Leah Lawson

Partnerships & Development Director

email: leah[at]ofrf.org

For the past decade, Leah has been an active and passionate advocate for an equitable food system that uplifts communities and reinvigorates the land. 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 |2023-02-16T19:23:20+00:00February 16th, 2023|Staff|

Mary Hathaway

Research and Education Program Coordinator


Mary Hathaway is the new Research and Education Fellow 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 Lincoln Log forts with her son.

By |2023-02-16T19:18:52+00:00January 11th, 2022|Staff|

Gordon Merrick

Policy & Programs Manager


Gordon N. Merrick 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.

While attending Vermont Law School, Gordon was very involved in the school’s Food and Agricultural Law Society. During his second year, Gordon was able to take part in a Lobby Day hosted by the Farm Bill Law Enterprise where he spoke with Representatives and Senators about the importance of the Conservation and Food Assistance titles in the Legislator’s districts.  In his third year, he was selected to be the co-president of the National Food and Agriculture Law Student Network, where he now sits on the advisory board.  Gordon was able to use this position to further his interest in sustainable agriculture policy, and the processes that shape it.

Gordon holds a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in Legal Studies from the University of Maine, and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.

When Gordon isn’t in the (home) office, he’s generally outside enjoying whatever the current New England season has to offer, or enjoying a good nonfiction read if it’s raining!

By |2023-02-16T19:20:44+00:00June 19th, 2021|Staff|

Thelma Velez

Thelma Velez - OFRF Research and Education Manager

Research & Education Program Director


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 completed her Ph.D from Ohio State University’s (OSU) College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences in 2021. 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. 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. She is excited to bring her experience to OFRF and help the organization fulfill its mission and goals.

By |2023-01-24T21:25:43+00:00April 6th, 2021|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 |2023-01-24T21:25:21+00:00December 12th, 2019|Staff|

Dominica Navarro Martinez

Dominica Navarro

Deputy Director

email: dominica[at]ofrf.org

Having worked with organizations championing public health, diversity in higher education, pesticide reduction, and organic and climate-smart farming practices, Dominica 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 and loves working outside on her homestead, hanging out with her family, cooking, sailing, hiking and traveling.

By |2023-03-06T16:18:48+00:00October 1st, 2019|Staff|

Brise Tencer

Executive Director

email: brise[at]ofrf.org


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 |2023-01-24T21:22:40+00:00July 8th, 2019|Staff|
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