The Core Team

Michael Straus - President

Michael began his PR career in what he knows best: organic foods and farming. Spearheading Straus Family Creamery’s rise to becoming one of the most well-respected and successful organic dairies in the nation, Michael created a brand that continues to command unparalleled loyalty, good will, and steadily increasing sales, while maintaining its pioneering roots in organics and sustainable farming.

Michael launched Straus Communications in 1999. With entree to every major editor in the food and environmental consumer and trade press, Michael brings a level of credibility that only comes from a longtime, hard-earned reputation. In addition to his deep media and industry contacts, Michael has close personal and professional ties to a vast network of community-based organizations, non-profits, foundations and other groups that work together to advance the cause of sustainability in food and agriculture.

Michael also consults internationally on agricultural and food marketing, having worked most recently with the Republic of Armenia, Russia, and Ukraine. He is fluent in Russian. He has served as a Board member for the Marin Conservation League Public Advisory Committee and the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program.

His professional affiliations include the San Francisco Professional Food Society and the Capital Campaign Committee of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

Haven Bourque – Vice President

Haven has more than 16 years of experience directing marketing and communications programs, creating effective communications strategies that deliver the highest possible impact for her clients.

Haven previously served as Director of Marketing and Communications at TransFair USA, the certification and marketing agency for Fair Trade food products in the United States. Working with leading companies including Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, and Dunkin’ Donuts, she drove consumer awareness of the Fair Trade Certified label to an all-time high, with a 150% jump in media coverage and product sales growth of 91%. Her work garnered feature coverage in prominent news outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Boston Globe, Metropolitan Home, Organic Style, Mother Jones, Specialty Food Magazine, NPR, Fox TV and NBC Morning News.

Haven helped revitalize the San Francisco Symphony by reaching new audiences for contemporary classical music. At 3Com Corporation, she worked with cutting-edge technologies entering global markets, and in her early professional life brought several start-up companies from initial launch to category leadership. Brought up on her parents’ organic farm in South Carolina, she has worked and lived in Japan, Israel and Guatemala, and has a long history of involvement with sustainable food and socially responsible purchasing. She holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Kansai Gaikokugo Daigaku of Osaka, Japan.

Haven is a member of the San Francisco Professional Food Society, SLOW Food, the marketing committee of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Arthur Young - Crisis Communications, Management, and Training
Arthur co-founded the crisis communications planning and training program at Hill & Knowlton, one of the top five PR agencies worldwide. He has vast experience designing and implementing crisis communications programs for Pacific Telephone and Panasonic. A few of the many organizations Arthur has consulted with include: Consolidated Freightways, Autodesk, Intel, and Apple Computer.

Before running his own agency, Arthur was operations manager and assignments editor at ABC, CBS, and NBC Network News, New York bureau chief of UPI, and assignments editor/reporter for WCBS-TV News. He created the award-winning line “It’s ten o'clock. Do you know where your children are?”

Stephenie Hendricks - Broadcast Media Specialist
Stephenie has worked as a producer at KGO, KPIX, KQED, KRON/Bay TV, PM/Evening Magazine, and Group W/Westinghouse broadcasting. As an experienced media coach, she has consulted for publishers and PR firms in devising national media campaigns for live talk and video magazine format programs on television and radio, and placed clients on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and 60 Minutes.

Lila Purinton - Senior Account Manager
Lila is the former Associate Publisher/Advertising Director for Mother Jones and Medical SelfCare magazines and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Point Reyes Light newspaper. Lila has been an independent public relations and strategic marketing consultant for more than ten years. Her client portfolio includes natural product manufacturers: SunRidge Farms, Cloud Nine Chocolates, Eco-Dent, Eco Bella, and Rainbow Light.

David Visher - Agriculture Marketing Specialist
David has extensive experience teaching, writing, and speaking about alternative farming and marketing throughout the United States and, in particular, California. He has organized more than thirty farmer education events and conferences including the Tasting of Summer Produce in Oakland, providing direct opportunities for farmers to access chefs and specialty food distributors.

Natasha Klobas - Account Coordinator
Natasha graduated with a B.A. in journalism from California State University, Chico, where she was managing editor of The Orion, a newspaper that was ranked No. 1 college weekly in the country by the Associated Collegiate Press. She was inducted into the ACP Leaders of the Student Press in 2002. Natasha has coordinated and managed corporate and private events, both large and small, for a Bay Area catering company. On Saturdays, she sells organic cut flowers and apples at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market.

Kelly Coleman - Account Coordinator
Kelly is an environmental sciences and agricultural specialist. She has worked on organic farms, in the distribution of specialty foods products marketed directly to consumers. She has been a consultant to the Environmental Action Council, Tomales Bay Watershed Council, and Northern Power Systems. She is currently a graduate student at Yale University’s Environmental Management Program.

Frankie Whitman - Specialty Food Marketing
Frankie has worked with food, restaurants, restaurateurs, and small farmers for thirty years: food conspiracies and Moosewood Restaurant in the 1970s, Pike Place Market in the 1980s, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs and the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in the 1990s, and now, the Internet. Frankie contributes a passion for the culinary arts and strong food industry connections.

Sarah Bailey - Publicist
With fifteen years of book publicity experience and ten years as the publicity manager for Chronicle Books, Sarah has well-established relationships with editors at national magazines and newspapers as well as with producers at national broadcast outlets. Sarah has successfully created a buzz for countless books, including cookbooks, New York Times best-seller The Beatles Anthology, and The Journey is the Destination, the art journals of Dan Eldon.

Laurel Miller - Food Writer and Culinary Consultant
A chef and food writer, Laurel runs The Sustainable Kitchen, a Bay Area school teaching kids about cooking with local and organic ingredients. In the Fall of 2001, Straus Communications developed the Farm Fresh column that appears every two weeks in the Oakland Tribune and affiliated newspapers. Laurel has attracted a loyal following, and she eloquently promotes organic foods and sustainable agriculture to a mainstream audience with a readership of more than 700,000.

Deborah Fleischer - Stakeholder Dialogue and Outreach Specialist
Deborah has over 15 years of experience working with non-profits and businesses on the development of collaborative solutions to environmental and sustainability challenges. She is experienced at the design and implementation of stakeholder dialogues and has implemented dialogues for the California Environmental Dialogue (CED), National Audubon and the Aspen Institute. Deborah has completed trainings on dialogue and facilitation at Peter Senge?s Center for Organizational Learning, Harvard Law School, Grove Consultants and The Institute for Social Change.

Alie Edwards - Account Manager, Organic Farmer
Alie combines hands-on understanding of organic and sustainable agricultural, with the talents and experiences of business and project management - from managing her well-known organic farm, Dirty Girl Produce and owning her own catering company. Alie holds both a BA and Masters in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley.

Jonathan Bendiner - Web Designer
Coming from a background as a health educator and facilitator, and with a long held passion for organics and environmental awareness, Jonathan has designed and maintained a very down-to-earth and easily understandable website. Jonathan also runs the Center for Life Enhancement. While having recently married and moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Virginia, he refuses to admit that driving towards the ocean can mean anything other than heading west.

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Last modified: March 26, 2002