FVC Advisory Panel

We are pleased to announce our new Advisory Panel!

After careful consideration of many applications, we have curated 10 members from around the U.S. into a panel that reflects FVC’s unique and diverse membership base – across crops and farming methods. Each panelist will represent the FVC members within their region. As a farmer veteran, we value your voice and perspective and believe that this panel will produce invaluable advice, insight, and guidance to our organization.

The Advisory Panel will function to:

  • Engage and network regionally with Farmer Veterans to create community across states.
  • Voice critical issues facing FVC members in different regions throughout the country.
  • Provide expert knowledge and insight to FVC staff to assist membership.
  • Monitor FVC performance and address challenges to improve FVC growth.
  • Implement initiatives assigned by executive director.
  • Providing feedback to FVC executive team regarding new program implementation.

The panel is comprised of 10 members – one from each of the 10 USDA production regions. Members sever either a two-year or three-year term seat. Your region’s panelist represents you; get in touch to share your great ideas, requests, questions, or concerns.

Read below for the panelist bios or watch this compilation of video introductions from the panelists themselves.

Adam Ingrao

Lake Region |
Dr. Adam Ingrao holds a BS in Agriculture and Environmental Plant Science from California Polytechnic State University and a PhD in Entomology from Michigan State University. A fourth generation Army veteran and nationally recognized veteran’s advocate, Dr. Ingrao has led efforts across the nation for the last decade to connect veterans with career and wellness opportunities within the agricultural sector. He is the founder and lead educator for the Heroes to Hives program and has served previously as the Veterans’ Liaison for Michigan State University Extension, the Director of the Veterans in Agriculture Network and the President of Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan. Dr. Ingrao also owns and operates Bee Wise Farms LLC in Newberry, MI a 40-acre diversified farm focused on honey bees, lavender and cut flower production. His work at BWF includes consulting for organizations around the world on the development of therapeutic beekeeping programs and his clients include the Veterans Administration, AgrAbility Africa, and Michigan State University. Dr. Ingrao has published numerous scientific articles and is a co-author of the book Honey Bee Medicine for the Veterinary Practitioner.

Bette O’Steen

Appalachia |
Was an Army JCG Corps in the 1970s. Been a gardener all my life owning my own farm for twenty years the last ten here in West Virginia. I specialize in herbs which I turn into spice mixes, cosmetics, cleaners, and medicines. Have an MBA from the Univ of Texas at Arlington and been a Master Gardener for 15+ years. I have written a gardening column, “Bette’s Beds” for the county newspaper for the last 10 years and during that time I teach wilderness survival for the 4H. Joined FVC in 2017 and spent 2019 writing the Chapter Handbook and organizing the WV Chapter. Have received 2 Governor’s awards for Volunteer of the year!!Have a hydroponic system in one of my two high tunnels growing lettuce and microgreens.

Damon Cleaton

Southern Plains |
Damon Cleaton is a disabled 23 year Army Veteran with two combat tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan with a military background in supply chain management and healthcare administration. He holds a BA in Anthropology from the university of Texas at San Antonio and a MA in Healthcare Administration from the University of the Incarnate Word and is a graduate of the Texas AgrAbility Battleground to Breaking Ground Program. After retiring in 2016 Damon returned home to Central Texas and opened Cleaton’s 4E Farms, drawing on ag experience from his youth and blending it with horticultural techniques gathered during his military career in environments such as Alaska and the Middle East. Initially envisioned as a 7 acre market garden, Damon and his family have expanded operations to include a retail and production nursery, cut flowers, beekeeping, and an orchard. Damon joined the FVC in 2018 and brings to the advisory panel his expertise in produce and peach production, business operations, and ethno-agriculture. With family, friends, and associates in various agricultural operations, industry, and value-added product production spanning from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas through Oklahoma that are eager to support Veterans in agriculture, if he can’t answer your question or help you out you can bet he knows someone who can. Damon uses his spare time to support Veterans and the community as a mentor to Battleground to Breaking Ground students, mentoring USDA new hires, establishing school gardens with the Texas Agrilife Learn Grow Eat and Go program and as a member of the Texas AgrAbility and Battleground to Breaking Ground Project Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the Texas Farm Bureau and the National Corn Growers Association.

Gil Senger

Northeast |
I joined the USAF after graduating high school in August 1961 and served until December 1968 attaining the rank of Staff Sargent (E-5). I was a Defensive Fire Control Technician on B-52 aircraft with duty assignments in ME, GA, Guam and NY. While at Guam in 1966 I flew with the aircraft on several bombing sorties over Viet Nam.
I was hired as a test engineer by a company in Binghamton NY for the FB-111 flight simulator project and began studying accounting at SUNY using the GI Bill. Once I graduated with an accounting degree, I began my career in business working my way up from Sr. Bookkeeper, Jr. Accountant, Controller, VP Finance and CFO for several diverse companies throughout NY, PA and VA.
In the early 1970’s my wife, Sally and I purchased what we named Candlewick Farm. We ‘dabbled’ in milk goats, chickens, beef cows and hogs as well as maintaining a large vegetable garden, more as a hobby then a business until her losing her battle with cancer in the mid 1980’s. In the ‘80’s and 90’s I harvested hay, which I sold to local horse owners, and planted a few acres of sweet corn to wholesale to local roadside stands.
In 2000 my career took me away from NY and I reconnected with Nancy, a childhood friend and we married. In 2007 we began planting Christmas trees for something to keep us busy when retirement came. I retired from my career in 2013 but continue to consult with a couple of small businesses.
We began selling trees by ‘choose & cut’ in 2014, and I joined the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York (CTFANY) and through their classes I learned to make wreathes and garland. Three years ago, I started growing shiitake mushrooms on log cultivation, under a stand of white pines that were planted in 2007, before I found out that white pine does not make a good Christmas Tree. We also provide a loving home for retired racing greyhounds. Make fast friend…Adopt a Greyhound!
I have been a member of FVC since 2017. I have attended an Armed to Farm week at SUNY Adirondack and a ATTRA NCAT Conference in St. Louis, and a proud member of ‘Home Grown by Heroes’
Last November the local TV station came out to the farm and did a report on my Christmas Tree farm. Their interview was posted on YouTube after it aired and can be seen at:
Click To Watch YOUTUBE Video
My many years of business management skills and the varied experiences I have had in many different farming areas should prove to be an excellent addition to the Farmer Veteran Coalition Advisory Panel. I look forward to working with the panel and staff to achieve the goals of the organization.

Josh Nelson

Delta |
Capt Joshua Nelson, current WVANG C-130 Pilot, Former Marine Corps 1371 Combat Engineer, FVC member since 2016, expertise in regenerative ranching practices, radically traditional grass fed cattle (low stress horseback practices) but also raise pastured hogs and chicken, grass fed lamb. Direct farm to consumer operation. Master’s in Business Administration and Instructor for sustainable agriculture program as West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

Louis Driever

CornBelt |
I guess I’ve always been involved with agriculture. As a child I remember weeding my grandmother’s half acre strawberry patch and picking apples to sell in a stand beside the road. Starting at around 13, I bucked hay and detasseled corn. After my discharge from the Army I ran a few cattle in Washington then did some hobby farming in the Willamette Valley. Later, like many airport managers, I oversaw the planting of our approach areas in corn and soybeans (defraying the cost of operating the airport). I recommended transitioning from planting grass beside the taxiways (that you have to pay someone to mow) to clover (which would support on field beehives generating revenue). As my parents aged, I started managing our fourth generation Ohio family farm (corn / beans / hay). We had some woodlots overgrown with honeysuckle. The USDA NRCS provided a grant to cull those invasive plants and I am replacing them with shade grown indigenous crops – blue / black cohosh, goldenseal, ginseng and ramps. Thanks VERY much to the Farmer Veteran Coalition for helping fund my deer fencing 5 acres of that planting. A couple decades ago my folks planted several acres of sycamore, black walnut and black cherry which gave me an introduction to agroforestry. Most recently I served as the grower for The Abilities Connection, a 501(c)3 that provides vocational rehabilitation for adults with developmental disabilities – teaching them how to plant, grow, harvest and pack leafy greens in a hydroponic greenhouse and grow room. While I’ve only been a member of the FVC for 3 years, I’m also a member of the Farm Bureau and the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farming Coaltion and organized the Growing Opportunities Partnership – a coaltion of ten hydroponic greenhouses that provide vocational rehabilitation for adults with developmental disabilities across the country. Like most of us, I’ve often struggled to figure out how to finance a project. To that end I’ve written 12 grant applications for non-profit agricultural organizations and 8 grants for my family farm and am currently batting about 25% success rates on both counts. I believe that the best way to increase the sustainability of our food system is to provide that extra margin of help that acts as a force multipler – allowing small growers to expand and realize projects that would otherwise have remained dreams. I want to help my fellow veterans become fellow farmers. Let’s work together to turn those dreams into reality.

Mariel Barreras

Northern Plains |
Mariel Barreras is founder of Barreras Family Farm LLC. in Blair, NE. She has an extensive knowledge in marketing, sales, and growth planning. She works with the local Washington and Douglas County agricultural communities to provide educational opportunities and promote product diversification to support local food needs. Mariel is an Army spouse, whose heart will always be in Alaska, even if her home is currently in Nebraska. She uses her ability, gained from 21 years of Army life, to harness problems and change them into advantages by creating new enterprises or enhancing current endeavors. Her family enjoys travel in their constant quest for adventure. Mariel and her husband, Anthony, have eight children.

Michael Williams

Pacific |
Michael (Mike) Williams is a 20 year U. S. Army veteran retiring in 1994. He has an extensive background in joint service planning and logistics. He attributes this experience and training to his ability to create/operate what the USDA identifies as one of the most remote farms in the United States.
Mike, along with his wife Paula (also a U.S. Army veteran) operate EagleSong Family Peony Farm, one of the largest peony cut flower farms in Alaska today. They started their farm in 2010 after their 15 year old wilderness fishing lodge business was forced to close due to invasive fish devastating the area salmon runs.
Building a farm from raw land has brought an added perspective to their farming operations and development. It didn’t take long for Mike and his family to become advocates for farming in Alaska especially when it came to veterans and agricultural opportunities in back country Alaska. In 4 short years of operation Mike and his family were selected as Alaska’s Farm Family of the Year.
Despite the extreme remoteness of EagleSong, Mike’s family is heavily involved in community advocacy. Mike has served on the Board of Alaska Farmland Trust, member of Alaska Peony Growers Association, Alaska Farm Bureau, Alaska Grown, Made in Alaska and alternate member County Board Farm Service Agency.

Tim Doherty

Southeast |
Retired Lieutenant Colonel and founder of Doc’s Healing Hives
Tim Doherty received a bachelor’s degree in education from Michigan State University in 1993 and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Georgia in 1998. Tim spent 32 years serving in the Army National Guard and United States Army Reserve as a Medical Operations Officer. Tim deployed twice once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. After his deployment to Afghanistan, Tim began keeping bees and became very active in the Georgia Beekeeper’s Association and the Metro Atlanta Beekeeper’s Association, serving both organizations in leadership roles. He worked to help create the Georgia “Save the Honeybee” license plate and increase awareness of the importance of all pollinators. Tim started Doc’s Healing Hives in January of 2017 to help other veterans heal and reintegrate into their own communities through the vocation of beekeeping. Tim is currently building a sustainable farm, apiary and veteran learning center in Morganton, Georgia to educate other veterans on beekeeping and small-scale sustainable farming.

Yani Bunch

Mountain |
Yani Bunch, is a US Army veteran who served with the First Cavalry Division in Ft. Hood, TX. He has over a decade of professional experience in agriculture, he has been active with the Farmer Veteran Coalition since 2008.
Yani has a wide array of agricultural experience but growing diversified organic vegetables is his specialty.
He is currently the Executive Director at Not Forgotten Outreach, a training and therapy farm for veterans in Taos, New Mexico.