Network Board & Staff
Board of Directors:
Larry Daugherty, a 18 year veteran of the PA Army National Guard with deployed time to Iraq,
raises heritage beef and pork on his 40 acre farm in McClellandtown in Fayette County.
Upon completing his service in 2009, Larry and his wife Anita founded Heritage Farms;
in 2018 they added Daugherty Food Truck LLC. to the family business profile to bring their
custom pulled pork and specialty beef and pork to community events. In 2020 they will launch
an on-farm store. Larry is eager to share his knowledge of growing your farm food business
economically with his fellow veterans.
Certified Executive Chef Jason Puryear served in the U.S. Air Force from 1985 to 1991, and continues to serve his community in his work with local farmers as proprietor of ZEST Kitchen and Pantry in Meadville, A Gulf War era veteran, Puryear served in a variety of capacities with the Air Force, including Service Specialist, Logistic Specialist, and Search and Rescue and C-130 Load Planner. He was stationed at bases in South Dakota, the United Kingdom, and Texas during his career with the military, rising to the rank of Sergeant.
Currently, Chef Jason owns and operates Zest Kitchen and Pantry, a farm to table restaurant
featuring meat, produce, and poultry from local Crawford County farms. In his quest to expand his
community’s access to innovative cuisine, he plans to establish a small batch farm in Guy Mills, PA to grow varieties of produce not now available. Puryear also has an interest in hydroponics and extending the reach of farm use outside of Crawford County.
Michael Reifsnyder was born and raised in Lancaster Pa. He attended Garden Spot High
School and graduated in 1989. August 1989 he enlisted into the US Navy and attended
Boot Camp in NTC Great Lakes. Michael served for 22 years and retired in 2011 as a Chief
Petty Officer. During his 22 years he was assigned numerous positions within the Aviation
Ordnance rating. Some of his assignments included VA-36 as his first assignment in the
Navy and as a Rating assignment detailer and his final assignment as a USN explosive
Currently he resides in Carlisle Pa with his wife Sharon and 2 daughters Emily and Gabi.
Michael currently operates a mechanical contracting company and a mobile food facility, but
his main focus and passion is for the family farm growing hops. Their farm is called GEMS Farm.
Robert Mowery is a US Navy/Navy Reserves Veteran and Founder of Forever Heart Farm, LLC. & Forever Heart Apiary, LLC. in Moon Township, PA. Robert served in the Intelligence Community and as part of the initial cyber unit in NCIS 0166. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Robert worked on several surrounding farms and a small family homestead. Robert attended Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) where he majored in Computer Science and later launching a software technology and consulting company. The combination of skills in technology and along with the desire to farm again has led to Forever Heart Farm adopting automation, technology, and modern agricultural practices to develop a sustainable operation on 25+ acres. Robert has served on the board of the PA Veteran Farming Project from 2019-present. Forever Heart Apiary will be hosting a Bee Keeper training program for Veterans who wish to learn this skill from March-October.
Rhonda Smith is an Air Force Veteran, a human services professional serving children and families,and the passionate force behind The Skirted Soldier, based near Altoona, PA. Following 10 years as an Air Force surgery tech and in nursing billets at Landstuhl, Rhonda and her husband Dan Kennedy, also an Air Force Veteran, returned to the States and makes her home on a 3-acre farmette in Blue Knob, PA with her husband Dan, a fellow Air Force veteran, and their daughter. Under Rhonda’s leadership, The Skirted Soldier tea is now sold in in 30 states. 10% of the company’s profit is donated to charities serving female veterans. In 2019 and 2020, the PA Veteran Farming Project administered grants with donations from The Skirted Soldier.
Sharon Reifsnyder is a REALTOR® and the spouse of a 22 year Navy veteran. Natives of Lancaster, the Reifsnyders own and operate GEMS Farm, Carlisle, where their varied adventures in agriculture have evolved to focus on the 5 varieties of hops they grow in support of the ever growing craft beer industry. Sharon's expertise in business and marketing will be of benefit to the veterans and military ag community the Project serves.
Giana VanNice of Blue Dog Farms in New Freedom, PA, joined the Board in 2022. In addition to co-owning and operating Blue Dog Farms with husband Dan and their children, Giana, a Navy veteran, is Director of Human Resources, Farm Operations at Bowery Farming. During her eight years on active duty, VanNice served as Administration, Legal, Training, ANAV Officer. She has been a frequent presenter for Network educational events.
Michael Brooker is a 27 year Marine, having served as a rotary wing pilot, and former National Service Officer with Disabled American Veterans. He is the volunteer Coordinator of Bee Bootcamp for the PA Veteran Farming Project and a DAV Chapter Service Officer with DAV Chapter 8 Greater Pittsburgh, and serves on the Pennsylvania Veterans Commission. Born at Plattsburgh AFB, Michael is the oldest of 5 sons of an Air Force family and holds degrees from the University of Notre Dame and Troy University. In 2021 Brooker was appointed to the Pennsylvania State Veterans Commission. A current resident of Greensburg, PA, he calls North Carolina "home".
Travis Shearer is a life long resident of Pennsylvania. He and his wife Wendy, also a Navy veteran, own and operate the 55 acre Jacobs’s Valley Farm in York County, PA, home to a rapidly expanding registered Katahdin Sheep operation. Travis has worked 16 years in law enforcement and is also an Investment Advisor Representative with PFS Investments Inc. Travis used a VA Loan to purchase his farm and has benefited from both FSA loans and USDA grants. He also brings experience working with DEP and local building ordinances.
Mimi Thomas-Brooker, a Marine Corps spouse is founder and Executive Director of the PA Veteran Farming Network.A graduate of East Carolina University with bachelors and masters degrees in music education, she has extensive experience as an educator, and was the Conservation Education coordinator for the Westmoreland Conservation District. Thomas-Brooker came to agriculture as a horsewoman, is an experienced grant writer and reviewer, and a non-profit management professional. In 2019 she was awarded the Pennsylvania Commendation Medal for her work with the PA Veteran Farming Network.