Master of Ceremonies and Honorary Chair
Founder and Former CEO, Atlanta Community Food Bank
Bill Bolling served as Founder and Executive Director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank from 1979 to 2015. In this capacity, he oversaw the distribution of millions of pounds of food and grocery products each year through a network of more than 600 local congregations and nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry across 29 North Georgia counties. Bill was also instrumental in starting the Georgia Food Bank Association, through which he helped launch 8 food banks across the state, serving more than 2,600 congregations and community-based organization in every Georgia County.
As a charter member of Feeding America, the national network of food banks, Bill was engaged in the start-up of food banks across the country. He is a frequent speaker on topics related to hunger, poverty, regionalism, affordable housing, and public policy reform. Prior to his association with ACFB, he served as Director of Community Ministries for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta.
After leaving the Food Bank, Bill created and now serves as Chairman and Senior Advisor of Food Well Alliance, a nonprofit that builds healthier communities through local food, serving more than 80 urban farms and 350 community gardens in Metro Atlanta.
In 2012, Georgia Trend Magazine named Bill Georgian of the Year, and in January 2015, he joined Georgia Trend’s Most Influential Hall of Fame.
Bill sits on the Boards of Arthur Blank Family Foundation, the Arby’s Foundation, the Board of Counselors for the Andy Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, and a number of advisory boards including Convergence, Hands On Atlanta, and the Regional Commission on Homelessness.
Dr. Laura Lawson
Dean of Agriculture and Urban Programs at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Dr. Lawson’s research includes historical and contemporary urban agriculture and community open space. Her scholarship includes City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in America (2005), Greening Cities, Growing Communities: Urban Community Gardens in Seattle (co-author with Hou and Johnson; 2009), Design as Democracy: Techniques for Collective Creativity (co-authored with de la Pena, Allen, Hester, Hou, and McNally, 2017), and numerous articles and chapters in edited books.
Dr. Lawson teaches community-based design studios and seminars focused on social issues in design and planning, participatory design, and the public landscape. In her role as Dean of Agriculture and Urban Programs, Dr. Lawson supports academic and outreach efforts that connect urban and suburban communities with agriculture, parks, and open space in order to enhance the economy, landscape, and culture of New Jersey.
Commissioner, GA Dept of Agriculture
For over 35 years Gary W. Black has championed sound state and federal policies impacting food safety, science-based environmental stewardship and agricultural marketing. Now serving his second term, Commissioner Black remains committed to fostering growth in Georgia’s number one industry.
Black’s love of agriculture was first sparked on his family’s farm in Commerce. He became an active member of the Commerce FFA and was elected State President of the Georgia FFA Association in 1975. Black then attended the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences where he earned a degree in Agricultural Education and interned with Sen. Herman Talmadge and the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture.
Upon completing his degree at UGA, Black went to work for the Georgia Farm Bureau as the Young Farmers coordinator. After seven years with Farm Bureau, he was named President of the Georgia Agribusiness Council where he served for 21 years as a tireless advocate for farmers and agribusinesses across the state.
Commissioner Black was first elected in November 2010 and immediately set out to retool the Department of Agriculture so that it could continue to serve farmers and producers in a 21st-century economy. Georgia Grown-the Department’s marketing and economic development arm-was revitalized as a business-minded program that seeks to help Georgia producers find new markets and consumers. With over 800 license holders in the areas of production, processing, retail, and agritourism, the Georgia Grown brand’s economic impact can be seen in every corner of the state and beyond. As part of the Department’s new goal to bolster local economies and local food systems, the Department of Agriculture and Georgia Grown launched the Feed My School program which aims to connect local school systems with producers in their area. In recognition of these successes, Commissioner Black was named Georgia Trend Magazine’s Georgian of the Year in 2017.
Despite all this, Gary W. Black would rather be referred to as Lydia’s husband and Ward and Caroline’s dad. He and Lydia continue to raise commercial beef cattle on his family farm in Commerce. The Blacks are also active in the Sunday school and music ministries of Maysville Baptist Church.