Speakers at FED: Food Expo & Discussion

We are honored to have the following speakers at FED: Food Expo & Discussion in 2017.


Keynote: Sara Stewart, RN, MSN,
Founder & Executive Director, Unity Gardens Inc. (South Bend) 

Keynote Speaker & Community Project Design Panelist

Sara Stewart is the Founder and Executive Director of Unity Gardens Inc., a non profit dedicated to connecting our community to fresh produce, nature, and each other.  Through 40 plus open gardens, free classes, and programs, Unity Gardens is assuring everyone has access to healthy food and opportunities.   Sara is a public health nurse who has specialized in a systems approach to community wellness.  By utilizing her experience with vulnerable aggregates, advocacy, business management, and cultural studies, she has led a community wide initiative to create a local food safety net for the entire city.

Unity Gardens: Growing Food, Growing Health, Growing Community, Growing Together

More info at www.theunitygardens.org and on Facebook


Allyson Straka,
Founder & CEO of Frozen Garden (Valparaiso)

Sustainable Nutrition Panelist

Allyson Straka is the Founder and CEO of Frozen Garden based out of Valparaiso. With a background as a Holistic Health Educator, Allyson took her passion for green smoothies and created an easier and more convenient way to consume them on a daily basis. Frozen Garden takes fresh fruits and vegetables, mostly from local farmers, blast freezes them and creates ready-to-blend green smoothies. You just open the freezer, grab a pouch, blend, and enjoy!

More info at www.thefrozengarden.com


Alma White,
Stewart House Urban Farm and Gardens (Gary) 

Urban Farming and Community Gardens Panelist

Alma served as Assistant Director for the Lake County Division of Family and Children, and had the responsibility of administering public assistance programs in Lake County until she retired. She became involved in the Stewart House project, a mission of Christ United Methodist Church, shortly after its inception in 2012. 


Bill Smith,
Westville High School, National Park Service (Westville)

Aquaponics Panelist

Bill has taught for over 30 years. He currently teaches aquaculture and  hydroponics at Westville High School and is an interpretive park ranger with the National Park Service. 


Rev. Curtis Whittaker, Sr. ,
Progressive Comm. Church, FAITH Farms (Gary)

Urban Farming and Community Gardens Panelist

Rev. Whittaker’s focus is pastoral care, counseling, and community and economic development. He also serves as the President and CEO of Families Anchored in Total Harmony Inc. (FAITH CDC) and is also founder of FAITH Farms, a community demonstration project focused on providing fresh, local, and organic fruit and vegetables to those living in a food desert.


Damien Appel,
Organic Farmer/Educator, Native Roots Farm (Westville) 

Sustainable Nutrition Panelist

Damien is an organic farmer/educator who operates Native Roots Farm, an educational nonprofit just outside of Westville, IN.  He sells his produce through the Valparaiso Market and the Coffee Creek Farmers Market, as well as through a farm CSA. Damien also serves on the NWI Food Council Board.

Dominique Edwards,
Urban Farming Advocate (Chicago & Michigan City)

Urban Farming and Community Gardens Moderator

Dominique holds a M.A. in Sustainable Urban Development from DePaul University. What initially inspired Dominique’s journey was a family garden built by her father, Richard Edwards, in 2009. Dominique has worked in the non-profit sector for nearly 6 years. She serves on the board of both Plant Chicago and the NWI Food Council.


Elias Crim,
Executive Director, C-Lab (Valparaiso)

Community Project Design Moderator

Elias is a civic entrepreneur and the founder of the C-Lab, a regional  network of locally-based citizens who collaborate in order to foster civic engagement, greater social capital, and community wealth-building. Their most recent project was South Shore SOUP, a series of community microfunding dinners.  Elias also serves on the NWI Food Council Board.


Jennifer Shelhart,
 J.Shelhart Fine Portraiture & Kinfolk Herbs (Valparaiso) 

Aquaponics Panelist

Jennifer is a wife, mother of 4, aquaponic farmer, beekeeper and quasi herbalist (studying to be a master herbalist). She built her aquaponic system from scratch using random stuff she had or could easily get her hands on. She owns two small businesses, J.Shelhart Fine Portraiture and Kinfolk Herbs (a line of herbal teas, herbal skincare products, and workshops).


Kimberly Newhard, MBA

Aquaponics MODERATOR

Over 11 years, Kimberly has incorporated science, business, and travel into consulting jobs across multiple industries and fields. Some industries include higher education, non-profits, government, staffing, and manufacturing. She has worked in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Italy, and the U.S. and her goal is to address global food security through sustainable agriculture.


Pastor Marty Henderson,
Peace Baptist Church, The Peace Garden & Farms (Gary) 

Urban Farming and Community Gardens Panelist

The Peace Garden and Farms provides healthy, affordable, high quality, locally grown food choices. PG&F provides a safe-haven for youth and adults; youth development programs for the head, heart, hands, and health; and community development of vacant and abandoned properties in Gary, IN.  Pastor Henderson also serves on the NWI Food Council Board.


Pastor Nate Loucks,
State Street Community Church, The Pax Center (La Porte)

Community Project Design Panelist

Nate Loucks is a pastor, peacemaker, and social entrepreneur. In 2010, he was the church planter of State Street Community Church in downtown LaPorte. State Street is a church community cultivating a just and generous expression of the Christian faith through tangible expressions of love and grace. He is also the President and Chief Peace Officer of the Pax Center. The Pax Center is located in downtown LaPorte as well. The mission of the Pax Center is to engage the poverties of hunger and loneliness. In 2016, in a collaboration with the City of LaPorte and the Main Street Association, the Pax Center became the visionary partner of the Jackson Street Community Garden. 


Rob Walker,
La Porte High School (La Porte) 

Aquaponics Panelist

Rob is an award-winning teacher of Agriculture and Animal Science, and has utilized aquaponics in the classroom for over 10 years. He’s Head Girls Basketball Coach, Future Farmers of America Advisor, and a former National Park Service Park Ranger and NPS Forest Fire Fighter.

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Suezanna Haywood,
Supervisor, Lanes End Farm (Lowell) 

Sustainable Nutrition Panelist

Suezanna is a supervisor at Lanes End Farm, where she has worked for six years. She is very passionate about organic farming, local farming, and preserving all the delicious and nutritious bounty.


Virginia Pleasant

Sustainable Nutrition Moderator

Virginia is a PhD student at Purdue University and a co-founder of the heirloom seed library at the Farm at Prophetstown State Park. Her research and advocacy are policy-driven and focus on small scale alternative agriculture, local food systems, and sustainable futures.