January 12, 2017
As I sit down to write this article, I am starting my second week as Executive Director at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI). My head is still spinning as I try to understand all the programs and projects we manage here at the Institute. One thing that is obvious to me after sitting at this desk for a little more than a week, is how fortunate the Institute is to have a core of talented and committed staff who truly believe in our mission and the movement for sustainable agriculture.
For those of you who already know me, please feel free to contact me at any time to catch up or discuss the great events that are taking place at MFAI. For those of you who do not know me, please allow me a little space here to introduce myself. I grew up on a mid-size grain and livestock farm in East Central Illinois near the Indiana-Illinois boarder. (Yes, to you born and raised Wisconsinites I am one of those dreaded flat-landers who moved north). Being more interested in the livestock side of farming, I went to college seeking a degree in Animal Science. Midway through my under-graduate work, I discovered a love of teaching and changed majors to graduate with a degree in Ag Education. My first full-time job was teaching High School Agriculture in Southeast Iowa. Like most young people, I grew restless and after seven years, I went back to school for an advanced degree in International Economics. From that point, I was able to take advantage of several opportunities working in both the public and private sectors promoting US based food and agricultural products in international markets all over the world. About 17 years ago, I started work in the Division of Agricultural Development for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. It was while working in this area that I discovered the growing organic and managed rotational grazing sectors in Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture community. I was given the opportunity to start and guide the Agency’s efforts in this area for several years. While my most recent career paths took me away from day-to-day contact with the organic agriculture movement, I have continued to follow the growth of the industry as you undertook the task of providing a healthy, sustainable, and affordable food supply.
Now to the present. I feel extremely fortunate and appreciative of the opportunity that was given to me by the MFAI Board of Directors to play a leadership role once again in the sustainable/organic community. I promise to continue MFAI’s tradition of leading by example and being an innovator in profitable, environmentally sound, socially responsible, and sustainable agriculture.
As I travel about to meetings, conferences, and field days during the next few months, please do not hesitate to walk up and introduce yourself and engage me in a conversation on how we can grow all areas of the organic movement. I thoroughly enjoy discussing ideas on how to encourage new production practices or look at innovative ways of thinking by both organic and conventional farmers.