About

Our Mission

The Recirculating Farms Coalition is a collaborative group of individuals and organizations – farmers, educators, chefs and many others – committed to building healthy communities through training, outreach and advocacy on innovative farming and food justice. We develop ecologically and socially responsible programs that grow local, affordable food, and create stable jobs in green businesses, in diverse communities, to foster physical, mental and financial wellness nationwide.

Our Challenge

Our primary food production systems in the United States are overly industrialized — for example, concentrated animal feed lots, factory fishing boats, and massive fruit and vegetable farms. Reliance on imported foods, with minimal safety inspections and a huge carbon footprint to transport products around the globe, hurts us and our environment, providing fewer jobs, increasing pollution and delivering consumers lower quality food. The U.S. government, in response to the public’s growing complaints about our troubled food system, continues to explore various ways to boost domestic food production. Unfortunately, it mostly does so in a manner that encourages further industrialization and poor food quality. Our challenge is to promote an alternative to this model, one that establishes healthy, natural, and community-based food production.

Our Vision

We envision a movement toward community-based food production. This can provide safer, fresher, better quality, accessible food and local green job opportunities. A different way of growing, “recirculating farming,” is emerging nationwide and can meet these goals.

Recirculating farms use constantly cleaned, recycled water as the basis to grow food. They can grow plants (recirculating hydroponics), fish (recirculating aquaculture), or plants and fish together in one system (aquaponics). Recirculating farms come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles, but they all have one main theme – recycled water. These farms are almost entirely closed loop, and can operate without chemicals or antibiotics, efficiently use water and energy, and be located virtually anywhere — importantly, near the people they serve. This cuts down on use of fuel for shipping and refrigeration and lowers costs of the farm; savings that can be passed on to the consumer, making good food more affordable. These farms can provide a wide range of products, including finfish, shellfish, herbs, fruits, vegetables, other plants and flowers.

Our vision is for communities across the country to have recirculating farms as a source of local, healthy fresh food and stable jobs in green businesses.

Our History

The Recirculating Farms Coalition grew out of a program initiated at Food & Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy organization. In 2009, staff with the Fish and Oceans Program at Food & Water Watch coordinated a meeting of leading recirculating aquaculturists, hydroponic and aquaponic farmers, other scientists and government agencies involved in agriculture and fisheries fields. The outcome of this meeting was a unanimous call for a coordinating collaborative entity that could help raise the profile of recirculating farms in the United States and push for policy, legislative and educational initiatives. Thus, the Coalition was born. In its infancy we were a group of professionals, entrepreneurs and others interested in exploring a better, more local way to provide sustainably-produced, accessible food. Since that time, the Recirculating Farms Coalition has grown in membership and programs, developing strategic plans to promote policy, legislative, and educational activities throughout the U.S. We are headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana where we have a dedicated local team and several urban farms in cooperation with veterans, musicians, senior housing and community health and wellness organizations, managed under “Growing Local NOLA”. We run a mobile fresh food delivery and holistic health program “Growing Local On the Geaux”, that brings various health-supportive services into New Orleans neighborhoods with low-access to such resources.

Our Team

Marianne Cufone
Executive Director
Ms. Marianne Cufone is founder and Executive Director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition. She is an environmental attorney, and long time healthy, affordable food advocate. She is also a professional chef, trained by the Natural Gourmet Institute, a leading facility on health supportive culinary arts and theory. Marianne comes from a long line of farmers and fishermen and is both herself. Applying her personal and family interests to her work – she has been involved with natural resources management, focused on oceans, fisheries, seafood and agriculture for the past 15 years. Marianne directed the fish and oceans program at Food and Water Watch (2007-2011), managed the Gulf, South Atlantic and Caribbean fisheries program for the Center for Marine Conservation (1999-2003), runs Environment Matters, a consulting firm that provides legal, policy and communications support to non-profit organizations (2003-present) on environmental issues and founded Green Justice Legal, a non-profit public interest firm focused on protecting the natural and human environment. She also maintains positions on advisory committees for local, state and the federal government and various other non-profits and businesses. Marianne currently heads an environmental policy clinical class at University of Loyola New Orleans School of Law, and has taught law and various college courses and given many guest lectures at assorted academic institutions. She appears in print, television, radio, and other media, is published in various magazines and professional works and testified before U.S. Congress. Marianne is a member of: the Florida Bar; the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida; the Louisiana Bar; the United States District Court, Eastern and Middle Districts of Louisiana; the U.S. Supreme Court; the American Bar Association, Section of Environment, Energy and Resources; and the American Fisheries Society.

Email: mcufone@recirculatingfarms.org
Phone: (844) 732-3276, ext. 1

Sascha Bollag
Operations Manager

As Operations Manager for Recirculating Farms, Sascha handles financial information and other organization documentation, and engages on legislation, policy, and other legal work. He also enjoys assisting with farm maintenance and building projects. Previously, Sascha was “Of Counsel”. He received his J.D. from New York University and is a member of the Louisiana and Washington DC Bar Associations. He worked extensively on human rights, labor and housing issues, with a range of groups and organizations, including the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Center for Constitutional Rights and the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. Sascha also is an affiliate attorney for Green Justice. Prior to attending law school, Sascha was an Organizer, and then a Legislative and Policy Coordinator for the Fish and Oceans Program at Food & Water Watch in Washington, DC. He has a B.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Email: sbollag@recirculatingfarms.org
Phone: (844) 732-3276, ext. 1

Dimitri Celis
Programs Manager
Dimitri Celis was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He moved to New Orleans in 2011, and graduated from Loyola University earning a B.A in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in the Social Sciences. He focused his studies on the urban environment, industrial agriculture, and the human interactions between them. Following the Jesuit teachings of living a life of service for others, he enrolled with Serve Louisiana, the state’s longest running AmeriCorps program. In addition to his AmeriCorps term, Dimitri has a decade of experience in the city’s restaurant industry as a line cook, server, and manager. His time in restaurants made apparent to him the fragility of our current food system and the disconnects between the consumer, worker, and the environment. He thinks urban agriculture, in all its different forms, is a great way to reconnect people with the environment, healthy food, and their community. Off the farm, you can catch Dimitri biking around the city, cooking in his kitchen, or watching sports with friends. Although he was raised a 49ers fan, he has since adopted the Saints as his home team. Dimitri is a Programs Manager for Recirculating Farms.

Email: dcelis@recirculatingfarms.org

Kim Curtis
Associate Director
Kim Curtis is a yogi, educator and community garden organizer. As a recent transplant from New York, Kim is grateful to connect with the New Orleans community through teaching self-care techniques, meditation, yoga and herbalism classes. In recent years, her holistic passions gave vision for By Our Hands which provides organic herbs, remedies and holistic workshops to the community. The mission of Recirculating Farms to build healthy communities through training and outreach on innovative farming and food justice perfectly aligns with her heartwork and has provided an opportunity to connect resources and share her knowledge with the community. Kim is Associate Director at Recirculating Farms.

Email: kcurtis@recirculatingfarms.org

Billie Golan
Farm Educator
Billie began as an agriculturalist as a young girl digging through her grandmother’s compost heap, looking for worms. She started her career as an agricultural educator, working on small farms in NYs Hudson Valley, leading farm summer camps, and also peer student groups at her college campus garden, and farmers markets. Botany, the interaction between bugs and plants, and eating fresh picked foods from healthy soil is what drives Billie to experience and share farm education anywhere and everywhere. In New Orleans, she connects with local community members daily, and enjoys teaching about bugs, farming and food! Off the farm, she loves to bike, visit other gardens, and cook. Billie is a Farm Educator and compost guru for Recirculating Farms.

Email: bgolan@recirculatingfarms.org

Sophie Miller
Community Outreach Coordinator
Sophie Miller graduated in May of 2020 from Tulane University with degrees in Neuroscience and Public Health, and has significant experience with plants from tending to the Broadmoor Community Garden, and working with Secret Garden Landscapes in New Orleans. When not coordinating Recirculating Farms’ next volunteer day, Sophie is tabling at farmers markets talking about food access, editing educational gardening videos, or crafting our biweekly newsletter. Shoot Sophie an email if you have questions about how to find local, affordable food in your area OR if you want to stop by the farm and help out. Smiller@recirculatingfarms.org. Outside of work, you can spot Sophie biking through City Park or relaxing on the bayou. Sophie is in her 2nd year of Serve Louisiana, and is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Recirculating Farms.

Email: smiller@recirculatingfarms.org

Julia Ramsey
Design & Web Manager
Julia Ramsey is a nonprofit communications professional and freelance web developer living and working in her beautiful hometown of New Orleans. Throughout her career she’s helped organizations spanning the gamut from education to ecology clarify their message, connect with their audience, and build fundraising solutions that work. When not maintaining the RFC’s website, branding, and digital outreach efforts, she can usually be found in the company of a small feral Muppet named Millie. More information and portfolio available at juliaramsey.me.

Email: julia.k.ramsey@gmail.com

Michael Richard II
Farms Manager
Michael has a passion for social justice and urban farming. Those passions came from growing up in a family that was constantly giving back to the community and always in the garden. Along with a strong love for New Orleans, Michael’s family also instilled a love for the arts. He is a huge sports fan; though he was born into a Saints household, he grew up an avid Miami Dolphins fan. When Michael is not working in Urban Agriculture, Social Justice, or cheering for the Dolphins, he is out modeling, acting, or promoting for one of many events or artist he works for.

Email: mrichard@recirculatingfarms.org

Our Board

Anthony 'Tony' Griffith
Anthony “Tony” Griffith is a native and resident New Orleanian. He was raised in the Seabrook neighborhood, near the Lakefront area. Tony spent much of his childhood with his mother and grandmother, in the kitchen. His oldest memories are of cooking red beans and rice and file gumbo. Tony remembers sneaking out and going down to the French Quarter with his friends to “tourist watch” and walk Bourbon Street. He was an altar boy and tour guide at the famous St. Louis Cathedral, and now is a parishioner there. Tony enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 18. He was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas and then served in Operation Desert Storm. While in the infantry, Tony traveled to Kuwait, France, Greece, and spent more than two years in Germany. Being in Europe expanded his palate and interest in what is now considered “farm to table” – growing, preparing and eating local food. He likes to have a connection with where his food came from and especially enjoys fresh butter, eggs and cream – and German beer! Following his Army service, Tony returned to New Orleans for college, and he quickly became more interested and involved in the expanding food movement and culture. Tony worked for a local spice company, Cajun Kettle, where he helped prepare proprietary spice and sauce mixes for many of the city’s most popular dishes and restaurants, including the famed Crawfish Monica, which is today still one of his favorites. Tony currently works for the U.S. Postal Service, enjoys eating out – from fish shacks to fine dining – every chance he gets and loves trying new foods. True to the New Orleans tradition, his favorite meal is brunch. Tony is the President of the RFC Board.
Christina H. Lizzi
Christina Lizzi, Esq. is a deputy prosecuting attorney for Maui County, State of Hawaiʻi. Christina earned her juris doctor from the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa with certificates in environmental law and Native Hawaiian rights. She is a member of the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association. Christina has clerked for Associate Justice Sabrina S. McKenna and Associate Justice Richard W. Pollack of the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court. She is a member of the IUCN’s World Commission on Environmental Law. She has worked on environmental and social issues ranging from trade justice with coffee farmers to navigating tensions in community-based fisheries management. Prior to attending law school, Christina was an Organizer and Policy Analyst for the Fish and Ocean’s Program at Food & Water Watch in Washington, D.C. She was also an assistant with the Hawaiʻi Aquaponics Workforce Development Project located on Maui. She has a B.A. in international affairs from the George Washington University. Christina is a Board Member for the Coalition.
Martin P. Schreibman, PhD
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, Dr. Schreibman helped perfect a model for sustainable urban farming using cutting edge technology, recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), to grow fish. Professor Schreibman is the founder and Director Emeritus of Brooklyn College’s Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center (AREAC), a research facility devoted to the study of aquatic organisms — how they grow, adapt, reproduce, and live in all temperatures and environments. He and a multidisciplinary team of researchers seek to answer questions about medicine, nutrition, pollution, aquaculture, fisheries, and marine ecology. AREAC’s projects include bivalve and fish aquaculture, breeding horseshoe crabs, educational outreach, and product commercialization. Dr. Schreibman has devoted many years to developing urban aquaponics — growing both fish and plants together in a symbiotic water re-use system. Over the past 25 plus years, his recirculating farming techniques have been used for assorted projects — even in outer space. In 1998, on the space shuttle Endeavor, he worked with Dr. Volker Bluem of Germany to develop a small system to test whether growing fresh food in space could be an option for lengthy trips. Dr. Schreibman is a Founding Board Member (Emeritus) for Recirculating Farms.