“I believe deeply in American agriculture and the rich reward it can give to all who take part in it. Sharing that opportunity with men and women coming home from war has been a wonderful and humbling experience.”
Michael began farming in 1970. After 20 years in 1990 Michael was hired to run the first organic farm in Salinas, California. Over the next five years TKO Farms became the country’s leading grower of packaged salad greens. In 1996 he became the first Farm Manager for Mission Organics, growing for the Earthbound label and newly formed Natural Selection Foods. In 1998 Michael began a ten year stint developing 1600 acres of intensive organic vegetable and herb production in the northern half of Baja California for Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, including 30 acres of indoor tomatoes. In 2008 he began the Farmer Veteran Coalition out of the back of his pickup truck.
Chief Operating Officer
Willie Hines, Chief Operating Officer, served 8 years in the Navy as a Seal, then 8 more with the Oregon National Guard. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and Post- baccalaureate work in genetics from Oregon State University. During 30+ years, Willie held positions with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Oregon Department of Ag, UC Davis, North Carolina State University, Pioneer Hi-Bred Seed and Dairyland Seed.
“I feel humbled and honored to work with some of the most dedicated people on the planet. Veterans who served their country in the military and now serve their country by providing food are my inspiration.”
Sarah is an urban beekeeper who manages hives throughout the city; volunteers on the D.C. Food Policy Council; and tries to eradicate an invasive species of fish while contributing to hunger-relief on the board of Wide Net Project. She has a Professional Science Masters in Urban Agriculture and Sustainability from the University of the District of Columbia. Sarah is a military veteran, having served in the U.S. Navy for over 20 years.
“I’m very grateful for the personal sacrifices our veterans have endured, and I’m humbled by their desire to continue their service by providing for our nation. It’s an honor to support their new endeavors in agriculture.”
Rachel manages FVC’s Fellowship Program, administering grants that support veteran farmers in their new careers. This program enables veterans to invest in the infrastructure and tools they need to feed their community. After earning a degree from UC Santa Cruz in Community Studies with a focus on food systems, Rachel worked on small-scale farms for six years. During her time in the field, she learned the intricacies of harvesting okra without getting itchy, collecting 600 eggs without cracking any, and bunching kale with one hand. Most importantly, she gained an unparalleled respect for the people who grow our food. Through her work in non-profit organizations, Rachel cultivated relationships between farmers and the community by establishing farm to institution programs. She also provided growers with technical assistance through workshops on topics such as irrigation efficiency, business planning, and marketing.
Ria de Grassi
Director of Events Management
“A vocation has no greater noble purpose than leveraging one’s experience and network to help make good things happen for America’s veterans.”
Ria grew up on a small sheep farm in the Coast Range of California and later lived and worked on a 5,000-head Romney sheep and mixed crop farm in New Zealand. Her late father, who served in The Hump with the US Army Air Forces in WWII, heavily influenced Ria’s passion for agriculture. Like her father, Ria is a graduate of UC Davis, with a BS in Agricultural Science and Management and a MS in Animal Science.
Ria joined FVC in 2018 after a long career as an agricultural issues and policy analyst with the California Farm Bureau Federation where she had the lead responsibility for animal health and welfare, agricultural research, food safety, homeland security, and the dairy, livestock, aquaculture, and honey bee agricultural sectors.
An active volunteer, she is the Food and Agriculture Critical Infrastructure Co-Sector Chief, a member of the board, and the past Chief Financial Officer of the Sacramento Chapter of InfraGard, a public-private partnership with the FBI to safeguard the critical infrastructure within the U.S. In her downtime, Ria loves to toil in her pollinator-friendly, drought-resistant garden.
Director, Training & Education,
Manager, Homegrown By Heroes Label
“The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be… because of all I may become I will close my eyes and leap!”
Paul was born and raised near Seattle, Washington. Fresh out of high school, he joined the United States Marines as a Motor Transport Operator. After his service, Paul’s love for the outdoors led to a career in landscaping and, eventually, small-scale agriculture. He is a University of California Master Gardener, Master Composter, and Hydroponicist. While employed at hydro-organic Archi’s Acres™, Paul harvested hydroponic basil and maintained greenhouse systems. He also worked on a small, family agribusiness specializing in old west homesteading; he cleared land, established a micro-farm, built agritourism projects, managed and harvested acres of lilacs, and taught archery and tomahawk basics to tourists. Paul’s latest passion project is a hydroponic hop and agritourism farm.
Veteran Services Provider
“My family has been blessed by the support and generosity of many veteran-focused organizations. It is an honor to now be apart of one of those organizations and to serve my fellow veterans.”
Isa Marie served for 8 years on active duty in the U.S. Army as a Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) Repairer. She completed two deployments in Iraq, totaling in 27 months of combat operations. Her military awards include the Combat Action Badge, the Iraq Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, and four Army Commendation Medals, among others.
In 2012 Isa Marie became caregiver to her husband, Alex, after he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on deployment to Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of both of his legs. Several years after his injuries Alex turned to beekeeping to provide him with a new purpose. Now the two have close to 800 hives, along with goats, chickens and horses.
In May 2019, Isa Marie graduated from Sacramento State’s Business Honors Program where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior. In September 2019 she joined the FVC team as a Veteran Service Provider. Isa Marie currently serves as Committee Chair for Women Veterans Giving and is an active participant in the “Vanquishing the Invisible” portrait project.
Veteran Service Provider
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Born and raised in California, Kevin graduated from UC Davis in 2018 where he received a degree in Global Disease Biology. During his undergraduate education, he worked for California AgrAbility, where he led efforts in outreach and education to disabled farmers across the state. At the end of his collegiate career, he traveled to Ecuador to study Sustainable Development, were he traveled across the country working on different farms, including extensive work on coffee farms in the cloud forest. Always having a passion in agriculture and the natural environment, and lots of experience in non-profit and philanthropic work, Kevin joined FVC in 2019, where he helps with member intake, referral, mentor connections, and education on government, financial, and business resources available to veterans.
Amanda cut her accounting teeth as the client bookkeeper for a prestigious CPA firm in Sacramento, where she learned all facets of bookkeeping from a variety of industries in the public, government, education and non-profit sectors. From there she went on to work at a financial consulting firm specializing in charter schools. Her family is decorated with military veterans from all branches, but it was her two brother’s experiences that touched her the most. Watching first hand the variety of experiences her brothers and their peers had returning from war is what inspired her to help veterans herself. When she is not in the office, Amanda enjoys growing, canning and preserving her own vegetables, raising her own backyard chickens, and camping with her family.
Veteran Service Provider
Emily Schmidt first collaborated with FVC while she was a student at UC Davis and became a full-time employee in 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. She worked as an Agricultural and Environmental Affairs Specialist with the Almond Board of California for a year and returned to FVC as a Veteran Services Provider in late 2018. Through her previous outreach efforts and capstone project with FVC, Emily realized her desire to combine her interest of working with veterans and her agricultural knowledge. Emily also worked as a Consultant for American Farmland Trust and as an Agriculture and Environmental Advisor in the UC Davis Internship Career Center. She also interned with the Yolo County Farm to School Program, the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, and 4-H Cooperative Extension. After growing up around agriculture in the Central Valley, preserving farmland and serving local and rural communities has become an interest and passion for Emily. In her spare time, she can be found teaching yoga, in her backyard picking fruit to make fermented food and drink, or adventuring outdoors and traveling with friends and family.