Announcing a Staff Transition at SFC

For over twelve years, Andrew Smiley, SFC Deputy Director, has served the local food community through his work with Sustainable Food Center, which is part of a career that spans 25 years, so far. His experiences with food and agriculture, both personal and professional, began early in his life and started him on the trajectory that led him to SFC. Andrew will be moving on from SFC at the end of this month but will leave behind a multitude of successes – among them being the acceptance of SNAP (food stamps) at farmers’ markets, institutional purchasing of local foods, Farm to Work, and, of course, Farm to School. Taking over the helm of SFC Deputy Director is our very own Joy Casnovsky, former director of our The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre® program.

“Support for local food and food systems has never been stronger,” says Andrew. “I’m proud of the contributions I’ve been able to make with SFC and honored to have worked alongside such amazing people; I’m comforted that things will continue to be in good hands going forward.”

About this upcoming transition, Ronda Rutledge, SFC Executive Director said, "I've often referred to Andrew as my office spouse given how closely we've worked over these last 11 years, but really, he's been more like a work sibling to me. I'm going to miss our witty banter, professional and personal support, and his infectious smile. I'm so grateful for his partnership and camaraderie!

I'm excited to see Joy move into this new role. She has certainly proven herself as a leader at this agency, and I know our programs will thrive under her guidance."


About Andrew Smiley

Andrew’s food story goes back quite a way. As a child growing up in Louisiana, Andrew’s food roots sprouted in his parents’ garden, which included vegetables, fruit and pecan trees, and the occasional rabbits and chickens. That exposure was redoubled with visits to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other extended family, who all were connected with food and farming in some way. “When I was young, I used to think we were poor because we had to grow our own food, always cooked at home, and canned or froze or otherwise ‘put up’ everything.” says Andrew, “while all the other kids were eating fast food and drinking sodas. In hindsight I see that we were a working class family, but not really poor.” he continued, “My work today was formed in part from those early relationships and allows me to now recognize the wealth and richness that those early experiences presented.”

Andrew’s interactions with food continued through college and afterward, with food service jobs typical of young people, plus an opportunity to open a vegetarian kitchen as part of a business in Baton Rouge, and a job pursuing policies supportive of ecologically sound agriculture through an environmental advocacy organization. Oh, and there was his position coordinating publicity and special events for a cooperative art gallery housed in Baton Rouge’s City Park. All this culminated into what was first a volunteer position with the newly-created Baton Rouge Economic and Agricultural Development Alliance (BREADA), a nonprofit developed to operate farmers’ markets and support community gardens in southeast Louisiana. Under the guidance of founder and mentor Chris Campany and with guidance from early supporters like Owusu Bandele and Mila Berhane at Southern University Ag Center and Carl Motsenbocker at LSU, the role evolved into market manager, then assistant director, and then Executive Director following Chris’s departure.

BREADA provided opportunities to engage with the economic and community development aspect of local food systems, and to participate in broad coalitions that supported this work, including the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Southern SAWG). As BREADA continued it focus on economic development, Andrew sought other opportunities to focus on sustainable food systems, including work with Southern SAWG to support farmer training and communications. That position allowed some “geographic flexibility,” so following a visit to Austin, Andrew relocated to continue working with Southern SAWG but also to offer operations support for a local food service company headed by lifelong friend Stephen Shallcross, owner of 2Dine4 Fine Catering, Swoop House, and Sawyer & Co.

It seems that the cycle had begun anew when Andrew started volunteering with SFC and the formerly named Austin Farmers’ Market (now SFC Farmers' Markets). That volunteer post became a paid market management position, but Andrew’s vision and creativity with Market Director Suzanne Santos’ tenacity and dedication combined to grow the program into other farm marketing efforts. In 2006, Andrew navigated the federal food stamp vendor application process, resulting in SFC becoming the first multi-vendor farmers’ market in Texas to accept the new electronic benefits. “That,” says Andrew, “was an early milestone which, along with our Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program for WIC participants, created the foundation for the highly successful Double Dollars program today.”

The Farm Direct program also took off under Andrew’s direction. What began as SFC market staff helping Lytle farmer Sonny Naegelin sell a load of carrots grew quickly into a produce brokering operation housed at SFC. This Farm to Cafeteria project relied on a custom-built online ordering and inventory management system and enabled Seton Hospitals, University of Texas, and several other institutional food service outlets to fulfill their goals of local purchasing while generating significant sales for local farmers. Today, local purchasing is a norm among food service outlets, both locally as a result of SFC’s efforts, and nationally as part of a broad movement.

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Similarly, the Farm to Work program was developed in 2007 through a partnership with Andrew representing SFC, Lindsay Rodgers from Department of State Health Services (now with Texas Health and Human Services Commission), and Eric Leversen of WebChronic Consulting that uses a custom-made online ordering and administrative system to connect employees at partner worksites with farmers who deliver baskets of produce directly to their offices. That program has grown to generate $200,000 in sales for local farmers every year and has spawned replications across the country.

The Farm to School effort is, perhaps, Andrew’s most notable ongoing accomplishment. Through an organizational planning process in 2006 and ‘07, SFC identified its strengths in farm-direct marketing, nutrition education, and gardening with diverse populations. Those areas of expertise, it was determined, are ideally suited to address what was considered the epidemic of childhood obesity. In 2007, SFC developed the Sprouting Healthy Kids project in an expansively collaborative effort, received an endorsement from the AISD School Health Advisory Council (SHAC), and entered into a partnership with Austin ISD to bring local foods to school cafeterias and to provide food systems education in the lunchroom, the classroom, and afterschool. During the three-year pilot project, Dr. Sandra Evans with UT School of Public Health worked alongside SFC staff to conduct an in-depth evaluation. That study provided clear evidence of the efficacy of SFC’s Sprouting Healthy Kids farm to school and food systems education approach. In addition to the study being published in the journal Health Promotion Practice, the work earned SFC the Congressional Hunger Center “Victory Against Hunger” award with the support of Rep. Lloyd Doggett. Local food purchasing within the district has grown over the years to now be an official aspect of school nutrition policy and food procurement, while SFC and other organizations continue to offer educational and programming support.

The impact of Sprouting Healthy Kids extends beyond Austin, though. In 2008 Andrew worked closely with board member Andrea Abel (now with Farmshare Austin) to craft a policy paper about farm to school for presentation to Texas legislators. State Senator Kirk Watson used the paper as the background for a bill, SB 1027, introduced in the 81st legislature that would create the Texas Interagency Farm to School Coordination Task Force. Andrew’s advocacy and active partnership-building were critical in the passage of the bill. The task force, of which Andrew was an enthusiastic member, would ultimately make recommendations leading to the creation of a dedicated farm to school manager position within Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and other department support for farm to school.

The farm to school concept would continue to take hold in Texas and beyond through consultations and trainings. SFC’s program replication training, developed by SFC staff under Andrew’s direction, resulted in farm to school programming being initiated in Arkansas and Louisiana as well as Texas. Other recognition of the farm to school movement in Austin came in 2014 when the National Farm to School Network selected Austin as the host-city for their biennial conference. SFC received funding from the USDA Farm to School Grant Program in 2015 to produce the Texas Farm to School Roundup in conjunction with TDA and Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA). Andrew directed the planning and delivery of the training program with several partners, which included a day-long workshop prior to the 2016 TOFGA conference plus multiple sessions during the conference. Positive responses led to the production of the 2017 Farm to School Roundup at the TOFGA conference. Farm to school helps children with access to healthy food and benefits farmers with access to marketing outlets; for Andrew, it is also representative of the early interactions with food and agriculture which led to his 25-year career in food systems.

Andrew often notes the drastic changes in the local food landscape in these past 12 years – just a couple farmers markets in 2005 now share producers and shoppers with a total of 17 markets in the area; consumers can find local foods in retail grocery outlets or have them brought right to their doors with home delivery services; regional produce distributors are actively sourcing and marketing local foods; and a growing number of farm-to-table restaurants are satisfying the ever-younger urban Austin resident who often prefers dining out to cooking at home. Meanwhile, family farmers still struggle to ensure the viability of their businesses and lifestyles, and disparities in economic and geographic access to good food exacerbate the health inequities in our communities.

The successes that can be credited to Andrew are to be lauded. Ask Andrew, though, and he’ll brush off the praise and ask that we keep the work going – there’s plenty of work to go around. Or, to use Andrew’s exact language, “It’s not that it’s always something. It’s just that it’s never nothing!”

Andrew’s last day in the SFC office is June 30, although he will be available for input and guidance as needed during the transition. Andrew’s plan for the next few months is to focus on projects at home, spend time with aging parents in other parts of the country, and go fishing. His overdue sabbatical will ultimately conclude with a yet-to-be-determined position that will, no doubt, reflect Andrew’s commitment to sustainability and equity combined with his innovative and visionary spirit.


Andrew has expressed with a great degree of certainty that the SFC will continue succeeding in fulfillment of its mission. “Ronda (Rutledge, SFC Executive Director) has shown impressive and inspiring leadership in the past 11-plus years we’ve worked together. Under Ronda’s direction and with guidance and hard work from a committed board, a capable leadership team, and a talented staff, SFC is sure to enjoy continued success in cultivating healthy community.”

About Joy Casnovsky

Having joined SFC in September 2007 as The Happy Kitchen (THK) Program Coordinator, Joy has been with the agency for almost 10 years. In 2008, Joy became Program Director of THK. Coinciding with the move into SFC’s new building in 2013, Joy obtained a Culinarian Certificate from Austin Community College in order to better prepare her and her team for developing new public classes in the teaching kitchen. Under her leadership, THK has more than tripled the number of people served through a variety of innovative cooking and nutrition classes and grown the program to five staff members. Over the past one and half years, Joy has lead SFC’s policy and advocacy efforts and learned a great deal about the potential for sustainable agriculture in Texas and the nation. At the end of June, she will complete her Master’s degree in Public Leadership from the UT LBJ School of Public Affairs. She is excited to take on this new role and build on the success of her predecessor.