Event Details

Soil health has always been a paramount concern for advocates of a sustainable food system. Recently, the term "regenerative farming" — which has its roots in the organic food movement — has gained currency among those who believe the future of food is based on rebuilding topsoil and restoring the microbial vitality that makes plants healthier, stronger and more nutritious.

And Good Food activists are no longer the only ones adopting the regenerative farming ethos. An increasing number of companies, including some of the nation's largest brands, are adding regeneratively grown products and ingredients to their portfolios.


  • Gina Asoudegan (VP Mission and Innovation at Applegate)

    Gina Asoudegan

    VP Mission and Innovation at Applegate


    Gina Asoudegan is Vice President of Mission andRegenerative Agriculture at Applegate, the nation’s leading natural and organic meat brand. In her role, Asoudegan leads the strategy for the company’s sub-brand, The New Food Collective, and oversees the creation of consciously scaled supply chains rooted in the principles of regenerative agriculture. Since joining Applegate in 2006, Asoudegan has worked closely with NGOs to raise awareness of food-system issues, including antibiotic resistance, GMOs and the plight of farmers in America. Asoudegan started her career as a food entrepreneur, operating a farm-to-table restaurant and later a catering and event company in Philadelphia. As a self-trained cook, she believed that fresh, seasonal food tasted better, and sourced ingredients from local farms, but saw they were struggling. In 2005, she founded the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance to develop new farmers markets and connect sustainable producers with local restaurants and institutions.When Asoudegan joined Applegate in 2006, it was with the same mission in mind: to create new markets for farmers and make well-sourced food accessible to all Americans. Asoudegan was instrumental in securing Applegate as a founding partner for the Savory Institute’s Land to Market™ Program, the world’s first regenerative sourcing solution for livestock-derived meat, dairy, wool and leather. Asoudegan is also a member of the senior advisory board at the Center for Responsible Business at the HaasSchool of Business, University of California, Berkeley.

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  • Elizabeth Candelario (Director of Strategic Partnerships at Mad Ag)

    Elizabeth Candelario

    Director of Strategic Partnerships at Mad Ag


    I serve as Director of Strategic Partnerships for Mad Agriculture, whose mission is nothing less than to revolutionize agriculture for the benefit of farmers, people, and planet. This work is the logical next step in my decade long quest to connect farms to brands and brands to farms, and to use the marketplace as a big lever to drive adoption of regenerative agriculture. Because Mad Ag has all three legs of the stool within one organization’s purview- agronomic expertise, finance, and markets- we can operate like a think tank to problem solve in ways that collaboration between silos attempts to do but can’t quite get there. Developing systematic solutions that solve supply chain issues is one of the biggest contributions we can make to farmers, the regenerative agriculture movement, and ultimately climate.

    My recent career has spanned the USA, Europe and the Caribbean and I have had the honor to work with NGOs, grassroots non-profits, and companies focused on organizational development, brand development, and strategic planning. Education and communication are always a big focus of my work. I have spoken at national food and environmental conferences and have published articles and written website and social media content on agriculture and climate change. I have developed and presented workshops and conferences in wine, agriculture and food, created content for UK-based Informa and its US affiliate New Hope Network, and produced podcasts with Merika Advisory and others. I recently assisted in program development, and hosted, Regenerative Rising’s 2020/2021 Earth Summits.

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  • Corwin Heatwole (CEO of Farmer Focus)

    Corwin Heatwole

    CEO of Farmer Focus


    Farmer Focus is founded and led by Corwin Heatwole, a 6th generation family farmer. Corwin was just three years old when his father built his first poultry house; he grew up farming and tending to the flocks. Corwin spent years raising flocks for other companies and saw the toll it took on both his family and the birds. He started Shenandoah Valley Organic (later Farmer Focus) with a question posed to farmers, “What can we do to improve generational family farming?”. We wake up every morning looking for new ways to answer that question.

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  • Katlin Smith (CEO of Simple Mills)

    Katlin Smith

    CEO of Simple Mills


    Since 2012, I have been on a mission to transform what America eats by creating snacks from simple, nutrient-dense ingredients. I believe that what we put in our bodies, and how it is grown, matter immensely and we have the power to heal both people and our planet with those decisions. I founded Simple Mills with exactly that intent.

    We’re on a journey to build the next generation food company – the one that feeds our next generation differently from the last – one that acknowledges the large positive impact a company can have. Today we make crackers, cookies, snack bars, baking mixes, and frostings from only whole-food ingredients and nothing artificial, ever. We have quickly become the #1 natural baking mix brand, #1 natural cracker brand, and the #3 natural cookie brand, with distribution in over 20,000 natural and mainstream stores nationwide.

    Starting in 2020, we are combining our nutrient-dense snacks with agricultural practices that benefit the economic health of farming communities and the environmental health of the planet through outcomes such as improved soil health and biodiversity, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration. We launched our first initiatives in this area earlier this year by establishing direct contract relationships with several farmers. These partnerships provide financial incentives for adopting regenerative agriculture practices as well as purchase guarantees for the crops.

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  • Kellee James (CEO of Mercaris)

    Kellee James

    CEO of Mercaris


    Prior to Mercaris, Kellee spent five years at the start-up company Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the first electronic trading platform and registry for spot, futures and options on carbon, sulfur, clean energy and other environmental derivatives. In 2009 she was appointed by President Barack Obama as a White House Fellow and was Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine ’40 under 40’ rising leader.

    Previously, Kellee worked with commodity banks in Latin America on risk management and income diversification strategies. Kellee is an Aspen Institute Catto Environmental Fellow and has also served on the board of Net Impact, a membership organization of more than 12,000 MBA professionals committed to sustainability through corporate responsibility. Kellee received her MBA and MA in International Development from American University in Washington, D.C., and completed a BA in Spanish from the University of Kentucky.

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  • Jim Slama (Managing Director of Naturally Chicago)

    Jim Slama

    Managing Director of Naturally Chicago


    Jim Slama has a proven track record of identifying opportunities to support the development of the natural products industry and the public good. He does this by creating innovative platforms to support entrepreneurs and the industry ecosystem including: Good Food Accelerator: In partnership with Whole Foods Market, created America’s first food focused accelerator to support early-stage entrepreneurs to scale up and get financed. The Accelerator has 50 graduates, 41 of which are still in business, with most thriving. A major focus on the Accelerator is supporting woman and BIPOC owned businesses. Good Food Financing and Innovation Conference: In 2009 created the first major food financing conferences in America in partnership with the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. Participating businesses have raised over $150 million in capital. The 2021 conference lineup included Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, tennis star and Asutra Chief Brand Officer, Venus Williams, retail giant, Bob Mariano, and Brandon Barnholt, CEO of KeHE, a leading Natural Products distributor, and more. Naturally Chicago: Co-founded this network with CEO’s of KeHE, SPINS, and Presence Marketing to help make Chicago a epicenter of the natural products industry and to support emerging entrepreneurs. It has strong membership, great history of events and strong leadership network. Jim is also on the board of the Naturally Network which includes affiliates in Chicago, Boulder, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, New York, and San Diego. Wholesale Success and Direct Market Success: Created the leading training publications for small farmers, training over 15,000 farmers in 43 states in food safety, post-harvest handling and more. Books have sold over 20,000 copies. Good Food EXPO: In 2004 created the first sustainable local foods trade show in America in partnership with Whole Foods Market and other industry leaders. Chicago Public Schools and McCormick Place both launched their local sourcing programs at the EXPO. Vendors have sold hundreds of millions in new products as a result of relationships they developed at the show. Keep “Organic” Organic Campaign: Created a multimedia advocacy campaign to prevent the USDA from gutting the integrity of organic food standards in partnership with the Organic Trade Association. The campaign generated 282,000 comments to the USDA demanding that they re-write proposed organic standards, which if enacted would have allowed genetically engineered, irradiated food, grown in sewage sludge to be labeled as organic. As a result of the victory, organic advocate Kathleen Merrigan was appointed to oversee the organic program in the USDA.

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