michaeloheadshot_EG-crpdMichael O’Gorman

Executive Director

“I believe deeply in American agriculture and the rich reward it can give to all who take part in it. Sharing that opportunity with men and women coming home from war has been a wonderful and humbling experience.”

Michael began farming in 1970. After 20 years in 1990 Michael was hired to run the first organic farm in Salinas, California. Over the next five years TKO Farms became the country’s leading grower of packaged salad greens. In 1996 he became the first Farm Manager for Mission Organics, growing for the Earthbound label and newly formed Natural Selection Foods. In 1998 Michael began a ten year stint developing 1600 acres of intensive organic vegetable and herb production in the northern half of Baja California for Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, including 30 acres of indoor tomatoes. In 2008 he began the Farmer Veteran Coalition out of the back of his pickup truck.

Diane VanderpotDiane Vanderpot

Chief Operating Officer

“Helping veterans sow roots in our nation’s farmland is becoming a passion for me.”

Diane served for over 30 years in the U.S. Army. She held many leadership positions throughout her career and deployed to OIF from 2008 to 2009. After retirement, she accepted a gubernatorial appointment as the Undersecretary for Veterans Homes, California Department of Veterans Affairs and ran the state’s long-term care facilities for veterans. During her free time, Diane likes to travel, eat sushi, hike and get her hands dirty. Diane has been associated with the military her entire life; it is in her blood and she will never stop caring and helping veterans and their families.

JasonFoscolo_EG-crpdJason Foscolo

General Counsel

“While it is professionally rewarding to provide legal guidance to the Coalition on its challenging issues, I am most gratified by guiding our veterans on the ways in which the legal system can help them do business better.”

Jason has been a practicing attorney in the State of New York since 2002. He is the founding partner of Foscolo & Handel PLLC, where he has provided legal services to farmers and food entrepreneurs since 2011. Jason is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. His time abroad gave him new insight and appreciation for the many different ways food can be produced and prepared. After separating honorably in 2010, Jason pursued his passion for all things edible by attending the University of Arkansas School of Law LL.M. Program, receiving an advanced legal degree in agricultural and food law. Jason is inspired by the veterans with whom he works, and is committed to helping them do business better.

adrian_MG_8222_EG-crpdAdrian Brandrup

Human Resources Manager

“Working for a non-profit organization that has such an amazing mission is really inspirational. A small group of determined people truly can make a difference.”

Adrian graduated from California State University, Sacramento in 2008, where she received a BA in Psychology. In 2010, she followed in her family’s military footsteps and joined the California National Guard, where she enlisted in Officer Candidate School. While working towards her degree and officer school, she learned the ropes of business and accounting through Kuni Corporation her employer from 2006–2012. Adrian spends most of her time in the outdoors with her family and friends camping and fishing, and enjoys her dogs Gus and Brewski. Adrian’s real love is cooking and trying new foods from all over the world. At Farmer Veteran Coalition, Adrian assists in policy development and directs and coordinates human resources activities, such as employment, compensation, labor relations, benefits, training, and employee services.

Yani 1Yani Bunch

Special Projects Coordinator

“I enjoy operating at the intersections of agriculture, technology and community.”

At the age of 17, Yani joined the U.S. Army and served in the 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, Texas, as a tracked vehicle mechanic and a recovery crew member. After his time in the military, Yani became interested in food and agriculture which led to work in food warehouses, landscaping and commercial salmon fishing in Alaska.

Yani was an early member of Farmer Veteran Coalition in 2008, and since that time he has worked on organic vegetable farms, organic produce distribution and community gardens.

Yani is passionate about food justice and is a consummate gardener who specializes in heirloom tomatoes, vermiculture and tree collard propagation.

MattSmileyEGMatt Smiley

Veteran Outreach Coordinator

“Most veterans are already farmers—they just don’t have the technical skills yet. The military and agriculture are a similar way of life. My goal is to show veterans this and give them the support they need to transition from some of our country’s toughest jobs to meaningful and often therapeutic careers in agriculture.”

Matt is a former paratrooper and disabled veteran. Serving as a medic from 2004–2008, Matt deployed to Iraq and also participated in humanitarian missions for Hurricane Katrina. Upon separating from the military he spent several years as a wildland firefighter before going back to college. He discovered his passion for farming and saw the positive effect it had on his life while he was back in school earning an AS degree in Natural Sciences. He worked his way through community college on a ranch and had the opportunity to start a small market farm. After he attained his AS degree, Matt transferred to UC Davis where he is currently studying Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. He is a fulltime student, farms at the University’s sustainable agriculture research ranch, and works at FVC to help other veterans find meaningful careers in agriculture. Matt is passionate about veteran advocacy and sees farming as a practical solution to the many issues that face our veterans today.

Cindy-Chastain_portrait-11-4-14_EGCindy Chastain

Farmer Veteran Outreach Coordinator / National AgrAbility Project

“The partnership between the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the National AgrAbility Project is an awesome arrangement – both organizations have synchronizing missions: to help veterans in agriculture careers. I am thrilled to be a part of this mission.”

Cindy is the Farmer Veteran Outreach Coordinator for the National AgrAbility Project. She is responsible for networking with the 20 state and regional AgrAbility projects and with other organizations that engage in outreach to farmer veteran clients. The vision of AgrAbility is to enhance quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities. Through education and assistance, AgrAbility helps to eliminate (or at least minimize) obstacles that inhibit success in agriculture or agriculture-related occupations. Cindy served 31 years in the US Army, grew up on a family farm in Indiana, and has a degree in Animal Sciences from Purdue University. A tour in Afghanistan on an Agricultural Development Team solidified Cindy’s desire to continue her involvement with agriculture when she returned home. She hopes to reach and help veterans with disabilities begin or continue to farm and ultimately to succeed.

RachelPetitt_EGRachel Petitt

Farming Fellowship Fund Manager

“I’m very grateful for the personal sacrifices our veterans have endured, and I’m humbled by their desire to continue their service by providing for our nation. It’s an honor to support their new endeavors in agriculture.”

Rachel manages FVC’s Fellowship Program, administering grants that support veteran farmers in their new careers. This program enables veterans to invest in the infrastructure and tools they need to feed their community. After earning a degree from UC Santa Cruz in Community Studies with a focus on food systems, Rachel worked on small-scale farms for six years. During her time in the field, she learned the intricacies of harvesting okra without getting itchy, collecting 600 eggs without cracking any, and bunching kale with one hand. Most importantly, she gained an unparalleled respect for the people who grow our food. Through her work in non-profit organizations, Rachel cultivated relationships between farmers and the community by establishing farm to institution programs. She also provided growers with technical assistance through workshops on topics such as irrigation efficiency, business planning, and marketing.

Emily Schmidt

Veteran Outreach Coordinator

“As the average age of the U.S. farmer continues to increase and more veterans return to the workforce, Farmer Veteran Coalition provides the incredible opportunity to provide careers for vets in agriculture. I am honored to contribute to this effort, while combining my agricultural experience and devotion to social service.”

Emily recently earned a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems from University of California, Davis where she worked as a member of the UC Davis Senior Capstone class and Farmer Veteran Coalition to evaluate the feasibility of a farmer-veteran mentorship program and create a comprehensive contact list of veteran-specific farming programs. Through this project with FVC, Emily first realized her desire to combine her interest of working with veterans and her agricultural knowledge. Emily has also worked as a consultant for the American Farmland Trust to connect with local farmers and promote agricultural land stewardship through writing farm profiles about sustainable management practices. She also worked as an advisor in the UC Davis Internship Career Center to assist students in finding agriculturally and environmentally-related careers and internships. During her time at UC Davis, she interned with the Yolo County Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program, the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, and 4-H Cooperative Extension Education Program. After growing up around agriculture in the Central Valley, Emily is dedicated to preserving farmland, as well as serving local and rural communities and is excited to do this as a Veteran Outreach Coordinator.

Evan Eagan

Communications Manager

“I’ve been telling service members’ stories for more than a decade, and now with Farmer Veteran Coalition, I look forward to telling veterans’ stories as they serve our country again—by feeding it.”

Serving in the Marine Corps from 2003 to 2007 as a combat correspondent, Evan began his career in communications covering stories from the front lines of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A graduate of Sacramento State with a degree in Public Relations, Evan served as a digital analyst with IDMLOCO where he produced content and managed various digital-focused projects prior to joining Farmer Veteran Coalition. At Farmer Veteran Coalition, Evan oversees member communication where he produces a monthly newsletter and manages their social media profiles. In his free time, Evan enjoys working out, hiking, watching Kings basketball, and helping out at Merwin Vineyards as a viticulture consultant.