Twenty Recognized as Emerging Leaders in Food and Ag

Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag unveiled their inaugural Top 20 Award winners at a virtual event on August 17. The 2020 award winners included farmers and people in various levels of the food and agriculture value chains across the U.S. and Canada. Winners included people working in food production

Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag unveiled their inaugural Top 20 Award winners at a virtual event on August 17.

Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag is a national initiative that aims to develop, build community amongst, and celebrate visionary leaders across the agriculture supply chain in order to ensure that the enormous challenges facing food and agriculture today are addressed by a new generation of innovative, engaged leaders.

The 2020 award winners included farmers and people in various levels of the food and agriculture value chains across the U.S. and Canada. An initial group of almost 100 nominees was culled down to 40 finalists after open voting on the website. The Top 20 was chosen based on voting, responses to a questionnaire, and input from the event organizers.

“We were really pleased to receive a broad cross-section of nominees in our first year and are proud of the group of leaders that was chosen for our Top 20,” said event director Sarah Day Levesque.

This year’s award winners included people working in food production, connecting under-served communities to better food sources, training food systems entrepreneurs, advocating for better food equity and justice, creating urban farming systems, combatting food waste, and much more.

“Many of the challenges of our current food system came to light during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more obvious than ever that we need to make changes to our food system and the supply chain that delivers food across the country. Social unrest has shone a light on racial inequities in farming and the availability of fresh, healthy food in underserved communities. The people on this list are working in big ways and small to create change,” Day Levesque continued. “We look forward to growing the Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag community and helping to spur on this movement with initiatives and events that support positive change in the food and ag sectors.”

The Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag Awards event can be viewed in its entirety at

The Top 20 Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag for 2020 are:

Aila and Asa Holley, Owner & Operators, Sisu Farms, Granby, Colorado
Alissa White, Researcher, University of Vermont Agroecology & Livelihoods Collaborative, Huntington, Vermont
Benjamin Fahrer, Co-founder / Farmer, Top Leaf Farms, Oakland, California
Caesare Assad, CEO, Food System 6, Forestville, California
Chereen Leong Swarz, Chef / Owner, Wilderbean Provisions, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Chiara Cecchini, US Director and Co-founder, Future Food Institute, San Francisco, California
Chris Maher, General Manager, BriarPatch Food Co-op, Grass Valley, California
Eamon O’Toole, Owner and Manager, Ladder Livestock, Baggs, Wyoming
Ellen Olson, Owner, Cosmic Root Ranch, Nevada City, California
Helen Dombalis, Executive Director, National Farm to School Network, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Jennifer Kocher, Owner, Around the World Gourmet, Bellaire, Ohio
Jose Miranda, Livestock & Rangeland Manager, Dairy Beast, Carbondale, Colorado
Katie Shaffer, Founder & President, Feast it Forward, Napa, California
Kim Reddin, Director of Market Development & Public Policy, Colorado Corn, Greeley, Colorado
Leah Penniman, Farm Manager / Author / Social Activist, Soul Fire Farm, Petersburg, New York
Lindsey Lunsford, Social Impact Specialist, Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program, Tuskegee, Alabama
Michael Warren, CEO, Earth Alive Clean Technologies Inc., Montreal, Canada
Sophie Ackoff, Co-Executive Director, National Young Farmers Coalition, Kingston, NY
Turner Wyatt, Co-founder & CEO, Upcycled Food Association, Crested Butte, Colorado
Vicki Renda, Owner, Vicky’s Fresh Food Movement, Norwood, Colorado

Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag is a Breaking Ground Institute initiative. Breaking Ground Institute (BGI) is an education, event, and media company working to grow impactful niche market and business communities – including but not limited to agriculture and food – by facilitating opportunities to learn and build stronger business relationships and networks through the development of high-quality, informative events and related services, online platforms and publications. In addition to Emerging Leaders, BGI is responsible for the Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum and Influential Women of the Sierra Nevada. BGI is the national conference arm of Swift Communications, a family-owned media company founded in 1975.

For more information and to sign up to receive updates on the Emerging Leaders in Food & Ag initiative, visit