FRESH - Discussion Leader Bios

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FRESH Q&A Discussion Leader Bios

Francis Thicke
Francis Thicke, with his wife Susan, owns and operates a 75-cow, grass-based, organic dairy near Fairfield, Iowa.  They process their milk on the farm and market their dairy products through grocery stores and restaurants in Fairfield.  Francis has served in many organizations, including the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Iowa Food Policy Council, and on the boards of directors of the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.  He has a Ph.D. in soil fertility and has served as the National Program Leader for Soil Science for the USDA-Extension Service in Washington, D.C.  In Sept 2009, Francis announced his candidacy for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

Jerry Peckumn
Jerry Peckumn, with son Tom, farms in Greene County.  He raises corn, soybeans, forage and beef.  His land management strategies include residue management, nutrient management, site specific pest management, cover crops, water quality assessments, and perennial crops.  He also sets aside land for wildlife and ecological refuges.  He understands the need to remain profitable and competitive in agriculture and also believes that natural resource conservation is an important ethical component in our lives.  Jerry graduated from Iowa State University in Agricultural Business, worked many years in agricultural finance, served on the Iowa DNR's Environmental Protection Commission, and is a member of many conservation organizations including Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Izaak Walton League, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.  He also chairs the Iowa Rivers Revival, a statewide river advocacy group. Jerry's wife, Gail, works in environmental education.  They have three children, Christine, Thomas, and Benjamin.

George Naylor
George Naylor farms near Churdan, Iowa.  After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, he moved back to his family farm in 1976 and was soon elected to the first Iowa Corn Promotion Board.  During the farm crisis of the 1980's, he was active in the American Agriculture Movement, Iowa Farm Unity Coalition and the North American Farm Alliance.  He has served as past president of the National Family Farm Coalition, was on the Executive Committee of the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club, and was a member of former Iowa Governor Vilsack's Agricultural Task Force and Water Summit.  He has also attended gatherings at various international trade talks.  He is prominently featured in Michael Pollan's best selling book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and is a featured farmer in the documentary film FRESH.

Nick Foster
Nick Foster is a fifth generation farmer in Greene County Iowa.  Nick and his wife, Annette, live in the same farmhouse that his great grandfather and brother built.  Nick has lived and worked on Pleasant Prairie stock farm all his life.  His education came from farming with his parents and a full set of grandparents until he was well into his 30's.  Today, his operation is shared with the next generation, his son-in-law James Timmons.  Nick and James share a passion for excellence in agriculture.  Their operation consists of corn and soybean rotation.  James and Nicole (Nick & Annette's daughter) have begun raising pigs on the family farm with Niman Ranch.  Niman Ranch mandates that the hogs be raised in a proper environment and fed a balanced nutritious and antibiotic and hormone-free diet.  Their passion has also led the family to host a 1900 farm reenactment threshing bee at their home.

Chris Henning (discussion moderator)
Chris Henning - farmer, foodie, environmentalist and community activist - was a Greene County farm girl who left "for good" right after high school to lead a life in the business world where she spent nearly 20 years at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines and 7 years in events planning and production in Arizona.  She returned to her farming roots in 1992 to farm just a mile from where she grew up.  She was a founding member and the Executive Director for the Greene Bean Projects from 2001 to 2008.  She has also been an outspoken community organizer and activist for clean air and clean water, after the floods of '93 stranded her on her farm.

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