View biographies of speakers leading the 2016 sessions.
Derek Sandison


Derek Sandison, WSDA Director

Derek I. Sandison was appointed director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture by Gov. Jay Inslee in June 2015.

Sandison, a lifelong Washington resident, has worked in both the public and private sectors for more than 40 years. Before his current appointment, Sandison served as director of the Office of Columbia River within the state Department of Ecology. There, he was responsible for projects to develop water supplies vital for the state’s agricultural community. Previously, he led Ecology’s Central Region, an area composed of seven counties stretching from Canada to Washington’s southern border.

Other career experience includes 14 years as senior vice president of a Northwest consulting firm and 12 years in local government.

As state agriculture director, Sandison supports and promotes Washington’s rich and diverse agricultural industry both nationally and internationally.

Sandison has a master’s of science in natural resource management and a bachelor’s degree in biological science, both from Central Washington University. He has received many awards throughout his career, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s John W. Keys III Award for building partnerships and strengthening relationships and the Washington Governor’s Leadership in Management Award.

Morning Keynote Speaker

Steve Butcher, CEO of Brown Paper Tickets


Steve Butcher is the creator of the Not-Just-For-Profit business philosophy. In his own words, "Brown Paper Tickets is one of the only companies that acts the way I wish we all had the guts to act. Not 'More is better,' but 'Enough is best.'" His ideology offers a disruptive model that drills to the core of what's broken in American business and how to fix it. As the CEO of the internationally successful company Brown Paper Tickets, his simple yet seemingly progressive ideas push for the genuine respect of communities, employees, customers and vendors, and have been covered by Fortune, Forbes and the New York Times, among others.

Working with business owners, non-profits and start-ups in nearly every sector, his ideas are both traditional and radical, playing havoc with competitors who simply cannot think beyond the obvious misconceptions that plague the business culture. As he says, "Helping just one person either find their passion or set it on fire is enough to warm your soul for a lifetime. Making it your life's work is downright nirvana."

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Lunch Keynote Speaker

Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Virginia Tech
David Kohl received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University. For 25 years, Kohl was Professor of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia.

He has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA, and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,500 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension, and other popular publications. Kohl regularly writes for Corn and Soybean Digest, and other ag lending publications.

His workshop, “Straight Talk, Straight Actions” says it all in the title of this high energy, no-holds-barred approach session. Straight talk on the global economic trends that will impact your business’ bottom line and decision making will be presented in a manner that links global economics to your business, family, and personal life.

Straight actions in business and financial decisions will be discussed as to what actions need to be taken to keep the business on course and also position it for new avenues of success. “Straight Talk, Straight Actions” will provide insight and answers to the most common questions asked by producers, owners, and managers. This energetic session will provide information and perspectives which will be invaluable not only to your business but also your personal life.