Scott Marlow, Executive Director
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x210
Scott currently serves as RAFI’s Executive Director. He previously directed the organization’s Farm Sustainability Program, providing in-depth financial counseling to farmers in crisis, education on disaster assistance programs and access to credit, and addressing the needs of mid-scale farmers seeking to increase the sustainability of their farms by transitioning to higher-value specialty markets. His specialty is financial infrastructure, including access to credit and risk management for value-added producers. Scott has served on the steering committee of the National Task Force to Renew Agriculture of the Middle, the Organization Council of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Board of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, the Board of the North Carolina Farm Transition Network, and currently serves on the NC Agricultural Advancement Consortium and the Advisory Committee of the NC Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Scott holds a Master’s degree in Crop Science from NC State University and a BA in Political Science from Duke University. Twitter: @ScottRAFI
Farm Sustainability Program
Benny Bunting, Lead Farm Advocate
Benny is a national leader in advocating for farm families and saving farms that would otherwise be lost to foreclosure. For more than 20 years, family farmers in crisis have turned to Benny for help. He provides farmers with a broad array of advocacy services including financial counseling, legal referrals, and technical assistance. Benny counsels between 75 and 100 farmers each year and devotes 60 hours per client on average. In more than 90% of the cases he works on, Benny helps farmers realize their goals and achieve greater stability. In 2008, Benny was awarded the prestigious Nancy Susan Reynolds Award for Personal Service. >> Click here to view a video about Benny Bunting and to read his full bio.
Joseph Schroeder, Director, Farm Sustainability Program
Tel: (336) 269-5733
Joe Schroeder serves as the Director of the Farm Sustainability Program. He has been with RAFI-USA for five years as a Field Coordinator and then as Director of the Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund (TCRF). Previously, Joe spent a year with SEIU Local 880 as a union organizer in Chicago before moving back to his native Ohio River Valley to organize farmers and food entrepreneurs with Community Farm Alliance. Joe graduated from Earlham College with a BA in Economics in 2004. Twitter: @joeschroeder
James Robinson, Research and Policy Associate
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x209
James manages research projects that focus on conducting risk analyses of sustainable farming practices. James also manages RAFI’s hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and landowner rights project, which focuses on issues of fairness in mineral rights leasing. Prior to working at RAFI, James was a Graduate Intern for the Florida Senate Committee on Agriculture, a Research Assistant for the Fiscal Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly and a Research Assistant for the Center for Teaching Quality. James holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from LaGrange College and a Master of Science degree in Political Science from Florida State University.
Molly Lutton, Research Assistant
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x201
Molly works on data collection, analysis, and coordination for a variety of RAFI’s research projects with a focus on risk analyses of sustainable farming practices. Prior to working at RAFI, Molly was a Research Assistant for a USDA funded study that was examining issues of food access and food insecurity for underserved populations throughout the state of Michigan. She also worked for the Emory University Recycling Office on campus sustainability issues. Molly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Emory University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan in Natural Resources and the Environment with a concentration in Environmental Justice and Behavior, Education, Communication.
Jean Willoughby, Project Director, Agricultural Reinvestment Fund
Tel: (919) 621-8453
Jean Willoughby serves as Project Director for the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund, our cost-share grant program for innovative and entrepreneurial farmers. She also currently serves as Co-Project Director of a project funded by the Southern Risk Management Education Center, through which she created a new online resource for farmers, the Resourceful Farmer (www.rafiusa.org/resourcefulfarmer). Jean works closely with the Farm Sustainability Program staff on projects related to farmer training programs, farm finance and risk management education, and rural cooperative development. Prior to joining RAFI in 2012, she worked for a national environmental nonprofit. She holds a BA in Sociology from Wesleyan University.
Kavita Koppa, Farm Community Organizer
Tel: (919) 621-0534
Kavita manages RAFI’s Farmer Leadership Network, an initiative that helps farmers effectively serve on committees for agricultural decision-making groups. She also assists the Farm Sustainability Program staff with rural cooperative development in North and South Carolina. In 2014, she oversaw RAFI’s initiatives related to North Carolina’s farmer-veterans and conducted research to better address their specific barriers to success. Prior to joining RAFI in 2013, she managed a beginning farmer program in South Carolina. Kavita is a proud native of South Carolina and is passionate about working with historically underserved farmers in the region. She holds a BA in Geography and Biology from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Annie Segal, Research Assistant VISTA
Tel: (919) 542-1396
Annie is RAFI’s research assistant VISTA. She will be researching farming practices and developing systems to catalog existing research and track the impacts of programs at RAFI. She previously worked as a teaching assistant in France and has also worked with non-profits and volunteered with farms and community gardens. Annie attended UNC-Chapel Hill and graduated in 2013 with a BA in French and a Sustainability minor.
Ben Paynter, Farmer Counselor Network VISTA
Tel: (919) 412-7435
Ben Paynter serves as RAFI’s Farmer Counselor Network VISTA for 2014-2015. He works with the Farm Sustainability team in developing RAFI’s tools and resources for farmers. His interests include cartography, open source GIS, and spatial analysis. Ben worked on several small-scale sustainable farms as a farmhand in the Appalachian mountains. He also took part in a residency program at his university’s student farm for three years. Ben holds a B.S. in Sustainable Development with a concentration in Agroecology from Appalachian State in Boone, NC. He minored in Geography.
Just Foods Program
Michael Sligh, Program Director
Tel: (919) 929-7099
A founding member of RAFI, Michael manages policy, research and education regarding agricultural best practices, agricultural biodiversity, biotechnology, organic identity preservation and a range of food justice and other value-added food labeling, and marketing issues. He has more than 30 year of experience in agricultural practices and policy analysis, including both domestic and international work. Michael holds the following titles: Founding Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (a federal advisory committee to the USDA); Founder of Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG); Founder of National Organic Coalition, Founding partner of Agricultural Justice Project, Founding member of Domestic Fair Trade Association. He is also a part-time family farmer and a trained anthropologist. Michael lives, farms and works in North Carolina.
Kelli Dale, Project Coordinator, Breeding for Organic Production Systems (BOPS)
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x211
Kelli Dale currently provides farmers with technical assistance designing and planting their field trials. The field trial design utilizes their equipment making planting, field upkeep, and harvest easier for the farmers while still implementing the replicated and randomized layout that is required for authentic research. Kelli was raised on an organic farm in northeastern North Carolina. Prior to her work at RAFI, she worked in the crop consulting field where she gained knowledge of conventionally grown commodity crops. She has managed a contract swine farm which allowed her to become familiar with the caveats of contract agriculture. She has previous experience at RAFI where she worked as a field technician on the peanut project with Scott Marlow. Kelli holds a degree from North Carolina State University in Agriculture Business Management with a minor in Animal Science.
Beyond Hunger Relief Program
Francesca Hyatt, Director
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x214
Cell: (919) 323-7587
Francesca serves as Director for the Beyond Hunger Relief Program, a program that exists to identify, develop and expand sustainable solutions to food insecurity that also work to strengthen just and sustainable agriculture. Prior to coming to RAFI, Francesca worked on both organic and conventional vegetable farms, served as marketer for the New River Organic Growers Cooperative, conducted education and outreach for SEEDS community garden in Durham and worked with ETC Group, advocating for farmers and indigenous people’s rights. Francesca received her BA from Appalachian State University in a self designed major titled “Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems.” She grew up in Germany and Hungary and now proudly calls North Carolina home.
Salem Neff, Local Food Access Coordinator
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x206
Salem will be working to increase the ability of North Carolina farmers markets and other direct market farm outlets to serve low-wealth communities and address access to healthy, sustainably raised food. Salem comes to RAFI with experience as a farmers market founder and manager, small business owner and market vendor and local food event organizer. While market manager at the Cobblestone Farmers Market in Winston-Salem, she established their SNAP/EBT and FMNP WIC programs and raised additional incentive funds to increase consumer usage. Salem holds a BA in Anthropology from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Tahz Walker, Come to the Table Project Director
Tel: (919) 548-6825
Tahz serves as Director for Come to the Table, a program that engages the faith community in identifying and supporting initiatives that relieve hunger and sustain local agriculture. He has spent the last 14 years working on small organic farms, and community-based food projects in North Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky. Tahz has witnessed a dramatic shift in cultural food traditions as well as access to healthy food choices in many urban and rural communities that he has lived in. This has fueled his ongoing commitment to food sovereignty, and agroecology.
Carson Whitmore, Local Food Access Ambassador VISTA
Tel: (919) 259-5169
Carson is an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving as Local Food Access Ambassador. In partnership with the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project in Asheville, North Carolina, she will work to expand and improve SNAP/EBT access at farmer’s markets. Prior to joining RAFI, Carson apprenticed and volunteered at farms and nonprofits in the Southern Appalachians. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies with a focus on policy from Warren Wilson College.
Edna Rodriguez, Development Director
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x202
Edna is responsible for managing and expanding the organization’s portfolio of institutional and individual donors. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Edna was raised in a global environment, growing up between The Hague, Netherlands and Santo Domingo. Prior to joining RAFI, Edna served as Business Development Director at NemediaSoft, Senior Program Officer at the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, and Director of Educational & Career Services at the Latin American Association in Atlanta, GA. Edna holds a BA in Economics with a Concentration in Latin American Studies from Haverford College. Twitter: @AgPhilanthropy
Elizabeth MacLachlan, Finance Director
Tel: (919) 542-1396 x212
Elizabeth currently serves as RAFI’s Finance Director. Previously, she spent nine years as the first Executive Director at the NC Public Health Foundation developing and growing the organization, and two years serving as a Community Development Volunteer with the Peace Corps in Suriname, South America. She holds a MPH in Nutrition from UNC Chapel Hill, a BS in Biology from Montana State University, and an AA in Rural Resource Management from Sterling College in Vermont.
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x208
Hayes is an AmeriCorps VISTA member with RAFI, serving as Communications Coordinator to strengthen RAFI’s communications and media relations capacity. She comes to RAFI with a background in journalism, nonprofit communications, and agricultural production. Hayes received her BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from UNC-Chapel Hill and her AAS degree in Sustainable Agriculture from CCCC-Pittsboro. She is interested in southern studies, food sovereignty, regional food systems, and nonprofit capacity building.