Chris Mittelstaedt, President, San Francisco
Founder and CEO, The Fruit Guys
Chris Mittelstaedt founded The FruitGuys in 1998 as a way to bring healthy food to hard working people in offices. He has served on the FarmLink board since 2014. He grew up in the Philadelphia area where he learned about business and customer service while owning and operating a franchise of College Pro painters during his university years. Today some of his hobbies include: dressing as a banana while passing out fruit to people on the street; writing about the farmers and fruit that appear in The FruitGuys boxes, designing and patenting the earth friendly packaging used by The FruitGuys and promoting health prevention as a path to better health care.
His fondest FruitGuys memories include being asked to leave a building because his banana costume wasn’t formal enough, watching all the kids of FruitGuys employees jump in a bouncy-house for “bring your kids to work day” and talking with customers nationwide about how The FruitGuys has changed their corporate culture for the better. Chris lives in San Francisco with his wife and three children who remain his most critical and trusted fruit tasters.
Marisa Alcorta, Board Member, Winters
Apprenticeship Program Manager, Center for Land-Based Learning
Marisa has worked to support new farmers with training in farm economics, marketing, and production for two decades. She is the Apprenticeship Program Manager at the Center for Land-Based Learning’s California Farm Academy (CFA). Marisa is currently developing one of the first registered apprenticeships in agriculture in the state, which trains individuals for the occupation of a Beginning Farm and Ranch Manager. She also develops the curriculum for CFA’s Farm Business Incubator program, and acts as a mentor to incubator farmers.
Marisa worked for 7 years at the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s ATTRA Project with underserved farmers in California, helping them understand what it takes to achieve profitability. Apart from being a farm educator, Marisa has also farmed herself over the years, as an apprentice, a farm partner and a farm manager. In the past Marisa also managed a small farmer marketing cooperative in Ohio and helped launch one of the first successful farmers’ markets in her hometown of Austin, Texas.
Marisa received a B.S. in Plant Science from Cornell University, and a M.S. in Horticulture & Agronomy with an emphasis in Viticulture from UC Davis. She lives in Winters with her husband who is a partner at Terra Firma Farm, where they grow 200 acres of certified organic fruits, vegetables and nuts. Marisa joined the FarmLink board in 2018 to follow her passion for helping small farmers find a path to economic viability.
Robin Bot-Miller, Board Member, San Francisco
Real Estate Investor
Robin is a team builder, investor and lifelong learner dedicated to supporting innovative businesses that focus on future generations as well as annual results. Mr. Bot-Miller left the world of institutional real estate investing in 2016 to embark on a year ‘sabbatical’ with his wife Heather and to refocus his career in a more regenerative direction. Robin’s dad was a 6th-generation farmer in Minnesota before giving up farming in the early 1980’s commodity crash. This family history motivated Robin to spend 2017 studying organic farming at the Center for Land-Based Learning, where his profound respect for farmers and our soils grew immensely. He is currently launching a real estate investment fund focused on outdoor hospitality experiences that connect people to the natural world.
Mr. Bot-Miller previously spent 11 years as a commercial real estate investor, most recently as a co-founder and Managing Director of RBC Real Estate Capital Partners and previously in the Real Estate Principal Investment Area of Goldman, Sachs & Co. in the New York, Dallas and London offices. He had a wide range of responsibilities including the asset management, acquisition and restructuring of investments located in Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia and Latin America. Originally from Saint Cloud, Minnesota, Robin graduated with honors from Stanford University with a degree in Economics. He is a Fulbright Scholar whose program in Monterrey, Mexico focused on international business.
Robin joined the board in 2019 out of a deep appreciation for both the people who grow our food and for FarmLink’s mission to support a more diverse ecosystem of California farmers.
Mariela Cedeño, Board Member, Oakland
Manzanita Capital Collective
For 15+ years, Mariela has catalyzed strategies that cultivate local economies and resilient food systems. As the principal of Orikaika Ventures, Mariela serves as an advisor, partner, and advocate for the development of new models of investment and economic opportunity that center and uplift BIPOC entrepreneurs, farmers, and community-based organizations. Prior to launching Orikaika, Mariela was the Interim Executive Director of Mandela Partners – an Oakland based non-profit organization that works to increase access to healthy food, good jobs, and ownership opportunities. In a decade at Mandela Partners, Mariela seeded and grew community-based economic development ventures, entrepreneurship programming, and access to non-extractive and relationship driven capital.
Mariela has spent her career advocating for equitable opportunity, redistribution of resources, and community-centered development. She holds a wide breadth of on the ground experience in community economic development, small business advising, non-extractive capital, financial planning, non-profit management, and much more.
Mariela holds B.A. degrees in Economics and International Relations from the University of California, Davis, and an M.A. in Latin American Development from Vanderbilt University. She is the co-chair of the Equitable Food Oriented Development Collaborative’s Community Investment Committee, on the Olamina Fund Community Advisory Committee, on the California Farmlink Board of Directors, and part of the Firebrand Stewardship Trust. Mariela is also a former Common Future fellow, NALCAB Colegio alumni, and Kiva fellow.
Mariela joined the Farmlink board because she believes that we all have a responsibility to support, uplift, and invest in the BIPOC growers and land stewards that sustain us.
Larry Cretan, Board Member, Woodside
Retired Bank Executive
Retired bank executive, and consultant for financial institutions and nonprofits, Larry joined the board in 2013 and serves as chair of the Loan Committee. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and has lived there all of his life, other than a year in the Middle East and a decade of graduate school and non-profit work in Los Angeles. Upon returning to the Bay Area 30 years ago, he began a career in commercial banking, first at Wells Fargo, then at Greater Bay Bank, Tamalpais Bank, Santa Barbara Bank and Trust, and Mechanics Bank.
Larry’s focus has always been on business lending to small and mid-sized companies and non-profits. He has a strong commitment to these Main Street organizations as the fundamental drivers of employment, economic opportunity, and social mobility for Americans of modest or limited financial resources. This is no truer than in the field of sustainable agriculture, which can offer individuals and families an entrée to the wider opportunities of our society. Larry has a BA in History from Stanford, and an MA in History and an MBA from UCLA.
He lives in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains in San Mateo County with his wife and is active in the launch of a triple-bottom-line microbrewery in Oakland, Federation Brewing, with his son and business partner. Having served on the loan committee for micro-lending at Opportunity Fund, Larry was enthusiastic to join Farmlink to help expand its micro-lending program for farmers.
Marsha Habib, Board Member, Hollister
Farmer, Oya Organics
Marsha’s parents immigrated to the United States as young adults, and she is a first generation farmer in this country. She studied Agroecology and Rural Development at UC Berkeley, and spent time as an exchange student in Brazil accompanying the Landless Workers Movement. After attending the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems apprenticeship at UC Santa Cruz, she served as an AmeriCorps volunteer doing food justice work in Silicon Valley and attended the Small Farm Education Program at ALBA. She started her own business, Oya Organics, on one acre of subleased land in Hollister, and now farms mixed vegetables on 20 acres near Hollister.
Rob Hurlbut, Treasurer, San Francisco
Managing Director, Agriculture Capital
Rob is Managing Director at Agriculture Capital and leads its sustainable agriculture strategies and joined the FarmLink board in 2017. He believes that food is inherently a triple-bottom-line business: by growing crops that improve the land we create healthy foods that nourish the body and deliver long-term financial rewards. This basic principle has fueled Rob’s passion for food and agriculture.
Rob has over 30 years of experience in the food and agricultural industries distinguished by his ability to build value through the development of transparent supply chains that deliver on a clear consumer promise. As CEO of Niman Ranch, Rob created the industry’s leading premium meat brand by building a network of over 500 sustainable farmers who, under common quality and husbandry protocols, supply the nation’s finest restaurants and retailers with extraordinary pork, beef and lamb. The company was one of the first to construct a vertical supply chain to capture consumer premiums and return them to the farm. At Attune Foods, a company Rob founded in 2006, he built on the idea that simple ingredients can deliver great health and constructed a business that was subsequently acquired by Post Foods to be their strategic platform in the rapidly growing natural food segment.
Rob also serves as a volunteer advisor with Inner City Advisors in Oakland, a community organization creating accessible good jobs that lead to equitable communities. Rob loves to run, ski and spend time cooking for his family. He has a BA in Psychology and Social Relations from Harvard College.
Shyam Kamath, Ph.D., Board Member, Marina
Dean (retired), College of Business, CSU Monterey Bay
Shyam Kamath, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized scholar and educator who has gained recognition as a global innovator and expert in the areas of international economics, business management, and business program innovation. He has more than 35 years of experience in international education management, international economic development and management, sustainable enterprise formation, global business consulting and university teaching. His distinguished career has also focused on building programs and institutions that benefit those who are underserved and underrepresented while focusing on economic opportunity and community building.
Dr. Kamath served as the founding Dean of the College of Business at CSU, Monterey Bay and has held academic and administrative positions at leading universities in the U.S., Canada, Asia and Europe. He is the recipient of numerous teaching and research awards and multiple outstanding professor and educator awards. Previously, he was an entrepreneur as a co-founder of three start-ups, has pioneered a number of academic start-ups and has worked for a national government agency and leading international firms in the energy equipment and consumer goods industries. He has been a consultant to four governments and over 100 companies and non-profits worldwide. He has published over 80 articles in leading peer-reviewed scholarly and trade journals and is the author or co-author of three books. Dean Kamath serves on the boards/advisory councils of the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Rancho Cielo, the HOPE Collaborative (Boston, MA), MBEP’s Techno-economic Committee, the Seaside C-Jobs Commission, Hartnell College Foundation’s Strategic Planning Committee, Junior Achievement, CSUMB’s College of Business Advisory Council, IIED Advisory Council and the Sustainable Hospitality Management Council. He also serves on the advisory board of the for-profit company, LeaderJam (Boston, MA) and has served as the CEO of a Monterey-based non-profit organization. His previous board experience includes serving on the board of a number of technology companies.
With his background in the micro-lending industry and quintuple bottom-line consulting and practice, Shyam was attracted by California FarmLink’s focus on small and underserved farmers and communities and its triple-bottom line ethos.
Jennifer Kuyper, Board Member, Monterey
Senior Vice President Senior Relationship Manager, Pinnacle Bank
A 20-year veteran of commercial banking, Jennifer Kuyper currently serves as Senior Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager with Pinnacle Bank in Salinas. She started her career underwriting loans in Anchorage, Alaska, where depletable resources of fishing and oil drove the economy. Her path took her to Northern California next, where she financed walnuts, almonds, pistachios, rice, and cattle operations and served on the loan committee for 3Core, a CDFI based in Butte County.
She returned to her hometown in Monterey County on the Central Coast in 2016. Near the “Salad Bowl” of the Salinas Valley, she became passionate about finding ways to support equitable access to diverse and small-scale farmers and fishermen while raising her teenage daughter. In addition to serving on California FarmLink’s board, Jennifer serves as Board Chair of the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
Kristyn Leach, Board Member, Winters
Farmer, Namu Farm
Kristyn Leach runs the organic Namu Farm in partnership with the restaurant Namu Gaji in San Francisco, owned by three brothers with a Korean background. Since 2012, Leach has grown vegetables and herbs, particularly heirloom Korean produce, for the neighborhood bistro. An avid seed saver, Leach practices traditional peasant farming methods popular in her birthplace. She began Namu Farm at the Sunol AgPark, home to small-scale farmers growing crops on the urban fringe. In 2018, Leach moved her operation to Winters. She is a member of the Asian American Farmers Alliance and active in community efforts to empower farmers of color. Kristyn joined the FarmLink board because she believes that farmers deserve more access to opportunities and security. [Photo by Amy Dickerson]
Natalie Solares, Board Member, Perris
Pacific Region Technical Assistance Specialist, Intertribal Agriculture Council
Natalie Solares received her Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Sciences from the University of California at Berkeley and her Master’s in Plant Pathology from the University of California at Riverside. Natalie is Zapotec and comes from a line of subsistence farmers from the Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico, and a paternal lineage of subsistence farmers from Guatemala.
Solares has 8 years of experience in the agriculture field as a research associate on large-scale agriculture production and technical assistance provider for berries and vegetable farmers in California. Her work focused on soil health, systems-based approaches for achieving disease-suppressive soils, improving water quality, irrigation management, and nutrient management. Natalie has worked in supporting small-scale farmers during her time at the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County and at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources for Riverside and San Bernardino counties. She has been the Technical Assistance Specialist for the Pacific Region since the Fall of 2021.
Natalie is passionate about Indigenous food sovereignty, traditional ecological knowledge, and supporting community lead projects to restore native lands. She has received training on developing farmer training programs, beginning farmer training in the Inland Empire of California, and seed stewardship/seed midwifery. Natalie enjoys teaching about native bees, mushrooms, seed saving, soil health, and traditional herbal medicine. Her role at the Intertribal Agriculture Council provides technical support to tribal governments, farmers, ranchers, and youth in the Pacific Region in the realm of agriculture, traditional foods, and natural resources initiatives
Meredith Storton, Secretary, San Francisco
Lending Manager, Food & Agriculture, RSF Social Finance
Meredith Storton works at RSF Social Finance, a nonprofit lender that provides values-aligned financing to social enterprises. As a Lending Manager of the Food & Agriculture portfolio, Meredith guides strategy and deploys capital in support of resilient, regional food systems. She was a 2018-2019 RSF Integrated Capital Fellow, an institute designed to train financial activists to leverage capital as a tool for positive change. Meredith has a BA in Economics and History from the University of Virginia and spent her first few years out of school as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Meredith joined the California FarmLink loan committee in 2018. She has seen how California FarmLink fills a critical gap in the financing and food ecosystems by providing underserved, small farmers with access to capital, land, and education. She joined the board to help them further this important work.
Wesley Van Camp, Board Member, Salinas
Vice President, Legal and General Counsel, Tanimura & Antle
Wesley Van Camp is Vice President Legal and General Counsel of Tanimura & Antle. She has worked for Tanimura & Antle for 15 years, and is responsible for Tanimura & Antle s legal matters, as well as the company’s corporate affairs, including public, community, and government relations. Wesley successfully spearheaded the development of Spreckels Crossing, a residential community for Tanimura & Antle’s seasonal agricultural employees. She champions workforce development strategies, and serves on the Board of Goodwill Central Coast. Wesley received a Bachelor of Science in Evolution and Ecology from the University of California Davis, and her law degree from Santa Clara University. Serving on the Board of California FarmLink brings another opportunity for Wesley to promote financial stability and equitable opportunities in California’s agricultural communities.