April 27, 2021 - 8:30 - 10 a.m.

Capitalizing on Trends in Today’s Pandemic-Driven Reality

COVID-19 has upended every aspect of normal life including the way people shop and what they shop for. Not only are consumers focused on the health and wellness attributes of the food they buy, they also shop for it in new ways as adoption of online grocery shopping has grown by nearly 200%. As customers change the way they engage with retailers, including in a physical store, online, via websites and mobile apps and through social media, the need for products to deliver on all of these touch points has never been more important. Join us as we share 10 pandemic-driven learnings that when executed properly will help ensure your product remains relevant in today’s new normal.

Nick Lenzi, Vice President of Business Development, Lipari Foods

Nick Lenzi recently joined Warren, Michigan–based Lipari Foods in the role of vice president of business development. Lenzi began his career in 1980 with VG’s Grocery, holding positions of increasing responsibility until the chain was acquired by SpartanNash in 2008. While at SpartanNash, Lenzi served as director of sales and merchandising for corporate retail and most recently, was the senior vice president of sales and marketing for Busch’s Fresh Food Markets in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Leveraging Social Media to Influence Consumers

Want to know how to use social media platforms to reach the correct audience? Premier marketing starts with proper influence. This short presentation will go over the basics and teach you how to spend time and energy efficiently to reach goals.

Ashley Davenport, Co-Founder, Agfluence

Ashley Davenport is a news director for the Michigan Ag Today radio network. Originally from northern Indiana, Ashley grew up on her family’s multi-generation corn and soybean farm, raising show pigs on the side as she got older. Her whole life she knew she wanted to get into news and tell stories. She went to Goshen College and graduated with her bachelor’s in broadcasting. Ashley has worked in a variety of news operations in varying capacities: local TV news, regional farm news, and national farm news. Ashley graduated with a Master’s degree in strategic communication with a focus on public relations from Purdue University in 2019. Her passion for story telling and marketing combine to help you share your message efficiently and effectively.

April 27, 2021 - 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Marketing & Regulatory Issues in Meat & Dairy

This session will cover two topics. The first is an outlook on market trends in meat products, including meat substitute products. The focus will be on consumer trends and ways to position your product to take advantage of those trends. The second topic will cover the regulatory requirements necessary to legally operate a meat and dairy processing facility. This session should allow a firm to reduce the cost of meeting regulatory compliance and accelerate the time it takes to obtain governmental approval for a processing facility.

Barb Koeltzow, Dairy Program Manager, MDARD

Barb Koeltzow grew up on a small fifth-generation dairy farm in rural Millington, Michigan. She earned a Bachelor of Science in animal science from Michigan State University and returned to the family farm where she was a partner with her parents for 12 years. Barb has spent the last 23 years working for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in various positions including dairy inspector and East Region dairy supervisor as well as in her current role as dairy program manager.


Tina Conklin, Associate Director, MSU Product Center; Director, MSU Food Processing and Innovation Center

As a food processing specialist for the MSU Product Center, Tina Conklin works with facilities large and small on a variety of food processing needs. She provides assistance as a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Team member and works with companies who want to obtain Global Food Safety Initiative standards. Conklin also assists with equipment sourcing and facility design. Prior to working for the Product Center, Conklin spent 25 years in the food industry. She spent time in operations management as well as quality and food safety. Conklin has worked both as a plant manager and a director of technical services. She has assisted with large-scale plant start-ups in the United States, Venezuela, Argentina, Australia and Malaysia. Conklin received a Bachelor of Science in animal science from Auburn University and holds a master’s in management from Aquinas College. While working in industry, Conklin applied for and received on behalf of companies she worked for the prestigious DuPont Qualicon Food Quality Award, the Indy Environmental Steward Award and the National Science Foundation Food Safety Leadership Award. 


Bill Knudson, Professor, MSU Product Center, MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics

Bill Knudson is an agricultural economist at the MSU Product Center, joining in 2003. His primary areas of work are in field crops and livestock products. He also has done work in alcoholic beverages and alternative energy. Prior to joining the Product Center, he was a policy advisor for the Michigan Senate Majority Policy Office where he covered agriculture, higher education and appropriations. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from California State University–Fresno, and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from MSU.


Marketing & Regulatory Issues in Beverages

This session will cover two topics. The first is market trends and comparatively broad opportunities for coffee and tea products as well as kombucha. The second topic will cover the regulatory aspects to be considered when starting an alcoholic beverage processor. Of all food and beverage products, alcoholic beverages are among the most highly regulated. Knowing the relevant state and local regulations are important to achieve success.

Bill Knudson, Professor, MSU Product Center, MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics

Bill Knudson is an agricultural economist at the MSU Product Center, joining in 2003. His primary areas of work are in field crops and livestock products. He also has done work in alcoholic beverages and alternative energy. Prior to joining the Product Center, he was a policy advisor for the Michigan Senate Majority Policy Office where he covered agriculture, higher education and appropriations. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from California State University–Fresno and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from MSU.

Chris Baker, Licensed Beverage Control and Real Estate Attorney, Varnum Attorneys at Law

Chris Baker is a licensed beverage control and real estate attorney with Varnum Attorneys at Law. He has significant experience representing retail license holders, including resorts, hotels, restaurants and retail developers. He also works with licensed suppliers, including brewers, distillers and wineries in all areas of alcoholic beverage regulatory matters, including licensing, enforcement and trade practice issues. He is well versed with the wholesale, distributor and importer provisions of the Michigan Liquor Control Code and regularly represents clients before the Michigan Liquor Control Commission in enforcement actions. Chris routinely represents and counsels developers and property owners in all aspects of commercial real estate transactions, including acquisitions, sales, like-kind exchanges and leases. His work includes land use such as site plan review and zoning.

Caley Gunthorpe, Owner, Apple Blossom Kombucha

Caley Gunthorpe is the sole owner of Apple Blossom Kombucha, located in Lansing, Michigan. She sells her kombucha at retail locations around Lansing and at local farmers markets. Apple Blossom Kombucha prides itself on being true, premium kombucha made with local ingredients from farmers we know.  

Getting Started With Value-Added Agriculture: Everything Old Is New Again

With the demand for local food products at an all-time high, growers are reinventing what agriculture looks like. Hear from members of a maple syrup–producing farm that have taken their fifth-generation family business in a creative new direction. Also featured will be the Little Traverse Bay Band’s Ziibimijwang Farm, which is at the center of a plan to reclaim food sovereignty and cultural foodways.

Amber and Katie Parsons, Harwood Gold

Having grown up on a fifth-generation family farm, sisters Amber and Katie Parsons have carved a path to form the newest iteration of their business legacy, Harwood Gold. With a location in Charlevoix, Michigan, and building on more than a century’s history of making maple syrup, the Parsons have expanded into making and serving an amazing variety of specialty food products made with maple. They were recently recognized by the MSU Product Center for their marketing excellence at the Cook, Share, Prosper Summit. In January of this year, Harwood Gold’s Farm-Style Sriracha won a coveted Good Food Award that annually honors 200 specialty food crafters from across the nation that meet high standards for both environmental and social responsibility. 

Kafui Okai Adjei, Manager, Ziibimijwang Farm Inc.

Kafui Okai Adjei (KK) is originally from Ghana, Africa. In 2004, KK began a Michigan State University Internship at Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs, quickly becoming an indispensable member of their team. In 2019, after serving as Pond Hill Farm manager for 14 years, KK accepted the position of manager at Ziibimijwang Farm Inc.  Ziibimijwang, is located at the “Tip of the Mitt,” just south of Mackinaw City, Michigan, and is owned by the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. His 30 years of experience as a direct marketing farmer give him a unique perspective on what it takes to be successful.


Start-Up Tips: Snacks, Desserts, Dried Goods & Pet Treats

Interested in starting a food business or feel like you need some tips now that you have your license? Hear food processors tell their business start-up story to get tips on product development, processing, distributing and marketing. A shared kitchen manager will talk about what their facility does to guide you in preparing to use your local shared kitchen. 

Brian and Shavyea Mosby, Founders, Mosby’s Popcorn

Mosby’s Popcorn, based in Grand Rapids, is owned and operated by the husband-and-wife duo of Brian and Shavyea Mosby. The business is a family affair with four daughters learning the business and entrepreneurship as they grow. As popcorn connoisseurs, they have built a brand that represents community and relationships. In addition to their retail location in downtown Grand Rapids, they sell wholesale and have an online store selling over 20 flavors.

Adam Cowell, Business Development Manager, Riker’s Dog Treats  

Riker's Dog Treats is locally owned and operated by the husband-and-wife business team of Adam and Leslie Cowell. Leslie named the business after her loyal four-legged family member, Riker. They started their business in their home kitchen in 2014 and then built a 2015 addition to increase space for the operation. The Making It in Michigan Tradeshow held my MSU introduced them to the wholesale market. Currently, Chick-fil-A buys product in bulk from them to handout samples at every drive-through purchase. Now, 5 years later, their sales have led them to a commercial site for their business operation, allowing them to palletize. Their sales started out in 2014 at $5,500 and in 2020 the company has brought in $55,000 in sales. In 2021, they will be hiring their first two employees to expand the business. Learn more at

Marcus Leslie Sr., Owner & Operator, Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecake  

Marcus Leslie Sr. is a native of Detroit who has loved baking since he was a child. Leslie began renting space in Lansing’s Allen Neighborhood Center’s incubator kitchens and now has his own space in their accelerated kitchen to keep up with the demands of Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes. In July 2020, he won the pitch contest sponsored by Lansing Economic Areea Partnership (LEAP).  Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes are now available in the Meijer’s Capital City Market in Lansing and the Woodward Corner Market in Royal Oak, Michigan.  

Matt Jones, Kitchen and Facilities Manager, Allen Neighborhood Center

Matt Jones is the kitchen and facilities manager at the Allen Neighborhood Center (ANC), a nonprofit organization that serves the Lansing Eastside. ANC is a dynamic hub of resources for its neighborhood in many ways and provides a Business Incubator Program that features a shared-use commercial kitchen for start-ups. The Accelerator Program features individual kitchens and broader space for growing entrepreneurs. ANC supports entrepreneurism, nutrition education, culinary job skill training, and recreational cooking classes. Their Farmers Market and the Veggie Box program provides a sales avenue for area entrepreneurs and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) CSAs to distribute their  products.

Hannah Raycraft, Founder, Spera Foods 

The idea for Spera Foods was born in summer 2015 when Hannah Raycraft was studying abroad in Europe and introduced to the tiger nut by her cousin. She immediately fell in love with the taste and the nutritional value of the tiger nut breakfast porridge and found only a few, expensive options for any tiger nut products once back in America. This led to her launching her own food company, Spera Foods. She is passionate about health and wellness and believes change can be started from even one food product like tiger nuts. Spera, in Latin, means hope. Spera Foods is a food company offering hope to consumers concerned about health and wellness. 


Processing & Regulatory Issues in Aquaculture 

Thinking about getting into aquaculture to raise and sell fish meat and even process your own fish? Learn more about regulatory requirements and required food safety planning for raising and processing fish for human consumption. Hear directly from a successful business owner on how they are operating and marketing their fish business today.

Amber Mae Petersen, Owner, The Fish Monger’s Wife

Amber Mae Petersen became The Fish Monger’s Wife when she married Eric a Lake Michigan commercial fisherman. After five years of wedded bliss, she decided to get into the fish business and started selling fresh fish at the Muskegon Farmers Market. Within two years, fresh fish sales grew from the farmers market into a year-round brick-and-mortar fish market. During this time, the Fish Family grew by two with the birth of Anna and Erin. Amber Mae is majority owner of The Fish Monger’s Wife LLC and serves as chief executive wife whose duties include marketing manager, sanitation manager, scheduling manager, wholesale manager and human resources manager.  Eric is her partner and acts as fresh and smoked fish processing manager.

Lauren Jescovitch, Educator, MSU Extension and Michigan Sea Grant

Lauren Jescovitch is an Extension educator for Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant located in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula. She divides her time between the Hancock Extension office and the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University working to apply science-based knowledge to address Great Lakes issues. She dedicates her time supporting community partnerships and fish producers (aquaculture and commercial fishers) through educational programming such as the Great Lakes Aquaculture Day and the Michigan Fish Producers Association annual conference, and by offering trainings such as Seafood HACCP. She’s a project lead for the Great Lakes Aquaculture Collaborative, a member of the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center Technical Extension Committee and a member of the Lake Superior Citizens Fishery Advisory Committee. 

Sheena Fate with Fate’s Food Safety. 

Sheena Fate is a consultant for Fate’s Food Safety and works closely with Michigan State University Extension. She holds a B.S. and M.S. from Michigan State. Sheena has 20 years of food processing experience in areas of slaughter and processing of meat/poultry, ready-to-eat production to include smoked fish and meats. She has expertise in animal welfare, GFSI auditing standards, food safety program creation and extensive knowledge in both state and federal regulations. She spends her time dedicated to helping processors all across Michigan to meet their food processing objectives. Sheena is a meat plant PAACO auditor, seafood and meat HACCP certified, certified in BRC and internal auditing, as well as PCQI certified. 

Start-Up Tips: Sauces, Dips & Spreads

Interested in starting a food business or feel like you need some tips now that you have your license? Learn what regulations these products fall under and hear start-up stories to get tips on product development, processing, distributing, marketing and business management.

Catherine Martin, Michigan Food Regulatory Program Standards Coordinator, MDARD   

Catherine Martin has a Master of Science degree in biology, biochemistry and food microbiology. She has been serving as the food safety inspector for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Food and Dairy Division since 1988 and is also the Manufactured Foods Regulatory Program Standards coordinator. She is a specialist in food processing and compliance activities, and a subject matter expert to the Food and Drug Administration, the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the International Food Protection Training Institute.

Brian M. Evans, Owner & Operator, Blue Collar Hot Sauce LLC

Brian M. Evans, along with wife Heather, are the owners and operators of Blue Collar Hot Sauce LLC in Dundee, Michigan. They pride themselves on growing their own peppers and making all their sauces and spices in small batches. Although making hot sauce is a great job, Brian still maintains a day job as a project manager for a utility company.  Brian was born and raised in Dundee and is the father of four children: Elizabeth, Levi, Lacey and Leah.  Brian also retired from the Marine Corps in 2018 after serving 21 years in the Reserves.

Fred Wurtzel, Owner & CEO, Wurtz Brothers Company 

Fred Wurtzel currently serves as owner and CEO of Wurtz Brothers Company, which makes Tomonion, a sun-dried tomato and caramelized onion spread. Their product is available at and several grocery stores. Wurtzel graduated with a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He has worked for many fine dining restaurants including Navio at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, California, and Zach’s Cabin in Beaver Creek, Colorado. He lives in Lansing, Michigan, with his wife and daughter.

Matthew Hessburg, Owner, Matthew’s Bonfire BBQ 

Matthew Hessburg, owner of Matthew’s Bonfire BBQ, studies hospitality and restaurant management at Western Carolina University. He has a passion in life for using food and fire to bring family and friends together and has a dream of owning a barbecue restaurant featuring a huge fire pit to create the ultimate gathering spot. With training at the award-winning Haywood Smokehouse in North Carolina during college, Hessburg was inspired to launch his first line of barbecue sauces – Carolina Gold and Blueberry Chipotle. Having Down syndrome has never stopped him from doing anything he sets his mind out to do. He has a burning passion about disability awareness and expanding opportunities for all. A portion of the proceeds from all of his Bonfire BBQ sauces goes to the University Participant Program at his alma mater and Ruby’s Rainbow, which advocates for individuals with Down syndrome and provides scholarships. As Matthew says – “good food, good people, together we’re better.” 

Melissa Heath, Founder, Radical Plants 

Melissa Heath founded Radical Plants in November 2016. Her goal was simply to provide healthy, vegan food at affordable prices. Being budget-minded herself, she was frustrated by the correlation between healthy products and high cost. As a certified plant-based cook, she used her skills to scale up her more economical at-home recipes and put them to work in a production kitchen.  

Heath invited Lynn Shippey to create and operate the brand behind Radical Plants. The team consisted of the two women, their sons and Melissa’s husband, Wes. They launched with Superdip: a chip and tofu veggie dip that is low calorie, vegan, oil-free, gluten-free, non-GMO and free of all sugars. In 2020, Radical Plants added carrot dogs to its line. The goal of Radical Plants is to continue to provide plant-based, health-promoting offerings and become a known brand that people can count on for budget-friendly, quality vegan food. 


April 27, 2021 - 2-3:30 p.m.

How to Get Your Beverages to Market

This session will provide ways for beverage firms to get their products into different markets. A particular point of emphasis will be alcoholic beverages. Since the distribution channel for alcoholic beverages is unique, this session is designed to help beverage producers understand what distributors are looking for from their vendors. How to get nonalcoholic beverages to market will be another topic covered in this session.

Tracie and Andy Roush, Owners, Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery

In 2012, Tracie and Andy Roush started to realize their entrepreneurial dreams by purchasing 22 acres just outside of Petoskey, Michigan, where they began planting 1,600 grapevines. Two years later, and after hundreds of hours of planning and hard work, they opened the doors of Petoskey Farms Vineyard and Winery to the public. In the years since, they have experienced business expansion on all fronts: more grapes, more wines (hard ciders too), and more customers services with the addition of outdoor seating and limited food service. The Roushes are past recipients of the MSU Product Center’s Start-Up to Watch Award. Their blessings include their two children, who are often seen helping out during the busy summer and fall seasons. 

Kris and Steve Van Heitsma, Mud Lake Farm LLC

Located in southern Ottawa County, Michigan, Mud Lake Farm has four biomass-heated hydroponic greenhouses. Kris and Steve Van Heistma are firm believers in sustainable agriculture and enjoy exploring new ideas to make their farm more sustainable as well as pesticide and herbicide free. They make handcrafted sodas and cordials and can the soda with the help of their friends and mentors at Cascade Cellars. Today, their products are in Kroger stores stretching from the west to the east side of the state, as well as in specialty food stores.

Charlie Cove, Dan Henry Distributing

Charlie Cove is the Vice President of Operations and Government Affairs for Dan Henry Distributing in Lansing Michigan. Some of his daily work includes, handling over 60 different breweries and wineries and over 2000 individual SKU’s on our floor, handling all government affairs at the state and federal level.  Charlie graduated in 2003 from Michigan State University with at bachelor’s degree in Food Industry Management.  In his free time, he loves to travel and play golf.  Charlies favorite style of beer is Stout, with his favorite beer being Guinness.

Dan Henry Distributing Company is a Lansing-based wholesaler of beer, fine wines and other beverages that has 28 years of dedication to their community. They sell over 400 brands of beverages from around the world to over 900 locations in the mid-Michigan region and employ more than 125 local residents. Dan Henry donates to and supports numerous local and national organizations, including the Special Olympics, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Spartan Fund, Common Ground, Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival, the Humane Society and many more.


Access to Meat & Dairy Processing

This session will cover two topics. The first will cover techniques to successfully produce processed meat products. Processed meat products can be a source of profitability for a livestock farmer or processor, including small producers. The second will discuss how the MSU Dairy Plant can help you develop innovative dairy products. There are broad opportunities in specialty dairy products, especially in cheese and ice cream. The MSU Dairy Plant has traditionally been an underutilized resource that can help dairy processors develop and produce new and innovative products.

Jeannine Schweihofer, Senior Meat Quality Extension Educator, MSU Extension, Adjunct Professor, MSU

Jeannine Schweihofer is MSU Extension senior meat quality educator and is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University. She works with livestock producers and meat processors throughout the state to enhance meat quality and safety. Schweihofer has developed resources related to direct marketing meat and poultry, coordinates Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point two-day certification seminars, and conducts other programming and research related to the production of beef, pork, lamb and poultry. She works across Michigan with livestock producers and meat processors. In addition to her undergraduate degree in animal science from MSU, she holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees in meat science from Kansas State University.

Mollie Woods, Executive Director, MSU Product Center

Currently executive director of the MSU Product Center, Mollie Woods is the past executive director of the Cherry Industry Administrative Board in Michigan. Prior to her service with the cherry board, Woods worked with the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics in MSU's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. While there, her research focused on the impacts of voluntary food safety practices on the structure of the North American strawberry industry. Her work also included outreach to Michigan produce industries, analysis of global retail and farm level trends for Michigan specific fruits, and the development of an educational series on the World Trade Organization  for Extension stakeholders interested in the global marketplace.

Innovative Approaches to Value-Added Agriculture

Meet three value-added agriculture entrepreneurs and learn how they’ve identified and carved out a position for their businesses in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Topics will include insights into the opportunities and challenges faced by growers as they navigate the balance between customer demand and business barriers. 

Juliette King McAvoy, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, King Orchards

Juliette King McAvoy is the vice president of marketing and sales for King Orchards, a family-owned and -operated farm and food business in northwestern Michigan. King Orchards farms over 400 acres of fruit and vegetables and has two retail farm markets with U-Pick throughout the seasons, a seasonal bakery and a fruit manufacturing business that markets value-added products to the food industry and consumers around the world.

Sarah Anderson, Co-Founder, Iron Fish Distillery

Sarah Anderson is the co-founder of the family-owned Iron Fish Distillery, Michigan’s first farm distillery and one of approximately 50 farm distilleries in the United States. Iron Fish Distillery operates a 120-acre farm, opened in September 2016, earning international accolades for its field-to-glass spirits and recognized by Michigan Celebrates Small Business as one of the Fifty Companies to Watch in 2018. Iron Fish spirits are distributed throughout Michigan and available for online purchasing in Illinois and three other states. Later this year, Iron Fish spirits will be available for statewide distribution in Colorado and California. Anderson leads the distillery's Collaborators Program, co-creating spirit-inspired specialty food, cocktail offerings with leading Michigan culinary artisans, food growers and mixologists. With a background in hospitality and workforce development, she mentors Iron Fish team leaders in designing and improving the guest experience, consistently earning the highest ratings from visitors on social media. She also coordinates special events for guests, raising awareness and funds supporting regional nonprofits and local community organizations.

David Coveyou, Owner, Coveyou Scenic Farm Market

David Coveyou, along with his wife, Kathy, and their children, own and operate Coveyou Scenic Farm Market, the current iteration of his family Centennial Farm, located in Petoskey, Michigan. They specialize in seasonal annuals and perennials, locally grown produce, fall mums and pumpkins and holiday greenery. The year 2020 saw their historic barn-based farm market take on more prominence as a safe and desirable agritourism destination. At the same time, the market became the hub of an effort to supply over 60 local food banks and pantries with fresh food, winning them the MSU Product Center’s Best COVID-19 Pivot Award.  

Next-Level Sauces, Dips, Condiments & Salsa

Hear from experienced business owners on how they have grown their businesses to where they are today as well as from a co-packer on how to prepare for outsourcing your production.

Doug Bering, COO-Chief Onion Officer, Little Diablo Salsa 

Do you love your salsa? Well, Doug Bering would say he does! He owns Little Diablo Salsa, a Livingston County favorite. He has worked in all parts of the food industry from front of house, back of house, management, ownership and sales. His extensive knowledge of the industry as well as the discipline of the Marine Corps allow his entrepreneurial spirit to shine, which is evident with Little Diablo Salsa. He uses his culinary, motivational and business skills to also assist others who are thinking of establishing their own food business. From mentoring to co-packing, Bering is using his blessings to assist others in creating theirs. Please visit to learn more.

Holly Valencia, Founder and Owner, Good Life Naturals 

Holly Valencia is the founder and owner of Good Life Naturals, processing healthy ketchup, salsa and granola in Alto, Michigan. She has 10 years of experience in accounting and finance. For years, she worked at finding the right balance for her health, which led to clean and minimally processed foods. Holly and her husband, Hector, work hard to teach these same values to their two children, Isaac and Lucy, and consider it their highest priority when choosing ingredients and processes for Good Life Naturals. 

Tom Van Dokkumburg, Owner, Dokk’s Firehouse Dogs 

When Tom and Chris Van Dokkumburg were raising their three sons, they had a hard time enticing them to eat their vegetables. One of the approaches they took was to disguise them in food that the boys would eat. Using that approach, they created their own recipe for zucchini relish called “Z-relish” and the boys loved it. Not only did the kids like it, but so did Tom’s fellow firefighters in Holland. Upon retirement in 2010, Tom purchased a hot dog cart and operated it at the Holland Farmers Market, during concerts in the park and for many special events. Today, Tom has added Spicy Z-Relish to the list, along with Fire Alarm Mustard, Firehouse Ketchup and Dokk’s Original Hot Sauce. Tom’s products are now not only available from his cart, but are also sold online and wholesaled through many merchants.

Hannah Awada, Owner and Hummus Connoisseur, Humus Goodness 

Hannah Awada is the owner of Hummus Goodness. Founded in 2019 in Birmingham, Michigan, Hummus Goodness is proving that fresh, clean and delicious hummus can be bought in the grocery store. Awada’s love for hummus started when she lived in China with her husband and three kids. 

Amit Makhecha, Co-Founder/Managing Director, FEAST Detroit 

Amit Makhecha is a food-industry professional with more than 20 years of experience across restaurant and specialty catering, food distribution and contract specialty food manufacturing. He left the restaurant and catering business in 2017 to focus on developing his family's growing portfolio of food brands including Bleaf and Poplettes. He currently serves as the managing director of FEAST Detroit, a collaborative contract manufacturer and food start-up accelerator that he co-founded in 2017. FEAST is designed to help scale production for small and medium food brands through shared resourcing, dedicated operations, and access to a mentor network of food industry  eterans. FEAST produces over 100 SKUs for over 20 Michigan-based food brands. 

Understanding Seafood Sellers’ & Customers' Needs: Emerging Opportunities

Farmers producing fish on a small to medium scale are interested in both direct sales to consumers as well as to local independent restaurants and grocery stores. The webinar will highlight needs of consumers, direct marketing strategies and helpful marketing principles to not only sell your fish or seafood but also to be competitive and profitable.

Simone Valle de Souza, Assistant Professor, MSU Product Center, MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics

Simone Valle de Souza is assistant professor in the MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, at Michigan State University. She completed her Ph.D. in fisheries economics and a master’s in economic studies at the University of New England in Australia, and an MBA in finance and accounting and a bachelor’s in business administration at the Federal University of Parana, in Brazil. She specializes in aquaculture and fisheries management and economics, developing economic modeling, statistical analysis and parameter optimization also for indoor agriculture.

Kwamena Quagrainie, Aquaculture Economist, Purdue University

Kwamena Quagrainie is an aquaculture economist at Purdue University with research interests in seafood value chain, and market, consumer and price analysis. He assists aquaculture producers in pursuing and realizing economic and market development opportunities including identification of value-added opportunities for aquaculture products. His extension activities involve providing training and educational tools in farm business management for fish farmers and extension educators. He has also led USAID-funded aquaculture projects in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Bangladesh.

Amy Shambach,Aquaculture Marketing Outreach Associate

Amy Shambach is IISG’s aquaculture marketing outreach associate who works with the aquaculture industry in the USDA’s North Central Regional Aquaculture Center. Her work focuses on the demand side of domestic farm raised seafood products. She provides outreach and extension services to producers, potential producers, and consumers. Along with Dr. Kwamena Quagrainie, producers, aquaculture associations, and consumers she works to determine the needs of stakeholders.

Amy came to Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant from private aquaculture production. She has worked in Indiana raising aquatic species since 2010. She has experience with a variety of indoor systems, including flow through, recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and biofloc. She has worked with all phases of production from brood stock to grow out in a variety of species. Her background also includes growing yellow perch, largemouth bass, hybrid bluegill, tilapia, rainbow trout, red claw crayfish and marine shrimp. Amy holds a BS in biology from Ball State University with a focus on aquatic biology.


Next-Level Snacks, Bars & Dried Goods

Hear experienced business owners tell how they have grown their businesses as well as hear from a co-packer on how to prepare yourself for outsourcing production.

Kelly Toland, Co-Founder, Le Bon Macaron

Kelly Toland has been in the bakery business with her parents since 2008. Le Bon Macaron is an extension of her love for France; its culture and cuisine. She studied French and art while at Albion College and lived abroad for a year during that time. Her time in France further fueled her desire to combine her passions of food, photography and travel and Le Bon Macaron is the result. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband, Drew, and their daughters, Charlotte and Samantha.

Bri Makaric, Founder and CEO, BRITE Bites 

Bri Makaric is the founder and CEO of BRITE Bites, an all-natural probiotic snack bite company. She started the business in college as she wanted an easier, and more delicious way to consume probiotics after struggling with digestive issues. She graduated in May 2020 with a degree in advertising management with a minor in entrepreneurship.

Bradley Cocklin, Founder, Chunk Nibbles 

Growing up in metro Detroit, Bradley Cocklin earned a degree in business hospitality from Michigan State University.  After spending time working in New York City and Chicago, he returned to Michigan to launch his family brand, Chunk Nibbles. His passion is based around high customer service and satisfaction with his products. Now, residing in Berkley with his wife, Katie, they are expecting their first child in July.

Meggan McCaughan, Director of Business Development, Total Food Package 

Meggan McCaughan graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management. She started out at a large corporation working in purchasing for six years before starting Total Food Package with her father, John. Total Food Package is an allergen free co-packing facility that was formed in 2011 with a focus on blending and packaging of dry products.  


April 28, 2021 - 8:30 - 10 a.m.

Building Strong Teams With Bob Fish & Jermale Eddie

One of the many keys to a successful business is a strong network of mentors, business partners and employees. Join Bob Fish, co-founder and CEO of BIGGBY COFFEE, and Jermale Eddie, co-founder and owner of Malamiah Juice Bar,  as they discuss recommendations for building strong teams and key talent development strategies. 

Bob Fish, Co-Founder, CEO, BIGGBY COFFEE

Bob Fish has been in the coffee business as a franchisor of coffee shops with his business partner Mike McFall since 1999. BIGGBY COFFEE has sold nearly 17 million pounds of coffee (and counting)! It comes from all over the world including Central and South America, Africa and Asia. Although he has visited many of those places as a tourist, rarely was there a sense of real connectedness with the people or the places. He is on a path to better connect with the land and verify that the products are being produced in a humane, sustainable, and quality manner. His moonshot is to personally change the lives of one million people in a positive multi-generational way.

Jermale Eddie, Co-Founder and Owner, Malamiah Juice Bar

Jermale Eddie is a husband, father and engaged community member. He is the proud owner and co-founder of the multi-award winning Malamiah Juice Bar & Eatery, founded in 2013. He is also the owner and founder of the Malamazing Juice Company, a wholesale to retail juice enterprise. As a result of being highly sought after for business consultations, business coaching and speaking, he started JE Speaks. He most recently served as the director of reaching in (discipleship) at Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has a master’s from Spring Arbor University and a bachelor’s from Grand Valley State University. He currently serves on the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority Board as well as on several community-based committees. His vocational “sweet spot” is the intersection of faith, business and community development. He believes that people and their experiences are the community’s strongest assets. Jermale resides in Grand Rapids with his wife, Anissa, and three boys: Malachi, Nehemiah and Josiah. 

April 28, 2021 - 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Start-Up Tips: Finances, Business Planning & Tech Tools

This webinar targets start-up businesses to learn about business money management, start-up fund development and tax and liability preparedness. It also covers how to build a visual business plan and what software apps can be utilized for sales management. 

Georgia Abbott, President of Abbott & Associates Consulting, LLC

Georgia Abbott is the President of Abbott & Associates Consulting, LLC.  The firm specializes in business development, IDEO design thinking and market strategy.  Georgia has been a collegiate entrepreneurial educator for over 14 years and launched the Start Go Grow Workshop Series in 2019 in partnership with the Business & Entrepreneurship Sector of Los Angeles, California.  She has worked with over 140 small business startup ventures in her career.  

Karen Benson, Business Development Officer, GROW 

Karen Benson is the GROW business development officer for the West Michigan Lakeshore. She has an MBA along with past certifications in Certified Economic Development Professional and Certified Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Her experience includes grant writing, small business counseling for the SBDC network and Small Business Administration 504 loan portfolio management for more than 16 years.  Benson has extensive experience in economic and business development with the following organizations and institutions: Northwest Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, ACI, the Chamber in Grand Haven, Grand Haven Bank, Muskegon Area First, the Right Place in Grand Rapids and Olivet Nazarene University.

John Byl, Senior Vice President of Product Development, Mercantile Bank of Michigan 

John Byl is a certified treasury professional who has held a variety of banking positions since 1991. Before coming to Mercantile, he spent time in branch management, sales and marketing, and treasury management for another area bank. He now leads the development and delivery of products and services that help Mercantile customers better manage their cash flow as well as the design and implementation of new products and services. In his spare time, he serves on several nonprofit boards and volunteers his time with different nonprofits in the western Michigan community. He enjoys spending time outdoors and with his family. 

April 28, 2021 - 2 - 3:30 p.m.

Taking It to the Next Level: Financial Management, Risk Coverage & Digital Presence

Experienced business owners can learn the next level of financial management, cash flow analysis, loan options, web design and e-commerce and risk management. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to grow your business.

Andrea Napierkowski, Creative Director, CurlyHost 

Andrea Napierkowski started college at the age of 14 and discovered her talents in web development, leading to CurlyHost. Now, 10 years later, the Curly Host team has over 650 websites in their portfolio. She has excelled at creating fresh and original design concepts, curating a unique and growing portfolio. Helping businesses navigate how their online versions of themselves should be represented in an authentic website form has become CurlyHost’s sweet spot. 

Chris Wendel, Business Advisor, Northern Initiatives 

Chris Wendel is a business advisor with Northern Initiatives, a Community Development Financial Institution based in Marquette, Michigan. Northern Initiatives provides funding and know-how to businesses throughout Michigan Wendel has worked with hundreds of business owners in the areas of finance, marketing and management. A native of western New York and a graduate of the University of Colorado, Wendel has direct business experience in retailing, publishing and manufacturing. He previously worked as a consultant with the Michigan Small Business Development Center and is a regular contributor to the Traverse City Business News and other regional business publications.

David Hop, President, Van Wyk Risk Solutions 

David Hop has devoted his entire professional career to risk management and insurance. He provides leadership and strategic direction as part of Van Wyk’s ownership team and serves as the team leader for many commercial clients locally, regionally and worldwide. He is licensed in property and casualty insurance and holds a bachelor’s in business administration from Davenport University. He also earned the professional designation of certified insurance counselor.

Paula Fetzer, Commercial Solutions Officer, Lake Trust Credit Union 

Paula Fetzer has worked in the credit union industry for 12 years. In her current role, she is a commercial and small business lender for Lake Trust Credit Union. She spends most days speaking with small business owners across Michigan, all of whom are in various stages of their business life cycles. Paula is able to assist small business owners with their financing needs, as well as their needs for commercial banking services and treasury management. She enjoys working with small business owners and connecting them with additional resources to aid in their business development and growth.  

May 4, 2021 - 8:30 - 10 a.m.

Be ‘On Trend’ When Marketing Your Business

Learn about the latest consumer trends from industry analysts and experts. Speakers will share what features and benefits customers respond to in the areas of sustainable packaging, online marketing, and food and beverages purchases.

Melanie Bartelme, Global Food & Drink Analyst, MINTEL 

Melanie Bartelme joined Mintel in 2017 as a global food analyst and provides insights on global innovation and consumer trends across a number of food categories. Drawing on her deep passion for food, she previously reported on industry news and trends for the Institute of Food Technologists. 

Mintel is the expert in what consumers want and why. As the world’s leading market intelligence agency, our analysis of consumers, markets, new products and competitive landscapes provides a unique perspective on global and local economies. Since 1972, our predictive analytics and expert recommendations have enabled our clients to make better business decisions faster.

Brian Wagner, PTIS LLC

Brian Wagner’s 30-year professional career as an entrepreneurial business and technical leader spans PTIS, HAVI, Kellogg's, Sara Lee, Multiform Desiccants, Carton Craft Corp., Burger King and General Foods. He served as Ameripen director in 2017 and 2018. In 2008, he was inducted into the Michigan State University School of Packaging Hall of Fame and was recognized as 2008 Western Michigan Business Review – Thought Leaders. In 2016, he received the Reister-Davis-Brody Lifetime Achievement in Food Packaging and the R. David LeButt Packaging Education award. He serves on the MSU School of Packaging Alumni Association board and is past executive in residence at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and past advisor to California Polytechnic State University’s packaging program. He has contributed to numerous industry journals and publications, including the 2012 book Creating Value Through Packaging. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in packaging from MSU. Brian and his wife, Dawn, live in Petoskey. They have three adult “kids” and two grandchildren, Milo and Emma.

Nicole Young Potvin,  Michigan Small Business Development Center

Nicole Young Potvin is a business, consulting and marketing professional. She has held corporate positions in marketing and communications with a medical device manufacturer and led a destination marketing organization to surpass its annual revenue goals. She has been a member of the Michigan Small Business Development Center team since 2018 and works with small businesses throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to help them increase sales through expanded marketing efforts. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

May 4, 2021 - 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Start-Up Basics: From Production to Licensing to Sales

New food business owners won’t want to miss this session featuring culinary experts in recipe development, licensing, marketing and farmers market sales. Gain insight on developing commercial-ready recipes and reaching your target market. Farmers market season is coming. Learn what you need to do to be ready.

Ryan Bolhuis, Culinary Operations/Incubator Kitchen and Program Manager, Downtown Market Grand Rapids

Ryan Bolhuis, an alumnus of the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, New York, is a 16-year executive chef, after working in the kitchens of Nobu 57, The Modern NYC and BLT Fish. As a native of Hudsonville, Michigan, his goal has always been to highlight the food industry and farming communities of Michigan. He now works as the culinary operations/incubator kitchen and program manager for the Downtown Market Grand Rapids. There, he uses his culinary experience and food knowledge to mentor food entrepreneurs throughout all aspects of their business journey.

Kassie Garrett, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

Kassie Garrett is a food safety inspector with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) currently covering Allegan County and some areas of Ottawa County. She is also a member of the well and septic task force group. In her role with MDARD, she inspects manufacturing, processing, food warehousing, retail establishments and farmers markets. Kassie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science from Michigan State University. She has worked in the food industry for several years including experience in chemical laboratories, distilling and coffee production.

James Richard Fry, Creative Director and Founder, Germination Labs

James Richard Fry is the creative director and founder of Germination Labs in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When he's not working, you can find him pretending to be a chef and mixologist in the kitchen, enjoying the outdoors with his partner, Alexiana, or running around the house with their two pugs, @cortadoandtoast. Fry and the team at Germination Labs specialize in helping ideas germinate and grow through website development, strategic design and social media marketing. Just like a seed, ideas need the right elements to sprout and grow. They bring strategic elements to help ideas sprout into products that grow into brands. You can follow along at or @jamesrichardfry and @germinationlabs on most platforms.

Emily Syrja, Operations Director, Michigan Farmers Market Association

Emily Syrja is the operations director at the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), where they have served since 2016. In support of MIFMA's mission to create a thriving marketplace for Michigan food and farm products, Syrja seeks to provide resources and education to farmers and vendors on numerous topics related to farmers market readiness, including marketing and promotion, insurance and risk management, and food safety. 

May 4, 2021 - 2 - 3:30 p.m.

How to Make Sustainability Work for You

Consumers are increasingly interested in sustainability as a product attribute. This session will outline the role that Michigan agri-food entrepreneurs can play in enhancing sustainability and the ways it can be a point of product differentiation that can add value to your products. An important aspect of sustainability is packaging. Explore ways to use and enhance compostable packaging while potentially reducing the cost of production and improving the environment.

Rafael Auras, Professor, School of Packaging, Michigan State University

Rafael Auras is a professor with the School of Packaging at Michigan State University. He leads a research group of graduate and undergraduate students interested in mass transfer in polymers, biodegradable polymers, life cycle assessment and development of packaging systems for sustainable development. He has conducted research projects for Fortune 500 companies and government-sponsored research projects. He is a regular speaker at national and international conferences. He has co-authored more than 200 publications. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the FCEQyN, Misiones, Argentina; a Master of Science in materials science and technology from the UNSAM, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and a Ph.D. in packaging from MSU, East Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A.

Bill Knudson, Professor, MSU Product Center, MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics

Bill Knudson is an agricultural economist at the MSU Product Center and the MSU Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. He joined the Product Center in 2003. His primary areas of work are in field crops and livestock products. He also has done work in alcoholic beverages and alternative energy. Prior to joining the Product Center, he was a policy advisor for the Michigan Senate Majority Policy Office where he covered agriculture, higher education and appropriations. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from California State University–Fresno, and a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Michigan State University.

Michael W. Hamm, C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Center for Regional Food Systems Senior Fellow, Michigan State University

Michael W. Hamm is C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Center for Regional Food Systems Senior Fellow at Michigan State University. His work is focused on sustainable and regionalized food systems. In his faculty role, he is appointed in the departments of Community Sustainability; Food Science and Human Nutrition; and Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences. He has a Ph.D. in human nutrition from the University of Minnesota. Prior to his 2003 move to MSU, he spent 19 years on the Rutgers University faculty in Nutritional Sciences – serving as department chair for six years. While there, he co-founded the New Jersey Urban Ecology Program and the Rutgers Student Organic Farm. At MSU, he was founding director of the Center for Regional Food Systems. In his 16 years at MSU, he has published on a range of topics regarding health, sustainable food systems, urban agriculture, and regional and local food systems. He was the lead author on the health chapter for the TEEBAgriFood report TEEB for Agriculture & Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations. He is a member of the Menu of Change Technical Advisory Committee and was a governor-appointed member of the Michigan Food Policy Council. He was a consultant on sustainability for the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report. He was also a Mansfield College, Oxford University Visiting Fellow in 2015 and an Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow at Oxford University in 2019.


May 5, 2021 - 8:30 - 10 a.m.

Building Successful Partnerships With Major Retailers: A Panel Discussion

Like the rest of the world, major retailers are looking forward to 2021. Attend this session to learn directly from major grocery retail buyers on how they discover new products. Getting your product in front of the right buyer is just the first step. We will uncover the tips on how to be successful with your new retail partner. Becky DeYoung will serve as the panelist host.


 Busch’s Fresh Food Market 

Brad Busch is the director of center store category management for Busch’s Fresh Food Markets. Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Busch’s operates 16 retail grocery locations in southeastern Michigan. Brad started his career with Busch’s at age 15 working in the stores in various roles. After graduating from Western Michigan University with a degree in food marketing in 2001, Brad took on several operational management roles. Today, he is the director of category management with the Center Store Team. The Busch’s team takes a special interest in local partners and manufacturers. Their passion for local goes beyond carrying items locally produced. They are proud to create long-lasting partnerships that help develop local brands within and outside of Busch’s Fresh Food Markets.


Mariann Brown is the natural food, multi-cultural and local specialist for Kroger Michigan Division. She has 36 years with the Kroger company, holding many positions starting with store management in several different stores. Shortly following, she transitioned to the pricing analyst role and then from there into a grocery category management role. She also worked in the Columbus division as their pricing analyst and then drug/GM category manager. From there, she moved to the Cincinnati Corporate offices as grocery category manager for the company, managing six different commodities for 17 divisions.


A Meijer employee for nine years, Leah Postema has worked in multiple positions in merchandising and has been a buyer for the past four years. Her experience at Meijer includes garden, apparel, home and grocery. Prior to her current buying role, she was the buyer for Home Organization and Cleaning Supplies and was named an Impact Merchant in 2019 by Home World Business. She has been buying international foods for the past 18 months. She is passionate about learning the cultures, values and needs of Meijer customers so that she can better serve them. A graduate of Northwood University, she currently lives in Caledonia, Michigan, with her husband and two kids: Sadie, age 5, and Maxwell, age 3. When not working, she spends time with her family at the lake when it isn’t snowing!


George Weiner began his supermarket career in New Jersey when he was 16 years old. He became a cart-kid who worked his way up to a store and district manager. He pursued a career in category management where he has spent the majority of his time. George’s experience in category management focuses on small local business, minority-owned and women-owned companies, and an emphasis on “better for you” products. When he joined SpartanNash in 2018, his role was to manage what the company calls NOSHEL (natural, organic, specialty, healthy, ethnic and local). In addition, George oversees wholesale and retail hot beverages (coffee, tea, cocoa, filters and creamer) and shelf-stable juice.

Whole Foods Market 

Julie Blubaugh started her career with Whole Foods Market 13 years ago as a customer service cashier. She held a variety of positions on the education team as well as in-store marketing before transitioning to the Midwest Regional Team. She’s held her current role as local coordinator for the past 6 years working with small businesses in the Midwest looking to sell their products in Whole Foods Market. 

May 5, 2021 - 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Community Grocery Retail Panel

Do you have products that are attractive to cooperative or health food store customers? Do you want to see your products in your local neighborhood store? How should you prepare to approach retailers? Join this discussion where you will have a chance to hear directly from purchasing directors and store managers on what they look for in products. 

Mitchell Cook, Store Director, Meijer Capital City Market

Mitchell Cook, store director with Meijer Capital City Market, has 16 years of experience in retail with Winn-Dixie, Harris Teeter and Meijer Supermarkets, with an extensive background in leadership, business acumen, buying, merchandising, store design and customer service. He has operated stores across many different demographics including Washington, D.C.; Destin, Florida; Miami, Florida; the Florida Keys and Michigan. 

Bill Reiffer, Director of Purchasing, Harvest Health Foods

For 16 years, Bill Reiffer has been a part of the Harvest Health Foods family. Over those 16 years, he was promoted from customer service representative to assistant manager, store director and finally, director of purchasing. Each of these positions provided a unique window into helping customers and serving their needs. Currently, he’s responsible for product assortment, new product introductions and monthly promotions. Reiffer maintains that it’s important to understand the relationship between vendor, retailer and customer. Each successful partnership with a new or existing vendor has to make sense for these three parties. When everything is in proper balance, vendor, retailer and customer can all benefit together.

Mary Moe, Store Operations Manager, Marquette Food Co-Op

Mary Moe has worked as the store operations manager at the Marquette Food Co-op (MFC) for eight years. She spends her days at work leading her managers to meet their objectives, plan promotions and continuously problem-solve. MFC places a strong emphasis on being a local community member. MFC strives to hire local businesses as much as possible including professional services, cleaning and maintenance, advertising and media. It also donates to multiple local events. In 2020, MFC purchased $1,122,453 in local foods and goods. When Moe isn’t at work, she spends her time in the outdoors with friends and spends as much time with her teenage daughters as they will “allow.” She cares deeply for the community of Marquette where she has lived for more than 20 years. She can be found volunteering her time as a board member for the Women’s Center as well as participating and volunteering in local events.

Eldon Horner, Category Manager, Oryana Community Co-op

Eldon Horner serves as category manager for Oryana Community Co-op in Traverse City, Michigan. Horner has been with Oryana for 17 years, serving as grocery manager and store manager. After a brief six months of retirement starting in 2019, he came back to serve in the new role of category manager for the now two-store operation when Oryana moved to purchase the former Lucky’s location in Traverse City in April 2020. Prior to moving to Traverse City, he worked with Three Rivers Food Co-op in Fort Wayne, Indiana, since the early ‘80s.

Tim Kainu, Westborn Market

Tim Kainu is a veteran in the specialty market industry. He has spent his entire career with Westborn Market and now leads a large team of managers and associates in a highly creative, fast-paced, merchandising-driven organization. His responsibilities include, but are not limited to, new item selection, margin review, product performance reviews, vendor relations, visuals standards, customer service standards and many financial performance key milestones. Kainu started at Westborn Market in 2002 and has held many positions along the way. He understands all aspects of retail operations, which has enhanced his focus and impact on the specialty grocery and dairy categories. Under his watchful eye, these categories have blossomed, and sales have exceeded 18 million in 2020. He is an asset in daily operations and is a key director helping guide the company into the future.

May 5, 2021 - 2 - 3:30 p.m.

Advanced Processing & Distribution

Hear how High Pressure Processing (HPP) works from a pioneer and expert in the field. MSU will talk about their Food Processing and Innovation Center capabilities and their target audience. Finally, hear from a distributor on how to know you are ready for a distributor and how to prepare for taking this next step.

Jason Hofman, Facility and Operations Manager, MSU FPIC  

Jason Hoffman serves as the facility and operations manager for the Michigan State University Food Processing and Innovation Center (MSU FPIC). In this role, he is responsible for coordinating client activities and ensuring compliance to food safety standards and regulations. Further, his experience in quality assurance and product development provides a knowledge base to assist clients in developing new production processes and develop new products. Hofman holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in food safety, both from MSU.  

Kate Brent, Senior Buyer, Cherry Capital Foods 

Kate Brent has been with Cherry Capital Foods in many different roles. Originally joining as a sales team member, she moved to the purchasing team in 2016. Now in a leadership role, she uses her understanding of the local food systems as well as her experience with food retailers to ensure that Cherry Capital Foods provides efficient distribution of locally sourced food products to a diverse array of accounts across the state.

Mike Billig, Vice President, Business Development, Hydrofresh HPP; Chief Revenue Officer, Great Lakes HPP

Mike Billig is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Packaging and has 27 years of experience as an executive in the food industry. He served as the vice president of marketing and sales for both AmeriQual Foods and Gridpath Solutions where he also gave focus to the technology side of high-pressure processing (HPP). He then joined Universal Pure to help develop their Northeastern market. Using his 17 years of HPP knowledge, he helped create Hydrofresh HPP in 2017, considered to be one of the finest HPP tolling centers in the world. 

Bobby Hesano, President, D&B Grocers Wholesale & Distributors

Bobby is the founder and current President of D&B Grocers Wholesale & Distributors. He is a Western Michigan graduate of the Food Distribution program. After graduation, he worked in Texas for a large wholesale grocer before returning to Michigan to start D&B Grocers in 1994. He is an active leader within the Midwest Independent Retailers Association where he serves as an officer and board member. His goal is to serve the industry in Michigan through his 40 years of experience in the retail and wholesale business.

May 6, 2021 - 8:30–10 a.m.

With Crisis Comes Change & Opportunity with Dr. Quentin Tyler

Dr. Quentin Tyler will elaborate on his personal journey and experience in Extension, including the endless opportunities that Extension provides and the importance of focusing on living through our land grant mission in a vital time in which our state, our country and communities need us most. Extension and it’s many resources are the great connector and link that can see us through these times of uncertainty.

Quentin Tyler, Ph.D., Acting Director, Michigan State University Extension

Quentin R. Tyler has served as the associate dean and director for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion since 2018 and the acting associate dean for faculty affairs and administration in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at Michigan State University (MSU) since 2020. On May 1,  2021, he assumed leadership of the role of acting director for MSU Extension. His focus is on supporting and enhancing MSU Extension’s traditional programs that have made the organization a national leader but also looking toward innovative and creative ways to reach out to new audiences under MSU Extension’s mission of improving people’s lives by bringing vast knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities and businesses. 

As acting associate dean for faculty affairs and administration, he is responsible for all of human resources and business operations for the CANR as well as faculty development and faculty annual reviews, reappointment, promotion and tenure.

Additionally, as associate dean and director for diversity, equity and inclusion, he provides leadership for infusing diversity, equity and inclusion principles through all areas of the CANR.  Tyler effectively focuses on creating a more multi-culturally centered environment for faculty, staff and students within CANR, AgBioResearch and MSU Extension; and networks with partners across MSU, the state of Michigan and across the country. As acting associate dean for faculty affairs and administration, he is responsible for all of human resources, faculty development and success in CANR. His contributions and collegial spirit are highly valued by administrators, faculty, staff and students. Prior to MSU, Tyler spent over 13 years in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion serving previously in the role of assistant dean and director for diversity at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. He received a Bachelor of Science in agricultural economics, a Master of Science in agricultural economics and a doctorate in sociology, all at the University of Kentucky, with an emphasis on social inequalities. Additionally, he has received a professional certificate in diversity and inclusion from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Tyler was notably the 2015-2016 national professional president of MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences) and currently serves as the National MANRRS Advisory Board chair. Over the last decade, he has had an abundance of recognitions for his work with students and in diversity and inclusion as the National MANRRS Advisor of the Year, a Tri State Diversity Champion, University of Kentucky Inclusive Excellence Awardee and as a Game Changer by Workforce Magazine in the area of workforce management. Additionally, he is a life member of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment where he has served as vice president and is the current president. He also leads the University of Kentucky Alumni Association’s diversity efforts as the chair of the Diversity and Group Development Committee and the chair of the Ad Hoc Diversity and Engagement Committee. He has led trainings for internal and external stakeholders on diversity, equity and inclusion, unconscious and implicit bias, inclusive language, navigating differences, understanding perspectives and utilizing the Intercultural Development Inventory as a strategic initiative. Additionally, he has consulted organizations and developed strategic plans and initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion.