Meet Our Keynote Lecturers

A Diverse Panel of Sustainability Activists

Eliot Coleman


Eliot is the author of The New Organic Grower, Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook. He has written extensively on the subject of organic agriculture since 1975, including chapters in scientific books and the foreword to Keeping Food Fresh: Old World Techniques and Recipes by the gardeners and farmers of Terre Vivant.

Eliot has more than 40 years' experience in all aspects of organic farming, including field vegetables, greenhouse vegetables, rotational grazing of cattle and sheep, and range poultry. During his careers as a commercial market gardener, the director of agricultural research projects, and as a teacher and lecturer on organic gardening, he studied, practiced and perfected his craft. He served for two years as the Executive Director of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and was an advisor to the US Department of Agriculture during their landmark 1979-80 study, "Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming."

He has conducted study tours of organic farms, market gardens, orchards and vineyards in Europe and has successfully combined European ideas with his own to develop and popularize a complete system of tools and equipment for organic vegetable growers. He shares that expertise through his lectures and writings, and has served as a tool consultant to a number of companies. He presently consults and designs tools for Johnny's Selected Seeds.

With Barbara, he was the host of the TV series, Gardening Naturally, on The Learning Channel. He and Barbara presently operate a commercial year-round market garden, in addition to horticultural research projects, at Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine.

Jim Hightower

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent four decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the 80 percent of the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top.

Hightower is a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, spreading the message of progressive populism all across the American grassroots. He broadcasts daily radio commentaries that are carried in more than 150 commercial and public stations, on the web, and on Radio for Peace International. Each month, he publishes a populist political newsletter, "The Hightower Lowdown," which now has more than 135,000 subscribers and is the fastest growing political publication in America. The hard-hitting Lowdown has received both the Alternative Press Award and the Independent Press Association Award for best national newsletter.

A popular public speaker who is fiery and funny, he is a populist road warrior who delivers more than 100 speeches a year to all kinds of groups. He is a New York Times best-selling author, and has written seven books including, Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country And It's Time To Take It Back; If the Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates; and There's Nothing In the Middle Of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos. His newspaper column is distributed nationally by Creators Syndicate. Hightower frequently appears on television and radio programs, bringing a hard-hitting populist viewpoint that rarely gets into the mass media. In addition, he works closely with the alternative media, and in all of his work he keeps his ever-ready Texas humor up front, practicing the credo of an old Yugoslavian proverb: "You can fight the gods and still have fun."

Hightower was raised in Denison, Texas, in a family of small business people, tenant farmers, and working folks. A graduate of the University of North Texas, he worked in Washington as legislative aide to Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas; he then co-founded the Agribusiness Accountability Project, a public interest project that focused on corporate power in the food economy; and he was national coordinator of the 1976 "Fred Harris for President" campaign. Hightower then returned to his home state, where he became editor of the feisty biweekly, The Texas Observer. He served as director of the Texas Consumer Association before running for statewide office and being elected to two terms as Texas Agriculture Commissioner (1983-1991).

During the 90's, Hightower became known as "America's most popular populist," developing his radio commentaries, hosting two radio talk shows, writing books, launching his newsletter, giving fiery speeches coast to coast, and otherwise speaking out for the American majority that's being locked out economically and politically by the elites. As political columnist Molly Ivins said, "If Will Rogers and Mother Jones had a baby, Jim Hightower would be that rambunctious child -- mad as hell, with a sense of humor."

Mark Shepard

Mark Shepard is the CEO of Forest Agriculture Enterprises and runs New Forest Farm, the 106-acre perennial agricultural forest considered by many to be one of the most ambitious sustainable agriculture projects in the United States.

New Forest Farm is a planned conversion of a typical row-crops grain farm into a commercial-scale, perennial agricultural ecosystem using oak savanna, successional brushland and eastern woodlands as the ecological models.

Trees, shrubs, vines, canes, perennial plants and fungi are planted in association with one another to produce food (for humans and animals), fuel, medicines, and beauty. Hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts and various fruits are the primary woody crops. The farm is entirely solar and wind powered and farm equipment is powered with locally produced biofuels that are not taken from the human food chain.

Trained in both mechanical engineering and ecology, Mark has developed and patented equipment and processes for the cultivation, harvesting and processing of forest derived agricultural products for human foods and bio fuels production. Mark was certified as a Permaculture designer in 1993 and received his Diploma of Permaculture design from Bill Mollison, the founder of the international Permaculture movement.

Mark is founder and board President for Restoration Agriculture Institute and serves on the board of the Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development Council. He teaches agroforestry and Permaculture worldwide. Mark is a farmer member of the Organic Valley cooperative, the worlds largest Organic Farmer's marketing co-op, and is the founder and chief Cydermaker for the Shepard's Hard Cyder winery in Viola, Wisconsin.

Mark has been invited to speak at some of the world's most innovative farming organizations, including: Acres USA Conference, Midwest Organic Farmers Conference, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference, Association for Temperate Agroforestry, Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association National Conference, and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association