Marisa Alcorta, President, Winters
Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning
Marisa has worked to support new farmers with training in farm economics, marketing, and production for two decades. She is the Apprenticeship Program Manager at the Center for Land-Based Learning’s California Farm Academy (CFA). Marisa is currently developing one of the first registered apprenticeships in agriculture in the state, which trains individuals for the occupation of a Beginning Farm and Ranch Manager. She also develops the curriculum for CFA’s Farm Business Incubator program, and acts as a mentor to incubator farmers.
Marisa worked for 7 years at the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s ATTRA Project with underserved farmers in California, helping them understand what it takes to achieve profitability. Apart from being a farm educator, Marisa has also farmed herself over the years, as an apprentice, a farm partner and a farm manager. In the past Marisa also managed a small farmer marketing cooperative in Ohio and helped launch one of the first successful farmers’ markets in her hometown of Austin, Texas.
Marisa received a B.S. in Plant Science from Cornell University, and a M.S. in Horticulture & Agronomy with an emphasis in Viticulture from UC Davis. She lives in Winters with her husband who is a partner at Terra Firma Farm, where they grow 200 acres of certified organic fruits, vegetables and nuts. Marisa joined the FarmLink board in 2018 to follow her passion for helping small farmers find a path to economic viability.
Robin Bot-Miller, Board Member, San Francisco
Real Estate Investor
Robin is a team builder, investor and lifelong learner dedicated to supporting innovative businesses that focus on future generations as well as annual results. Mr. Bot-Miller left the world of institutional real estate investing in 2016 to embark on a year ‘sabbatical’ with his wife Heather and to refocus his career in a more regenerative direction. Robin’s dad was a 6th-generation farmer in Minnesota before giving up farming in the early 1980’s commodity crash. This family history motivated Robin to spend 2017 studying organic farming at the Center for Land-Based Learning, where his profound respect for farmers and our soils grew immensely. He is currently launching a real estate investment fund focused on outdoor hospitality experiences that connect people to the natural world.
Mr. Bot-Miller previously spent 11 years as a commercial real estate investor, most recently as a co-founder and Managing Director of RBC Real Estate Capital Partners and previously in the Real Estate Principal Investment Area of Goldman, Sachs & Co. in the New York, Dallas and London offices. He had a wide range of responsibilities including the asset management, acquisition and restructuring of investments located in Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia and Latin America. Originally from Saint Cloud, Minnesota, Robin graduated with honors from Stanford University with a degree in Economics. He is a Fulbright Scholar whose program in Monterrey, Mexico focused on international business.
Robin joined the board in 2019 out of a deep appreciation for both the people who grow our food and for FarmLink’s mission to support a more diverse ecosystem of California farmers.
Larry Cretan, Board Member, Woodside
Retired Bank Executive
Retired bank executive, and consultant for financial institutions and nonprofits, Larry joined the board in 2013 and serves as chair of the Loan Committee. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and has lived there all of his life, other than a year in the Middle East and a decade of graduate school and non-profit work in Los Angeles. Upon returning to the Bay Area 30 years ago, he began a career in commercial banking, first at Wells Fargo, then at Greater Bay Bank, Tamalpais Bank, Santa Barbara Bank and Trust, and Mechanics Bank.
Larry’s focus has always been on business lending to small and mid-sized companies and non-profits. He has a strong commitment to these Main Street organizations as the fundamental drivers of employment, economic opportunity, and social mobility for Americans of modest or limited financial resources. This is no truer than in the field of sustainable agriculture, which can offer individuals and families an entrée to the wider opportunities of our society. Larry has a BA in History from Stanford, and an MA in History and an MBA from UCLA.
He lives in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains in San Mateo County with his wife and is active in the launch of a triple-bottom-line microbrewery in Oakland, Federation Brewing, with his son and business partner. Having served on the loan committee for micro-lending at Opportunity Fund, Larry was enthusiastic to join Farmlink to help expand its micro-lending program for farmers.
Marsha Habib, Board Member, Hollister
Farmer, Oya Organics
Marsha’s parents immigrated to the United States as young adults, and she is a first generation farmer in this country. She studied Agroecology and Rural Development at UC Berkeley, and spent time as an exchange student in Brazil accompanying the Landless Workers Movement. After attending the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems apprenticeship at UC Santa Cruz, she served as an AmeriCorps volunteer doing food justice work in Silicon Valley and attended the Small Farm Education Program at ALBA. She started her own business, Oya Organics, on one acre of subleased land in Hollister, and now farms mixed vegetables on 20 acres near Hollister.
Rob Hurlbut, Treasurer, San Francisco
Managing Director, Agriculture Capital
Rob is Managing Director at Agriculture Capital and leads its sustainable agriculture strategies and joined the FarmLink board in 2017. He believes that food is inherently a triple-bottom-line business: by growing crops that improve the land we create healthy foods that nourish the body and deliver long-term financial rewards. This basic principle has fueled Rob’s passion for food and agriculture.
Rob has over 30 years of experience in the food and agricultural industries distinguished by his ability to build value through the development of transparent supply chains that deliver on a clear consumer promise. As CEO of Niman Ranch, Rob created the industry’s leading premium meat brand by building a network of over 500 sustainable farmers who, under common quality and husbandry protocols, supply the nation’s finest restaurants and retailers with extraordinary pork, beef and lamb. The company was one of the first to construct a vertical supply chain to capture consumer premiums and return them to the farm. At Attune Foods, a company Rob founded in 2006, he built on the idea that simple ingredients can deliver great health and constructed a business that was subsequently acquired by Post Foods to be their strategic platform in the rapidly growing natural food segment.
Rob also serves as a volunteer advisor with Inner City Advisors in Oakland, a community organization creating accessible good jobs that lead to equitable communities. Rob loves to run, ski and spend time cooking for his family. He has a BA in Psychology and Social Relations from Harvard College.
Kristyn Leach, Board Member, Winters
Farmer, Namu Farm
Kristyn Leach runs the organic Namu Farm in partnership with the restaurant Namu Gaji in San Francisco, owned by three brothers with a Korean background. Since 2012, Leach has grown vegetables and herbs, particularly heirloom Korean produce, for the neighborhood bistro. An avid seed saver, Leach practices traditional peasant farming methods popular in her birthplace. She began Namu Farm at the Sunol AgPark, home to small-scale farmers growing crops on the urban fringe. In 2018, Leach moved her operation to Winters. She is a member of the Asian American Farmers Alliance and active in community efforts to empower farmers of color. Kristyn joined the Farmlink board because she believes that farmers deserve more access to opportunities and security. [Photo by Amy Dickerson]
Chris Mittelstaedt, Board Member, San Francisco
Founder and CEO, The Fruit Guys
Chris Mittelstaedt founded The FruitGuys in 1998 as a way to bring healthy food to hard working people in offices. He has served on the FarmLink board since 2014. He grew up in the Philadelphia area where he learned about business and customer service while owning and operating a franchise of College Pro painters during his university years. Today some of his hobbies include: dressing as a banana while passing out fruit to people on the street; writing about the farmers and fruit that appear in The FruitGuys boxes, designing and patenting the earth friendly packaging used by The FruitGuys and promoting health prevention as a path to better health care.
His fondest FruitGuys memories include being asked to leave a building because his banana costume wasn’t formal enough, watching all the kids of FruitGuys employees jump in a bouncy-house for “bring your kids to work day” and talking with customers nationwide about how The FruitGuys has changed their corporate culture for the better. Chris lives in San Francisco with his wife and three children who remain his most critical and trusted fruit tasters.
Jennifer Sowerwine, Secretary, Berkeley
Cooperative Extension Specialist, UC Berkeley
Jennifer Sowerwine is a cooperative extension metropolitan agriculture and food system specialist in the Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. Her work engages diverse stakeholders across the food system to build equitable, economically viable and culturally relevant food systems that promote healthy communities, ecological resilience, social justice and sustainable livelihoods. Jennifer has lived and worked around the world, studying agrarian livelihoods and the pressures that small-holder farmers face during economic transformations including in Honduras, Costa Rica, Nepal, and Vietnam. She conducted her doctoral work in the highlands of Vietnam studying agrarian transformations among the Mien ethnic minority group and has translated her knowledge of their agricultural practices toward supporting Mien refugee farmers in the Central Valley of California.
Her work today focuses on collaborative research, extension and evaluation in the food and farming sector of California seeking to improve the economic and ecological viability of immigrant, minority, and urban farmers; evaluate the effects of agricultural regulations on minority and small farmers; enhance agro-ecological resilience of Native American agroforestry systems; strengthen urban food and farming systems; research policy impacts of California food policy councils; and promote agro-biodiversity of cultural foods in metropolitan regions. She has led two USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grants and served on the advisory board of a national evaluation team for the BFRDP as well as the California Small Farms Conference board. Jennifer joined the FarmLink board in 2019 to support California FarmLink’s impressive work and mission to create equitable access to economic opportunities for small, diverse farmers across the state thereby strengthening a healthy and just food system.