The Southern SAWG leadership team has a strong foundation in sustainable agriculture. That experience combined with a group of diverse professionals committed to the organization’s mission, positions Southern SAWG to continue making a lasting impact in the southeastern region.
Dr. Carol Williams joins SSAWG following a career as an academic research scientist in colleges of agriculture at Land Grant universities. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Resources from Southern Illinois University. Her academic career focus was alternative crops and sustainable bioenergy cropping systems involving native perennial grasses. Carol is now owner-operator of 130 acres of Kentucky hill-farm that have been in her family since 1913. She and her husband are converting tobacco and corn/soybean acres on narrow ridges to perennial crops in agroforestry systems of nut trees and high-quality perennial hay. Together, they are licensed food manufacturers in Kentucky and annually process nearly a thousand pounds of wildcrafted pawpaw fruit into frozen pulp for marketing to craft beverage and food vendors in Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati. Although her academic career took her away from the family farm and the place of her birth, she has returned home to put into practice the knowledge she gained while in academia. Her passions are friends, bourbon, yummy food and fundraising.
Julia Sampson has a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University. Prior to joining SSAWG as a full-time employee in 2007, she worked for the ATTRA project, managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology. With this organization she co-directed the All-Ozark Meal project, which was the first project in Northwest Arkansas to conduct a series of "local food" meals.
She is the Founder of Apple Seeds, Inc., a nonprofit based in Fayetteville, AR, dedicated to healthy kids.
Prior to moving to Arkansas, she worked with The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.
Tavia Benjamin brings an exciting blend of experience in conference coordination, training, facilitation and strategic relationship building in a healing and anti-racist framework to Southern SAWG. She coordinated the 2014 and 2015 Service to Justice Conferences in Washington D.C. as well as the launch of the HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance earlier this year. Tavia has also served as a Senior Project Manager with the Center for Community Change and was a “D.C. Place Matters Equity Fellow” with Bread for the City.
Keith Richards has worked for Southern SAWG in several capacities since 1993, serving as Working Group Coordinator, Program Manager for the Community Food Program and Enterprise Development Program, Executive Director and as a member of the funding development team. He has coordinated the development and implementation of thousands of conference sessions and training projects to meet the needs of family farmers and community-based organizations in the South.
Prior to his work with Southern SAWG, Keith was the marketing manager for the Ozark Organic Growers Association, a coop of small organic farmers in the Ozarks bioregion. In the 1980s he helped develop a sustainable training farm using biodynamic methods in mid-Missouri, and later managed an organic farm in northern California, producing apples, raspberries and Asian pears.
As a volunteer, from 2008-2011 Keith served as Executive Director of Apple Seeds, Inc., a non-profit organization that implemented several farm to school educational programs for students in Northwest Arkansas.
Keith has a B.A. in Communications from the University of Central Florida, served a two-year apprenticeship at Gasconade Farm in Missouri, and has participated in over 70 conferences, seminars and trainings on sustainable agriculture and community food security since 1985. He grew up in a farming community in northern Iowa.