Board of Directors

Shari O’Donnell, Board President
Project Manager

Shari is the new President of the Board of Directors. She has a lifelong love of local food and describes herself as a “cook, canner, baker, and traveler.” Living in Bloomington-Normal for over 18 years, Shari formally worked as a project manager for State Farm.

Melissa Schwoerer, Vice President
Engrained Brewing Company

Melissa was born and raised in central Illinois anfd has always had a strong connection to farming and environmental issues. She is an attorney and former human resources manager, having worked in a variety of settings including state and local government, Caterpillar, and St. John’s Hospital.  She became passionate about clean, local food when she had her first son in 2010 and has become an advocate for children’s health in the years following. She owns Engrained Brewing Company, a local Springfield microbrewery and farm to table restaurant.

Emily Wright, Treasurer

Kendra Boesdorfer, Secretary
Custom Cup Coffee

Erica Beeman

Erica has had a love and interest in local food and farming since she was a little girl growing up in northeastern Connecticut. Early on, she recognized the importance of knowing your food was locally sourced and realized its importance to the local economy. Her love and interest in local food and farming grew when she moved to Illinois and began working with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

Erica graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. She has nineteen years of accounting experience, which includes working at Bridgewater Associates, Paloma Partners and Harvard Management. Since moving to Central Illinois she has worked for three local not for profit organizations, Prairie Art Alliance, now known as the SAA Collective, the Hoogland Center for the Arts and Illinois Stewardship Alliance.  She has also been involved in many charitable events volunteering her time with Hope School, Lincoln Memorial Gardens and the YMCA to name a few.

She and her husband love spending time and traveling with their daughter, Abby, in their free time as a family.

Rachel Berry
Farmer, founder and CEO of the Illinois Hemp Growers Association

Rachel is a first-generation farmer and Illinois native tending to just over 13 acres in Princeton. Her family practices regenerative agriculture, agroforestry, and permaculture techniques to promote native biodiversity, promote soil health, and grow heirloom foods. She is also hemp farmer with a fierce passion for hemp food and fiber, developing strong local economies, and am the founder and CEO of the Illinois Hemp Growers Association Benefit Corporation.

“In the nearly 10 years that I have been living rurally, I have dedicated my time to not only learning how to be a mindful farmer in the space I am allowed, but also how to be part of and contribute to the farming community. Finding the ISA was a breakthrough to my success. Through farmers markets, meetings and meet-ups, workshops, webinars, lobbying, and more, they have given me the opportunities and support needed to step into the local food movement and to find my place and voice as a land steward. ISA’s dedication, determination, and demonstration as leaders has been an inspiration to me personally, as a female farmer and storyteller, and to my organization as it helps develop the emerging hemp industry. “

`Rikkisha Candler

Rikkisha was born and raised in Louisiana and moved to Illinois in 2006 after finishing college at Louisiana State University and law school at Southern University. She is an attorney and a trained pastry chef, and she is passionate about local food. She spends her spare time baking for the small business bakery she owns.

Ben Hankins

Ben’s family history of farming goes back generations to the town of Nokomis Illinois. Learning that a farm’s profitability rests not only with harvest, but with robust community support.  Ben believes locally grown food is more delicious, nutritious and sustainable.

With his bachelor’s degree in both Marketing and Business Administration from Illinois State University, and an M.B.A. from Illinois State University, Ben brings a valuable perspective to the board.  Additionally over 12 years of professional experience as a marketing manager, product manager and key accounts manager.

Since 2014 Ben has been with BUNN, and recently moved to BUNN Farm’s high quality, locally-raised beef throughout Illinois. Ben’s ready to share his experience to help local food producers earn a fair, living wage and advocate that good food is available for all.

Tim Magner
Nature’s Farm Camp

Tim Magner is a Chicago-based education entrepreneur. He studied history at Boston College, followed by a career in technology sales before focusing on kids. For the last decade, Tim has been involved in a number of educational and food-related ventures, including as a children’s book author and the founder of Truck Farm Chicago. He’s now a Grant Officer at the Bryan Cameron Education Foundation and part of Nature’s Farm Camp at Angelic Organics Learning Center,  an overnight summer camp where the kids help run the farm.

Kathy Pecora

Kathy works for the Will County Land Use Department, Community Development Division as a program manager and also as the coordinator of the We WILL (for Will County) School and Community Garden Program. She has considerable experience in soil and water conservation efforts and solar development.  Kathy is a member of the Will County Farm Bureau and served as as associate director of the Will- South Cook Soil and Water Conservation District for four years.

Kathy is also passionate about local food, local food policy and developing community relationships.

was provided the opportunity to travel throughout Illinois to study the current local food infrastructure and food policies- I developed relationships with members of the City of Chicago and Cook County growing community, Region 5 USDA Food Services Director, Oak Park’s Seven Generations Ahead, worked on the committee to develop a food hub in Kane County, and work closely with U of I Extension Small Farm Specialist to support my local garden program.

Jay McGhee