Leadership Council

ElizabethMikesell_resizedElizabeth Mikesell has been a Chef Instructor at Pima Community College for 10 years.  She chaired the American Federation Chef and Child Foundation, whose mission is to educate children and families in understanding proper nutrition through community-based initiatives.  She was invited to the White House by Michelle Obama for the kick-off of the “Chefs Move to Schools” initiative and works with youth who are learning to cook and eat healthy food.

Parker Filer was raised in western Pennsylvania where he spent most summers helping his extended family cultivate large backyard gardens. He began studying agribusiness management at Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ and now holds a Masters Degree in International Agriculture and Rural Development from Cornell University. Having travelled widely as a student and a volunteer Parker has been an engaged in a variety of agricultural research and extension projects including fieldwork in India, the Philippines, Hawaii, and Honduras. From migrant labor camps to urban farm camps; from tropical kitchen gardens to food rescue and farmer’s markets- Parker’s diverse professional experience lends a broad perspective on his food policy and systems thinking about agriculture. He’s thankful for the opportunity to support Pima County Food Alliance in their mission to develop an integrated, resilient, and sustainable food system in Southern Arizona.

Chaz Shelton, founder and CEO of Merchant’s Garden, has an extensive background in starting and assisting small business to be successful. Chaz Shelton has acted as the Program Manager for the Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA) in Telluride, Colorado. With the TVA, Chaz helped raise over $4 million in capital for high venture companies in the outdoor, health/wellness, and education industries. In addition, he provided Small Business Administration consulting services that ranged from artisan bakeries to organic farmers. In addition to being the founder of an agriculture company, Chaz served as the Strategy & Marketing Manager for Conduent Inc. (NYSE: CNDT), an organization that manages the largest healthcare quality reporting database in the country.  Chaz received a B.A. from Hope College in Economics and Management and a graduate certificate in Economic Growth & Development for the University of Pennsylvania and completed his MBA at Indiana University, where he majored in entrepreneurship and finance.

Shelby Thompson fell in love with Tucson as a student at the University of Arizona, where her passions for cooking and healthy food evolved into a food blog by the name of The Sun and The Spoon. Food further connected her with the local community when she began writing and creating food photography for Edible Baja Arizona, a Tucson-based food magazine, where she served as the online editor. Now, Shelby empowers local businesses, farmers, and residents to foster the community as Local First Arizona’s community outreach coordinator.

Natalia Santos is the Food Systems Program Coordinator for the University of Arizona Nutrition Network, where she works with food retailers, farmers’ markets, and Summer Food Service Program sites. Natalia has a background in nutrition and Masters in public health, which she uses to improve access to healthy foods throughout Pima by building community capacity and connecting local food networks. A newcomer to the Southwest, she enjoys spending time outdoors, visiting new places, and bragging about the winter weather to her family and friends back in the Midwest.

Erik Stanford cut his fingers in restaurant kitchens across the country before landing in Tucson, Arizona and discovering a passion its unique local food system. In seeing a barrier for chefs to locally grown produce, he created Pivot Produce in 2015. The distribution company aggregates produce from 20+ small scale farms in southern Arizona and distributes to 20+ restaurants, breweries, and schools in Tucson.



Bonnie Wolf received her MPH from the University of Arizona in 2019 and completed an internship with Tucson City of Gastronomy. She now works for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona evaluating the organization’s community impact. Before starting grad school, Bonnie and her husband (Frank) traveled and volunteered around the world, including working on small farms. She previously worked for a kosher pastured meat company and had a previous stint at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. She was also a summer fellow with Adamah, the Jewish Farming Fellowship. A lover of all things food since childhood, her connection to the food system really started in 2009 when she joined the Tucson CSA and volunteered at a local farm.


Dr. Alissa Bilfield holds a PhD in Public Health, and she is currently a faculty member at the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Arizona. She is passionate about food systems sustainability, and was the co-founder of a food literacy and cooking education non-profit called The Cookbook Project. When she is not teaching or conducting research with farmers and foodies, she enjoys exploring diverse cuisines, growing vegetables, rock climbing, and hiking.

Debbi Wainwright is a fantabulous person and a joy to work with because of her let’s get this done attitude. In addition, Debbi brings fun, professional communication skills with her wordsmithing capabilities. Unfortunately, these skills were not able to save Tucson’s first Pay-What-You-Can-Café. Debbi is very heartbroken by the failure of Passion Community Café but uses the lessons learned every day to continue her fight against healthy food insecurity. Currently Debbi works as a Library Associate with Pima County Public Library where she manages her branch’s Seed Library by educating, supplying and supporting local gardeners.

Jordan Mlsna (left) wants to make it more possible to grow good food in right relation to land and people. She currently serves as the community garden and outreach coordinator for San Xavier Cooperative Farm. Jordan has learned by doing as a farmhand, Diné College extension crewmember, and homestead gardener. She is rooted in her community organizing background – committed to facilitating a vision of just transition and a livable future built largely on the local food movement. She holds B.S. in Environmental Policy and Planning from MIT.