Board | Pesticide Action Network
Reclaiming the future of food and farming

Board

Board of Trustees

PAN's Board of Directors brings the very best of non-profit, business and legal expertise to our organization. They represent the broad diversity of our membership and contribute significant amounts of time, talent and energy to ensure PAN succeeds in its mission. Pesticide Action Network North America’s Board of Directors include:

Mary Brune

Mary BruneEnvironmental health advocate
Mary is a mother and writer based in Alameda, California. Motivated by the issue of toxic chemicals in human breast milk, Mary and three of her friends founded Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS) in 2005, with the goal of identifying and eliminating sources of toxic chemicals that make their way into our bodies and breast milk. Mary brings a connection to a wide network of moms interested in environmental health issues, as well as expertise in online organizing, social media, and strategic communications. She has written about toxic chemicals for The Huffington Post and Mothering magazine and contributed to The Smart Mama’s Green Guide. Mary and her work with MOMS was featured in Not Just A Pretty Face by Stacy Malkan, and The Virtuous Consumer by Leslie Garrett. In 2009, she received the Suzy Cain Leadership award from The Breast Cancer Fund for her work to ban toxic chemicals that contribute to breast cancer. Prior to joining MOMS, Mary worked as a technical writer for the software industry, where she received several awards for her work. She received a B.A. in technical and professional writing from San Francisco State University, and is currently pursuing her a Masters degree in Instructional Technologies. Mary lives in Alameda, California with her husband and three children.

Kyra Busch

Lyra BuschProgram Officer for the Christensen Fund’s Global and U.S. Southwest Programs
Kyra Busch is the Program Officer for the Christensen Fund’s Global and U.S. Southwest Programs focusing on agrobiodiversity and food sovereignty and resilient biocultural landscapes. Through these programs, she partners with international organizations and communities to foster and support Indigenous innovation in food, land and livelihood processes. She also serves as a donor advisor to the AgroEcology Fund and Steering Committee member for the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. Prior to joining the Christensen Fund, Kyra worked on issues of community-based conservation, food sovereignty, trade, health, education, climate and human rights with organizations ranging from Indigenous Peoples’ and non-governmental organizations in the U.S. and Thailand, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and represented the Maldives in the United Nations climate negotiations. Kyra holds a Master’s in Social Ecology of Conservation and Development from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Kyra is fluent in English and Thai and conversant in French and Spanish.

Cheryl Danley

Derenoncourt Consulting
Cheryl trained as an agricultural economist, has broad experience in community development, agricultural marketing, natural resource management and policy. She has held positions at Michigan State's Center for Regional Food Systems and Partnerships for Food Industry Development, and been involved in teaching and research in a number of African countries. As a Food and Community Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, her areas of focus included community food assessments, local food councils, school food value chains, and equity for socially disadvantaged and underrepresented groups. Cheryl was a Program Manager with FoodCorps and currently is a community food systems specialist associated with Derenoncourt Consulting. Although Cheryl was raised in Detroit, Boston and New York City, she takes great pride in the Florida farmland her family has maintained for five generations.

 

Lupe Martinez

Lupe MartinezCenter on Race, Poverty & the Environment
Guadalupe Martinez is a farmworker-turned-organizer and Assistant Executive Director of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE) in Delano, California. Lupe started his career in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley. He was recruited to the United Farm Workers union by Cesar Chavez, and served as a key organizer through the grape boycott in the 1980s, including four years in Canada, eventually becoming the National Organizing Director for the UFW. In the early 1990's, Lupe became especially involved in pesticides issues and joined CRPE to do environmental justice work, remaining on the UFW Executive Board until 2006. He represents CRPE on the Steering Committee of Californians for Pesticide Reform, where he has served as well on the executive committee.

Virginia Nesmith - Vice President

Lupe MartinezFarmworker advocate
Virginia has been an advocate for the rights of farm workers for much of her life, beginning in 1976 with the National Farm Worker Ministry. NFWM engages faith based groups and individuals in support of farm workers across the country who are organizing for a better life. Virginia later served as Executive Director of NFWM for fifteen years, retiring from that position in 2013. She also worked for the United Farm Workers, organizing the public action component of several contract campaigns, and fought with them and others for just immigration reform. She was one of the founders and steering committee members of the Equitable Food Initiative, in which PAN participates. She values the diverse participation of workers, growers and retailers in the EFI towards common goals of improving working conditions, pesticide management and food safety, and was part of another successful multi-stakeholder approach in previous work on economic conversion in her hometown of St. Louis, MO. Virginia graduated from Webster University with a focus on Peace and Conflict Studies and studied in the Master of Divinity Program at Eden Seminary. She admits to being a pretty poor grower of her own food but is hoping she does better in helping develop a large pollinator garden in the community.

Denise O'Brien - Board President

Denise O'BrienIowa farmer and organizer
Denise is a farmer and community organizer from Atlantic, Iowa. She and her husband Larry Harris, a fourth generation farmer, have farmed for 36 years on land Larry grew up on—sixteen acres of fruit, vegetables, turkeys and chickens. As a farmer Denise has worked on state, national and international agriculture and conservation policy. She has written and spoken across the U.S. on women in agriculture, organic and sustainable farming and local food systems, and in 2006 ran for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. Denise is the founder of Women Food and Agriculture Network, organized the Women's Task Force of the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition, directed the Rural Women's Leadership Development Project of PrairieFire Rural Action, Inc., and served as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. She was inducted into Iowa's Women's Hall of Fame in 2000, received the 2004 Iowa Farmer's Union Life Time Achievement Award as well as the 2005 Practical Farmers of Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award. O’Brien recently completed a year as a USDA agriculture adviser in Afghanistan

Chukou Thao

ChukouExecutive Director of National Hmong American Farmers
Chukou Thao is the executive director of National Hmong American Farmers (NHAF). Based in Fresno, CA, NHAF preserves Hmong-American farm culture by promoting economic self-sufficiency for Hmong-American and other immigrant and ethnically underrepresented farmers. NHAF has been a strong ally in the Central Valley and the Upper Midwest.
 

 

Sapna E. Thottathil

Sapna E. ThottathilManager, Health Team, Insight Data Science
Sapna E. Thottathil, PhD is the author of India's Organic Farming Revolution. She has 10 years of experience in international development, environmental sustainability, and food and agriculture, and is currently a Manager on the Health Team of Insight data Science. She has worked on environmental policy and climate change for multiple organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, School Food Focus and Health Care Without Harm, and has contributed to several articles on sustainable meat procurement, featured in outlets such as Civil Eats and the American Journal of Public Health. She earned her BA from the University of Chicago, where she was awarded the Udall Scholarship for environmental leadership, before going on to receive an MSc from Oxford University and a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, where she was the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship. She currently serves on the Oakland Food Policy Council and is on the National Advisory Council for the Women, Food and Agriculture Network. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking, and identifying wildflowers and birds. She lives in Oakland, California.

Kyle Powys Whyte

Kyle WhyteTimnick Chair in the Humanities at Michigan State University
Kyle holds the Timnick Chair in the Humanities at Michigan State University. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Community Sustainability, a faculty member of the Environmental Philosophy & Ethics graduate concentration, and a faculty affiliate of the American Indian & Indigenous Studies and Environmental Science & Policy programs. He is Potawatomi and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. His research, teaching, training, and activism address moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples and the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and climate science organizations. His work has recently extended to cover issues related to Indigenous food sovereignty.

Guy O. Williams - Secretary

Guy WilliamsPresident & CEO, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice
Guy Williams is President & CEO of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice and Principal & Founder of G.O. Williams & Associates, L.L.C., strategic advisors for sustainable community and environmentally related programs. He is well known nationally for his work as a developer of community programming, as a leader in urban redevelopment and remediation projects, and as an advocate for environmental justice and sustainability. Named Michigan Green Leader of the Year in 2014, he is currently Board Chair of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the Chair of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy Board of Governors; a board member of Eastern Market Corporation (Detroit); and a member of the Michigan Green Chemistry Roundtable, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessment Center’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee, and Detroit Future City, among others. Guy is a graduate of Bucknell University.

Nsedu Obot Witherspoon - Board Treasurer

Nsedu Obot WitherspoonChildren's Environmental Health Network
Nsedu is Executive Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network in Washington, D,C., a national organization that works to protect the developing child from environmental health hazards and promote a healthier environment. Nse is trained in public health and medical sciences, and brings a broad background in teaching, publishing, presenting and policy advocacy, including testifying before Congress. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Environmental Health Sciences Roundtable, advisor to the Columbia Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, and is appointed to the Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Protection Advisory Council. Nse has worked with the National Institutes of Health-D.C. Initiative to Reduce Infant Mortality at the George Washington University School of Public Health; the Transplant Recipients International Organization; and with the Washington Free Clinic. She is an active member of the American Public Health Association. Nse has a Masters in Public Health from George Washington University.