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.
Steve Muntz is the Executive Director of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Southern SAWG). He has extensive experience in sustainable agriculture, community development, and food security, as well as, small business and non-profit management. Prior to coming to Southern SAWG he worked as Ranch Manager, Program Manager and USA Country Program Director for Heifer Project International over a period of 18 years. He also worked for 11 years with the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, in eastern Oklahoma where he consulted with farmers, managed the 4,100-acre Kerr Center ranch and served as Co-Program Director. In 2010, he and his family opened a small coffee shop (The Daily Grind) in Winchester Kentucky which Steve managed for over three years. Steve has a degree in Agronomy from Texas A&M University. He owns and manages a small farm, in Mt. Sterling, KY where he and his family raise Katahdin hair sheep, range poultry, and an organic garden.
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.
Amanda Hodges grew up on a family farm in north central North Carolina, and after graduating from East Carolina University with a Marketing Management degree, she moved to Denver, Colorado. There she worked her way up the corporate ladder of an international advertising agency where she built a successful career with a sales foundation evolving into sales management, acquired expertise in digital marketing and then eventually moved into executive leadership.
With the yearning to be more involved in the family farm business, Amanda made the decision to move back home to NC where she discovered the opportunity at Southern SSAWG as the Outreach & Development Director. Reacquainting herself with the rural lifestyle has proven to be quite an adventure and Amanda finds great joy in the slower and intentional pace of life surrounded by family, friends and the beauty of the farm.
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.
Shari Hawley has served as a communications and design consultant to Southern SAWG since 2004, when she first redesigned the organization's website. She now serves as communications manager and annual conference publicity coordinator, providing content, newsletter layout and editing, logos, fliers and a host of other materials.
Shari's career has always been art-related. She has a couple decades of experience in graphic design, having worked in several environments and sectors. She honed her craft working in corporations, printing shops, advertising agencies, design boutiques and nonprofits.
Shari and her husband Martin live in North Georgia, in the bustling city of Woodstock. They like to grow berries, fruits (particularly peaches) and garden vegetables. They hope someday, to reconnect with their farming heritage and operate a sustainable orchard.