PCO’s founding Executive Director wears many hats: Farmer, lawyer and community volunteer. She owns and operates Common Ground Organic Farm, raising organic vegetables, seedlings, sheep and dairy heifers. Her volunteer work includes fostering homeless dogs, managing a farmers market and serving on advisory boards for organic research projects and a non-profit educational farm. She has been on board at PCO from its humble beginning when she was the only employee. 19 years later, PCO now has 23 employees. When Leslie isn’t busy doing all those other things, she enjoys hiking in the mountains, weaving, knitting and attending farm auctions.
Kyla Smith has worked with PCO since 2003 in many roles including Organic Inspector (for all scopes), Certification Specialist, Policy Director, and now as Certification Director. She is a member of the Accredited Certifiers Association Board, where she serves as Vice-Chair. Kyla received her Masters degree in Transformative Leadership and Social Change from the Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) in Laurel, Maryland. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, fishing, gardening, boating and most importantly spending time with her husband Ben and their two beautiful little girls, Stella Rae and Hazel Johna!!
Director of Operations
Diana joined the PCO team as Director of Operations in Fall of 2012. Prior to relocating to Boalsburg, PA, she lived in Raleigh, NC where she obtained her Business Management – Finance degree from North Carolina State University and began her career. Diana spent the first eight years of her employment in a small business environment, with six years as Operations Manager. She looks forward to contributing to the continued growth and success of the PCO team. In her spare time she enjoys reading, eating local and organic food, cooking, and enjoying the outdoors.
Certification Program Manager
Marissa Pyle joined the PCO team in June of 2009, as a Certification Specialist and eventually took on the position of Compliance Manger as well. Since November 2015 Marissa has served as PCO’s Certification Program Manager.
Born and raised in Karns City, PA some of Marissa’s earliest memories are making trips to the barn to visit her family’s small herd of Hereford cattle. Although she didn’t do much more than sit on the wheel well of the tractor beside her dad while he was baling hay, she found agriculture to be exciting and ended up finding her way to Penn State, where she graduated in 2009 with a degree in Agroecology and a minor in Agronomy…
Although these days Marissa and her husband Zach along with their feisty black Labradors Scarlett and India live in Springboro, she loves getting back to the farm whenever possible.
Inspection Program Manager
Liz joined PCO in the spring of 2012 as a Staff Inspector after six years in the organic dairy industry. In her relatively new role as Inspections Program Manager, she enjoys the balance of management and inspection tasks. Liz is passionate about the organic industry, her dogs and her music. In her free time she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities with her pups and playing traditional Missouri dance tunes on her fiddle and button box.
Materials Program Manager
Jen joined PCO as the Materials Program Manager in February of 2016. She is originally from Johnstown, PA, but currently resides in State College with her cat, Leslie Knope. She holds a a masters degree in ecology from Penn State and a bachelors degree in biology from Duquesne University. In her free time, she enjoys reading, camping, hiking, and re-finishing furniture.
Quality Systems & IT Manager
Angela joined the PCO staff in February of 2016 as the Quality Systems and IT Manager. Prior to working at PCO Angela spent 21+ years working at a Contract Research Organization that supported analytical and specialty environmental services as well as biopharmaceutical drug development. She started out as a Laboratory Technician and moved on to specialize in Document Control, Process Improvement, and Quality Systems Management. In her spare time Angela enjoys reading, cooking and writing poetry.
Human Resources Manager
Sandy joined the PCO Team as Human Resource Manager in September 2016. Originally from Annapolis, Maryland, she lived and worked in Washington D.C and Philadelphia before moving to Boalsburg, PA. For the past twelve years, Sandy has been working in the Natural & Organic Retail Industry, most recently as a Regional Trainer and Career Development Program Coordinator. She is passionate about organic food access and healthy eating education. In her free time, you can find Sandy in the kitchen perfecting her favorite recipes, practicing yoga, belly laughing with her partner Matt, gardening, or out tending her beehives.
Elizabeth became the staff accountant in April 2014. Recently becoming a licensed certified public accountant, Elizabeth is excited about starting a career in the organic industry and leaving the public accounting sector. Originally from Clearfield, PA, Elizabeth ventured to the State College area where she attended the Pennsylvania State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. She currently resides in Spring Mills with her husband Matt, and their dog Mayson. In her free time, Elizabeth adores spending time with family and friends, traveling, and enjoying the outdoors.
Garrick joined PCO as the IT Specialist in April of 2015. He graduated from Penn State in 2013 with a Bachelors degree in Telecommunications, and has previously worked as an IT Generalist in both the healthcare and finance fields. More recently he has worked with the College of Ag Science at Penn State, assisting researchers and farm extension offices. Outside of PCO, Garrick is a local DJ and also volunteers for the Centre County Elections Board. He currently resides in Bellefonte with a very grumpy cat and spends his personal time reading, writing, playing music and auto-crossing.
Nicole Lawrence McNeil
Membership and Development Specialist
Nicole Lawrence McNeil joined the PCO team in January 2015 as a Membership and Development Specialist. After obtaining an undergraduate degree from Ithaca College and a Master of Arts from Penn State University, Nicole worked with non-profits across the country, specializing in marketing, communications, and brand development. She is passionate about organic products and food and is excited to (finally) align her love of all things organic with her day-job! When not helping PCO spread the word about its amazing programs, Nicole enjoys cross-country skiing, being near the ocean, discovering new foods, and most especially, spending time with her husband, Casey, and puppy, Oephilia.
Senior Certification Specialist
Heather joined PCO as the Certification Staff Assistant in 2007, and is now a Senior Certification Specialist working primarily with transitioning farmers and first time applicants. Heather is originally from a New Jersey suburb and arrived in central Pennsylvania to attend Susquehanna University, graduating with a bachelors degree in Business Administration. She came to PCO while working for Sweet Meriam’s Farm CSA in Snyder County where she was a co-manager for 2 years. Heather continues to enjoy the country life in Mifflinburg, PA with her husband Jeremy, their 3 dogs, 1 cat and 2 horses. They raise chickens for meat and eggs, and keep a large garden, all managed organically of course!
Ashley Green joined PCO’s Organic Certification Team in May 2016. Ashley brings several years of experience in the organic certification field as well as nearly 10 years of experience working on organic dairy and livestock operations. She received a BS in Environmental Science and a MS with a focus on Agroecology from the University of New Hampshire. She has collaborated on research projects with an emphasis on farm sustainability, including grazing systems and whole farm system energy (input and output) balances. Ashley was raised in the Cumberland Valley region of Central PA although she now lives in Vermont. In her free time, Ashley can be often be found hiking, gardening, traveling and eating.
Cathy joined PCO as a Certification Specialist in November of 2016. She attended Ohio University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. She also earned an associate’s degree in Eco-Tourism and Adventure Travel from Hocking College. She has several years of experience working on organic produce farms and now has a small mixed vegetable operation in her hometown of Athens, Ohio. Before joining PCO, Cathy worked as a Certification Specialist at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. In her free time she enjoys hiking, traveling, kayaking, sewing, and spending time with her daughter, Ruby.
Chelsea has a bachelor’s degree in Food Science from the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and a master’s degree in Environmental Protection and Agricultural Food Production from the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. She worked as a Certification Specialist at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association in Columbus for two years and enjoys learning about food, agricultural, and environmental issues. When not working, she enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, and cooking Indian food.
Colleen has been a Certification Specialist at PCO since March 2015. She attended the Pennsylvania State University where she earned a bachelors degree in Food Science as well as a bachelors degree in Nutritional Sciences. Colleen spent a year and a half as an intern at Godiva Chocolatier and also spent a summer interning at Del Monte Foods. After graduating, she moved to Seattle and worked as a barista for a small locally owned roastery and cafe before returning to State College. Colleen enjoys reading, baking, chess, thrifting, geocaching, space, and learning.
Emily, who is from Abbottstown, PA, joined the Certification Team in January of 2016. She graduated from Penn State University with an Environmental Resource Management degree in May 2016, focusing in soil science. During her time at Penn State, she enjoyed working with a local farmer who started growing in 2013 and donates all his produce to the State College area food banks. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, reading and cooking.
Justine is a New Jersey native who loves farming practices that build vibrant soil environments. She has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from Stockton University and a M.S. in Agronomy from Penn State, where she studied soil nutrient cycling and cover crops. After spending three years exploring soil ecology and organic matter dynamics, she moved to New Mexico to experience the practical application of sustainable farming techniques at the Seeds of Change organic research farm. For the past five years, Justine has been working with NOFA-NJ to provide technical assistance to organic farmers and, in conjunction with the USDA-NRCS, to support natural resource conservation on certified organic farms. She joined the PCO certification team in January 2016.
Stephen, who is from Kutztown, PA, joined the Certification Team in January 2015. He studied Labor Studies and Employment Relations at the Pennsylvania State University. Following the completion of his undergraduate degree Stephen worked for Jade Family Farm and Quiet Creek CSA, both Certified Organic vegetable farms in Pennsylvania. In addition to his vegetable experience he also managed layer chickens and helped raise goat kids for a farmstead-scale dairy herd. Stephen enjoys various pastime activities like rock climbing, playing soccer, wood-working, writing music, and volunteering with a local youth center.
Tess joined the Certification Team in April 2015. She graduated from Penn State in 2012 with a major in Agricultural Sciences and minors in Agronomy and Leadership Development. Shortly after graduation she relocated from southern Lancaster county to Coburn. Previous to Tess’s current position at PCO she worked in the vegetable seed industry. Tess owns Happy Valley Hop Yard in Coburn, where she spends most of her free time growing everyone’s favorite beer ingredient! Her other hobbies include mountain biking, her horses, bluegrass, craft beer, traveling, fly-fishing, and her dog Poe.
Originally working at PCO, assisting with a temporary data entry project in November 2013, Reva officially joined the team as Program Assistant in December 2014. Since May 2016, she’s been the Programs Coordinator. She graduated Penn State with a Masters in Comparative Literature as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Gender & Sexuality Studies. Reva believes that organic sustainability will save the world and is proud to be contributing to its growth. Originally from rural Happy Valley, she developed a deep connection with the natural world, and in her youth, learned how to grow, cook, and preserve food. Reva enjoys fragrant herbal teas, the purring of a happy cat, and the smell of earth right after it rains.
Aleisha grew up in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. She started working at PCO assisting with a data entry project in March 2016 and she officially joined the PCO team in May 2016 as a Program Assistant. Aleisha is currently finishing her bachelor degree at Saint Francis University. She has strong beliefs and values that organic products are a safer and a healthier option for all of us. In her spare time, she enjoys new adventures with her son Nolan, campfires, hiking, reading, and playing guitar to name a few.
Kristin grew up in central Pennsylvania and got her degree in International Studies from Lock Haven University where she took every opportunity she could to travel. Upon graduating she had plans to move abroad but couldn’t pull herself away from all the wonderful things central Pennsylvania has to offer. Kristin is now working as a Program Assistant for PCO and is excited to see more and more of the farming industry getting back to its organic roots. Kristin currently lives in Bellefonte with her two cats, Sam and Lucy. In her spare time she enjoys reading, knitting, kayaking, camping, growing her own veggies, and traveling to new places.
Sabine has seen PCO go through many changes since first joining the staff in 2000. Over the years Sabine has served roles as a Certification Specialist, Organic Crop & Dairy Inspector and currently as Materials Specialist.
Sabine graduated from Penn State after studying International Development & Agriculture, and worked for the PSU Entomology Department performing pesticide resistance research. This inspired her to follow her path towards organic farming, starting with an internship at the Rodale Institute focusing on cover crops, and traveling solo through Ireland to work on a variety of organic farms. Sabine is currently a NRCS Technical Service Provider and prepares Transition to Organic Conservation and IPM Conservation Plans for farmers in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Sabine also serves on the Board of Directors for Rhoneymeade, a local Arboretum and Sculpture Garden and is an avid photographer. In her spare time Sabine & family operate an organic cut flower & produce operation, and raise pastured poultry, pigs and grass-fed beef.
Adam joined PCO as a Materials Specialist in the Fall of 2016. Born and raised in Berwick, PA, Adam received a bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Penn State University in 2012. In his spare time Adam enjoys reading, archery hunting, kayaking, strength and conditioning, yoga, playing basketball and attending Penn State football games. Adam is passionate about the quality and sustainability of our food sources and is excited to be a part of the future of the organic industry with PCO
Leanne worked for PCO as Managing Assistant in 2010-2011 and returned as the Executive Assistant in September of 2016. Prior to her return she spent four years in the Health Promotion and Wellness department at Penn State. Leanne received her Master’s Degree in Human Resources and Employee Relations from Penn State and brings years of experience in nonprofit administration. Leanne is passionate about health and wellness and deeply values the health benefits of organic foods. Outside of PCO, Leanne teaches fitness classes, spends time outdoors, and enjoys sharing the adventure of parenting her two daughters with her husband, Erich.
Administrative Staff Assistant
Vasilia Sandoval, also known as Lia, has been involved with PCO since she was just 9 years-old, from helping stuff envelopes and pasting stickers for mailings to cleaning up roadsides during PCO’s Adopt-A-Highway. After graduating from State College Area High School she went on to complete a semester at Penn State and then moved to the DMV (Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia) area where she obtained all her qualifications to be an esthetician. Lia has been with PCO as the Administrative Staff Assistant for 3 years. She enjoys the outdoors, camping, shooting, and spending time with her husband and daughter in her free time.
Public Relations Coordinator
April grew up in the small town of Emmaus, Pennsylvania. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with an Environmental Studies degree in 2002, April spent the next few years apprenticing on diversified family farms in Vermont, Virginia, and Massachusetts, coming to love many facets of farming from maple sugaring and making herbal preparations to weeding long rows of veggies and collecting eggs. April, her husband Rob, and their 2 daughters, Tessa and Althea, now live in Lehigh County where they own and operate Ledamete Grass Farm (pronounced let ‘em eat!) where they raise pastured pork, pastured poultry, and grassed beef. When April isn’t busy working for PCO or on the farm, you may find her country-road bike riding, reading, or planting flowers!
Shawnee joined the PCO Team as a Staff Accountant in November of 2016. Shawnee was born and raised in Pleasant Gap, PA, and currently resides in Clarence with her husband, Andy. Shawnee received her degree in Accounting from South Hills School of Business and Technology. Shawnee enjoys traveling the Caribbean with her husband, spending time with family and friends, riding her motorcycle, and going for walks in the mountain with her dogs, Nyla and Zara.
Top Row Left to right: Cliff Hawbaker, Leslie Zuck, Tina Ellor, Dave Hartman, Michael Ranck, Tim Joseph Missing from this photo: Bob Eberly, Luke Howard, Ronald Hoover, Tony Ricci, Christie Badger & Beth Gugino
PCO Board President
Hamilton Heights Dairy Farm & Emerald Valley Farm, Chambersburg, PA
Cliff and Maggie Hawbaker own and operate Hamilton Heights Dairy Farm and Emerald Valley Farm in South Central Pennsylvania. The certified organic dairies consist of 689 acres of pasture and hay crop with an additional 140 acres rented land. There are 300 dairy cows and 150 head of replacement heifers. The dairy herd is pastured throughout the year on grass. For several years Cliff has focused on intensive grazing management and other dairy related issues including once-a-day milking. Milk from the dairies is marketed through Trickling Springs Creamery in Chambersburg, PA. Cliff has served on numerous farm-related boards and committees. He is chairman of Pennsylvania Grazing/Forage Lands Conservation Coalition and past chairman of DPAC (Dairy Policy Action Coalition). His activities have included past president of Franklin County Farm Bureau, Franklin County Farmland Preservation and Franklin County Soil Conservation and AgChoice Farm Credit Board. He is also active in his local church, Chambersburg Mennonite and The Gideons International. Cliff and Maggie have 3 grown daughters; Juanita Garber and Emily Helman are married to dairy farmers and on farms of their own, Dawn graduated from college and lives in Pittsburgh. They enjoy their granddaughter and 7 grandsons.
PCO Board Vice President
Maple Hill Creamery, Stuyvesant, NY
In 2004, Tim decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a farmer. He and his wife Laura started with 63 cows on 250 acres while still working a fulltime remote corporate job. Tim and Laura started managing their dairy cows in the traditional system, but quickly realized that conventional farming wasn’t for them. They began the transition to organic in 2006. Today, Maple Hill Creamery is the first national dairy brand to be thirdparty certified as 100% grassfed and certified organic and can be found in over 5,000 stores. Tim is committed to building a 100% grassfed organic milkshed in the Northeast. By year end, Maple Hill Creamery will pick up milk from close to 60 farms, proudly and consistently paying dairy farmers a premium price for their milk, allowing them and their families stability, as well as growing an ecologically regenerative dairy system by feeding “just grass”.
Independent Organic Inspector, Hughesville, PA
Christie operates Badger’s Millside Farm with husband Mike, where they focus on pasture-raised chickens, on-farm poultry processing, and conserving historical breeds. As an independent IOIA certified inspector, Christie inspects for all crops and livestock, specifically dairy and poultry. She has facilitated the National Organic Coalition’s work on National Organic Standards Board issues, drafting NOC’s written comments submitted via the Federal Register and presenting oral testimony to the NOSB. Christie volunteers with the Pennsylvania Women’s Agriculture Network to offer Women Farmer Study Circle leadership, field days, and conference workshops. Christie is excited about the potential to serve an organization that continues to strengthen their leadership role as a certifying body.
Bob Eberly has been involved with the organic food movement since the 1980s and has shown dedication to PCO’s mission from the time of its inception in 1997. A charter member of PCO, Bob has served as Board President, Board Member, and Standards Committee Member. Until June 2013 Bob served as the President of Eberly Poultry, an organic and specialty poultry business, family owned and operated since 1947. Bob has extensive experience in organic food processing, distribution, retail marketing and exporting. Bob takes great pride in his passionate tie to the organic movement as a longstanding member of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, the Organic Trade Association, PennAG and PCO.
PCO Board Secretary
Phillips Mushroom Farms, Kennett Square, PA
Tina is a mycologist and the Technical Director of Phillips Mushroom Farms, a certified organic farm in Kennett Square, PA since 1995. She has served on the Board of Directors of several organizations including PCO, OMRI, NOSB, and USDA FVIAC. She lives and gardens with her farmer husband and various pets in beautiful Chester County, PA.
Associate Professor, Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, Penn State, University Park, PA
Beth has twelve years of extension and research experience in vegetable cropping systems. Her extension and adaptive research program focuses on the identification, epidemiology and management of important and emerging diseases of major vegetable crops in Pennsylvania and the Northeast region. She received her B.S. in Horticulture and M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology at Penn State. Before returning to Penn State in 2008, she was a post-doc at Cornell working with vegetable crops and soil health for four years. Beth is actively engaged with vegetable industry stakeholders across the state and has served in leadership roles with her Penn State Extension team as well as the Northeast Division of the American Phytopathological Society. She is also very engaged with mentoring graduate students and is currently serving as the Director of the Plant Pathology Graduate Program.
Penn State Extension, Bloomsburg, PA
Dave was born and raised on a farm in Montour County near where he currently resides. He received a Bachelors Degree in Animal Production and Masters of Agriculture in Grazing/Pasture Science from Penn State in 1985 and 1994, respectively. Dave began working for Penn State Extension in 1985 with a fixed term appointment in Cumberland County. Following that he accepted a position in general agriculture at the Columbia County office of Penn State Extension, where he is still based. His work has included various aspects of field crops, livestock, and 4-H programming. Dave owns a small farm and is currently developing a grass-finished beef enterprise. He and his wife Lisa have two daughters who are both students at Penn State.
Penn State Senior Project Associate, University Park, PA
Ron’s agricultural experience began with his upbringing on the family dairy, grain, and potato farm in Cambria County, PA. He now owns and operates a 50-acre hay farm that specializes in the horse hay market. Ron earned a BS in Agronomy from Delaware Valley University, and an MS in Agronomy from Penn State. He served as staff on Penn State’s Agronomy Department, then as staff at the University of Florida’s Plant Pathology Department before returning to Penn State in 2001. Ron currently coordinates on-farm research at Penn State in the Plant Sciences Department. Ron has a sound understanding of crop production practices in which organic farmers are engaged as well as a strong grasp on the numerous challenges faced by organic producers. Ron volunteers with the Board of Directors for the PA Agronomic Education Society, the Penn State Collegiate Farm Bureau Club, and the Halfmoon Township Open Space Preservation Board.
Homestead Farms, Inc., Millington, MD
Luke and his wife Alison own and manage Homestead Farms Inc. of Millington, Maryland. They grow organic vegetables, grains and hay on approximately 450 acres of which 77 is owned. Their farm currently markets its produce through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), local restaurants, farmers markets, and wholesale markets. Luke is also self-employed as a consultant for the organic industry. He has helped in marketing soil amendments and organic commodities throughout the east. He has worked with several national companies helping them with organic research, certification, sales and marketing. He recently finished his term as a Queen-Anne County Planning Commission member and has served two terms as a member of the Maryland Agriculture Commission. He is also a LEAD Maryland Fellow.
Charvin Organic Farms, Mifflintown, PA
Michael, in partnership with his dad and brother, owns and operates a 180-cow organic dairy and crop farm on 1,000 acres in Juniata County. Michael and family have been farming organically for nearly 30 years, and especially enjoy the challenges of managing crops and livestock. From soil consulting, hosting field days, and conducting seed trials to collaborating on research projects, the Ranck families play an important part in furthering organic agriculture research and educating the organic community. Michael grew up on an organic farm and values integrity in the marketplace, ensuring good quality organic products. He sees serving on PCO’s board as an opportunity to learn as well as contribute to the organic community.
Green Heron Farm, Three Springs, PA
Tony Ricci is co-owner of Green Heron Farm in Three Springs, Pennsylvania, located in southern Huntingdon County. Since 1984 he and his wife Becky have raised organic produce on approximately 11 acres for retail and wholesale markets in Washington D.C., Huntingdon and State College. Tony is a founding member of the Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-op, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, and PCO. As a long time PCO member Tony is interested in contributing to the continued success of the organization.
Advisory board members serve a 3-year term, with a limit of 2 consecutive terms.
Our policies require that no more than half the board members can be PCO-certified (or related in a way that violates the conflict of interest provision in the NOP regulations). That allows us to have a maximum of 7 certified producers on the board, plus a minimum of 8 others who are independent.
For the non-certified seats, we can invite organic producers who are certified by another agency, someone from Penn State Ag Extension or NRCS, another non-profit ag organization, consumer or environmental group, a college, ag supply company, consumer, veterinarian, inspector, etc.
Nominations can also be made by PCO members and PCO advisory board members. PCO will accept nominations via mail, email and phone.
Board members are selected by the membership at the Annual Meeting in February.
Generally, members should live in PCO’s certification region: Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, District of Columbia.
Advisory board members should be good communicators and be willing to contribute to the organization, chair committees, help at events, etc.
Advisory board nominees must submit an advisory board application by November 15th prior to the next election.
The next advisory board term begins on the first board meeting following the election.
The advisory board meets quarterly. Typically, 3 meetings take place at the PCO office in Spring Mills, PA and one is held in the Lancaster County, PA area. Members may attend by phone or web connection. (Travel expenses are reimbursed upon request.)
PCO typically holds a strategic planning event in the spring which is attended by the advisory board and staff members.
PCO participates in training events, field days, trade shows, and other events. PCO expects advisory board members to participate in events when possible.