Bringing Back the American Small Farm Conference

Speaker Biographies

Teddy Gentry, Country Music Legend and Cattle Breeder

Teddy Gentry, bass player for the county music group Alabama, was born and raised on Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, ALABAMA. He, and his wife, Linda, have two children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild. After receiving his first check from RCA records in 1980 for $61,000, he purchased 60 acres from his grandfather, which he called Bent Tree Farms. Teddy developed the South Poll breed in 1989 when he got the idea to genetically combine the best traits of our maternal Bos Taurus breeds to form a more heat tolerant animal that would work for his cattle operation. The South Poll is a four way cross of Hereford, Red Angus, Senepol, and Barzona. He wanted an animal with a gentle disposition and would produce tender beef on grass.

Ellen Polishuk, Author and Farmer

Ellen is a full time workshop leader and farm consultant. She leverages her 35 years of biological vegetable farming experience to help growers around the country to reach their farm dreams. Ellen is passionate about working with farmers to improve their soils, their labor management practices and their businesses so that they can increase farm profits and achieve a joyful balanced life. Ellen is a well-known dynamic speaker. She is very down-to-earth and can make complicated topics accessible to all kinds of listeners. Ellen was one of three owners of Potomac Vegetable Farms in Northern Virginia where she grew Ecoganic produce for 7 farmers markets, a 550 member CSA and two roadsides stands. Ellen is a co-author of the newly released book Start Your Farm. She also writes the farmer to farmer profile column for Growing For Market magazine. She lives in suburban Maryland with her husband, where she gardens like crazy.

Patrick Byers, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Missouri, Springfield, Missouri

Regional Horticulture Specialist. Responsibilities in outreach programming to commercial and home horticulture interests in the 17 county southwest region of Missouri. Assistance given horticulture producers and homeowners in the region via the services offered by Extension, such assoil testing, disease diagnoses, and pest control recommendations. Master Gardener coordinator for largest and most active chapter in southwest region. Active partnerships with local media to promote horticulture in the region.

Mark L. Kennedy, Livestock Specialist, USDA

Mark was raised on a diversified family beef, dairy, and catfish farm in central Arkansas and received a BS degree in animal science and forages from Arkansas State University in 1977. He was employed by USDA – SCS/NRCS from September, 1978 until January 3, 2014 when he retired. He served at various locations in Arkansas and Missouri. From 1995 until he retired, he was the State Grazingland Specialist for USDA-NRCS in Missouri, headquartered in Houston, Missouri. He is a Certified Forage & Grassland Professional through the American Forage and Grassland Council. In 2004 he received the Missouri Forage and Grassland Council’s Grasslander of the year award. In 2006 he was awarded the NRCS National Pastureland Conservationist of the Year award. He received the Merit Award from AFGC in 2011. He is a past board member of the American Forage and Grassland Council and currently serves as its vice president and a past board member of the Society for Range Management Southern Section. He is currently on the steering committee of the National Grazing Lands Coalition. Mark currently owns Kennedy Grassland Services, LLC (a grassland consulting business) and has contracted with the MFGC/GLCI to teach at grazing schools, assist with forage conferences, field days, workshops, and provide training to NRCS and SWCD employees. Mark and his wife Anita live on a small farm near Houston where they raise beef cattle and meat goats.

Marilyn Odneal M.S., Horticulture Educator and Vineyard Manager

Marilyn Odneal M.S. is a Horticulture Educator and Vineyard Manager at the State Fruit Experiment Station and MSU Winery and Distillery, in the William H. Darr School of Agriculture, Missouri State University, Mountain Grove. Current research involves raspberries as a high tunnel crop and has worked on research projects involving berry crops. She teaches courses in horticulture and wine appreciation at Missouri State in Springfield. Marilyn received her M. S. in Plant Horticulture from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1981.

Dan Barton, Beekeeper

Dan Barton is a 3rd generation beekeeper, past president of the Bees Alive Club in Nixa and a great mentor. He brings over 20 years of beekeeping experience to the table with a passion for seeing new beekeepers become successful in their beekeeping ventures. Dan is also a knowledgeable resource in the beekeeping department at Nixa Hardware, the Beekeeping Headquarters of the Ozarks.

Wendy Lombardi, Organic Farmer

Wendy Lombardi is well-prepared for her lifelong mission to help others; as a veteran of the first Gulf War, with a Master’s degree in Wellness Programming, plus having 20 years of medical and health research, and 30 years of teaching. Though she’s been active in animal husbandry since high school, her interest in raising and preserving food sustainably and conscientiously began only 10 years ago when she and her three children fell in love with the Ozarks. Then, through research and education (and don’t forget hard work!), 90% of their organic food was produced on their farm with dairy and meat goats, layers, pigs, a few cows, a small orchard, and, an enormous garden. In one banner-year over 500 containers of food were canned, dried, or frozen. It was also through research and education Wendy discovered the need for a thorough compilation of natural de-worming ingredients and protocols, which also kept the land’s health in mind. Life abhors a vacuum, so she wrote and published a book, Natural Internal Parasite Control for Livestock to assist livestock owners in naturally maintaining the health of their animals. To offer to others what she had learned, Wendy also started "Cultivating Veterans" to assist veterans’ transitioning into farming. As well, she hosted workshops, conducted classes, and kept a steady flow of interns at the farm. Wendy’s background affected every aspect of the farm’s output - as a school, a laboratory, a support network, and most importantly, a home with clean, healthy food.

Bob Semyck, Willow Mountain Mushrooms

In March of 2004 Bob and Wendy Semyck opened Willow Mountain Mushrooms of Tecumseh, MO.  Over the past 15 years they have been supplying the Ozarks with Fresh ~ Naturally Grown (beyond organic) White Button and Crimini (Portabella/Baby Bella) Mushrooms through Farmers Markets, Festivals, Grocery Stores, Health Food Stores, Restaurants and Farm Stands.  Keeping it local - within a two hour radius of their farm.  During this time they have also been offering mushroom kits locally and nationwide to those that would like to grow their own fresh mushrooms.  Most recently they have been helping other regional farmers expand their own offerings with satellite mushroom farm production.  With Bob handling the scientific and often smelly, dirty and labor intensive part and the growers getting to grow out the mushrooms and distribute them to their own customer base.