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Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee Members

The Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee is composed of 12 members appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture. Original selected members were appointed to one, two, and three-year terms with the possibility of being reappointed for one additional term. Newly appointed members will serve a standard three-year term.

A garden with different colored panels in the background
Current Members

The inaugural Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee members appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture are:

Angie Mason

Angie Mason
Executive Director/Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center
Chairperson, Related Experience Representative

Mason is an internationally recognized leader in sustainable urban agriculture who previously created 15 urban farms sites across Chicago, Illinois where she served as the former Associate VP of Community Engagement and Senior Director of Windy City Harvest (Chicago Botanic Garden) for 19 years. She oversaw all facets of engagement with the community and directed the operations of a largely successful urban agriculture education and job training program with 200 participants and a $3.8M budget.

Mason has extensive knowledge in providing education that offers farmer development workforce training opportunities, paid jobs, and fresh food access in low-income communities. She also has experience operating a 50,000-gallon aquaponics system which grows and packs Veggie Rx packages distributed to patients at risk for diet related diseases, offers certificate courses and workshops in sustainable urban agriculture and aquaponics, and hosts an indoor year-round market offering fresh affordable food grown by program graduates.

Tara Chadwick

Tara Chadwick
Urban Farmer/Producer, Home Beautiful Park Civic Association
Co-Chairperson, Related Experience Representative

Chadwick is currently a micro-producer residing in a historically black neighborhood. She is a specialist in traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous agricultural practices. With three decades of experience, Chadwick engages in innovative, culturally specific specialty crop production with Native American and multicultural children, youth, adults, and elders.

Chadwick has an extensive amount of experience working on community level projects promoting composting, food waste reduction, healthy eating, container gardening, water resource conservation, toxicity reduction, and integrated pest management.

Bobby Wilson

Bobby L. Wilson
Owner, Metro Atlanta Urban Farm
Member, Urban Producer

As founder of Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, Wilson operates a five-acre urban farm in the metro-Atlanta area. He utilizes the farm to provide mentorship to new and beginning farmers and to also educate on how to access USDA resources through virtual workshops, trainings, and tours.

Wilson was previously a County Extension Agent and Urban Gardening Program Director at the University of Georgia, where he was responsible for the educational programming of the Atlanta Urban Gardening Program and educated low-income residents of DeKalb and Fulton counties on how to grow their own food to improve nutrition.

Jerry Ann Hebron

Jerry Ann Hebron
Executive Director, Oakland Avenue Urban Farm
Member, Urban Producer

Hebron is an active member of the Detroit Urban Agriculture community, a city considered to be the national leader in urban agriculture. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, a workforce development project of North End Christian Community Development Corporation (501c3). The farm specializes in growing healthy food, hosting educational programs, generating jobs, and creating cultural gathering spaces in Detroit’s North End.

One of Hebron’s many accomplishments throughout her successful career includes working to pass Detroit's Urban Agriculture Ordinance.

Kaben Smallwood

Kaben Smallwood
President/CEO, Symbiotic Aquaponic
Member, Innovative Producer

Smallwood serves as the President and CEO of Symbiotic Aquaponic, a commercial and residential sustainable aquaponic systems company that he started with a loan from the Choctaw Nation and has expanded into 14 states. The company specializes in repurposing warehouses for aquaponic facilities in a cost-effective way. Smallwood brings extensive knowledge on how to bring affordable, innovative technology into communities plagued by food insecurity and historically underserved communities.

Viraj Puri

Viraj Puri
CEO/Co-Founder, Gotham Greens
Member, Innovative Producer
New York

As CEO and Co-Founder of Gotham Greens, Puri operates one of the world’s largest and most commercially successful indoor farming companies including eight hydroponic greenhouse facilities in the U.S. growing local produce year-round. The company practices climate smart agriculture using 100% renewable energy, no pesticides, 95% less water than traditional agriculture, as well as green buildings.

Puri brings extensive knowledge of innovative production and addresses food insecurity by establishing food donation partnerships with food pantries and community mobile markets to ensure the neighborhoods surrounding the greenhouses have access to fresh, healthy foods. He has also cultivated key partnerships with workforce development programs and educational institutions.

Sally Brown

Sally Brown
Research Professor, University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Member, Higher Education

Brown is a passionate advocate for the benefits of urban agriculture and community gardens and has spent her career researching ecosystem services, urban soil remediation, stormwater systems, and the implications of using urban biosolids and urban waste in agriculture. Brown has done extensive research and analysis on soil health, specifically the importance of soil health as it relates to climate change mitigation.

One of Brown’s specialties is using compost to improve the health of urban soils, including addressing lead in urban soils, which is encouraging to composting and food waste reduction.

Brown also brings extensive knowledge on how to make urban agriculture a force for climate change mitigation.

John Erwin

John Erwin
Professor/Chair, University of Maryland – Department of Plant Science
Member, Higher Education

Erwin’s research and teaching activities focus on controlled environment agriculture, urban agriculture, community strategies to mitigate climate change utilizing plantings and street trees, organic methods of pest and disease control, and emerging methods of crop production. He is currently working on a community-industry-university-government local food production partnership in Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C. where vegetables and fish cultivated by youth from surrounding underrepresented communities are sold to local farmers markets, restaurants, and schools.

Erwin brings extensive knowledge of innovative production and experience translating academic research on urban agriculture and innovative production into real world applications.

Allison Paap

Allison Paap
Vice-President-Lending Manager, American AgCredit
Member, Financing Entity Representative

Paap has 20+ years of experience in the Farm Credit System and has been an Ag Loan Officer to urban clients for over 10 years. She currently manages $65M in loans for Southern California farmers and ranchers and oversees a team of agriculture lenders based throughout multiple counties. In this capacity, she has researched business models for farmers in highly urbanized areas, including indoor production, community, and cooperative farming.

Paap’s additional accomplishments include serving as a Director on the Board for the San Diego County Farm Bureau and Riverside Food System Alliance, as well as serving on the Urban Ag Workgroup for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council. She has also presented at the California Small Farms conference.

Rev. Dr. Carl Wallace

Rev. Dr. Carl P. Wallace
Chief Operating Officer, Abundant Life Farm
Member, Non-profit Representative

Wallace serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Abundant Life Farm; a non-profit, historically underserved urban, climate smart, innovative and conservation practicing farm. It relies on volunteers from partner churches, local boy scout troops and refugee communities to provide healthy foods for community members and learning opportunities for local students. Abundant Life Farm operates the largest approved NRCS Seasonal High Tunnel. His former church was the first recipient of a NRCS Seasonal High Tunnel in Summit County (Ohio), for which then-Congresswoman Marcia Fudge was instrumental in creating.

Zachari Curtis

Zachari Curtis
Law Student
Member, Supply Chain Expert
Washington, D.C.

Since 2018, Curtis served as the Operations Director at Dreaming Out Loud, Inc., a non-profit social enterprise using food systems to build community and economic opportunities within marginalized communities. Her expertise includes logistics and distribution for building an equitable food system. Curtis transitioned the organization’s food distribution infrastructure from being a simple farmer's market into a vertically integrated food aggregator for regional farmers. She also expanded to include wholesale food distribution and a direct-to-consumer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program supporting 1,200 families per week.

Curtis has experience building accessible and scalable supply chains, creating cooperative networks between urban farms, and connecting urban producers with the full range of distribution channels: direct-to-consumer CSAs, farmers markets, food aggregators/hubs, wholesale distribution, and institutional procurement partnerships. Curtis is a JD Candidate entering law school in the fall of 2023 where she hopes to further her studies in agricultural and labor law.

John Lebeaux

John Lebeaux
Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Member, Business and Economic Development Representative

As Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, Lebeaux runs the state’s Urban Agriculture Program, one of the country’s first and most successful urban farming initiatives. The program supports traditional farming practices and a variety of innovative climate controlled growing environments through targeted grants programs, and by incentivizing municipalities and institutions to partner on projects leading to increased access to fresh food for urban residents. Lebeaux has organized 7 state-wide urban farming conferences and created a pilot program to fund Community Gardens.

Lebeaux began his career as an urban horticulturist in New York City and served in local, municipal government, and on local government boards and commissions prior to becoming Commissioner.

How to Become a Member

Solicitation for new membership nominations typically occurs on an annual basis and may include one or multiple open positions. USDA will publish nomination/application information via the Federal Register. USDA will also make additional announcements via official news and press releases.

Sign-up at to receive email notifications once there are vacancies on the Committee.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee?

The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to create this committee to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on the development of policies and outreach relating to urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices as well as identify any barriers to urban agriculture.

What do Federal advisory committee members do?

Federal advisory committee members have both the expertise and professional skills that parallel the program responsibilities of their sponsoring agencies. Typical responsibilities of advisory committee members include but are not limited to the following:

  • Serve voluntarily without composition and solely an advisory role;
  • Attend and participate in committee meetings;
  • Represent the constituent industry or interest group, as appointed;
  • Abide by the committee charter;
  • Provide advice that is relevant, objective, and open to the public;
  • Act promptly to comply work; and
  • Comply with all FACA requirements and ethical guidelines.

What is the nomination process?

The USDA announces when Federal advisory committees have open nominations in several ways including the Federal Register and official press releases. Any interested person or organization may nominate qualified individuals for membership, including self-nominations. The process of nomination typically includes the submission of an AD-755 (PDF, 2.1 MB) background information form, resume, and other supplementary documents or publications. Once all documentation is received, USDA will review applications for completion and evaluate the qualifications of each nominee. The best qualified individual(s) will be recommended for appointment for which the Secretary of Agriculture will make a final selection.

What is the term limit and time commitment?

Members are appointment for a 3-year term. The Committee holds no fewer than three public meetings per year. In addition to public/open meetings there are several closed meetings scheduled on a recurring basis for administrative and preparatory purposes.

What is the criteria and qualifications to become a member?

Nominees must be able to pass a background check. Qualifications are based on experience and are unique for each open position.

Can I still apply if I’m a current member of a different committee?

Voting members may only serve on one USDA Federal advisory committee at a time.

Will I be compensated?

Federal advisory committee members serve without compensation. While engaged in the performance of their duties away from their home or regular place of business, Committee members may be allowed reimbursement for travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, authorized by 5 U.S.C. §5703, in the same manner as a person employed intermittently in the Government service.

Why is this important?

The Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee is one of several ways that USDA is extending support and building frameworks to support urban agriculture, including issues of equity, climate resilience and nutrition access.

What if I have a different question?

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