Dawn Thilmany McFadden is a Professor of Agribusiness and Agribusiness Extension Economist with Colorado State University and specializes in analyzing markets and consumer behavior surrounding local, organic and other value-added food market segments.  She has worked in support of Colorado agritourism development and industry-based efforts (Colorado Wine Industry Development board) since 2005.

Rebecca Hill is the coordinator of community and economic development in the Department of Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics at Colorado State University.  She received her Ph.D in agricultural and resource economics in 2012, her dissertation was entitled: Spatial Dimension of Natural Resource Decisions:  Private responses to Public Resource Decisions.  Her work since has focused on outdoor recreation, Agritourism, local foods, economic impact analysis, and water.  Rebecca also teaches such classes as Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Marketing, and Agricultural Law at Colorado State University.

Martha Sullins is an Ag Business Management Specialist with Colorado State University Extension, where her areas of emphasis in applied research and outreach include smaller-scale and specialty livestock and crop production businesses, agritourism, local foods, farm transition, on-farm food safety and risk management. She develops and teaches small business management classes, evaluates classroom and field-based educational programs targeted at beginning farmers and ranchers, and develops tools for ag and food producers navigating food safety and business regulations, as well as those starting value-added agricultural enterprises. She also develops and coordinates field-based education in Good Agricultural Practices designed to help fruit and vegetable growers minimize food safety risks within their operations. She serves on the boards of directors for the Colorado Farmers Market Association and Poudre Valley Community Farms, and is on the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s food safety committee. Martha has a B.A. in Economics and in French, and an M.S. in Agricultural Economics.

Shermain Hardesty is an Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California—Davis; she also serves as leader of the University of California’s Small Farm Program. She is responsible for research, education and outreach programs related to food systems, cooperatives, small farms and regulations. Dr. Hardesty is a co-author of the book, Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains. After earning her Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from UC Davis, she served as a faculty member at Michigan State University, worked at a rice marketing cooperative and also consulted for farmers and growers associations.

Penny Leff has been statewide Agritourism Coordinator for the University of California Small Farm Program since April 2009. In this position she works with UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisors to develop resources and connections for everyone involved in California agritourism, including farmers and ranchers, tourism and economic development professionals, government staff and officials, and the millions of people who love to visit farms and ranches. She maintains the UC Agritourism Directory and Calendar ( to help visitors find farms and ranches to visit, produces an email newsletter for the California agritourism community, organizes workshops and classes throughout California to assist farmers and ranchers in planning, developing and promoting their agritourism operations, and participates in research projects relating to agritourism development.

Penny has more than 18 years experience working with small and mid-scale farmers, including 8 years as program manager for the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets and several years working with farmers’ market managers statewide to set up EBT access for SNAP recipients at farmers’ markets. She received a BS in Managerial Economics from UC Davis. She is excited to learn and share the diversity of innovative ways California farmers and ranchers add value to their production operations and host the public on their land.

Anders Van Sandt:
I received my bachelors in Economics at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, and am currently in the second year of my Ph.D. at Colorado State University. When I was admitted to CSU I was lucky enough to receive a research assistantship to work alongside my advisor Dr. Dawn Thilmany and an adept and supportive team on a three year grant studying Agritourism in the West. This grant has honed my skills as a researcher, allowed me to meet inspiring professionals all over the nation, and has allowed me to survey many different topics that have long been of interest to me. Growing up in rural Oregon I have always been interested in the development of rural communities and most other topics that lie at the intersection of agricultural and natural resource economics. While I have always had an affinity for maps, it was not until graduate school that I discovered my passion for regional economics and spatial econometrics, and decided to make it an integral part of my research. On my spare time I enjoy exploring Colorado’s mountains, playing ultimate frisbee, reading in coffee shops, and exploring the local craft beer scene.

Sarah A. Low is an Economist within the Rural Economy Branch at Economic Research Service, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture. Sarah’s research interests revolve around rural economic development—motivated in part by her upbringing in both rural Iowa and rural Scotland. Sarah is interested in understanding how entrepreneurship, innovation, labor, land use, and amenities affect the rural economy and is especially interested in spatial analysis, local foods, and agritourism. Sarah previously worked at the Center for the Study of Rural America at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City where she conducted research on regional asset indicators, entrepreneurship and innovation, rural obesity, and fiscal federalism. Sarah holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Consumer Economics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, a M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue, and a B.S. in Public Service and Administration in Agriculture from Iowa State.

Diane B. Gaede is an Associate Professor of Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO. She received her Ph.D. degree from Colorado State University in Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism and currently teaches undergraduate classes and conducts research on heritage and agritourism, program planning and management, experience industry trends and issues, and leisure services evaluation. She has done interdisciplinary research on sense of place, tourism, and community place building.

This summer Dr. Gaede will be collaborating with other Colorado and California academics on a Department of Agriculture grant entitled “Place Based Innovation: An Integrated Look at Agritourism in the Western US“.

Areas of Specialization
Teaching and research on recreation, tourism, and hospitality topics; survey/questionnaire design and data analysis, program evaluation, and community place-building.


Joanne Neft opened the first Foothill Farmers Market 20 years ago, and within three years the market expanded to six markets throughout Placer County.

Always an advocate for Placer County agriculture, in 1994 Joanne shared the idea of starting the Mountain Mandarin Festival with the Newcastle Area Business Association. Today, almost 40,000 people attend the annual festival to celebrate the small mandarin orange that put Placer County on the map.

Joanne’s goal is to help people understand the benefits of eating in-season locally grown healthly food and to support the farmers whow grow it. Visit your local farmer markets to share the adventure.

Carmen Snyder is the Executive Director of Sonoma County Farm Trails, a nonprofit started by farmers in 1973 to bring awareness to the importance of local food, to promote agritourism, and to facilitate direct sales. When living in an intentional farming community in North Carolina, Carmen fell in love with farm life and food production, especially enjoying bee-keeping, food preservation, and hand-milking goats & cows and making dairy products.

Inspired by Sonoma County’s thriving, diverse agricultural community, Carmen is passionate about supporting local farmers and working to preserve farms forever. She oversees Farm Trails operations and events, from budgets to band selection, and is most interested in cultivating community, bridging gaps and fulfilling Farm Trails’ mission to instill an appreciation of ag as the vital part of our lifestyle.

Farm Trails publishes an annual Map & Guide, maintains a dynamic website, produces seasonal farm tours, hosts farm feasts, and runs the Gravenstein Apple Fair. Carmen also serves as a member of the Sonoma County Food System Alliance, a county-based coalition of stakeholders and leaders working to improve our food system through community engagement and collective action.

Wendy Lee White has been a Domestic Marketing Specialist for the Colorado Department of Agriculture for more than 15 years. Her primary responsibility is managing the award-winning Colorado Proud program, which encourages consumers, restaurants, schools and retailers to purchase Colorado food and agricultural products. She organizes public relations and promotion efforts for the Markets Division in addition to developing division brochures and publications.

Wendy is also actively involved with promoting agritourism events and activities in the state. Through the annual Colorado Farm Fresh Directory and the Department’s Web site, she helps farms and ranches market their agritourism operations to both residents and tourists.

Wendy graduated from Colorado State University with a BS in Animal Science and from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs with an MBA emphasizing Marketing.

Scottie Jones is Executive Director of the U.S. Farm Stay Association, commonly referred to as Farm Stay U.S.A. – a national travel site and trade association for farm and ranch vacations.She founded the organization in 2010, with the assistance of two USDA grants, as a way to promote a well-known European lodging diversification strategy to both farms and travelers in the U.S. Scottie has hosted her own farm stay since 2006 on her farm, Leaping Lamb Farm, in Alsea Oregon that she owns with her husband. The farm’s main agricultural products are locker lamb and hay.

As a founding member of the Oregon Agritourism Network, Scottie has worked within her state to clarify land use laws and promote agritourism as a path to sustainability for small farms.She has been an invited speaker at farm and tourism conferences in a number of western states and is an expert in the business of farm stays.

While her work experience runs the gamut from archaeologist to retailer to marketer, and her education from a Master’s degree in Medieval Archaeology to an MBA, it’s all there in farming (i.e. wheelbarrows and dirt, selling, promoting, customer service, etc.). She’s now a published author of a book about her first years at Leaping Lamb Farm that speaks to the realities of farming, the urban romance for the lifestyle, and the reasons to support local foods and local farms of all sizes. It is titled, Country Grit: A Farmoir of Finding Purpose and Love (NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2017).

Kelli Hepler Starting her career as a commercial artist 30 years ago, Kelli has been beckoned by tourism-related organizations since 1994. Noted for her design and marketing expertise, Kelli has earned the respect of numerous destination resorts and towns in our western states.

As the first recipient of the Advancing Colorado Governor’s Award for her Agri-Tourism initiatives in western Colorado, she has shared her knowledge with local, state, regional, and national audiences who continue to rely on her experience in the agri-tourism development field.

Clients have included Delta County Tourism, Valley Organic Growers, Leroux Creek Foods, Red Mountain Ranches, Burgess Ranches, West Elks AVA, Surface Creek Winery and Gallery, Zephyros Farm and Garden, BLM, USDA Forest Service, the National Park System, and the National Scenic Byway network. Working with local ag-producers, she has reshaped the marketing of western Colorado’s approach to become a destination region which has grown exponentially since her involvement.

Working with the client she develops a workplan strategy that will take the grower through the processes of market research and analysis, and brand development.