Live stream will appear below at 3:30 p.m. PDT
This event is sponsored in part by Driscoll’s, Wells Fargo, and Woolf Farming and Processing.
Executive Director, Sustainable Conservation
Ashley Boren has directed the strategy, growth, and operations of Sustainable Conservation since 1997. Ashley received a 2007 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for her unwavering commitment to innovative, balanced problem-solving to address a variety of critical environmental problems facing California.
Prior to Sustainable Conservation, Ashley spent eight years at Smith & Hawken, a mail order and retail gardening company, where she worked in finance, new business development, inventory planning, and retail merchandising. She began her career at The Nature Conservancy in program development and fundraising. In addition to her work at Sustainable Conservation, Ashley serves on the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, on UC California’s President’s Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources, and on the Executive Committee of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute’s External Advisory Board at UC Davis. Ashley served on the Board of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation from 2002 to 2011, the last two years as Chair, and on Stanford Business School’s Alumni Consulting Team Board from 1995 to 2002, the last three years as Chair.
Ashley is a graduate of the Marlborough School in Los Angeles, which awarded her their 2008 Woman of the Year Award, and has a BA in human biology, an MA in applied economics and an MBA from Stanford University.
Director and Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center
Ellen Hanak is director of the PPIC Water Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. Under her leadership, the center has become a critical source of information and guidance for natural resource management in California. She has authored dozens of reports, articles, and books on water policy, including Managing California’s Water. Her research is frequently profiled in the national media, and she participates in briefings, conferences, and interviews throughout the nation and around the world. Her other areas of expertise include climate change and infrastructure finance. Previously, she served as research director at PPIC. Before joining PPIC, she held positions with the French agricultural research system, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and the World Bank. She holds a PhD in economics from the University of Maryland.
President, Bowles Farming
Cannon Michael was born in 1972 in San Francisco. His family came to California from Germany in the mid-1800’s and acquired land for their cattle operation. By the 1960’s a portion of the land remained in family control and Bowles Farming was formed in 1967. Bowles Farming grows primarily annual crops such as tomatoes, carrots, melons, corn, cotton, wheat, and others. They have also recently produced pistachios and almonds. They farm with both organic and conventional techniques.
Cannon began to work on the farm at age 13 and is the 6th generation to be involved with California agriculture. After college at U.C. Berkeley, he started a career in commercial real estate in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1998, he moved to Los Banos to manage Bowles Farming with his uncle. His uncle retired in 2013 and Cannon now serves as President and is in his eighteenth season with the Bowles family farming operation. He met his wife in Los Banos in 1999 and they now live on the farm with their three sons.
Cannon has been very active as an advocate for California agriculture and intelligent water policy in California. He has contributed to articles and has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, and other national and international news sources. He has also testified before Congressional sub-committees regarding California water and agricultural issues.
Cannon serves on the Board of the Water Education Foundation, San Luis Canal Company, Henry Miller Reclamation District, and San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority. He serves as Board President of the San Luis Resource Conservation District and is a Board member and past chairman of the California Cotton Growers Association. Cannon serves as Treasurer for the Exchange Contractors PAC, is a delegate to the National Cotton Council, and is an alternate to Cotton Incorporated. He was also appointed by Governor Brown to the Merced County Designated Local Authority, a governing board responsible for winding down the affairs of dissolved local redevelopment agencies in Merced and Los Banos.
Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture
Karen Ross was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture on January 12, 2011, by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Secretary Ross has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California. Prior to joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009. Prior to that appointment, she served as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers from 1996-2009, and as Vice-President of the Agricultural Council of California from 1989-1996. Before moving to California, Secretary Ross served as Director of Government Relations for the Nebraska Rural Electric Association and as Field Representative for U.S. Senator Edward Zorinsky.
Secretary Ross is passionate about fostering the reconnection of consumers to the land and the people who produce their food, and to improving the access of all California citizens to healthy, nutritious California-grown agricultural products, celebrated for their diversity and abundance in serving local, national and global markets.
During Secretary Ross’ tenure, the Department has focused on core functions to protect and promote California agriculture in a time of significant budget reductions, and it has emphasized change-management to position the agency to more effectively and efficiently serve its stakeholders in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century.
Secretary Ross has strengthened partnerships across government, academia and the non-profit sector in the drive to maintain and improve environmental stewardship and to develop adaptation strategies for the specific impacts of climate change. She has initiated programs to provide greater opportunities for farmers and ranchers to engage in sustainable environmental stewardship practices through water conservation, energy efficiency, nutrient management and ecosystem services.
Secretary Ross grew up as a 4-H kid on a farm in western Nebraska. She and her husband, Barry, own 800 acres of the family farm where her younger brother, a fourth-generation farmer, grows dryland wheat, feed grains and cattle. The Secretary has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a graduate of the Nebraska Ag Leadership Program. She has served on numerous boards and committees in California agriculture and with various academic institutions
CEO, Central Valley Community Foundation
Ashley Swearengin is president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, a charitable foundation serving the six counties of Central California and providing over $100 m in funding to over 650 community benefit organizations over the last decade. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as mayor of Fresno from 2009 through 2016. As mayor, she implemented substantial changes to improve the delivery of city services, revitalize the downtown and urban core, promote business and job growth, address chronic homelessness, and stabilize the city’s financial position. Before becoming mayor, Ashley led a number of economic development initiatives in the Fresno region, including the Central Valley Business Incubator, Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development, and the Regional Jobs Initiative. She holds MBA and BS degrees from California State University, Fresno.
Mark Keppler, Moderator
Executive Director, The Maddy Institute
Mark Keppler is the Kenneth L. Maddy Professor of Public Affairs and the Executive Director of The Maddy Institute at California State University, Fresno.
Mark oversees the Maddy Legislative Intern Scholar Program that places university students from the Valley in federal and state legislative offices throughout the Valley, in Sacramento, and in Washington, D.C. He also oversees the Wonderful Public Service Graduate Fellowship Program and organizes the Maddy Associates Lecture Series that invites speakers of national and state importance to discuss the critical public policy issues of the day.
Mark is Managing Editor and Host of The Maddy Report, a weekly 30-minute public affairs tv program focusing on California politics and public policy issues and The Maddy Report – Valley Views Edition, a weekly Sunday one hour public affairs program that includes North, Central and South Valley viewpoints on state and federal political and public policy issues.
Mark is the Managing Editor of The Maddy Daily, a free, daily public affairs e-Newsletter and El Informe Maddy, a weekly 30-minute public affairs tv program in Spanish on Univision, focusing on California politics and public policy issues.
Mark also teaches labor and employment law, labor relations and business ethics at the Craig School of Business at California State University in Fresno and is a mediator with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and an arbitrator with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in labor, employment, and civil rights disputes. Prior to leading the Maddy Institute, he was the Director of Graduate Programs at the Craig School of Business.
Mark earned his B.S. in Business, with a minor in Economics, from the State University of New York, as well as an M.S. in Industrial Relations and a J.D. (Law) from the University of Wisconsin. He currently serves as Chairman of the Clovis Community Foundation.