About Grow Ahead

In 2013, Grow Ahead was launched as cross-cultural initiative of Progreso and Cooperative Coffees geared towards pre-financing fair trade coffee harvests. Its organizational structure consisted of partnerships between consumers and producers, roasters and importers, banks and NGOs.

Today, Grow Ahead endeavors to support small family farmers as they address the challenge of climate change in their communities. Small farmer organizations in the developing world are historically under-resourced, with limited access to the capital needed to grow their organizations beyond their day-to-day needs. Grow Ahead intends to bridge the resource and funding gap and will work in four key areas moving forward:

  1. Facilitating a revolving loan program for farmer-developed resiliency projects, such as soil conservation and yield-boosting compost operations.
  2. Raising funds for annual regional Farmer to Farmer exchanges. These exchanges will facilitate farm leaders’ ability to share successes and resources. They will also produce written and multimedia resources, encapsulating farmer experiences and “takeaways” to share with other farmers.
  3. Providing funds and resources for farm leader “multiplier” agroecology scholarships. Grow Ahead will raise funds earmarked specifically to provide scholarships for farm leaders and trainers to attend farmer-centric agroecology schools.
  4. Raising funds for seedlings in agroforestry systems.

Grow Ahead is managed by Fair World Project (FWP). FWP is a consumer advocacy organization contributing to the movement to build a just economy that benefits and empowers all people especially those traditionally marginalized in our current system, including small-scale producers, family-scale farmers, and food and apparel workers. FWP is an independent project of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Board of Directors and Team

Ryan Zinn, Grow Ahead Director

Ryan Zinn

Director/President

Ryan is the Director for Grow Ahead. Ryan is the Organic & Fair Trade Coordinator for Dr. Bronner’s, focusing on Dr. Bronner’s international supply chains and farmer training. Ryan also shares his time with Fair World Project and Grow Ahead. Ryan has worked in the food and farm justice movement at home and abroad for 20 years, including with such organizations as the Center for International Law, Friends of the Earth-Paraguay, Global Exchange and the Organic Consumers Association.

Email Ryan at Ryan @ growahead.org.

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Dana Geffner

Treasurer

Dana Geffner has been working in the Fair Trade movement for nearly two decades. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of Fair World Project (FWP) an NGO which started in order to promote a just economy, insist on integrity in Fair Trade and cultivate a holistic approach to global economics. She is editor of For A Better World, a magazine that discusses challenging issues that face our global economy focusing on a just food system that supports small-scale farmers, protects workers’ rights and encourages trade policy transformation. She is on the board of two fair trade organizations: Equal Exchange and Tradiciones de Mayas (Guatemala) as well as Grow Ahead.

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Anne Costello

Anne Costello is the Director of Coffee at Peace Coffee, a 100% fair trade and organic coffee roaster based in Minneapolis.  Anne became immersed in coffee over ten years ago at a green coffee importer, where she worked in sourcing, hedging, and logistics.  At Peace Coffee, Anne oversees the company’s supply chain, from sourcing green coffee to guiding the roasted coffee lineup and tracking the company’s impact on producer partners.  She remains continually inspired by the complexity of coffee and how it connects people and places thousands of miles away.

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Kate Duesteberg

Kate received a Master’s Degree from Southern Illinois University in Community Development & Ag Economics. Since graduate school, Kate has worked to promote local, organic farming – from the perspective of policy advocate, community organizer, institutional change advocate, and farm manager. She started her activist career as Sustainable Agriculture Program Coordinator at Illinois Stewardship Alliance and then at Rural Vermont, two NGOs working to promote sustainable farming. Kate worked at the University of Vermont (UVM), where she helped establish the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Kate also worked with the Women’s Agricultural Network at UVM and the Sustainable Cotton Project in California as managing director. Since 2000, Kate has co-managed Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford, VT. Kate has served on the board of Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont and is a current member of the standards board for the Real Organic Project.

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Margot Conover

Margot Conover has worked in sustainability and equitable development since 2010. Currently, Margot works on sustainable sourcing and regenerative agriculture as a Senior Sustainability Analyst in the General Mills Natural & Organic division. She got her start working with smallholders in Ecuador, supporting sugarcane, cocoa and coffee cooperatives in negotiating contracts with international buyers and complying with their fair trade and organic certifications. Margot also spent two years fundraising for Population Services International, a leading global public health NGO specializing in sexual and reproductive health programs in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Getting back to her ethical supply chain roots, Margot served as Fairtrade America’s External Relations Manager from 2015 - 2018, where she supported companies in fostering sustainable conditions and fair prices for certified farmers and led advocacy campaigns to boost Fairtrade’s presence in the US market. Margot received her MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago and her BA in Political Science from Christopher Newport University, and currently lives in Oakland, Califorina in a co-op with a big organic vegetable garden and two beehives.

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Michael Reilley

Michael Reilly is co-founder and executive director of Slow Money Virginia, a non-profit whose mission is to support the financial needs of small, local farms through 0% loans, land acquisition, and financial education. Michael started his career in banking and then worked for 15 years as an executive in the broadcast TV business. In 2010 he turned his attention to entrepreneurship and local food advocacy. He launched Foodwaze.com, an online and mobile platform to help consumers understand more about the source of their food. Michael serves on the board of numerous food, farming, and climate change organizations in Virginia. He earned an undergraduate degree from Yale University, and a master’s degree from Columbia University. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wife and four children.

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Rachel Spence

Rachel Spence has worked for the Fair Trade Federation as their Engagement Manager since 2016. She is responsible for FTF communications, public engagement, as well as advocacy for fair trade principles and practices. Prior to joining the FTF, Rachel worked with fair trade farmer cooperatives in Ecuador. She also worked in the field of international trade policy in New York and with the United Nations and U.S. government in Washington, DC. Rachel has an MA in International Affairs with a concentration in Economic Development from George Washington University and a BA in International Economics & Commerce and Spanish Language & Literature from Lafayette College.