Board Members and Staff



Heidi Lynch- Executive Director

Heidi is passionate about growing community resiliency through spaces that reconnect people and food. She grew up in Rutland,  worked on small farms throughout Vermont and abroad, and began volunteering with VFFC in 2012. Heidi founded and led VFFC’s Farmacy Project from 2014-2019, and began serving as  VFFC's Operations Director in 2020 when staff and programming grew significantly in response to community food needs. In 2022, Heidi was appointed VFFC's first Executive Director.  She holds a BA in Art and Global Studies from Saint Michael’s College and worked for Antioch Education Abroad in India for several years before returning home to Vermont. Most days Heidi can be found hiking, snowboarding or gardening with her family here in the Green Mountains.  


Melinda Laben-Hardt-  FaBEL Education Coordinator

Melinda believes wholeheartedly in the power of building local community, regenerative agriculture and hands on education. She grew up on a small family dairy farm in Western New York, where her love for all things agriculture was first cultivated. She earned a B.S. in Recreation, Adventure Travel and Eco-Tourism from Paul Smith's College. From there she spent her 20's working at various Outdoor, Environmental and Farm education centers throughout the country. She moved to Vermont in 2011, continued working in the recreation and animal health industry, finally becoming part of  the Vermont Farmer Food Center team in 2018. Melinda is currently the director of education for the VFFC, organizing and orchestrating all aspects of the educational programs, and growing outreach. In her spare time she moonlights as the Co-Director of Castleton Recreation, and owns and runs an instructional archery business, Aim for Archery. She lives in Hubbardton with her husband Josh Hardt,  where they manage a farmstead raising pigs, turkeys, chickens, ducks and their 3 sons, River, Leif and Nolan.


Emma Hileman- Farmacy Program Director

Emma became involved with the Vermont Farmers Food Center and the Farmacy Project while finishing up her master's degree in macro social work with Boston University. Emma is originally from the blue ridge mountains of southwestern Virginia but made the green mountains of Vermont her home in 2018. She has spent time as a crew leader on farms in upstate New York and western North Carolina and received her bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies from Ithaca College where her love and interest in local food systems flourished. She has also spent time working in mental health and started at Spring Lake Ranch, a residential treatment facility in Shrewsbury, Vermont when she first moved to the area. As a board member of the Rutland Free Clinic and a health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition her focus is to make preventative healthcare a priority for Rutland county using food as medicine. As program director of the Farmacy project she is able to help people living with chronic diet-related illnesses in the county by providing them with produce grown by local farmers and nutrition education from other community partners. Emma is also a lover of the outdoors and can be found in her free time hiking in the white mountains of New Hampshire, kayaking on many a Vermont lake or tending to the garden at her current home in Wallingford, Vermont.

Stephen Abatiell

One hundred years ago Stephen's great-grandfather helped build the Rutland of today working in the Lincoln Iron Works, long before the building housed the Vermont Farmers Food Center.  After years of teaching and conservation with non profits in the National Parks out west, Stephen is proud to be back home in Vermont with the VFFC, helping to build the Rutland of tomorrow.













Tracy Weatherhogg- Online Market Manager 

Tracy began her relationship with VFFC in 2012 when she served the Grace Congregational UCC Church as Associate Minister and volunteered on Sunday afternoons helping to transform the vacated, industrial property into a viable facility.  She continued as a volunteer when the Farmacy Project began in 2015.  In the fall of 2019, she began to help with general operations.  In April 2020, when COVID-19 shut down the indoor farmers market, Tracy helped to coordinate VFFC’s Online Market which began as a way for farmers and producers to continue to offer their local produce, meat, dairy, bakery, and specialty items to their customers in a safe and convenient way.  The Online Market continues today.   In addition, Tracy assists with the Everyone Eats program and coordinates use of VFFC’s commercial kitchen.  Tracy enjoys bringing people together and helping to create community, especially when food is involved!  Being a part of creating a food system that supports local farmers and brings more local food access to everyone is exciting and challenging, especially in these times.  In addition to her work at VFFC, Tracy is the part-time pastor of the Pawlet Community Church, co-chair of the Rutland County Hunger Council, serves on the Board of the Rutland County Parent Child Center, is a member of the Resource Development Committee of Rutland Co. Habitat for Humanity, participates in 350Rutland and the Root Words project.  Tracy enjoys hiking, kayaking, playing tennis, attending local sporting events, and spending time with her family.  


Wayne Morrissey- Bookkeeper

(Bio still germinating)

Grace Davy- Everyone Eats Coordinator

Grace settled in Vermont by way of Marlboro College in Windham County. She got into fresh vegetables through the school’s salad bar, and discovered her love of cooking with local ingredients (and local cheese) when she decided to invest a bit of her weekly earnings each week at the Montpelier farmer’s market. A great light bulb lit up, and from there on out it was all gardens, cooking, and preservation. 

Grace moved to Rutland County over 10 years ago and it was the best move she ever made. She once again decided to invest in her community and created Get Cracking Kitchen, a home catering business that evolved from her love of local ingredients. That business led Grace to discover her passion for cooking education, in which she has been involved with for years--from Harvest of the Month to a mobile cooking workshop program. One driving question remains constant through all of Grace’s work: how do we create more avenues for local food? And one passion: How can I share my love of cooking with local food? She also loves music, art, animals and comedy.

Grace is proud to be a part of Vermont’s Everyone Eats program and happy to be part of the work supporting local agriculture.




Greg Cox - President

Greg is a former building contractor, who has since become a local food system advocate. He has been a fixture in Vermont agriculture for over 30 years, receiving several statewide awards for his innovative work and has served in a leadership capacity with many agricultural organizations. He was one of the founders of Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), and was its inspirational leader and president for over nine years before becoming one of the founding members of the Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC), to focus on rebuilding the region’s agricultural infrastructure and developing a system of equitable access to local food. He owns Boardman Hill Farm which functions as a diversified farm and an educational facility, both training and incubating the next generation of farmers, where Greg and his family live in West Rutland. Greg received the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce 2016 Business Person of the Year Award.


Ryan Yoder Vice President

Ryan grew up in Nepal, providing him a firsthand view of the emerging global ecological crisis, as well as strong opinions about sustainable living.  After obtaining a philosophy degree, Ryan spent over a decade in the field of experiential education, leading cultural immersion trips to India, wilderness therapy, and farm based education therapy.  Ryan now co-owns Yoder Farm with his Wife Rachel in Danby, VT.  They are committed to regenerative agricultural practices, deescalating the ecological and health crises, and expanding the calorie options available to local customers.  After several years on the VFFC board of directors Ryan is excited to see the organization maturing and stabilizing while it lays the foundation for Rutland's future food system.  He is honored to be a part of this endeavor.


Lisa Garson

Lisa has been a board member and secretary of VFFC since late 2018.  A part-time resident of Shrewsbury, Vermont, and New York City. Lisa and her husband Raymond have been active participants in the Rutland and Vermont Farmers Markets for many years. Lisa has spent most of her career in the fashion apparel business, where she has held senior management positions in Operations for large multi-national brands.  For VFFC, she has run the Harvest Fest auction for 2 years, and wrote and won a successful grant application for VFFC prior to joining the board.  She brings extensive organizational and project management skills to the board, where she is heavily engaged with the staff and other board members on a number of initiatives. Lisa has a BA in Economics from Amherst College, Amherst MA. She enjoys hiking, skiing, kayaking, cooking—and is obsessed with tending her garden

Chris Keyser

Chris was born in Chelsea, VT.  He graduated from Proctor JR SR High School and Tufts University.  Chris moved back to Proctor, VT in 1979 where he raised his family of two daughters and a son.  He purchased Proctor Coal Co at that time. Over the next 40 years Chris expanded the business to Keyser Energy with 35 employees operating in two states.  He has served as chair of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce, Rutland Economic Development Corporation, The Killington Music Festival, Rutland City Rotary, Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, New England Fuel Institute, Vermont Economic Progress Council, Rutland Mental Health Services, among others.  Other interests include golf, skiing, hunting and woodworking. He and his wife, Jane are now retired from structured jobs and living in Rutland.



Brianna Schneider

Brianna is passionate about supporting and growing our local economic stimulus, reducing our environmental impact, and the local food system throughout the Rutland region. The Vermont Farmers Food Center has allowed her to align these core values. Brianna has experience in abetting in the creation, implementation and launch of a cooperate podcast, co-branding marketing strategies for large organizations, and business development. Brianna currently works for a local non-profit in the Rutland area. She believes that while you make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give. 

Brianna is a member of Rutland City Rotary Club, involved in youth-based volunteer activities in the community, and various other community-based volunteer groups. In her spare time, you can expect to find her finding any reason to be outside and active, and chasing every opportunity to learn and grow.


Philip Ackerman-Leist 

Philip Ackerman-Leist is the co-founder and Executive Director of Regen by Design (RxD), a new online education and community-building platform focused on regenerative communities, with food and agriculture at the center. For two decades, Philip was Professor of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems at Green Mountain College, where he established the college's 23-acre organic farm, designed and launched the undergraduate program in Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, and founded and directed the nation’s first online graduate program in food systems.

Prior to launching RxD, Philip served as Dean of Professional Studies from at Sterling College in Vermont for two years, where he established the college’s first online educational initiatives and professional certificates. Philip and his family raise grass-fed American Milking Devon cattle at UpTunket Farm in Pawlet, Vermont. Philip is also the author of A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement; Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems; and Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader.  He believes the Vermont Farmers Food Center represents the future of local food systems in the US.

Mary Ashcroft

Mary is a Vermont-licensed lawyer with experience as a solo practitioner in family, environmental and real estate law. She currently manages low bono and pro bono programs for the Vermont Bar Association, and co-facilitates the VBA/Vermont Law School New Lawyer Incubator Project. Mary lives on the Rutland Town farm which has been in her late husband Harold Billings’ family for over 200 years. As a farm wife and farm owner, Mary has been involved in farm and food sector issues for several decades. She has served on many state and local government and non-profit boards. She presently chairs the Rutland Town Select Board. Attorney Ashcroft brings legal, administrative, and fundraising expertise to the VFFC Board of Directors. When not volunteering as a guardian-ad-litem in court or singing in her church choir, Mary can be found searching for her elusive goats on her Creek Road farm.

Ludy Biddle

Ludy is the recently retired Executive Director of the non-profit NeighborWorks of Western Vermont which has a mission of transitioning people from rental arrangements to home ownership. Ludy led NeighborWorks for 20 years after spending most of her career working in the arts.