MICHELLE CICCARELLI LERACHFounder
Michelle Ciccarelli Lerach is a lawyer, entrepreneur and activist. Her legal practice focuses on complex civil actions representing employees, consumers and investors in class and derivative actions. In 2008, she received the Consumer Attorneys of California WLC Outstanding Consumer Advocate award before taking a sabbatical from her full-time practice to further commit herself to social activism.
An “agvocate” for regenerative food, she founded both the Cali-Baja Berry Good Night and Berry Good Food Foundation to advance a healthy, integrated food system by educating, connecting and supporting local food producers and consumers. She hosts the BGFF-sponsored award-winning Future Thought Leaders program on UCTV with more than 15 million views. She was an Executive Producer of Kiss the Ground and an Advisor to the nonprofit behind the documentary. An outspoken critic of GMO labeling policy, she served on the steering committee of Californians for GE Labeling and helped launch GMOScience.org.
She is Chair of the University of California Press Foundation and Member of the Board of Directors of the press, focused on progressive scholarship in the arts, environmental sciences and humanities, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Women Peacemakers Program at the Kroc Institute for Peace at USD. She previously served as a consultant to the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development.
She is a painter and sculptor; she and her husband are avid supporters and collectors of art, regularly hosting high school and community college students for tours of their ethnographic art collection.
Jessica Waite majored in psychology and biology at California State University San Marcos and planned to study medicine. After interning for several years at a local hospital she became alarmed at the current state of healthcare and became determined to be part of the solution in a preventative way. In 2012 Jessica paired up with Davin Waite, a creative chef with a love for cooking with veggies. The two co-founded the restaurants Wrench & Rodent Seabasstropub and The Whet Noodle. Both restaurants feature many vegan menu items and focus on sourcing locally and minimizing waste through total utilization. In 2017, while attending the California Resource Recovery Association in San Diego, Jessica wrote the first business plan for a restaurant with a zero waste ethos and a fully plant-based menu. Two and a half years later the first location of The Plot was opened in South Oceanside. Jessica recently earned an MBA in General Management at Pepperdine University, and has studied Circular Economy and Sustainable Business Practices at Cambridge Judge Business School. She is President of the local non-profit Berry Good Food, sits on the board of One Kitchen Collaborative, and is a member of the San Diego Food System Alliance Stewardship Panel, working within her community to promote local and responsible food sourcing. Her goal is to build businesses that are regenerative, benefiting all partners, community members, and the planet.
JANE BILLSVice President
Jane Bills is the Director of Communications for Atilano, a socially-responsible craft coffee company based in Solana Beach that uniquely blends California and Latino coffee cultures. Atilano goes “beyond the cup” by pledging 5% of sales to charitable organizations that support youth education, the environment, and the arts. In 2007 Jane received her MBA in Entrepreneurial Management from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and formed a retail food startup with an Italian partner. She launched the website Let There Be Bite, dedicated to the importance of home cooking and healthy food choices, and soon became an advocate for organic and non-GMO food. Before that, she worked as an editor at Travel + Leisure magazine in New York City, and and trained as a cook in both Italy and the United States.
Kendall Chavez grew up in Long Beach, CA and went on to graduate from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, a minor in Mathematics, and a Master’s Degree in Financial Accounting. After beginning her career at Sempra Energy, she shifted to tax preparation and strategy, where she excels in the complex challenge of minimizing tax liabilities within legal boundaries. Her firm, Taxes by the Sea, focuses on providing clear and effective tax strategies for creative business owners in the music video and advertisement production industries, making complex tax information accessible and manageable. Kendall enjoys being outdoors, training for obstacle course races (but rarely doing them), cooking, taking care of her plants, meeting any animal, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and dog.
John McCarthy is Founder of Propagate Investment, a firm formed to support those involved in regenerative agrarian practices and robust, resilient human-scale food systems. He holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University and is a certified Integral Coach. John is an avid backyard micro-homesteader and enjoys spending time outdoors and cooking. A Southern California native, he resides in Del Mar with his wife, children, two Golden Retrievers and chickens.
Meredith Cochran is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for authentic conversations and high quality craftsmanship. A roll-up-your-sleeves kind of girl. Meredith has a background in Cellular Molecular Biology, Electrophysiology, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. She uses this experience to pursue her passion of preventive health and food-as-medicine. Meredith is an accomplished author and founder of a BFY brand which generates multi-million dollar revenues annually with an omni-channel business model. She is currently focused on her role as Director of Marketing for one of the largest privately-owned businesses in the world and her new startup, which focuses on sustainably sourced teas formulated with the intention of reconnecting us to our body, mind, soul, and those who surround us. In her spare time, she enjoys time with her dog, Maui, bikram yoga, and reading.
As a young boy growing up in Liberia West Africa, Mannah Gbeh says agriculture was the way of life. His grandfather grew rubber, cassava and rice, and as a young boy Mannah was always around plants. All that beauty was lost during a civil war that started in the late 80’s in Liberia and forced his family to take refuge at a camp in Ghana, West Africa. On their share of land at the camp, his mother grew cassava, peppers and a variety of spices that made their rations of rice and beans taste much better. From the refugee camp, they came to the United States where, upon graduating high school, Mannah joined the U.S. Navy. In 2008, Mannah was Honorably Discharged from the Navy after serving 8 years and doing 3 tours in the Middle East. In 2010, Mannah started the Nursery Technology program at Cuyamaca College and studied Nursery Technology while working as the student Manager for the Cuyamaca College Nursery. Since Cuyamaca, his professional horticulture experience includes serving as Farm Manager for Wild Willow Farm and Education Center, Native Plant Nursery Manager for Helix Environmental, and Facilities and Horticulture Manager at the Water Conservation Garden. In his spare time, Mannah helped found and operate a grassroots nonprofit Charity World, to help provide food, clothing, shelter, health and education services to individuals in need. Currently Mannah is the Senior Horticulturist for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Institute for Conservation Research.
Eileen Gregory spent more than 30 years as an executive and creative producer in the music, television, and film industries. In 2000, in partnership with UPCtv, Europe’s largest cable television channel, Dave Stewart, and Morgan Mason, Eileen founded Innergy, the first channel focusing on environmental issues, human rights issues, and personal growth. In 2002, she and her husband purchased 70 acres in the Guadalupe Valley in Mexico where they decided to settle down, put their organic and green principles into practice, grow grapes, enjoy life, and share their dream with friends old and new. That dream has become Grupo La Villa del Valle (a boutique hotel), Vena Cava wines, and Baja Botanica (a range of 100% organic lavender bath and skin products). Eileen also chairs an annual sustainability conference in Baja and supports contemporary Latin artists with displays in a sculpture garden on her property that is free and open to the public.
Eden Hughes grew up surrounded by a love for food. From sitting on a wooden stool in her Ukrainian grandmother’s kitchen watching her cook to rolling up her sleeves helping her father behind the scenes of his Cajun catering company to getting her hands dirty with her mother tending to their garden — she didn’t have a choice really, the appreciation for food was infused in her from day one. After attending the University of Rhode Island, Eden moved to San Diego where she by no surprise found herself in the food scene. It started out with bouncing around a well-known natural food grocer for 12 years working in the marketing and events department, specialty food buying, managing the vitamin department, and ultimately as the Metro Associate Store Team Leader. It was during those years that she was introduced to Berry Good Food, specifically the Berry Good Night series of fundraising dinners. She took on a role working with the Farmers and Chefs helping to procure the locally grown produce and proteins for the events. She was immediately hooked on all that the organization was striving for and hasn’t stopped volunteering since. After working in sales for a natural pet food company and managing a locally owned wine and coffee bar, she took on a role as Director for a San Diego-based Receivership — specializing in court-appointed fiduciary services, business operations, business plan development, liquidations, and property management. She holds California Real Estate sales, California Professional Supervised Visitation Provider, and California Ordained Ministry licenses, and a certificate in Crystal and Gemstone Healing. In August 2023, nearly 10 years after falling in love with Berry Good Food, Eden accepted a part-time staff position as Foundation Coordinator, and also serves on the Board as the Events Committee Chair. In her free time, you can find her cooking, working on her new garden, reading, playing with gemstones and essential oils, traveling with her husband, and hanging with her dog Louie.
Shawnie Lurie, a passionate advocate for positive change, embarked on her nonprofit journey guided by a diverse background – from Beverly Hills window dresser to dedicated single mom and personal chef. Her commitment emerged through the creation of an Appreciation Day for her sons’ preschool teachers, expanding into grassroots efforts by developing a 501c3 aiding battered women and children. Fueled by her belief in human generosity and networking’s transformative power, she transitioned to a nonprofit hospital foundation, refining her skills as an organizational development director and volunteer/board liaison for an international nonprofit. Shawnie leverages her expertise to make a lasting impact. A perpetual learner, avid traveler, and Pilates enthusiast, she thrives on life’s experiences, meaningful connections, and delivering tangible results.