The Speakers

Julie Ann Smith

AGCOM President

Julie Ann Smith is the Executive Director of the Maine Farm Bureau Association, a voluntary grassroots nonprofit membership organization dedicated to advocating for the sustainability and profitability of Maine’s farming, fishing and forestry businesses.

Ms. Smith began her career as a dairy farmer, working on her family’s fourth-generation farm in Monmouth, Maine. She has extensive experience in agriculture, social justice, and community relations, having worked in developmental education, arts education for at-risk youth, and advocating for community solutions for food insecurity. She serves on numerous boards including the UMaine Board of Agriculture and Agriculture Council of Maine.

Hannah Carter

As Dean, Hannah is the chief executive officer of Cooperative Extension (UMaine Extension) and reports to the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. She provides leadership for UMaine Extension’s education programs, applied research, and scholarship in service to the State of Maine and beyond, and is responsible for strategic, fiscal, staffing, personnel, and public service matters; staff development; commitment to diversity and inclusion; and compliance with university-wide policies. She helps to foster productive relationships with government, industry, and the public stakeholders in Maine; other units of UMaine and the University of Maine System; and other extension programs in the national Cooperative Extension network.

Diane Rowland

Rowland, a graduate of Orono High School, began her scientific career as a research plant physiologist and lead scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Georgia. In 2010, she joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For most of her career, Rowland has specialized in the physiological mechanisms of crop stress, particularly related to drought and crop water scarcity resilience. She has received more than $7 million in funding and, most recently, is part of a $26 million National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center led by the University of Pennsylvania.

Rowland pioneered the development of primed acclimation, a water management system that capitalizes on the nearly universal priming response in crop plants to enhance drought tolerance. In her teaching roles, she co-established the University of Florida Agronomy Department’s internationally recognized agroecology graduate program in 2012, an interdepartmental program made up of master’s and Ph.D. concentrations focused on evaluating the sustainability and resilience of global agroecosystems.

She also established and directed the Center for Stress Resilient Agriculture, focused on transdisciplinary approaches to researching, extending and teaching about the complexity of challenges to maintaining sustainable food production worldwide. Rowland, who has chaired the Agronomy Department since 2019, is a Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America.

James Dill

James F. Dill is an entomologist, politician and professor from Maine. Dill was first elected to the Maine Legislature in 2010 when he represented Maine House District 14 for two terms before running for the Senate District 5 in 2014. He will complete his fourth term in the Maine Senate in 2022. Dill works as the pest management specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Maine. He is considered one of the foremost experts on insect pests in Maine and one of the pioneers of integrated pest management (IPM) in the state.

Tony Lyons

President, Maine Farm Bureau

Tony Lyons was elected president of the Maine Farm Bureau Association in 2021. Tony has served on the Boards of the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, Maine Forest Products Council and the Forest Resources Association, and is also currently the President of the Maine Winery Guild. Originally from Australia, Tony came to Maine to complete his college studies at the University of Maine at Orono which led to a career in the paper industry's woodland operations. He began farming in the 1980s and, from a culmination of farming experiences, founded a winery and restaurant named WillowsAwake. WillowsAwake has been a team effort with his wife, Brenda. Together they have 6 children, and happy to have 5 of them back living in Maine.

Sebastian Belle

Executive Director, Maine Aquaculture Association

A longtime leader in aquaculture, Sebastian Belle has dedicated his career to demonstrating global leadership in aquaculture and advocating for a sustainable working waterfront. Since 1984, Belle has established best practices and advised commercial aquaculture ventures around the world, bridging private and public sectors. In April 2022, Belle was appointed as president of the board of directors, National Aquaculture Association (NAA) for the 2022 term. Prior to joining the MAA, Mr. Belle was the state aquaculture coordinator, working for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Mr. Belle serves on NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee and on the board of directors of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, The Island Institute, and The Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center. Mr. Belle is also vice president of the International Salmon Farmers Association. “Now more than ever aquaculture needs to unify as a sector to balance innovation with long-term sustainability,” says Belle. “Our seafood farm families, in Maine and across the nation, and working waterfront depend on it.”

Eric Venturini

Eric Venturini is Executive Director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine where he is responsible for leading his team in the execution of the Commission’s promotional agenda, fostering the University of Maine’s wild blueberry research and Extension program, and carrying out other activities in support of Maine’s iconic wild blueberry industry. He became involved in Maine’s wild blueberry industry as a graduate student at the University of Maine, then as researcher. His experience includes stints in the non-profit world, the USDA-NRCS, farming, the seed industry, fisheries, and agronomic research. Eric is a published scientist with over a dozen peer-reviewed articles on topics ranging from climate change, wild blueberry pollinators, to wild blueberry marketing. He currently serves on several boards including the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, the Agricultural Council of Maine, and the National Berry Crop Initiative.

Kevin Woltemath

Pineland Farms Natural Meats, Procurement and Compliance,

President, Maine Beef Producers Association

At PFNM, Kevin is responsible to ensure that the cattle supply from all producers meet product claims for quality and animal welfare. Kevin joined the regional beef program at Wolfe’s Neck Farm and continued when it became a for-profit company, Pineland Farms Natural Meats, Inc. in 2005. Since 2020 all Pineland Farms’ producers are third-party verified to Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.) standards. As the Company’s Compliance Officer, he ensures that all farms are properly certified and adhere to those requirements.

Kevin previously worked at Aldermere Farm in Rockport and since 1997 has been a member of the Maine Beef Producers Association Board of Directors per By-Law limits. He currently serves as President. He also represents the MBPA on the Agricultural Council of Maine and is AGCOM’s Treasurer and member designee on the Board of Agriculture.

Kevin lives in Brunswick with his wife Sarah.

Tade Sullivan

Theodore (Tade) Sullivan has been privileged to work for non-profits and government as a lobbyist, policy maker, and public affairs officer. He has over 20 years of experience in fundraising, advocacy, and association management. He serves as the Executive Director of the Maine Dairy Industry Association

From the fourth generation of a family dairy farm, Mr. Sullivan is a recognized expert in the US Farm Bill, renewable energy, and Federal Crop Insurance. He has been involved in the development of significant legislation on behalf of our nation’s farmers, including portions of the US Farm Bill, the Renewable Fuels Standard, and the Water Resources Development Act. He has developed innovative proposals for products for consideration by the Federal Crop Insurance Board.

Mr. Sullivan was appointed by President Clinton to serve at the US Department of Agriculture, as the Legislative and Public Affairs Director for the Farm Service Agency, and is a recipient of the Vice President’s Award for Reinventing Government. Mr. Sullivan served as a legislative aide to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He served as a member of the Secretary of Agriculture’s Task Force on Civil Rights.

Mr. Sullivan has previously served as the Chairman of the Iowa Rural Development Council, and the Vice Chairman of the Wallace Centers of Iowa. He is a graduate of Bradford College in Massachusetts and Cornell University’s Empire State Agricultural Leadership Institute in Ithaca, NY. He currently serves on the Board of Agriculture at the University of Maine.

Amy Fisher

Amy Fisher joined Maine Farmland Trust as President & CEO in August 2021. Amy brings significant leadership experience to the role having served for the previous seven years as Executive Director of the foundation for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).

Prior to joining VIMS, Amy was based in New England, with roles at Boston University, Simmons University, and St. Francis House. She led the Center for Environmental Citizenship’s electoral skills training and organizing efforts, including on campuses and ballot initiative campaigns in Maine. She is a graduate of Bates College, holds an MBA from Boston University, and is enthusiastic to return to Maine.

Heather Spaulding

Heather Spalding is the Deputy Director and Policy Director for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). She has worked as an environmental activist since the mid-80s, and spent 10 years in Washington, DC, working for the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace International where she served as Publications Coordinator for the International Toxics Campaign. Heather’s introduction to MOFGA came during a summer 1996 sabbatical from Greenpeace, when she volunteered as an apprentice on New Leaf Farm in Durham. Wanting to settle in her home state of Maine, Heather then accepted a job offer to coordinate the Common Ground Country Fair. After several years focusing on the Fair, Heather changed her focus and worked on MOFGA’s organizational administration and development. She now works primarily on Public Policy initiatives at the state and national level.