Board Members and Staff

Staff

 

Heidi Lynch- Operations Director

Heidi is passionate about growing community resiliency through spaces that reconnect people and food. She grew up in Rutland, Vermont, worked on small farms throughout the state and began volunteering with VFFC in 2012. Heidi founded and led VFFC’s Farmacy Project from 2014-2019, a collaborative, public health initiative that prescribes local CSA—Community Supported Agriculture farm shares to patients— food as medicine. Heidi is currently VFFC’s Operations Director, facilitating support of integrated and impactful programs that increase food education and access through regenerative, inclusive food systems. She has helped several Vermont communities initiate food as medicine projects in their areas and serves on various health and food systems advisory boards in Vermont. She holds a BA in Art and Global Studies from St Michael’s College. Snowboarding, meditating, traveling, gardening and making art complement the daily activities of an outdoor enthusiast working at a non-profit food center!

 

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- FaBEL Operations

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Board

 

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 DiPrinzio, and two sons, Harry and Charlie DiPrinzio, have been active participants in the Rutland and Vermont Farmers Markets for many years. In fact, her two sons were vendors for two summers when they ran DiPrinzio Pasta Company.  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.