Naturally Boulder among presenters at Nov. 21 forum

SANTA ROSA -- The president of the highly successful natural-products collaborative Naturally Boulder has been added as a panelist at the Business Journal--Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Food & Ag Industry Conference on Nov. 21.

[caption id="attachment_82881" align="alignright" width="200"] Ellen Feeney[/caption]

Ellen Feeney will join the roster of presenters at the 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. conference that includes Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market, and state Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross.

Other speakers at the Nov. 21 morning event are Neal Gottlieb, “founding twin” of Petaluma-based Three Twins Ice Cream, Blair Kellison, chief executive of Sebastopol-based herbal tea maker Traditional Medicinals, Marcus Benedetti, president and CEO of Clover Stornetta Farms, Mike Leventini, president of Petaluma Poultry, producer of the Rocky the Range and Rosie Organic chicken, and Carolyn Stark, executive director of Sonoma County BEST.

“We are thrilled to partner with Bank of America/Merrill Lynch on presenting this conference with such high-level speakers,” said Business Journal Publisher Brad Bollinger. “Our vision is to bring everyone from the small organic farmer to the largest food companies into the same room to explore how they can work together to strengthen this foundational economic sector.”

Mr. Robb joined Whole Foods in 1991, operating the Mill Valley store until he became president of the chain’s Northern Pacific region two years later. During the next seven years in that role, he expanded the chain in the region from two stores to 17. He then became executive vice president of operations in 2000, chief operating officer in 2001 and co-president in 2004.

He now oversees six regions of a company that has grown through 20 acquisitions to have more than 340 stores in the U.S., Canada and U.K. With sales last year of $11.7 billion, Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFM) is the nation’s eighth-largest food and drug store chain. Part of company operations is reaching out to local food suppliers and providing loans to startup producers.

Mr. Robb sits on the Whole Planet Foundation board of directors, Organic Center for Education and Promotion advisory board and University of the Pacific board of regents.

Ms. Ross was appointed agriculture secretary in January 2011, after two years as chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak and 13 years as president of Sacramento-based California Association of Winegrape Growers.

Naturally Boulder is a nonprofit with a mission of nurturing and enhancing the natural products industry in Boulder, Colo.

The Food & Agriculture Conference is set for Nov. 21 from 7:30–11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa in Santa Rosa. Register online at by Nov. 15. Call 707-521-5270 for sponsorship details.

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