The Panelists

  • Jim Riddle, Organic Research Grants Coordinator, The Ceres Trust, and owner, Blue Fruit Farm View Full Bio

    For more than 30 years, Jim Riddle has been an organic farmer, gardener, inspector, educator, policy analyst, author and avid organic eater. Jim was founding chair of the Winona Farmers Market Association and the International Organic Inspectors Association, (IOIA), and co-author of the IFOAM/IOIA International Organic Inspection Manual. Jim served on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Task Force from 1991-2009, and was instrumental in passage of Minnesota’s landmark organic certification cost-share program. Jim currently works as Organic Research Grants Coordinator for The Ceres Trust, is the elected Chair of the Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District Board, and owns and operates Blue Fruit Farm. Jim serves on the Leadership Team for eOrganic, the national Extension Community of Practice for organic agriculture; on the Citizens Board for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; and on the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Advisory Committee. Jim is former chair of the USDA National Organic Standards Board and is a leading voice for organic agriculture. 

  • Will Gilmer, Gilmer Dairy Farm, Sulligent, Ala. View Full Bio

    Will and his father own and operate a dairy farm in Lamar County, Ala. The dairy has been in continuous operation since Will’s grandfather established it on his parents' farm in the early 1950’s. They currently milk 200 Holstein cows and raise their own replacement heifers, while managing 600 acres of land used for pasture and forage production.  Those forages include hay, summer silage crops, and small grains/ryegrass for both silage and strip grazing.

  • Ellie Krieger [MODERATOR], RD, host of Food Network's Healthy Appetite, and New York Times best-selling cookbook author View Full Bio

    Best known as the host of the Food Network's hit show "Healthy Appetite," Ellie's warmth and charisma have made her the leading go-to nutritionist in the media today. Krieger's success can be attributed to her unique way of offering real life advice without any of the gimmicks and crash diets that permeate the media today. She reaches people with her message that it is possible for anyone, given the tools and knowledge, to live life to the maximum by keeping a healthy balance and nurturing a richly satisfying and sumptuous, attainable lifestyle.

    Ellie's career launching first book, Small Changes Big Results, a how-to on easy-to-live-with habit changes that yield optimal results, was recently launched in a revised and updated format. Ellie's second book, The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life, was an immediate New York Times bestseller, and won the IACP Cookbook award and the esteemed James Beard Foundation Award for "Best Cookbook with a Healthy Focus." Her next book So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week, also became an instant New York Times bestseller. Her latest cookbook, Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy, is a James Beard Foundation Award nominated collection of healthy versions of comfort food classics.

    A registered dietitian, Ellie has a master's degree in nutrition from Teacher's College, Columbia University and completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University. Ellie was an adjunct professor at New York University in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. In her years in private practice, she counseled a variety of clients, from homemakers and CEOs to notable celebrities.

    Today, Ellie's extensive work in the media has earned her a loyal following and national recognition. She speaks regularly at high profile events around the country and has appeared as a guest expert on dozens of national television programs including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, Live with Regis & Kelly, CNN, CNN HLN's Morning Express, ABC News Now and Dr. Oz. Additionally, Ellie has been a weekly columnist for USA Today and USA Weekend, a contributing editor and columnist for Fine Cooking magazine and regular contributor to Food Network magazine. She has appeared in countless other publications including People, Self, Women's Health, Fitness, Better Homes & Gardens, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, More, Health, Parenting, Cooking Light, First and Prevention.

    Ellie has been at the forefront of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign from the beginning when Mrs. Obama's team personally invited her head up a nutrition education initiative at the "Healthy Kids Fair" at the White House in 2010. Ellie prepared a colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables in the White House kitchen and challenged dozens of children from the community to "eat the rainbow" in produce every day; a simple and easy way to engage children in a healthier lifestyle. Ellie also participated in harvesting the White House garden with a group of school children as part of the Chef's Move to Schools launch. She has teamed up with New York City SchoolFood where she created healthy, delicious menu items for students citywide. And she works at a grass roots level with her daughter's New York City public school, having formed the Wellness Committee there. The school was recently awarded the Healthier US School Challenge award, the first and only in New York City to receive it. In 2010 on behalf of the Food Network, Ellie testified before the House Committee on Agriculture about nutrition, healthy eating and the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. Ellie has also teamed up with hunger organizations such as Feeding America, Share Our Strength and City Harvest to help all people have access to good, healthy food.

  • Bo Stone, Farmer, P & S Farms, Rowland, NC View Full Bio

    Bo, his wife Missy, and his parents jointly own P & S Farms. They grow 2,300 acres of row crops (corn, wheat and soybeans). They also have six swine finishing floors on contract (approximately 10,000 hogs annually) and have 60 head beef cattle. They also grow 2.5 acres of strawberries and four acres of sweet corn that are sold at their roadside market.  Bo represents the sixth generation to farm their land.

  • Gene Kahn, Former President and CEO of Cascadian Farms View Full Bio

    In 1971, Gene founded Cascadian Farm, a vertically integrated organic farm in Washington State's Skagit Valley. He developed a farming, manufacturing, marketing and sales organization that brought the first nationally distributed organic packaged goods to the US and Japanese markets. For 38 years, Gene grew his farming operations from a "back to the land" self-sufficient farm to a producer of 8000 acres of fruit and vegetable crops for processing.

    In 1996, he led the acquisition of Muir Glen Tomato Products and the formation of Small Planet Foods (SPF) with his investor partners, General Electric Employee Pension Trust and Roy Disney's Shamrock Capital Advisors. In January of 2000, Gene and his partners sold their interest in SPF to General Mills Inc. He continued as Divisional President for three
    years and led his company's integration efforts. Gene most recently served as Vice President and Global Sustainability Officer at General Mills and led the development and implementation of their overall sustainability proram. He focused on developing programs with agricultural suppliers and retail grocers to improve their environmental performance. Gene had oversight over many international sustainability initiatives, including one to promote agricultural and rural development in Malawi and Tanzania.

    Since the late 1990s, Gene has broadened his efforts to become an outspoken advocate for the advancement of technology in the development of sustainable agriculture.

    Kahn currently serves as a Senior Advisor of Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is working to help small farmers in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia increase their income and access to safe nutritious food.

    Gene is an active farmer and resides on his farm on Ebey's Prairie, Whidbey Island, Washington.

  • Brad Nelson, Marriott International Corporate Chef and Vice President of Culinary View Full Bio

    My name is Brad Nelson and I am Marriott's corporate chef and vice president of culinary. I grew up in Seattle, Washington where I developed the passion for food that continues to follow me throughout my career. We savored the first salmon of the season, shopped Pike Place Market, grew vegetables in the family garden, and learned to respect nature's simple, clean flavors, which I strive to instill into the philosophy of our numerous global kitchens. More significant has been the daily food discoveries that still enlighten me, proving the old adage no one knows it all. That is never more accurate than in the food world.

    Working my way up from dishwashing to the sandwich line at a local eatery in my teenage years, I developed an interest in the culinary field even before high school. I spent the formative parts of my career working from Seattle to San Francisco to Hawaii to Florida, working in large and small hotels and independent restaurants. A Richard Keating Award-winning 1984 CIA graduate, I was among the first chefs to cook at The James Beard House's 1991 "Best Hotel Chefs" series.

    In 1998, I joined Marriott International as director of culinary development, soon moving to my current position where I work with chefs domestically and abroad to establish standards, help develop menus, seek out product and participate in tasting and testing in the company's Marriott Test Kitchen, at the corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland.

    As vice president culinary and corporate chef of Marriott International, I have worked to build an international culinary team that continues to raise the bar in dining. I take my respect for nature's simple, clean flavors and instill it into the philosophy of the numerous kitchens I oversee. I travel extensively throughout the many countries where Marriott has properties.

    My wife Elizabeth and I are the parents of three and reside in Northern Virginia.

  • Kathleen Merrigan, Former Deputy Secretary Dept. of Agriculture View Full Bio

    Kathleen A. Merrigan is the former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Working alongside Secretary Tom Vilsack, Merrigan oversaw the day-to-day operation of USDA’s many programs and spearheaded the $149 billion USDA budget process. She served on the President’s Management Council, working with other Cabinet Deputies to improve accountability and performance across the federal government.

    Merrigan brought a wealth of knowledge to USDA from a decades-long career in policy, legislation, and research related to the many missions of USDA. Deputy Secretary Merrigan has managed the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food effort to highlight the critical connection between farmers and consumers and support local and regional food systems that increase economic opportunity in Rural America.
    In November 2009, she made history as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Recognizing that most employees work outside of Washington, D.C., Merrigan has visited USDA field offices nationwide to ensure top-flight program delivery that meets constituents’ needs.
    Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time magazine named Dr. Merrigan among the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010. Before becoming Deputy Secretary, Merrigan served for eight years as Assistant Professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment graduate program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts.
    Under an appointment by President Bill Clinton, Merrigan was Administrator of the USDA Agricultural  Marketing Service from 1999 to 2001. She served for six years as a senior staff member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, working for Senator Patrick Leahy (VT).
    Merrigan has also been engaged in agricultural policy in positions at the FAO, the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and the Massachusetts State Senate. Merrigan holds a Ph.D. degree in environmental planning and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Texas, and a B.A. degree from Williams College.
    She and her husband Michael Selmi have two children in elementary schoo
  • David Fikes, Food Marketing Institute Vice President, Consumer/Community Affairs, Communications View Full Bio

    David Fikes is Vice President, Consumer/Community Affairs and Communications for Food Marketing Institute, the trade associate for supermarkets, grocery stores and all venues of food retail. His current position allows him to act upon his conviction that humans have a right to food and consumers have a right to safety, information and choice. Prior to his position with FMI, Fikes served as the Director of Communication for the American Frozen Food Institute.

    He and his wife Lisa are the proud parents of two and a half year old Harper Fikes.


  • Lynn Martz, farmer, Martz Family Farm, Maple Park, Ill. View Full Bio

    Lynn, farms in a family partnership including her husband Mike, Lynn’s parents, Ray and Carol Larson, brother, Norm and Barb Larson and son, Justin and Jamie Martz.  They grow 6350 acres of row crops (corn, soybeans and wheat).  They also have a beef cattle finishing feedlot (finish 7000 head per year).

    Lynn and Mike have been active in the Illinois Farm Families Program bringing Chicago Mom’s out to tour their farm to help answer questions about where their food comes from.

  • Jayson Lusk, Oklahoma State University agriculture economist and author, “Food Police" View Full Bio

    I currently serve as Professor and Willard Sparks Endowed Chair in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University. After earning a B.S. in Food Technology from Texas Tech University in 1997, I received a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University in 2000. My first job out of graduate school was as an assistant professor at Mississippi State University, where I stayed for three years before moving to Purdue University as an Associate Professor. In 2005, I accepted my current position at Oklahoma State. In 2011, my family and I moved to Paris while I served as a visiting researcher at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research and worked on a research fellowship awarded by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

    My research primarily focuses on predicting and understanding consumer behavior as it relates to food. Since 2000, I’ve published more than 125 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals on a wide assortment of topics ranging from the economics of animal welfare to consumer preferences for genetically modified food to the impacts of new technologies and policies on livestock and meat markets to analyzing the merits of new survey and experimental approaches eliciting consumer preferences. I’ve been listed as one of the most prolific and cited food and agricultural economists of the past decade in a variety of outlets including here, here, here, and here, won numerous research awards, given lectures at over 30 universities in the US and abroad, and published editorials in outlets such as theWall Street Journal,,,, and the Huffington Post. I’ve served on the editorial councils of seven academic journals including the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and theJournal of Environmental Economics and Management. I’ve also been elected to and served on the executive committees of the three largest U.S. agricultural economics associations, including most recently the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

    In 2007, I co-authored a book on a consumer research method with Jason Shogren published by Cambridge University Press and co-authored an undergraduate textbook on agricultural marketing and price analysis with Bailey Norwood published by Prentice-Hall. In 2011, I released a book co-authored with Norwood on the economics of farm animal welfare published by Oxford University Press and also co-edited the Oxford Handbook on the Economics of Food Consumption and Policy. My most recent book, The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto about the Politics of Your Plate, was published by Crown Forum in April 2013.

    I currently live in Stillwater, Oklahoma with my wife and two sons.