Julie Darnton, President
Julie is passionate about the potential for farmers markets to be a critical link in our local food systems. Not only will farmers’ market customers be able to access fresh food but our local farmers and producers can bring products directly to customers and build relationships around those products. Julie also sees the potential for farmers markets to be an incubator for entrepreneurship, a site for education and community celebration, and a true destination for people living in and visiting our communities. Through her work with Michigan State University Extension, Julie has had the opportunity to work on all sides of the market table – as an organizer of a market, a vendor, and as a customer. She has had experience in the financial aspects of farmers’ markets has served as the Downtown Saginaw Farmers Market treasurer for two years and as the food assistance bookkeeper for two years. Julie has a connection to MSU’s new Center for Regional Food Systems as well as the opportunity to collaborate with staff from around the state through MSUE.
Michael Finegan, Vice President
Michael has had a long interest in supporting local food economies and creating linkages between consumers and local food producers. Professionally, he has been a health care administrator for more than 25 years, first with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VHA) and now at Trinity Health, based in Livonia, serving as a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and his present role of Senior VP of Operational Excellence, focusing on performance improvement, strategy deployment, and project management. While at VHA, he held several leadership positions such as co-chair of the Healthcare Delivery and Finance Committees, providing oversight of clinical performance and financial effectiveness, and as the field sponsor of Veterans’ Homeless program. He briefed congressional staff and members, and in 2010, testified before the US House Veterans Affairs Committee on budget formulation and deployment at VHA medical facilities.
Chris has four years of experience as an employee of the People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo experiencing first-hand many parts of our entire food system, as well as managing small and large farmers’ markets which include the Kalamazoo Farmers Market. He has two years participating as a mentor in MIFMA’s Market Manager Mentorship Program. He brings a positive attitude, collaborative approach to problem-solving, asks great questions and works collaboratively to create solutions, and fosters a stewardship approach to support MIFMA.
Sharon Ostrowski, Treasurer
Sharon is a fourth generation farmer and the proud owner and operator of SharKar Farm. SharKar Farm is a fifteen-acre operation with 12,400 square feet of greenhouses (hoop houses), which is helping to extend her vegetable season. Sharon sells 90% of her products at 10 local farmers markets. She specializes in specialty vegetable and herb production. In addition, Sharon is also the mother of 7 children all of which have or continue to help on the farm.
Lindsey Scalera, Secretary
Since 2012, Lindsey has been working for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, collaborating with Michigan food and farm allies to advocate for policies and programs that support this vision of sustainable agriculture, healthy environments, and strong local economies. Since 2010, she’s been serving as co-director of the Michigan Young Farmer Coalition. From 2008 to 2011, she founded and led a community garden in Ypsilanti. All of this work, grounded in specific communities, has been to further build capacity to respond to the challenges of a changing food system, now and in the future.
Rebecca and her parents own and operate Titus Farms, a 60-acre vegetable and cut flower farm located in Leslie, Michigan. They grow a little over 40 varieties of crops, all using sustainable methods. Rebecca has taken on the leadership role on the farm, managing many of the day-to-day operations. Rebecca graduated with an honors Horticulture degree from Michigan State University in 2009. Titus Farms regularly sells at the Meridian Township Farmers Market and the East Lansing Farmers Market. Rebecca has over fifteen years of experience marketing and participating in over ten farmers markets, some simultaneously, seeing many markets rise while others fail. These experiences have predisposed her to a passion for the success and continuation of markets in Michigan. This credo also comes not only from the fact that she values the right of farmers to sell their goods directly to consumers and reap the benefits of this relationship but also that belief in the importance of safe, local food to a community and its members. As a new generation farmer, Rebecca believes that her perspectives and experiences will prove valuable and as a member of the Board of Directors, she will strive to help develop farmers markets in Michigan.
Shane Bernardo is a lifelong Detroit resident involved in social justice and primarily food justice issues. He is currently the outreach coordinator for Earthworks Urban Farm, a program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. Shane is also a member of Detroit Asian Youth Project, Uprooting Racism: Planting Justice, The People’s Platform Detroit, Groundswell and the Detroit Equity Action Lab. Shane grew up working in his family’s small, ethnic grocery store on the west side of Detroit. For 13 years, his family helped cultivate a safe, nurturing environment for the South East Asian, West African and Afro-Caribbean cultures to purchase culturally relevant foods. These transactions also allowed for the sharing of recipes, traditions, rituals and ancestral struggles linked to these foods. As a result, Shane developed a heightened awareness of social and economic conditions within the context of a racially, ethnically and culturally stratified community.
Lisa Oliver-King, MPH
Lisa is the founding executive director for Our Kitchen Table (OKT), a grassroots organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With funding provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, OKT is developing a set of best practices and evidence-based applications for how community women can improve health and wellness by building a healthy neighborhood food system. Essentially, OKT is addressing the diet related and environmental health disparities that impact these women and their families. Information learned and documented will be used to help vulnerable children, their families, and the neighborhoods in which they reside. This information will lead to residents gaining a better understanding of their local food system, learning how to address systemic change in order to become food secure, and building neighborhood-based sustainability.
As small-scale farmers, Steve’s family has had the pleasure of selling eggs, goat milk soap, and vegetables at the Sault Ste Marie Farmers’ Market for 10 years. He has witnessed his local market grow from very humble beginnings into a flourishing component of the downtown. As a Land Grant Director for Bay Mills Community College, he is involved with the development and improvement of the agriculture sector on a daily basis.
Mike has 33 years of being an attorney, 20 of which were spent with the Michigan Attorney General’s office providing legal advice and representation to State agencies. He now works in private practice and represents many farm clients with business planning, succession planning, and providing legal advice on contract and other operational matters. Mike believes that the development of local farm markets can improve the availability of fresh, nutritional food to urban communities.