PFU Board of Directors


MICHAEL KOVACH, BOARD PRESIDENT, LIVESTOCK FARMER, NORTHWEST

Michael Kovach is a multiple-species, grass-based regenerative livestock farmer from Walnut Hill Farm in Mercer County. With his family, he raises grass fed and finished Angus beef & lamb, as well as pigs and poultry in ways that both match their natural habits, and improve the soils of the pastures on which they are raised. Walnut Hill Farm direct markets its products right off the farm to local consumers seeking a better quality of meat, raised in their own neighborhood, as well as to several area restaurants. Michael has spoken many times at a variety of events on topics including food, farming, marketing and networking. Many field trips are hosted at Walnut Hill Farm, and the Kovach family are engaged currently in two different PDA grant-funded Farm to School projects. Michael has been a PFU member since 2013 and has served as Pennsylvania Farmers Union’s Vice President and Legislative Director since 2015. Additionally, he has served on NFU’s Policy Committee as PFU’s representative in 2016 and as PFU’s representative on the PA Grazing Lands Coalition, and in numerous other capacities on both state and national fronts. https://www.thewalnuthillfarm.com/


MIKE EBY, BOARD VICE PRESIDENT, SOUTH

Mike Eby serves as Vice President of Pennsylvania Farmers Union board and has been an active member since 2012. Mike takes every opportunity to share PFU policies in all of his roles on such issues as country of origin labeling, competitive markets, rural communities, monopolies and consolidation. He is happily married to his wife Lynette of nearly thirty years and blessed with four God-fearing adult children and spouses. The Eby family grew up on a Lancaster county bicentennial seven-generation dairy farm milking sixty registered Holsteins up until 2016 when they transitioned to grass-fed beef and crops. Now as a retired dairy farmer, Mike is heavily involved with his work in changing dairy policy to empower the farmer. His role as chairman with the National Dairy Producers Organization and executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets gives him a unique opportunity to speak to farmer co-ops as well as state and federal governments. In 2020 Mike successfully led 116 dairy farmers in antitrust litigation against dairy co-ops in federal court and every day he continues to be a tireless advocate for our Pennsylvania farms. https://competitivemarkets.com/


AEL LEAHY, BOARD SECRETARY, GOAT HERDER, SOUTHEAST

Ael Leahy is a goat journeywoman and a food systems consultant that thrives on designing organizational programming focused on justice, equity, small farmers, small businesses and cooperative development efforts in Pennsylvania. She joined the PFU board in 2020 and currently serves as Board Secretary. Since 2019 she has supported programs and outreach for Philly Goat Project, an agricultural organization that centers people with special needs and those affected by trauma. Additionally, she is a part of the Outsider Collective of Hearts on a Wire, a grassroots prison advocacy organization working to address the needs of transgender and queer people in Pennsylvania’s prisons often devastated by the impacts of the war on drugs. https://www.phillygoatproject.org/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/amanda-leahy-04409a38


TSEHAITU ABYE, POLITICAL ORGANIZER, SOUTHEAST

Tsehaitu Abye is an Ethiopian-American cannabis entrepreneur, political organizer, artist and PA Farmers Union Board member advocating for equitable cannabis legislation. She is the daughter of an immigrant farmer who was deported for cannabis cultivation and the daughter of an immigrant urban farmer in Philadelphia. Tsehaitu connects her hospitality and labor organizing experience to connect restaurant professionals to the developing cannabis industry. In 2019, Tsehaitu launched Black Dragon Breakfast Club (BDBC) to help womxn and the BIPOC community reclaim agency, change the perception of cannabis and take control of the hemp and cannabis industry. She does this work through disruptive marketing, creative story-telling, and culinary experiences across the US and digitally. In January 2022, Tsehaitu launched the “Flower Puff Crew”, a Cannabis Wellness Series, in partnership with Black-owned businesses and practitioners to address the inequities in the health and wellness space for Black Womxn. www.shopblackdragons.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/tsehaitu-abye-mba-33999582/


ROB AMSTERDAM, SOUTHCENTRAL

Rob Amsterdam grew up in Philadelphia and currently lives in Cumberland County, PA. He has been involved in agriculture for the past 40 years with a focus on local and regional food systems dating to 1983 when he began graduate work in Ag Economics at Penn State researching regional food self-sufficiency. He has participated in several projects including RISA (Regional Infrastructure Supporting Agriculture – 1996), Future of Cumberland County Agriculture (2001-03), Greater Philadelphia Food System Study (DVRPC – 2008-10) and Buy Fresh Buy Local. Rob has served on the board of several Pennsylvania based ag organizations including 24 years with the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, 15 with the Fruit and Vegetable Inspection Association of Pennsylvania, 3 on the Keystone Agriculture Innovation Board and previously served on the Pennsylvania Farmers Union board from 2013-17. Professionally Rob has worked in sale and marketing of fresh produce since 1987 (including representing PA growers in the marketplace at both the wholesale and direct marketing levels as well as a shipper, broker, importer and exporter of conventional, organic and Fair Trade produce). In January 2022 he retired after 7 years with Feeding America as a Regional Fresh Produce Sourcer and Agri-Foods Engagement Director. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-amsterdam-a9415054


MELISSA BRAVO, LIVESTOCK FARMER, NORTHCENTRAL

Melissa Bravo M.S. Agronomy, a life-time resident of Tioga County, is a vegetation management and livestock herd health specialist with over twenty five years of experience advising Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey agriculture producers, industry and government regulators. She has also worked as a certified K-12 teacher, certified crop adviser, certified pesticide applicator, and extension educator. She raises registered Angus for the replacement market on her family's century farm. She is a strong advocate for the right to farm, access to, and creation of local commodity markets. https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-bravo-76991788/


SLADE SIZEMORE, SOIL FARMER, NORTHEAST

Slade Sizemore is a father, probiotic farmer, land steward and advocate for social fairness and holistic soil health. In 2013, he and his wife uprooted from Pennsylvania to Oregon to experience how growing cannabis and hemp can improve the environment and have a positive impact on climate change. Currently residing in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, he serves as the compost facility manager for Pocono Organics, the largest Regenerative Organic Certified farm in the United States. The 2022 harvest will conclude his 10th consecutive growing season. On the Board of Directors, Slade supports PFU to allow its members to deliberate policy and advocate for change that will strengthen agriculture in Pennsylvania. He views the Farmers Union as a communication tool bridging the gap between farmers and lawmakers. ​​https://www.poconoorganics.com/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/slade-sizemore-236810211/


KAREN SCHUMANN-STARK, FARMER ADVOCATE, SOUTHEAST

Karen Schumann-Starkleads the PFU Membership Committee and is a self-proclaimed locavore who grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, moved to Philadelphia, and in the past decade alone has been an instrumental public servant in the furtherance of the missions of Philadelphia Slow Food, GMO-Free PA, Pennsylvania Farmers Union, PCO, Rodale Institute, and Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. A tireless advocate for healthy foods, transparent labeling, and ethical practices, Karen is behind nearly all good local foods initiatives in her community. A true believer in the power of food to heal, Karen volunteers her time in service to the people around her, ever willing to lend a hand or her knowledge for the purpose of a healthy and informed citizenry. https://www.linkedin.com/in/karen-stark-b2b9679


GARY DAVID BLOSS, VEGETABLE FARMER, PFU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTHEAST

Gary Bloss RLA, PP is Executive Director of Pennsylvania Farmers Union and Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) certified Food Safety Trainer. He also co-manages the Josie Porter Farm in northeastern PA. He has served on the board of the Northeastern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) and was a Steering Team member for the Chesapeake Foodshed Network (CFN). Gary was the first Executive Director for the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership serving 22 counties along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. He earned a BSLA in Landscape Architecture from Penn State University and an MLA from Harvard University. He is a licensed Landscape Architect in Pennsylvania and a licensed Professional Planner in the state of New Jersey. Gary was honored as an individual recipient of the Karl Mason Award by the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Professionals (PAEP). https://www.linkedin.com/in/gary-bloss-272b323