Leora Barish – Founder & President
Leora is an army brat and longtime writer, screenwriter and advocate for social justice, with a deep interest in natural farming. During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Leora began mentoring veterans in writing through a joint program of the Wounded Warrior Project and the Writers’ Guild of America, of which she is a member. In 2012, she decided to start a sustainable farm school for veterans. She holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.
Michael is the founder and director of the Farmer Veteran Coalition, an organization of over 4,500 US veterans that is one of the most important voices in the farmer-veteran movement. Michael began farming in 1970.After 20 years in 1990 Michael was hired to run the first organic farm in Salinas, California. Over the next five years TKO Farms became the country’s leading grower of packaged salad greens. In 1996 he became the first Farm Manager for Mission Organics, growing for the Earthbound label and newly formed Natural Selection Foods. In 1998 Michael began a ten year stint developing 1600 acres of intensive organic vegetable and herb production in the northern half of Baja California for Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, including 30 acres of indoor tomatoes. In 2008, he began the Farmer Veteran Coalition out of the back of his pickup truck.
Committed to achieving racial and social justice, Manuela has dedicated her professional career and personal life to fighting for equity. She is currently the Director of Communications and Advocacy at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In November of 2017, Manuela took charge of coordinating our “1st Annual Heroic Food Friendraiser” at the home of Leora Barish and Henry Bean. It was incredibly successful and gave us the momentum we needed to charge into 2018. We are looking forward to her continued support as we trailblaze into the future of sustainable farming for veterans in New York State.
Rachel Schneider is Director of the Hawthorne Valley Farm Place Based Learning Center which focuses on farm based educational programming for children and families and professional training in the vocation of agriculture. Rachel holds a masters degree in Waldorf education.
As part of her work at the Learning Center, Rachel brought the Farm Beginnings whole farm planning program to the Hudson Valley from its original home with the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, organized a yearly Biodynamic Winter Intensive training at Hawthorne Valley and developed and initiated the “Kids Can Cook” summer camp specifically targeted to underserved children in the Hudson community. Her most recent projects include creating curriculum for the “Real Food Business Planning” course and working with the Bard Prison Initiative to bring a lecture series on the “Emerging Real Food Economy” to inmates at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County NY.
Rachel has been part of management at Hawthorne Valley Farm for the past 20 years. Prior to her current role, she held the position of market gardener and CSA coordinator for Hawthorne Valley Farm. During this time she was able to develop the CSA program and participated in founding the farm apprentice enrichment program called CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) both of which began in 1994.
Anna Hammond is the Executive Director for The Sylvia Center, a farm to table culinary education program based primarily in public housing community centers in New York City and on a farm in Kinderhook, New York. The Sylvia center provides skill-based programs to youth and their families to grow and cook food on budget so that they may lead healthy and productive lives.
Before joining The Sylvia Center, Anna worked as a political speechwriter and community organizer in New York City and Rockland County. Prior positions include deputy director for education, programs, and public affairs at the Yale University Art Gallery, and director of writing services for the Museum of Modern Art. She has published numerous articles and essays, directed over a dozen public art projects, and co-written a nonfiction children’s book about a community project intended to integrate children with diverse backgrounds in a neighborhood in the South Bronx.
Anna graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with a degree in classics and archaeology. She is A.B.D from University of Chicago, in South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and in 1995 earned an M.F.A. in painting from Hunter College, New York. She is an advisor to The Rockland Farm Alliance and has a certificate in biodynamic agriculture from The Pfeiffer Center.
In 2014, Robert Marquez completed a 40 year career as a social worker and senior management executive with Catholic Charities of Brooklyn & Queens, Inc., retiring as Vice President for Early Childhood Services. During his tenure as Vice-President, he led the consolidation and expansion of Head Start, Child Care and Family Day Care programs serving approximately 2,000 children and families through major changes in government funding and program operations. Robert had administrative oversight responsibilities including program operations, personnel management, government relations, fiscal management and strategic planning for 20 community- based early care and education programs with a total budget exceeding $24 million.
In June 2015, Robert was awarded the Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Service Award for Outstanding Leaders by Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens.
He holds an MSW degree from Hunter College School of Social Work, a New York State Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) license and is a certified social work Field Instructor for graduate students. His professional affiliations include the National Association of Social Workers and the National Academy of Certified Social Workers. He previously served on the Board of Directors of the Hunter College School of Social Work Alumni Association as Vice President for Finances from 2001 to 2004.
Robert is a veteran of the United States Army Medical Corps, serving as Preventive Medicine Specialist from 1970 to 1972, and was honorably discharged from military service. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York
He joined the Board of Directors of Heroic Food in October 2015.
Charlie Bunting is a Producer at Coalition Films. Bunting Produced ‘The Preppie Connection’ which was acquired by IFC Films in 2016. He is currently producing ‘Upstate’, a feature film by Joe Castelo filming Fall of 2016.
Before joining the team at Coalition, Charlie spent nearly a decade in The Department of Defense and US Senate, including six years as a DOD Operations Officer deployed across the Middle East in Direct support of counterterrorism operations. He represented the United States to the International community on hostage issues and co-founded the Hostage Working Group in Baghdad. For his service, Charlie was decorated with the Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, The Civilian Support to the Global War on Terrorism Medal, and The Civilian Expeditionary Medal.
Charlie holds a Bachelor of Art degree from the Virginia Military Institue where he served as President of the Class of 2001, the first coeducational class in VMI’s history. He is an enthusiastic volunteer and supporter of Boulder Crest Retreat, a veterans wellness center in Bluemont, Virginia. Charlie is a Board Member of Heroic Foods, an organic farming apprenticeship for veterans based Hudson, New York. Charlie trains in Mauy Thai and speaks Arabic. He’s also a hopeless fan of the Boston Red Sox.