Speaker Biographies

Bringing Back the American Small Farm Conference

Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin, 57, is a full-time farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. A third generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents’ ideas.

The farm services more than 5,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs with salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobile eggs, pigaerator pork, forage-based rabbits, pastured turkey and forestry products using relationship marketing.

He holds a BA degree in English and writes extensively in magazines such as STOCKMAN GRASS FARMER, ACRES USA, and FOODSHED.

The family’s farm, Polyface Inc. (“The Farm of Many Faces”) has been featured in SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, GOURMET and countless other radio,television and print media. Profiled on the Lives of the 21st Century series with Peter Jennings on ABC World News, his after-broadcast chat room fielded more hits than any other segment to date. It achieved iconic status as the grass farm featured in the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA by food writer guru Michael Pollan and the award-winning film documentary, FOOD INC.

A sought-after conference speaker, he addresses a wide range of issues, from “creating the farm your children will want” to “making a white collar salary from a pleasant life in the country.” A wordsmith, he describes his occupation as “mob-stocking hervbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization.” His humorous and conviction-based speeches are akin to theatrical performances, often receiving standing ovations.

He has authored nine books, five of them how-to types:

His speaking and writing reflect dirt-under-the-fingernails experience punctuated with mischievous humor. He passionately defends small farms, local food systems, and the right to opt out of the conventional food paradigm. Four generations of his family currently live and work on the farm.

Sheri Salatin

Sheri Salatin is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and enjoys working the land alongside her husband, Daniel.

Daniel Salatin

Daniel Salatin is the son of Joel Salatin, innovative farmer, writer and speaker. As the third generation on Polyface farm in Swoope, Virginia, he has grown up in the family business. 

Matthew Burnett

I am thankful to be a blacksmith. I have been blacksmithing for 15 years now. I first observed blacksmiths at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival in 2002. I was immediately intrigued by it. That November, at age 13, I took a beginners course from them to learn basic blacksmithing skills. I can still remember the excitement of that first class. I did not realize at the time that I had taken the first step in a long and interesting journey. I was fascinated by the whole process, and started collecting the required tools and began blacksmithing on my own shortly thereafter.  
I joined the Blacksmith Association of Missouri (BAM) in 2003 and have been active ever since. BAM has been very important in my development. There are many members of BAM who have generously shared their time and knowledge, in formal classes, and at demonstrations. I am very thankful for their teaching and friendship. I have also taken classes at the Ozark School of Blacksmithing, and the New England School of Metalwork. I’m glad that I can teach others now. I work primarily in my own shop, but have demonstrated with other blacksmiths at the Missouri State Fair, the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, and at various shows at Cameron, Hamilton, Lathrop, Excelsior Springs, and Chillicothe, for the public, as well as several BAM meetings. I was a featured demonstrator at the 2017 BAM Conference. I opened the Missouri School of Blacksmithing in 2016, because I saw a need for it. I try to approach my classes and teaching from the perspective of what I would like to learn as a student. I look back to how I learned, and I ask myself the question “What would be the best way to learn, and become a better blacksmith?” I try to think about what I would like to learn, or like to make. I emphasize traditional joinery in my work, studying design and balancing form and function. I think that the variety of my experiences and interests in blacksmithing; i.e. making tools, knives, furniture and sculptures, gives me a fairly broad perspective from which to draw from in teaching, as opposed to specializing on 1 or 2 areas. I have mastered blacksmithing but also see it as a continuing process of learning and discovery. I have enjoyed the journey so far, and I look forward to continued exploration.

Patrick Byers

Patrick Byers is Regional Horticulture Specialist with the Webster County office of University of Missouri Extension, serving 9 counties in southwest Missouri. His educational background includes degrees from the University of Nebraska, University of Missouri, and University of Arkansas, all in horticulture. Job experience includes 3 years at the UA Fruit Substation, 18 years as Fruit Grower Advisor at the MSU State Fruit Experiment Station, and 9 years in his present position. Current job responsibilities include advisement to fruit and vegetable farmers, soil test evaluation, pest identification and management, and research into innovative ways to achieve profitability. A native of Nebraska, Patrick and his family reside on a farm near Fordland, Missouri, where they raise elderberries and plan to install a high tunnel. Patrick has a passion for unusual fruits and vegetables.

Corinne Collins
is a beekeeper that resides in Chesterfield, MO with her husband Jim. Corinne’s love for nature and all things natural inspired her to inquire about beekeeping when her Sister-in-Law brought a couple of her hives out to their property . Seven years ago she acquired her first hives in Chesterfield, MO. She is a member of the Missouri State Beekeepers Association and the Eastern Missouri Beekeepers. Her entries at the Missouri State Fair have been award winning Honey, Creamed Honey and Comb Honey along with her Beeswax Art and Beeswax Candles. She makes the best use of everything her Chesterfield bees produce. Corinne’s Honey Farm, offers skin care products concocted from her own beeswax, honey and numerous other bounties of nature as well as handcrafted soaps and lotions.

Sarah Denkler Horticulture Specialist, works in commercial horticulture, community food systems, general home horticulture, ornamentals, integrated pest management, organic gardening, soil fertility and conservation, insect/ weed and diseases management for the University of Missouri Extension. Yearly program highlights include horticulture education for those in Strikeforce counties, education and activities for the Agriculture and Natural Resources Exposition and the coordination and delivery of the annual watermelon meeting.

Marilyn Odneal, M.S.
Missouri State University at Mountain Grove

Marilyn Odneal 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.

Dr. Amy Patillo
 Community Development specialist, works in community food systems, community and economic development, and workforce development for the University of Missouri Extension. Experience in local foods development, farm to school, non-profit leadership and community education.  

Hank Will

Hank Will (Oscar H. Will III) is a business leader, academic and agricultural practitioner devoted to conservation and small scale, sustainable agriculture. He is currently the editorial director at Ogden Publications in Topeka Kansas, publisher of titles such as GRIT, Capper’s Farmer, Mother Earth News, Farm Collector and many other print and digital properties. Hank’s small-scale, high cash flow farming experience spans more than four decades with projects as varied as native perennial plants and heirloom laying chickens. His current project, Prairie Turnip Farm in rural Osage County, Kansas is home to a direct market Highland beef, Will’s landrace lamb and broiler business. Hank has authored or co-authored seven books, hundreds of articles, enjoys maintaining the open pollinated corn varieties his great grandfather developed and making Finnish style puukko knives, in his spare time. 

Scott McWilliams
Agritourism Farming

My wife and our family own and have operated McWilliams Pumpkin Patch for the last 18 years on our family farm. I have a colorful professional background: 40 year adjunct professor at MSU; retired Army Colonel, built fish hatcheries in Afghanistan; and presently a Wildlife Biologist with Missouri Department of Conservation. Our family operates a livestock (cattle, hogs, sheep, goats and fowl) and grain farm to include raising 25 acres of pumpkin, squash and gourds.