Amity Vargas (she/her/hers)

Donor Stewardship Coordinator

email: amity[at]

Amity Vargas (she/her/hers) is a Colorado native but grew up on the West Coast, soaking up the beautiful beach sun. She has over fifteen years of experience working within the nonprofit realm, focusing on environmental and social impact missions. Her work has included development, programming, and operations. Amity has led programs that provided watershed protection of the South Platte River in the South Park National Heritage Area, and she started the first Farm to School program in Park County. She has taught environmental education to adults and students from Pre-K through the twelfth grades, writing both standards-based and experienced-based curricula emphasizing mindfulness and a growth mindset. In the Front Range, Amity has worked with a wide variety of schools and organizations, teaching the importance of environmental literacy through a program she started called TREES – Teaching Responsible Environmental Education Skills. Through this program, she was able to start a recycling program within an elementary school in the Colorado Springs area, the first of its kind within that school district. Amity is working towards becoming an Herbalist and completing her portfolio to become a certified Environmental Educator.

Amity loves immersing herself in nature with her family. They camp, hike, bike, snowshoe, raft and volunteer together to keep trails clean. She enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, and writing. She plays the flute and is learning the guitar and melodica. Amity is a nomad at heart and is dedicated to being a lifelong learner.
By |2024-01-11T19:13:36+00:00January 9th, 2024|Staff|

Heather Estrada (she/her/hers)

Research & Education Senior Scientist

email: heather[at]

Heather Estrada has been a part of the organic farming community for the past 20 years, as a scientist, professor, grower, and advocate. She has worked with transitioning and certified organic farmers in the field, conducted organic crop and weed research, and has spent much of her career educating students in regenerative organic farming principles and practices. 

Heather started her organic agriculture career in Edmonton, Canada, studying and researching organic wheat breeding and agronomy. She graduated from the University of Alberta (BS, Crop Science; PhD, Plant Science) and then moved to Kalispell, Montana to work as a cropping systems research agronomist with Montana State University. Heather switched her career focus to education in 2012, taking on the role of college professor and Agriculture program director at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell. While there, she created degree programs and curriculum, started a working educational vegetable farm on the college campus, and taught classes such as plant science, soil nutrient management, integrated pest management, practical farm production, and building community food systems.

Heather is looking forward to bringing her experience and passion for research and education to OFRF, and hopes to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of farmers through her work.

By |2023-12-21T00:35:56+00:00August 1st, 2023|Staff|

Jose Perez (he/him/el)

Research & Education Engagement Coordinator

email: jose[at]

Jose Perez has over seven years of experience in education and research positions supporting small scale and organic farmers in Florida. He has held positions such as Small Farms Extension Coordinator with UF/IFAS Extension and Outreach and Education Coordinator with Florida Organic Growers. Jose has a B.A. in Human Ecology with concentration in sustainable agriculture from College of the Atlantic in Maine and a Masters in Sustainable Development Practice from the University of Florida.

Jose is working on his Agricultural Extension PhD, and firmly believes that farmers are experimenters by nature, and they are in the best position to conduct relevant research that impacts their farms every day. He is a native Spanish speaker from Guatemala and is passionate about supporting organic agriculture, promoting farmer-led research, and engaging farmers and researchers in learning and sharing among their peers.

By |2023-12-21T00:34:32+00:00July 19th, 2023|Staff|

Mary Hathaway (she/her/hers)

Research and Education Program Manager


Mary Hathaway is the Research and Education Program Manager at OFRF. Over the past decade she has worked as an activist and farmer in the sustainable and equitable food movement in the Southeast. Her most recent experience includes managing direct marketing farms, administering USDA grant projects, and organizing regional food summits.

Mary specializes in supporting local food systems and is passionate about creating opportunities for organic farmers to be leaders in climate change solutions. Mary has a Master’s Degree in Agroecology that helps her frame the necessary work before us with a collaborative, systems thinking approach. She is a powerful force in the workplace and uses her positive attitude to encourage others to work hard and be engaged participants in their community.

In her free time, Mary likes to play in the ocean, talk at great length about composting, and build Legos creatures with her son.

By |2024-01-10T02:18:43+00:00May 11th, 2023|Staff|

Gordon Merrick (he/him/his)

Senior Policy & Programs Manager


Gordon N. Merrick (he/him) joins the OFRF team with first hand experience working on organic farms, distributing food into the marketplace, cooking food in the service industry, and, most recently, helping draft agriculture, natural resource, and municipal laws for the Vermont General Assembly.  Alongside this hands-on food and legal system experience, prior to attending Vermont Law School, Gordon was a community organizer working on climate justice related issues in New Hampshire. Throughout all of these experiences, Gordon was able to learn what it takes to lead successful teams and that resilient change stems from, and is led by, people-powered movements.

When Gordon isn’t in the (home) office, he’s generally outside enjoying whatever the current New England season has to offer! With the changing nature of winter in northern New England, that generally means a lot more biking and snowshoeing than skiing, much to Gordon’s chagrin. To chase that skiing, Gordon often heads out west or, increasingly, north to the Quebecois mountain range of the Chic Chocs for some backcountry terrain that stays cold.

By |2024-03-19T01:13:16+00:00April 19th, 2023|Staff|

Kelsey Grimsley (they/them)

Office and Administrative Manager



Kelsey Grimsley graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Politics. Right out of college Kelsey gained valuable experience working with diverse populations through jobs in grassroots organizing, community engagement projects, and congressional offices. They lived at a Buddhist retreat center, off-the-grid in Santa Cruz County, where they explored how to live a sustainable lifestyle first-hand, while working for the center as Community Relations Coordinator.

Kelsey has always been passionate about environmental stewardship and social justice, which has informed their career path and led them to working here at OFRF. They are excited and proud to be a part of an organization that has a meaningful mission that aligns with their passions.

By |2024-01-24T15:51:48+00:00March 12th, 2023|Staff|

Ashley Dulaney (she/her/hers)

headshot of Ashley Dulaney, Communications Director at OFRF.

Communications Director


Ashley Dulaney brings a decade of strategic marketing expertise to her role as Communications Director at OFRF. She has extensive experience across various sectors, including higher education and for-profit industries, giving her a strong understanding of effective communication strategies. Her passion lies in creating impactful content and campaigns that resonate with diverse audiences. As Communications Director, Ashley is committed to raising awareness of organic farming research, education, and advocacy efforts. She leverages her skills to connect with organic producers, researchers, and partners, amplifying their efforts toward a thriving organic farming future.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Ashley is deeply passionate about environmental sustainability and community engagement. She is an active member of her city’s Climate Task Force, where she contributes her expertise to help achieve New York State Climate Smart Community (CSC) and Clean Energy Community (CEC) goals. Additionally, Ashley serves as a board member of the Lake Champlain chapter of Trout Unlimited, advocating for the conservation and preservation of local ecosystems. Outside of work, Ashley finds joy in gardening, cooking, and believes in the power of food to bring people together. She also enjoys spending time outdoors, especially trail running, hiking, camping, and canoeing through the Adirondack Park.

By |2024-04-11T13:26:40+00:00March 1st, 2023|Staff|

Leah Lawson (she/her/hers)

Partnerships & Development Director

email: leah[at]

Leah Lawson has been an active and passionate advocate for an equitable food system that uplifts communities and reinvigorates the land for the past decade. She fell in love with agriculture while working on a process evaluation in a small farming community in Maharashtra, India, as part of her Masters’ degree in International Development. The combination of regenerative practices and community-led action left a deep impression on her work. Since then, she has built skills in grant writing, fundraising, board structure, strategic planning, project management, and facilitation, which she uses to further the creation of a strong and inclusive food system.

Leah lives in Chicago, where she has worked for organizations that serve rural and urban farmers, including Angelic Organics Learning Center, one of her favorite places in northern Illinois. She enjoys board service and helping new and young organizations get their footing. She has served on the board of Advocates for Urban Agriculture and North Branch Projects, both community-based orgs. Currently, she sits on the board of Windy City ToolBank, an affiliate of ToolBank USA, where she is helping to establish programming that allows organizations in the region to participate in radical sharing; ensuring everyone has access to tools they need to create, improve, and care for their community.

By |2023-12-21T00:33:45+00:00February 16th, 2023|Staff|

Thelma Velez (she/her/ella)

Research & Education Program Director


Thelma Velez (she/her/ella) is the Research and Education Program Director at OFRF. She has been embedded in organic agriculture, sustainable food systems, and climate justice for over 15 years. In her role as director, Thelma engages in collaborative efforts with farmers, university faculty, Extension specialists, and government and non-government organizations nationwide. Her focus is on fortifying existing research and education programs and pioneering new initiatives that equitably contribute to the enhancement of our nation’s food system and provide a strategic advantage for organic farmers. With support from the OFRF team, she has helped advocate for organic at the federal level and provided expert testimony to the U.S. Congress House Agriculture Committee on the importance of organic agriculture for climate change mitigation and adaptation. She is a two time alum of Florida International University (BA and MS), and earned her PhD in from Ohio State University, where she focused on the expansion of agroecology in Puerto Rico, post-Hurricane Maria, as a means to create a more climate resilient food system and address systemic injustices. 

Thelma loves growing food, cooking food, and introducing friends to the politics of food and agriculture. As a first-generation American and a woman of color, she is mindful of matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and she incorporates her experiences into both her personal and professional life. In her spare time she enjoys planning and executing DIY projects that stretch her creative and physical boundaries. 

By |2024-01-10T02:08:53+00:00November 6th, 2019|Staff|

Dominica Navarro Martinez (she/her/ella)

Deputy Director

email: dominica[at]

Dominica Navarro has worked with organizations championing public health, diversity in higher education, pesticide reduction, and organic and climate-smart farming practices. She has devoted much of her professional career to nonprofit management, finance, administration and strategic development. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with majors in both Environmental and Community Studies and has worked on various sustainable agriculture projects in the US and abroad. Dominica is a current board member of Rogue Farm Corps and also serves on the Advisory Boards for Re:Wild Your Campus and Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network. Dominica lives in Central Oregon on the sovereign nation of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Northern Paiute tribes and loves stewarding land, hanging out with her family, cooking, sailing, hiking and traveling.

By |2023-12-21T00:26:34+00:00October 1st, 2019|Staff|
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