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2022 Westheimer Peace Symposium: Speakers

The 32nd annual Westheimer Peace Symposium -- Regenerative Agriculture for a Just and Peaceful Future -- speaks to the Westheimer theme of "Peace and the Environment" by focusing on regenerative agriculture as a path to sustainability and peace.

32nd Annual Westheimer Peace Symposium September 28, 2022

32nd Annual Westheimer Peace Symposium

For further information contact:
 or call 937-481-2371

About the 2022 Westheimer Peace Symposium:

Join us for the 32nd Annual Westheimer Peace Symposium entitled, “Regenerative Agriculture for a Just and Peaceful Future” with panels starting at 9:00 a.m. and activities ending at 5:00 p.m. Highlighting this year’s event will be a keynote address Wednesday, September 28th, from 7:00-8:15 p.m. featuring Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science, The Ohio State University, Dr. Rattan Lal.  For five decades Lal has traveled all over the world, conducting research in the field of carbon sequestration, a practice that has been shown to significantly reduce carbon in the atmosphere while simultaneously restoring soil depleted by years of industrial farming.  Lal will be joined during the day by Ohio leaders of regenerative agriculture who will share their years of expertise in ecological farming. 


About the Westheimer Peace Symposium:

The Westheimer Peace Symposium, established in 1991 by a generous endowment from Charles and May Westheimer, is an annual event with four rotating themes: Peace and Nonviolence; Peace and Social Justice; Peace and the Environment, and Peace and the Nature of War. As a result, it is a key reflection of Wilmington College's Quaker heritage and its core values of peace, social justice, respect for all persons, and integrity. 



Meet our Panelists

John Branstrator

5th Generation Farmer

Jon bought his first mill, a 8" Meadows, along with a Allis Chalmers All Crop 60 pull type combine in the late 70's. Milling his own grains and some that he purchased was a very satisfying experience. Local customers, like Ha Ha Pizza in Yellow Springs, really liked Jon’s flour and used it in their whole wheat pizza crust. Jon left the family farm for a number of years to pursue work in Costa Rica. When he returned to the farm he grew produce and commodity grains until seeing his old mill rekindled his interest in milling. Jon located heritage Red Fife wheat, Ohio Blue Clarage and Leaming Yellow seed and returned to his passion of growing and milling his own grains. Now with the purchase of harvest, seed cleaner, and a 16" stone mill, his passion projects are coming together. Current projects include helping to develop a Regional Grain Hub with Brandt Farms, studying corn culture in Oaxaca, teaching soil health and practicing regenerative agriculture on his preserved farm.

Susan Jennings

Executive Director, Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice

Omopé Carter Daboiku

Urban farmer, food sovereignty advisor, cultural geographer, wordsmith and award-winning teller of tales.

David Brandt

Owner, Walnut Creek Seeds

Susan Vonderhaar

Executive Director, Cincinnati Permaculture Institute

Natalie Washington

Executive Director, Lincoln Heights Redevelopment Corporation

Alan Wight

Associate Professor, Arts and Sciences, The Christ College of Nursing

Meet our Workshop Facilitators

Cassi L. DeHart

Wilmington College Community Gardens manager

I am a graduate student, Wilmington College Community Gardens Manager, food security advocate, and permaculture landscaping business owner. I enjoy working in my greenhouse, going to concerts, and teaching regenerative food growing methods.

Florentina Rodriguez

Florentina became involved in seed saving when she attended Seed School at The Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice. This empowered her to start her community’s first seed library, The Yellow Springs Community Seed Library, which launched two locations this year. Her vision for a Community Seed Program was selected as one of six Sustainability Champion Projects through the Village of Yellow Springs Climate Action and Sustainability Plan.

Florentina’s father is a native Chamorro, the Indigenous people of Guam, and she’s passionate about the power of seeds to connect people to their heritage and preserve traditional knowledge. Florentina is pursuing an EdD degree in Environmental and Sustainability Education at Antioch University and exploring the role of cultural memory in the endogenous development of biocultural and agroecological seed pathways. She currently engages in federal policy advocacy and supporting community seed work as the new Grassroots Coordinator for Organic Seed Alliance.

Mary Beth Thorngren

Originally from Texas, Mary Beth Thorngren calls Wilmington, Ohio her forever home. She and her husband live on a farm where dogs, chickens, and ducks collide. Mary Beth owns and operates, Thorngren Studio Arts in historic downtown Wilmington. Her studio is a 1946 vintage diner that was in once called,The Little Giant. In addition, she is an adjunct professor at Wilmington College and runs an Art Club at Clinton County Youth Council, an after school program for grades 6-12. Her teaching method focuses on the importance of the art process through play. This approach is one she uses in her work and rings true through the images. Although often times, there is an edginess in some of her imagery, there is also a sense of whimsy. A student once described her work as sweet and salty at the same time.

Tania Burgos Hernandez

Assistant Professor of Agriculture, Wilmington College

Tania was born and raised in Puerto Rico where she received her bachelor’s degree from The University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez in 2012. She studied agronomy with a specialization in soil science. Tania earned a M.S. from OSU in soil science with a specialization in soil conservation in May 2015 working under Dr. Brian Slater. The title of her research was “Assessment of Management Practices on Soil Compaction in Ohio Soils” and it focused on the characterization of soil, relating soil compaction with common agricultural practices and physical properties. Tania obtained her doctorate degree from The Ohio State University where she worked with urban soils, specifically she surveyed and assessed the soils at OSU. Tania also compared different methods used to quantify both organic and inorganic carbon in these complex environments. During her doctoral studies, she had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for multiple courses including the Australia study abroad program. While pursuing her Ph.D. in soil science at the Ohio State University, Tania earned the Ohio Educator’s license in Agriscience. Tania was involved in teaching at the undergraduate level at multiple institutions, including Columbus State Community College, The Ohio State University, and the University of Cincinnati. She had the opportunity to participate in international research experiences, including a 1-month training in soil microbiology in Dakar Senegal, and teach people from a variety of age groups, ranging from elementary to adults.

Jason Parrish

Assistant Professor of Agriculture, Wilmington College

Jason is a Horticulturalist and Agronomist who joined Wilmington College in January 2021 as an Assistant Professor of Agriculture.  He received his Bachelor of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Horticulture and Crop Science at the Ohio State University.  Jason’s research specialization in graduate school was Weed Science, Herbicide Resistance, and Plant Physiology.  During graduate school, his teaching responsibilities including leading lab courses in Weed Science, Agronomic Crops, Landscape Ornamental Plants, and Forages.  After receiving his Ph.D., Jason worked for 4 years in the agriculture industry, leading global New Product Development research in fertilizers, biologicals, and plant-protection chemicals, and also volunteers as a Naturalist at Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks. Jason is a lifelong Ohioan, originally from Lorain County, Ohio.  He married his wife Jennifer in October 2020. Together, they enjoy hiking, camping, and studying wildlife, especially birds and plants.

Corey Cockerill

Professor of Agriculture, Wilmington College

Professor of communication arts and agriculture, teaching courses in public relations, event planning, social media management, journalism, media studies, agricultural policy and agricultural communication.

Chip Murdock

Wilmington College Executive Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Carillonneur-Barbara Leeds

Barbara Leeds

Barbara Leeds, pianist, is active as a soloist, vocal and instrumental collaborator, and studio musician as well as pipe organist and carillonneur. A resident of Yellow Springs, she teaches private lessons through Leeds Piano Studio and is accompanist for the World House Choir, a social justice choir directed by Dr. Catherine Roma, Professor Emerita of Wilmington College. She graduated from Wilmington College in 1999 majoring in piano performance with a religion/philosophy minor. During her years studying at WC she received a performance scholarship to regularly play the carillon during the noon hour on class days. Barbara is delighted to share today’s program of hand-selected tunes that resonate with this year’s topic of seeking peace and justice for all through regeneration of the earth.

Keynote Speaker: Rattan Lal

Dr, Rattan Lal

Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science, The Ohio State University;  Director, CFAES Rattan Lal Center for Carbon Management and Sequestration; Past President, International Union of Soil Sciences; Adjunct Professor, University of Iceland, and IARI, New Delhi, India; IICA Chair in Soil Science; and Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Development Issues, San Jose, Costa Rica

Dr. Lal is distinguished professor of soil science at The Ohio State University and 2020 World Food Prize laureate. Internationally recognized for his trailblazing work on developing and mainstreaming a soil-centric approach to increasing food production, Lal has received many other accolades, including the GCHERA World Agriculture Prize (2018), Glinka World Soil Prize (2018), Japan Prize (2019), and U.S. Awasthi IFFCO Prize (2019). Dr. Lal earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Punjab Agricultural University and the Indian Agriculture Research Institute, respectively, and a doctorate from The Ohio State University.

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