ACORN is a board-driven network. We meet monthly and have no office or full-time staff, so we have had to be creative and entrepreneurial. We manage our meager resources and time conservatively, so collaborations with a wide variety of partners are key. We’ve worked in our community as a catalyst, an incubator and, most importantly, as a networker.

We strive to be financially sustainable by raising enough revenue through our projects and donations to cover the cost of our operations. Key to our success has been the generous sponsorship we have received from the local business community. While we cannot provide direct funding of projects, we can serve as a fiscal sponsor for grants in our capacity as a 501(c)(3) organization.

There is a lot of work to do, so we must be very selective about where we put our energy. We always welcome new ideas and initiatives. We’ve learned from experience, however, that every project MUST have a champion or champions who will carry the flag and who can rally others. The ACORN Network offers new initiatives mentoring, networking and a community of support for champions to incubate and realize their vision.

Board of Directors

Alex Brockelman

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Alex Brockelman has been engaged with local food since he began working at his family’s farm-to-table restaurant in Phoenix, AZ when he was twelve.  Since then he has studied food systems and served on the management team of Middlebury Foods, a community-based food hub working to alleviate food insecurity in Addison County.  He is also a member of the Hunger Council of Addison County and a co-founder of Source, a digital platform based in Burlington that makes grocery shopping more convenient, affordable, and sustainable for its users.

Alex is a recent graduate of Middlebury College (’18), and is currently employed as the College’s Creativity and Innovation Associate.  He is passionate about empowering young people to participate in their local (food) economies, and hopes to accomplish this goal through his complementary positions at Middlebury College and ACORN.


Rich Carpenter: Treasurer

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Rich Carpenter is president of Carpenter Associates, a consulting firm which offers strategic planning, business development and product marketing assistance to early stage companies in the software and internet industry in which he has worked for over 40 years as well as to non-profit organizations.

He has participated in and/or assisted over 20 technology start-ups and currently sits on several for-profit and non-profit boards. Rich currently serves as treasurer of both ACORN and the ACORN Renewable Energy Co-op.

Lynn Coale: Executive Director

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D. Lynn Coale is the Director/Superintendent of the Patricia A. Hannaford Regional Technical School District in Middlebury, Vermont.  The center offers instruction in agriculture and forestry to both secondary and adult students. Lynn has a comprehensive and diverse background in agriculture and food systems education.  In addition to his work at the Hannaford Career Center, he was raised on a working cattle ranch in northwest Wyoming and has been involved in agriculture education as a student, an instructor, and as an administrator of agriculture education programs in both Wyoming and Vermont. Lynn is an original member of the Vermont  Agriculture and Forest Product Development Board and served two terms as chair of that board.  Other agriculture related boards that Lynn serves on include:  Vermont Farm To Plate Education, Workforce Development and Strategic Planning Committees, as well as the Vermont Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Core Standards Review Committee. Currently, Lynn serves on the PreK-16 Education Council, UVM Continuing Education and Distance Learning Advisory Board, the Addison County Economic Development Council and is the co- chair of the Addison County Workforce Development Board.

Jonnie Corcoran: Board Chair

Jonnie Corcoran is a small business and social entrepreneur who has worked in sales and marketing in the organic food and food packaging sectors as well as a strategic consultant.

He produced and secured distribution for a feature film, “She Sings to the Stars,” and is currently working on a second film. Jonnie is a founding member of ACORN, the Vermont Biofuels Association, and the Monkton Community Coffeehouse. Jonathan has an MBA in Marketing and Small Venture Management. He is the editor of VISION 2020 and author of the Addison County local food plan.

Sophie Esser-Calvi

With the last name Esser, German for "eater", Sophie Esser Calvi was destined to work with food. Sophie grew up in the Napa Valley and Bavaria and traveled the world with her family's winery. Sophie has a masters in Food Culture and Communications from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. And she has now come full circle, returning to Middlebury College, a decade after graduating to work on food and farm initiatives in the department of Environmental Affairs.  Sophie lives in Cornwall with her husband Ben, a cider maker, two lovely children, and her twenty-something apple trees.

Annie Harlow: Executive Committee

Annie Harlow of Bristol Vermont has spent the past 35 years rooted in food. She got her start as an archaeologist researching settlement patterns based on food systems and resources. With 15 years as a buyer and seller in Vermont she helped create a foundation for local food demand at City Market/Onion River Coop and at Black River Produce. An independent retail and operations consultant, Annie has helped businesses grow to understand food distribution variables for scaling up supply to meet market demands or vice versa. She has worked on the statewide retail assessment of local foods, organized regional scaling-up forums for institutions bringing together suppliers, distributors and buyers to address distribution and market variables. Active in the Farm to Plate Aggregation and Distribution and Healthcare working groups she also stays abreast of the Consumer Education updates and trends. She has served on many local and regional boards and in advisory roles including charter member of VT Fresh Network, NOFA-VT, the Northeast Sustainable Working Group, and Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. She is an avid landscape gardener, loves all kinds of music, cooks for the enjoyment of it, she reads about ancient agricultural economics and garden history, for fun!

Al Karnatz

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Allen is the Champlain Valley Farm Director for the Vermont Land Trust.   He works with farmers that are interested in protecting their land from future development.   Over the past 22 years he has helped conserve 250 farms.  Prior to the Land Trust, he was at the VT Agency of Agriculture in various capacities and he has also worked for Garden Way in their solar greenhouse project and for the VT Dairy Herd Improvement Association.  

Al has been involved in local planning issues both as chair of the New Haven Planning Commission and at the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.  He's an avid cyclist and  helped organize ACORN's first Tour de Farm.   


Jess Messer

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Jess Messer is the founder and head flavor maven at savouré. She is an activist, a mother of three, and a cook. A former researcher and human rights worker, Jess decided to take a break from trying to save the world and tap her entrepreneurial spirit after leaving the US for Canada. She made the most of her time in Montreal by founding a small craft food company, savouré, forming strong relationships with small farmers, jumping into the local market scene, and teaching cooking classes in French at a community center.

Now back in Vermont, Jess transplanted her family and her business to her family home in Starksboro. She is also co-owner of Tandem, a production kitchen, event space, and tasting room for two local food businesses. Because of its fortunate Main Street location, Tandem strives to create events that cater to the needs and means of the 5-town area, and bring people together around local agriculture, food, community and fun.

Susan Smiley: Executive Committee

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Susan has been involved in local food production since purchasing a farm in New Haven in 1974. Grass-fed beef production, retail yogurt making, and organic vegetable sales harmonized with child-rearing on the farm and a focus on food self sufficiency for a family of six.

A fifteen-year stint as a buyer of organic food ingredients for Earth’s Best Baby Foods led to the creation of an Addison County local foods directory which Susan manages for ACORN’s Addison County Guide to Local Foods and Farms. Susan continues to cultivate a lush garden in New Haven.


Lindsey Berk - Director, Marketing and Development

Lindsey spent seven years in marketing, advertising and PR in the private sector, and in 2011 escaped the cubicles of New York City to found herself nestled in the vines of Mendoza’s wine country as a harvest intern.

What was meant to be a five month hiatus became a four year journey around Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. A life-changing role at a Peruvian disaster relief organization convinced Lindsey to continue working in the non-profit sector, and a few stints with a Guatemalan coffee cooperative, an Australian organic farm and various WWOOFing properties locked her into the good food movement for good.

Lindsey and her partner Matthew founded a food education tourism project, Origins of Food, that reconnects people with where food comes from.