Veterans Workshop 2017 Speakers

The Experts

Check back often as speakers are added to the 2017 program!

Alison Martin: Executive Director, The Livestock Conservancy

Jeremy Engh:  Lifelong breeder of Devon cattle continuing his family tradition of raising and marketing grass-fed Devon cattle, US Army veteran. 

Richard Larson: Founder of Old Gjerpen Farm and twice winner of the Supreme Champion Fleece award over 1,200 competitors. Richard has raised rare breeds for over 25 years and has Leicester Longwool sheep and American Milking Devon cattle on his farm in Culpepper, VA. Richard uses mixed rotational grazing practices, careful selection, and line-breeding to produce top quality breeding animals, meat and fleeces. He is a  USMC Viet Nam veteran.

Erica Govednik: Runs Hock Newberry Farm, a successful organically-managed, multi-species, rotational-grazing farm on rented land in Marshall, VA. The farm’s products consist of forested American Guinea Hog pork, a Nubian dairy goat herd share program, and free-range egg and broiler chicken program. She is a successful organic, multi-species, rotational-grazing farmer on rented land in Marshall, VA. US Coast Guard veteran.

Larry Cooper: Full-time black​smith since 1986. During the last decade, he has focused on a lifestyle of simplicity and self-sufficiency. A believer in the small-scale agricultural revolution in this country, Larry is the designer of the Gulland broadfork, which he produces alongwith scythe-related tools in his shop in Chatham County, North Carolina.

Mandy Liesch: PhD student at North Carolina State University, researching how much storm-water soils in a rapidly urbanizing county can infiltrate to maintain water quality. She is currently in charge of writing and managing web content for K-12 soils education and teachers site for the Soil Science Society of America. Mandy is a small farmer, dog sport enthusiast, and soils NERD, fighting to empower rural America for the better. She raises heritage rabbits, ducks, and geese on a small 12 acre farm in South Carolina. She has a BS in International Agriculture, a MS in Agronomy, and a PhD in soil science, focusing on water movement through soils.

Steve Hart: retired from the Army after 26 years, moved to Lexington Virginia and bought a farm, and teaches civil engineering at the Virginia Military Institute to support his farming habit.  Steve, his wife Christina, and their children raise American Milking Devons cattle, Kerry oxen, Jacob sheep, Tennessee Fainting Goats, chickens, turkeys, geese, vegetables, and trees.

Kendy Sawyer: raises Milking Devons in Fries, VA.

Andrea Chandler:  raises Silver Fox rabbits and non-heritage sheep in Richardsville, VA. US Navy veteran

John Fant raises grass-fed Red Poll cattle in Independence, VA. US Army, retired. He is a Representative of the Virginia Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Matt Lohr is a Former State President & National Vice-President of FFA. He is Director of the Farm Credit of the Virginias Knowledge Center. He served as the 14th Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Chuck Neely, along with his wife Lou Ann, own and operate Riven Rock Farm.  Located in beautiful Highland County, Virginia,  Riven Rock Farm is 850 acres of mountain meadows and forests.  They have recently developed over 40 grazing paddocks across 400 acres of grass for intensive rotational grazing. They work to promote biodiversity and find a balance between the wild forest ecosystems and sustainable, organic farm practices. 

They produce 100% grass-fed heritage Galloway beef, and Katahdin/Dorper lamb.  They have an excellent herd of heritage, pastured, Gloucestershire Old Spot and Tamworth pigs. Riven Rock also uses chicken tractors and mobile egg mobiles to produce free range broilers and pastured eggs. Riven Rock is a non-GMO, non-soy farm and promote animal welfare in all their practices.

They also offer two lodging facilities for on-farm stays and farm to table events.

Dr. Phil Sponenberg has served as the Technical Advisor for the Conservancy since 1978. He is employed as a veterinary pathologist and geneticist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. He is sought after as a speaker on genetics as well as rare breed conservation.

Kathy Donovan, founder of Checkmate Farm raising Karakul sheep, Buckeye Chickens and White Midget Turkeys.  Kathy’s passion is to support local Farm to Fork programs, Temple Hall 4H program for youth who don’t own farm animals and supporting Boulder Crest Retreat, a local veteran retreat established to support families of wounded veterans.   Checkmate Farm has been operated for 14 years having started with five ewes’ and over time has produced over 300 sheep and other farm animals to seed new shepherds, farms and to create a regional program for teaching rug hooking using yarn from her sheep.

Ed Schultz and his family raise Hog Island sheep, Devon steers, and rare breed chickens on their little farm in the marshes of the Chesapeake Bay. He is a historic farmer of Colonial Williamsburg and has worked oxen and horses and mules for over twenty years.