family own and operate a vertically integrated diversified livestock operation producing cattle, sheep, alfalfa and grass hay. The ranch is in Northeastern California and Northwest Nevada.  They practice regenerative agriculture and with the help of partners like Fibershed and Carbon Cycle Institute are now operating under a Carbon Farm Plan. Lani is also the founder of Lani’s Lana ~ Fine Rambouillet Wool, a commercial wool business and small yarn line. Lani graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelors of science degree in Agricultural Economics in 1987.


Holly Gatzke, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Caliente, NV
Holly is Cooperative Extension educator for Lincoln County. Her areas of interest are developing programs for diversifying agriculture production in Lincoln County, servicing premium niche markets in Las Vegas, and working on economic and community development in Lincoln County. Holly has helped educate farmers on hoop house production and season extension practices. She is actively involved in expanding value-added processing for Nevada’s producers.


Ron Godin, Colorado State University, Hotchkiss, CO
Ron is an Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Research Scientist at Western Colorado Research Center. He has research experience with organic tree fruit and vegetable crops, and has extensive experience in salinity management. He has 10 years’ experience in hops production research in conjunction with Colorado growers and has been instrumental in developing a commercial hops industry for Colorado producers. Other projects include native plant seed production and cover cropping.


Michael Janik, Michaels Apples, Reno, NV
Michael has been growing and experimenting with orchard fruits and berries for more than a decade. He’s grown more than 100 apple varieties, as well as currants, grapes, berries and more. Michael is a certified arborist and is accomplished at grafting.


Ashley Jeppson, Nevada Department of Agriculture, Sparks, NV
Ashley Jeppson received a bachelors degree in Rangeland Management and Animal Science from the University of Nevada, Reno. She started with the NDA in 2010 as an Agriculture Inspector and is currently working as an Agriculturist that coordinates the following programs: Nevada Produce Safety Education and Regulatory Program, Good Agricultural Practices, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Farm to School Food Safety, and the Federal to State Marketing Improvement Program.


Ray Johnson, Custom Gardens, Silver Springs, NV
Ray established Custom Gardens, an organic produce farm, in Silver Springs in 1988. He worked with other growers  to develop the National Organic Guidelines as a Nevada law that led to the establishment of the Organic Certification Program for Nevada. Custom Gardens was the first certified organic farm under the Organic Certification Program in 1998. Today, his farm produces a wide variety of organically grown vegetables and fruits, sold through CSA programs and to retailers and restaurants.


Jeff Knight, Nevada Department of Agriculture, Sparks, NV
Jeff received a bachelors degree from the University of Nevada in Pest Management followed by a masters degree in Entomology from Utah State University. He has worked at NDA since 1985 and is currently the State Entomologist. Through the NDA, Jeff identifies insects and provides recommendations for general insect and other pest issues. He conducts and coordinates surveys for pests of quarantine significance and native insects of Nevada. Jeff also coordinates the release of bio-control agents for weed and insect pests.


Jim Komar, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Reno, NV
Jim Komar has dedicated nearly 30 years to providing soils, wetlands and watershed assistance to private landholders and those who assist them in making our beautiful western lands more productive. Jim’s current position as State Soil Scientist for the USDA’s NRCS in Nevada allows him to practice his passion for soil- building and healthy soils. Jim has spoken on soil quality and soil health nationally and is a contributor to a NRCS national technical team, building a nation-wide strategy for cataloging soil properties that connect soil function to soil health.


Andrew Mefferd, One Drop Farm, Cornville, ME
Andrew Mefferd farms at One Drop Farm in Cornville, Maine, with his wife, Ann, where they sell produce and transplants at farmers market, to a multiple farm CSA, and to local restaurants and food stores. Andrew is also the editor and publisher of Growing for Market, having taken over that business from Lynn Byczynski in 2016 – the magazine’s 25th year in publication.


Rodney Mehring, Blue Lizard Farm, Caliente, NV
Rodney Mehring, owner/operator of Blue Lizard Farm in Southern Nevada, has 25 years of beekeeping and small business experience. He has been farming greens and other vegetables using season extension and intensive rotation since 2010. He currently sells his produce through a distributor to high-end Las Vegas restaurants.


Mitiku Mengistu, University of Nevada, Reno
Mitiku Asfaw Mengistu obtained his bachelors of science in Plant Sciences and his masters in Applied Genetics from Alemaya and Addis Ababa Universities, respectively, in Ethiopia. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno. His current project focuses on improving teff by using cutting- edge biotechnological approaches.


Robert Morris, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Las Vegas, NV
Robert Morris is a Horticulturist and Associate Professor Emeritus from the University of Nevada who has been working with food and water issues in the arid West and around the world for the past 32 years. Robert spearheaded the University Orchard in North Las Vegas growing a wide range of fruits, vegetables and herbs and helped pioneer the marketing of locally grown food by small-scale producers in the Las Vegas Valley. He is co-author of two publications published by the University of California and CAST (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology), authored over 35 research articles, and over 1,000 trade journal articles.


Jennifer Ott, Desert Farming Initiative, University of Nevada, Reno
Jennifer received a bachelors degree in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin and her masters in Business from the University of Nevada, Reno. After working in the California wine industry for 10 years, she participated in the planning for the University’s Desert Farming Initiative and now manages the program.


Randy Robison, Reno, NV
Randy Robison was the champion gardener many times at the Nevada State Fair and is a University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener vegetable expert. Along with growing vegetables, he also raises chickens, turkeys and pheasants. He has been raising and selling poultry to Reno’s Muslim community for more than 30 years.


Juan Solomon, University of Nevada, Reno
Juan received his masters and Ph.D. in Agronomy from Mississippi State University, focusing on forage crops utilization and management. He also has a minor in Animal Nutrition. His research focuses on understanding and unraveling the intricacies associated with grassland ecology, management, and utilization; developing and promoting sustainable pastoral-based feeding systems for ruminant livestock production with emphasis on grazing management, systems, and forage quality evaluations; and screening forage crops for key adaptive traits, namely drought tolerance and water use efficiency for both improved and native forages in semiarid conditions.


Patricia Ferreira dos Santos, University of Nevada, Reno
Patricia Santos was born in Portugal. She received a B.S./M.S. degree in Applied Plant Biology from the University of Lisbon and a Ph.D. in Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions from Madeira University. She did a postdoc in Sweden on Plant symbiosis and in Michigan State University, on Molecular Plant Defenses. She is currently interested in carrot diseases and antimicrobial compounds.


Bernadine Strik, Oregon State University, Salem, OR
Dr. Bernadine Strik is a professor of horticulture and an Extension Berry Crops Specialist at OSU and the Berry Crops Research Leader at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center, a branch experiment station of OSU. She has over 30 years of experience in research, teaching, and grower education at OSU and has a berry crops consulting business where she works with growers and companies internationally. Her research areas of focus include whole plant physiology, improving yield and quality, machine harvest efficiency, pruning, optimization of production systems, plant nutrition, and organic production systems in all berry crops.


Anna Vickrey, Nevada Department of Agriculture, Sparks, NV
Anna is the Operations Manager of Food Safety for the Nevada Department of Agriculture. Anna received a BS degree in Environmental Resources with a focus in Rangeland Management from Arizona State University. She started working as a retail food inspector for Maricopa County in Arizona and then transferred to the Safe Drinking Water Program. Anna accepted a position with the Nevada Department of Health in 1997 as an Environmental Health Specialist. She has since managed the Interstate Milk Shippers program and currently manages the Food Safety section for the department.


Woody Worthington, Bently Ranch, Gardnerville, NV
Woody served 15 years in the Marines, but he’s been involved in ranching the majority of his life. As operations manager for Bently Ranch, he oversees 5,000 acres dedicated to alfalfa, a cow-calf operation, a grass-fed beef operation, composting facility and a recently started distilling business for which the ranch is growing the grains that will go into the alcohols. Elected as Douglas County Farm Bureau President, Woody now applies his ranching knowledge to educating the local community about ranching and agriculture.


Melinda Yerka, University of Nevada, Reno
Melinda is a plant breeder and geneticist, working primarily with sorghum. Her interests focus on the early stages of plant breeding. She has a research background in both weed science and plant breeding. She is especially interested in characterizing reproductive barriers that can be used to prevent unintended gene fl   w from crops to weeds, and developing new crop varieties with specialty traits to increase farm sustainability and profit. Melinda has a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Speakers are subject to change.