Thelma Velez

Research & Education Program Manager

Thelma Velez has been embedded in organic agriculture and sustainable food systems for over 12 years. She has extensive academic and professional experience in sustainable and organic agriculture education, research project management, and multi-institutional collaborative work. Over the years she has been privileged to work with rural and urban farmers and cooperatives in various regions of the U.S., the Caribbean, and India. 

She attended Florida International University (FIU) for both her undergraduate and master’s degrees. During her time at FIU, she earned a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and certificates in: Agroecology, as well as, Biodiversity and Natural Resource Conservation. While working toward her M.S. degree, she was an integral part of FIU’s Agroecology Program. She managed and supervised research projects at the university organic garden, on local farms, and in the soil lab. For her thesis she made biochar from an invasive tree species and applied it at various rates to measure carbon sequestration, as well as the impact on soil nutrients and Phaselous vulgaris growth in an organic agronomic study conducted at FIU and the USDA-ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station.

Thelma completes her Ph.D from Ohio State University’s (OSU) College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences in summer of 2021.  While at OSU, she was sought after to collaborate on multiple projects, including the Ohio Sustainable Agriculture Education Network, OSU’s Food Sustainability Panel, as well as, diversity and inclusion work with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Ohio’s primary organic certifying agency. Her dissertation research centers on the expansion of agroecology in Puerto Rico, post-Hurricane Maria, as a means to create climate resilience and address climate injustices. She is excited to bring her experience to OFRF and help the organization fulfill its mission and goals. 

By |2021-04-06T18:12:26+00:00April 6th, 2021|Staff|

Mark Schonbeck

Research Program Associate

Mark Schonbeck has worked for 31 years as a researcher, consultant, and educator in sustainable and organic agriculture. He has participated in on-farm research into mulching, cover crops, minimum tillage, and nutrient management for organic vegetables. For many years, he has written for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming newsletter and served as their policy liaison to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. He has also participated in different research projects to analyze, evaluate and improve federally funded organic and sustainable agriculture programs. In addition, Mark offers individual consulting in soil test interpretation, soil quality and nutrient management, crop rotation, cover cropping, and weed management.

By |2021-03-02T23:45:21+00:00December 28th, 2019|Staff|

Lauren Snyder

Science Advisor

Lauren is a scientist dedicated to promoting organic agriculture and developing sustainable food systems. She discovered her passion for agroecology as an undergraduate at Boston University where she collaborated on a research project evaluating the ecosystem services provided by bats in organic pecan orchards. It was here that she became curious about where our food comes from and how agricultural production practices affect the environment and human health.

Since then, she has conducted research around the globe, working with small-holder farmers in Sri Lanka, Kenya, and the U.S. Throughout her PhD., she worked closely with local organic farmers in NY State to design applied research evaluating the environmental, nutritional, and economic outcomes of diversified agricultural practices. A primary objective was to evaluate the potential for crop varietal mixtures to mitigate the need for pesticides by increasing natural pest control services and maximize growers’ profits by reducing production costs associated with mixed species plantings.

Lauren holds a B.A. in Ecology & Conservation Biology from Boston University and completed her PhD. in agroecology and sustainable food systems at Cornell University. In her free time, she loves enjoying the outdoors with her husband and their dog, cooking delicious food for friends and family, and teaching Zumba.

By |2021-03-02T23:45:52+00:00December 15th, 2019|Staff|

Kelsey Grimsley

Office Manager/Program Administrator


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 |2021-03-02T23:42:41+00:00December 12th, 2019|Staff|

Vicki Lowell

Communications Manager


Vicki joined OFRF in October 2015 after five years working with Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County. At the food bank, she was responsible for sharing stories of people in need and the individuals, schools, businesses and non-profits that work to ensure everyone has access to healthy food and resources to help them get back on their feet.

As Communications Manager, she is responsible for disseminating relevant content across all channels and helping farmers access tools and resources that support their success. She is responsible for design and production of research reports, webinars, and educational materials, and works to increase outreach and nurture collaborative relationships with organic stakeholders.

Vicki began her career as a member of the Macintosh introduction team at Apple Computer in 1984 and spent a number of years working as an independent marketing writer. She is passionate about music and food and also works as a deejay at KPIG, a free-form Americana station broadcast from Freedom, California and streamed worldwide.

By |2021-03-02T23:40:01+00:00October 27th, 2019|Staff|

Haley Baron

Partnership & Development Manager


As the Partnership and Development Manager, Haley oversees OFRF’s individual, corporate, and foundation fundraising as well as strategic partnerships. She believes that building strong collaborative relationships across the food system will better support sustainable farmers, and help us mitigate and adapt to climate change. Prior to her current role, she helped manage OFRF’s research and education program, including OFRF’s grant program and grower education projects.

Over the past decade, Haley has sought to build a more equitable and sustainable food system, all starting as a child growing up in San Francisco. Prior to OFRF, she oversaw operations and staff for Pineapple Collaborative, a community for womxn who love food, conducted large-scale food access program evaluations, farmed organic land, handled sourcing and logistics for a farm share, and more. She has a Master’s in Food Studies from New York University, where she focused on sustainable food systems and the organic supply chain, publishing two papers on the ways certified organic handlers support organic producers. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Spanish from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems from Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition.

When she isn’t working, you can usually find Haley traipsing around local farms, exploring new hikes, eating dumplings, and cooking with lots of vegetables.

By |2021-03-02T23:49:52+00:00October 8th, 2019|Staff|

Sheila Golden

Finance and Operations Director


Sheila Golden brings over ten years of program development and management experience from sustainable agriculture non-profits and UC Cooperative Extension. She leads OFRF’s grant-writing process and supports staff with program planning and implementation. She has a MS from UC Davis in Community and Regional Development.

By |2021-03-02T23:44:33+00:00October 6th, 2019|Staff|

Brise Tencer

Executive Director


Brise Tencer brings 20 years of leadership experience working on organic food policy, farming, and research issues to OFRF.  Ms. Tencer most previously served as Director of Policy and Programs for California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), where she managed the government affairs and grower education program, coordinated their regional chapters of members, and ran a grant-making program. Prior to that, she served as lead lobbyist on food and agriculture issues for the Union of Concerned Scientists. There she developed legislative campaigns on a range of agriculture issues, including organic (focusing on the connection between organic practices and climate change), USDA research priorities, and food safety. She also worked on a successful campaign to end overuse of antibiotics in livestock production.

Brise worked as Acting Policy Program Director and later as Legislative Coordinator for The Organic Farming Research Foundation from 2000 to 2006. During this time she helped initiate the Organic Agricultural Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Organic Farmers Action Network (OFAN), a grassroots political action network to support organic-friendly policies. She helped secure language in the Agriculture Risk Management Act of 2000, which said that organic farming was considered a “good farming practice”, that enabled organic producers to be eligible to participate in federal crop insurance programs for the first time.

Ms. Tencer has served on the boards of the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, the California Climate and Agricultural Network, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Ms. Tencer holds a B.A. in Community Studies from University of California, Santa Cruz and received both a Certificate in Conflict Resolution and a M.A. in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

By |2021-03-02T23:48:13+00:00July 8th, 2019|Staff|