Soil Health Leadership Lab

About the Soil Health Leadership Lab

Launched in 2019, the Soil Health Leadership Lab (SHLL) is a network of organizations that are providing key technical and support services for row crop and livestock farmers to adopt cover crops and other soil health practices.

Hosted by Sustainable Food Lab, the SHLL provides a confidential space for peer-to-peer sharing, capacity building and exploration of potential partnerships. Members are provided with opportunities to engage in workshops and monthly peer group calls. The SHLL includes over twenty five members from organizations spanning the U.S. Find out more about our learning atmosphere and contact us to join our efforts.

“In order to reach our goals we need the help of soil health leaders across the U.S. who are supporting networks of farmers to share best practices on what works and inspire confidence in adopting new management systems. Soil Health Leadership Lab participants are our future implementing partners.”

-Stefani Millie, Unilever & Midwest Row Crop Collaborative Member

Learning & Events

We are committed to learning and sharing best practices for program delivery, strategies for reaching middle adopters and support to ally stakeholders who are committed to soil health. The SHLL provides a variety of ways to engage including in-person events and peer phone calls.

  • Workshops: Throughout the year workshops with specialists are offered to group members. In the past workshops have focused around event messaging and planning, political advocacy, women in agriculture, farm stress and mental health, racial equity and farm level economics.
  • Monthly Phone Calls: Members join a small group of peers and Food Lab staff to discuss sticking points in their work, opportunities for pre-competitive collaboration and a variety of other topics.
  • Supply Chain Synergy: Through our connection with private sector sustainability professionals, members are connected with supply chain actors to brainstorm best practices.
  • Other Communication & Learning: Members are able to connect online to share resources, ask questions and view valuable resources at any time.

Join the Soil Health Leadership Lab

The SHLL is supported by the Walton Family Foundation.  With their generous support, members are able to participate with little to no cost (on occasion members are asked to pay for travel fees when meeting in-person).

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. The only commitment we ask of Fellows is to show up for events and calls when available.

Collaborate with the Soil Health Leadership Lab

Interested in connecting with like-minded individuals, learning from our vast network or building capacity at your organization? Contact Kaitlin Sampson Murphy to learn more: [email protected].

Contact Us

Soil Health Leadership Lab (SHLL)

Sarah Carlson

Practical Farmers of Iowa
Iowa

Soil Superpower: Coming soon

Sarah Carlson joined Practical Farmers of Iowa staff in the fall of 2007 as the Strategic Initiatives Director. She helps transfer agronomic research about cover crops and small grains through supply chain projects, articles, blogs and presentation materials while working to improve the support for cover crop and small grains research. She also serves as an agronomist on the staff transferring ideas for solutions to integrated crop and livestock concerns from farmers’ stories, results from on-farm research projects and her own knowledge as a trained agronomist.

Sarah co-majored in Biology and Geography at Augustana College in the Quad Cities graduating in 2001 with a BA degree. Following graduation Sarah joined the Peace Corps as an Ag-business and Ag Extension volunteer. She lived in the southern highlands of Ecuador in South America for 2 1/2 years. Sarah returned to the Midwest in 2004 and began her Masters Program co-majoring in Sustainable Agriculture and Crop Production/Physiology in Iowa State’s Agronomy Department. She graduated in the spring of 2008 with an MS degree.

Sarah and her husband Oscar have four children between them, Rebeca, Oscar, Sadie and Tenoch. They enjoy cooking, traveling and exploring the Iowa countryside.

Connect with Sarah via Email or follow her on Twitter.

Lisa Holscher

Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative
Indiana

Soil Superpower: The ability to connect people and/or projects to enable the leveraging of financial and human resources and strengthening of partnerships.

Since 2012, Lisa Holscher has been associated with Indiana’s Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI), currently serving as Director. Raised in a farming family, many of Lisa’s family members continue to farm – and are in various stages of adoption of soil health practices, including no-till, cover crops, manure management, and grazing.  A graduate of Purdue University, Lisa was licensed in the State of Washington as a Landscape Architect. As CCSI Director, Holscher oversees robust outreach, education, and training programs across Indiana as well as numerous partnerships with farmers, researchers, government agencies, NGOs, and ag retail. CCSI’s efforts have enabled Indiana partners to provide consistent science-based, farmer-proven information on soil health that is meaningful for intended audiences.  One example of their success: approximately 1 million acres of Indiana’s 12 million acres of cropland have green, living cover throughout traditional fallow seasons – of that acreage, only 20-25% are enrolled in cost-share programs:  75-85% of Indiana farmers are using cover crops without cost-share assistance, because it makes financial sense for their farming operations.

Connect with Lisa via Email.

Clay Bess

Precision Conservation Management
Illinois

Soil Superpower: Negotiating soil health practices that work for farmers’ pocket books and the land.

Clay Bess serves as the Lead Conservation Specialist for the Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program and consults individual farmers in East-Central Illinois, specifically the PepsiCo sourcing region. Based in his hometown of Paris, Illinois, Clay earned a bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison before returning home to be a key figure in the development of Illinois Corn’s PCM initiative. Clay’s biggest successes are his farmers substantially increasing their cover crop acres, awards such as Field-to-Market’s Advisor of the Year and the STAR program’s Partner of the Year, and dozens of PCM farmers being accepted into the NRCS’s Conservation Stewardship Program. He takes pride in building relationships with the producer and providing them with answers, even if it means reaching out through his network to find them. Clay looks forward to continued cover crop adoption, additional conservation implementation, and learning from his peers and growers.

In his spare him, Clay coaches high school softball in Paris and broadcasts other sporting events on the Paris Sports Network. His family has a small cow-calf operation southeast of Paris.

Connect with Clay via Email on PCM’s Twitter or his personal Twitter.

Anna Teeter

Soil Health Partnership
Minnesota

Soil Superpower: Seeing soil from the ground up.

Anna Teeter is a Field Manager for the Soil Health Partnership covering Minnesota, and has been with them since August 2019. The Soil Health Partnership is a research organization that focuses on farm scale soil health and conservation practices which include cover crops, reduced tillage and nutrient management trials. The growers she works with span the entire length of the state, as well as East to West, which give her a unique knowledge base for challenging growing conditions and diverse crop rotations.

Anna most recently received her Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the Department of Soil Science. Throughout her undergrad, Anna worked with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Forage Extension Specialist and gained experience working with a diverse group of farming operations. She has a passion for agricultural science as well as science communication.

Connect with Anna through Email or on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Jennifer Hahn

Redwood Soil & Water Conservation District
Minnesota

Soil Superpower: Reading the clues in the soil to determine its state of health and work with farmers to improve management practices.

Jennifer Hahn is the Middle Minnesota Watershed Planner providing producers and landowners with technical conservation planning focusing and the voluntary adoption of soil health in Minnesota. Jennifer grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota that now runs corn and soybeans. She has been assessing and providing conservation planning since 2005. Jennifer has provided soil and soil health technical support with the NRCS in Minnesota completing site evaluations, soil health testing, and providing technical services and outreach to staff and producers. She also spent time analyzing profitability of conservation practices to help producers increase their ROI.

Outside of work Jennifer enjoys teaching her two daughters about farming and land stewardship having them pick rocks, walk beans, ride along during harvest and planting, and teaching them about all the interactions of our natural resources and production agriculture.

Connect with Jennifer via Email or on Linkedln.

Kristin Poley

Michigan Corn
Michigan

Soil Superpower:  Microscopic vision to see all of the organisms alive in the soil.

Kristin Poley is the Research Manager for Michigan Corn. Kristin manages Michigan Corn’s contract grant and on-farm research trial program, assisting in data collection and outreach for projects related to sustainability and soil health. Kristin is the coordinator for the Great Lakes Crop Summit, a large, farmer-focused annual event, and she leads the Michigan Corn MICENT program: Michigan Corn Education, Networking, and Training program for young farmers.

Kristin and has an M.S. in Entomology from Michigan State University. Prior to this, Kristin worked in organic pest management in tree fruit and vegetables, and nematology and soil health in field crops and ornamentals. In her personal time, Kristin enjoys gardening and spending time with her pet geese.

Connect with Kristin via Email or on LinkedIn.

Ben Cauthen

North Carolina Soil Health Coalition
North Carolina

Soil Superpower: Coming soon.

Ben helped to establish the NC Soil Health Coalition in 2022 because he enjoys working with and learning from other farmers who value protecting the soil on their farms. Ben currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors. Outside of his role at NC Soil Health Coalition, Ben and his family operate a third-generation farm in Cabarrus County, NC that includes a small Black Angus cow-calf herd, a Cheviot sheep flock, several garden plots, and fruit and nut trees. Ben is a Professional Engineer and a graduate of NC State University with a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering. Ben has utilized cover crops and minimal tillage across the garden plots since 2011, composting of chicken litter and green waste from their farm, and has recently begun using warm season annuals for supplemental forage. In the near future, Ben intends to implement improved adaptive grazing utilizing warm and cool season annuals, better management of their hay field acreage to reduce external inputs, an improved soil testing program, and rotation of poultry across the garden plots.

Connect with Ben via Email.

Lisa Blazure

Stroud Water Research Center
Pennsylvania

Soil Superpower: Teaching farmers to feed their underground herd of soil microbes.

Lisa Blazure is an experienced conservation professional who advocates for improving soil health to achieve water quality goals and enhance the economic viability of agriculture. She works for Stroud Water Research Center and serves as the coordinator for the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition to foster collaboration among numerous stakeholders involved in soil health education and research.  Lisa networks with a broad range of colleagues to implement conservation practices and organize educational programs.  She holds a Masters in Environmental Science with a focus on Aquatic Ecology.

Connect with Lisa through Email.

Steve Swaffar

Noble Research Institute, LLC
Oklahoma

Soil Superpower: Coaching others to use a systems approach to agriculture.

Steve Swaffar is an agriculture consultant at the Noble Research Institute. He joins Noble after spending eight years with the soil health education organization, No-till on the Plains. Steve has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ecology from the University of Kansas. Steve grew up working on his grandparent’s farms in Noble, Grant and Garfield counties in Oklahoma. This is where Steve learned his love of the land and began his lifelong hobbies of fishing and hunting. Steve also enjoys birddogs, gardening, ping-pong, steel-tip darts and beekeeping.

Connect with Steve via Email.

Cindy Zenk

South Dakota Soil Health Coalition
South Dakota

Soil Superpower: Understanding what’s most important to individual producers in order to help them be sustainable on their operations.

Cindy Zenk is the Coordinator at the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, an organization directed by a nine member board of farmers and ranchers. She helps carry out their mission across the state by providing soil health resources, information, education, research and mentorship to farmers. This includes behind the scenes of managing grants, coordinating with partner organizations, planning an annual Soil Health School and an annual Soil Health Conference, directing a staff of soil health technicians and specialists, planning numerous producer consultations, field tours, meetings and school visits, coordinating on-farm research, and overseeing the distribution of research results and the benefits of soil health management practices through various articles, videos, radio ads, and TV commercials. Cindy was first introduced to agriculture and its impacts by her dad, and today she works with her husband to share their value with their children and grandchildren.

Connect with Cindy via Email.

Erin Gundy

Soil Health Institute
Kansas

Soil Superpower: Supporting on- and off-farm conservation for soil and water protection.

Erin Gundy is a Soil Health Educator at the Soil Health Institute working in corn and soybean systems across the Midwest in support of the Farmers for Soil Health Climate-Smart Commodities Partnership. Erin has developed passion for working with farmers, landowners, and technical advisors to improve the resiliency of soil by implementing soil and water conservation practices on and off the farm.

Prior to SHI, she served as Resource Conservationist, then STAR Operations Manager, for the Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District in Illinois where she provided technical assistance to farmers and educators, worked with partners to develop and execute programs through grant management and community engagement, and upheld the district’s mission: Clean Water, Healthy Soils. She received her B.S. in Agronomy with a minor in Natural Resource and Environmental Science and her M.S. in Agronomy from Kansas State University. Her research focused on developing a commodity crop productivity index for Kansas based on inherent soil properties.

Connect with Erin on TwitterLinkedIn or via Email.

Andrea Basche

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Nebraska

Soil Superpower: Not being afraid to ask questions others may be unwilling to.

Andrea Basche is an assistant professor in Cropping Systems at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture Department. Her research focuses on developing and supporting cropping systems that address profitability, resource use efficiency and climate risks. This includes improving soil health, increasing use of cover crops and perennial crops, as well as understanding the social and policy dimensions required for change. In her role, she also teaches undergraduate courses in crop management. Basche holds a B.S. in biology from Fordham University, an M.A. in applied climate science from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in agronomy and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. You can learn more about her teaching, research and outreach here.

Connect with Andrea on Twitter or via Email.

Stephanie Singer

The Nature Conservancy
Ohio

Soil Superpower: Using empathy to understand different perspectives and create effective partnerships.

Stephanie Singer is on the Agriculture team with The Nature Conservancy in Ohio and the Western Lake Erie Basin where the focus is on promoting practices to build soil health/manage water to increase farm profit, decrease nutrients leaving the fields, and increase carbon storage. Currently, she is developing the Farmer Advocate program to create and support farmer to farmer peer groups.  She has spent the past 20 years working with Soil and Water Conservation Districts on watershed planning, project implementation, and environmental education.  Her education includes a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Education, Communication and Interpretation from the Ohio State University, a Master of Education in Secondary Science from Bloomsburg University, and a Registered Yoga Teacher Certification.  She lives next to a restored wetland and native prairie with her three children and husband Scott, who farms with his parents and sister.

Connect with Stephanie via Email.

Lee Tesdell

Minnesota State University
Iowa

Soil Superpower: Being an example in my watershed to improve soil health with cover crops and no till, and to improve water quality with edge of field practices. Through field days, podcasts, webinars, and personal visits we try to influence farmers and landowners to treat their own land with respect as well.

Lee Tesdell lives in rural Iowa near the town of Slater. He owns the Tesdell Century Farm, 80 acres which his great-grandfather purchased in 1884. His farm is located in the Fourmile Creek Watershed, where he has put in to place a number of conservation practices including no-till, cover crops, terraces, prairie strips, a waterway, 50 foot buffers along Alleman Creek, a wood chip bioreactor and a saturated buffer. He rents 60 acres of row-crop acres to his neighbor.  Besides managing his farm, Lee is employed at Minnesota State University, Mankato as a professor of English, where he teaches courses in technical communication.

Connect with Lee via Email.

Abbey Wick

North Dakota State University
North Dakota

Soil Superpower: Connecting the dots between farmers, consultants, industry, funding, research or educational organizations, resulting in greater impact to soil health.

Dr. Abbey Wick, North Dakota State University Extension Soil Health Specialist and Associate Professor, has experience working with farmers on soil health building practices like incorporating cover crops into rotation and transitioning to no-till systems.    Since 2012, she has had her hands in over 50,000 acres of soil and influenced management on over 200,000 acres of farmland in the northern plains just with the personal relationships she’s developed with farmers.  There are many other farmers she influences through her bi-weekly magazine articles and television segment along with discussion-based Extension programming.  She focuses on goal-oriented approaches so that farmers can maximize the benefits while reducing the risk associated with incorporating new practices.  She has been featured in Successful Farming Magazine Q & A and Bonus Sections for her work with cover crops and ability to connect with farmers.  She was also Senator Hoeven’s selection to represent North Dakota for the Senate Ag Republicans “Women in Agriculture” campaign in 2018.

Connect with Abbey via Email or follow Abbey on Twitter.

Nick Ohde

Practical Farmers of Iowa
Iowa

Soil Superpower: Sharing and amplifying stories of farm and community resilience.

Nick Ohde is the Communications and Marketing Director at PFI, overseeing all communications and marketing work for PFI, including strategy, brand, publications and our digital presence. He ensures that farmers are the voice of all PFI outreach.

Nick grew up in rural southeast Iowa, outside of Wapello. He has a BA degree from the University of Iowa in 2008, where he majored in Journalism and English, and an MS degree from Iowa State University in 2011, where he majored in Sustainable Agriculture. His research interests focused on soil erosion, water quality, and the use of conservation practices.  From 2012-2013, Nick worked for a non-profit organization in rural Ecuador, where he worked with farmers, interns, and volunteers on rural community development projects. Before joining PFI, Nick worked as the kitchen manager at Cafe Beaudelaire in Ames.

Connect with Nick via Email.

Heather Darby

University of Vermont
Vermont

Soil Superpower: coming soon

Heather Darby is an Agronomic and Soils Specialist for the University of Vermont Extension. Being raised on a dairy farm in Northwest Vermont, has also allowed her to play an active role in all aspects of dairy farming  as well as gain knowledge of the land and create an awareness of the hard work and dedication required to operate a farm. These practical experiences complemented by her education have focused her attention towards sustainable and organic agriculture and promotion of environmental stewardship of the land. Darby’s outreach and research programs have focused on delivering practical on-farm education in the areas of soil health, nutrient management, organic grain and forage production, and oilseed production. Darby is the leader for the eOrganic dairy team.  Heather also operates a diversified certified organic farm with her husband Ron Hermann.

Connect with Heather via Email or follow UVM Extension on Twitter.

Mike McDonald

Producer
Nebraska

Soil Superpower: Analyzing human decisions and the impact on others through the eyes of soil fungi.

Mike McDonald is a life-long, Nebraskan who is involved in agriculture, education and rural leadership.  He and his wife farm 200 acres east of Lincoln, NE.  Through long-term demonstration farm work with SARE, NRCS and developing three NE Peer Groups, they focus on systemic education to enhance soil health steps. Mike serves on the NRCS State Technical Committee and Nemaha Natural Resource District Board in southeast NE.  Through his work as the co-chair of the NE Healthy Soils Task Force, he is helping develop statewide economic and educational hubs that foster systemic impact with projects such as PFI-Sustainable Food Lab. Regionally, he serves on the Board of Notill of the Plains which is a guiding influence on many producers and land-owners.

He and his wife have 50+ bee-hives, 26 fruit trees, utilize dedicated pollinators, compost, biochar and grazing paddocks on 20 acres. They have converted 180 acres from traditional bean-corn rotations to incorporating cereals, value-added cover crops and forages to increase the living roots.  The overarching focus is changing the focus of economics through the “eyes of soil and water health”, carbon production (above- and below ground) and value-added systems.

After working and growing up the family farm in central NE, he taught thirty+ years  (middle-school, secondary and college, preparing future teachers oftentimes for rural NE through STEM grants). He farmed part-time but over the past nine years, he has farmed full-time while developing learning communities.  Mike completed three degrees at the Univ. of NE-Lincoln:  Ph.D., M.Ed. and B.S. (Curriculum and Instruction; Technology; Educational Psychology; Secondary Education and Social Studies).

Connect with Mike via Email or follow Mike on Twitter.

Anna Morrow

Midwest Cover Crops Council
Midwest

Soil Superpower: Coming soon.

Anna Morrow was raised on a small farm in South Central Indiana, and continues to participate in the family farm. She earned a B.S. in biochemistry and M.S. in agronomy from Purdue University. Anna’s master’s research investigated soil compaction and fertility in intensively managed dairy pastures in the Alajuela Province of Costa Rica. She has experience as a county Ag and Natural Resources Purdue Extension Educator. Anna now works as the Senior Program Manager for the Midwest Cover Crops Council, and lives in Shelby County Indiana with her husband and two children.

Connect with Anna via Email.

Alissa White

American Farmland Trust
New England

Soil Superpower: Engaging farmer perspectives in research and policy priorities.

Alissa White is an agroecologist and transdisciplinary soil scientist who works with farmers in the northeastern US. She is currently the Senior Manager for Climate and Agriculture with the American Farmland Trust, where she oversees programs and research that address climate change in New England. As a Postdoctoral Associate, Alyssa worked with the Gund Institute for Environment and UVM Extension. She built research collaborations to generate usable and context-specific information for farmers and policy makers about soil health, and the links between ecosystem services and soil health indicators. Over the last 20 years, Alissa has worked in program development, grassroots fundraising, education and horticulture, as well as on farms in labor and management roles. She holds a PhD in Plant and Soil Science from UVM, and earned her BA in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz. Her research places farmers as central agents in creating solutions to pressing challenges facing agriculture, highlights the role of networks in supporting farmers’ adaptive capacity, and identifies tradeoffs in ecosystem services from alternative soil management strategies.

Connect with Alissa via Email.

Abigail Peterson

Illinois Soybean Association
Illinois

Soil Superpower: Helping farmers apply the agronomics to building a soil health system and resilient yields.

Abigail Peterson is the Conservation Agronomy Manger for the Illinois Soybean Association. She focuses on agronomic education and integrated pest management specific to cover crop adoption in addition to helping farmers understand conservation options that yield positive results for their acres.

She graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy. At Iowa State, Abigail focused on soil analysis and cover crop use while working at the Iowa State soils lab and the USDA National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment. A Certified Crop Advisor since 2016, Abigail worked as an emerging leader soybean production agronomist with DuPont Pioneer in southern Iowa for two years.  Originally from northern Illinois, her family continues to farm near Wyanet.

Connect with Abigail via Email.

Brian Chatham

Ducks Unlimited
South Dakota

Soil Superpower: Helping farmers with his in field experience of cover crops, soil fertility, and crop management.

Brian is an Agronomist for Ducks Unlimited in South Dakota, where he works with a vast array of landowners to improve their cropping practices, implementing soil health principals and education of regenerative agriculture concepts. His work focuses around practices like cover cropping, soil testing, crop rotations, and livestock integration, to name a few.

Brian graduated with his B.S. in Wildlife Management and has masters course work in Agronomy\Crop Science from Colorado State University. He has been involved with multiple aspects of agriculture over the years from the private-consulting sector, to the governmental side of things. He most recently served as farm manager on a large-scale grain farm in Nebraska and North Dakota where he ran the operations from seed to harvest.

He also owned and managed his own farm in North Carolina, where he was recognized as a finalist for the John Deere National Young farmer of the year three times, and the North Carolina Food Hero of the Year award in 2017. Brian has a strong passion for agriculture and improving cropping practices. He loves the land and watching it produce crops and wildlife. He is extremely passionate about the outdoors and can be found in his spare-time hunting, training his labs, fishing or searching for shed antlers.

Connect with Brian via Email.

Bruce Toay

Ducks Unlimited
South Dakota

Soil Superpower: Scaling up site-level soil health success stories from farmers and ranchers into landscape-level impact.

Bruce Toay is the Manager of Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited in South Dakota. Ducks Unlimited provides a growing suite of programs to farmers and ranchers in the prairies aimed to improve soil health on working lands, particularly those with high densities of prairie pothole wetlands, to help improve water management in soils with an unpredictable climate. Bruce manages a team of agronomists, biologists, grants, and funding sources that provide technical and financial assistance to those producers with similar interests. Bruce is particularly interested in quantifying both the local-scale benefits to the producer and the landscape-scale benefits to society that are achieved by implementing soil health practices.

Bruce has a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology from the University of North Dakota and twenty years of experience working in the prairies of North and South Dakota. Though relatively new to the world of soil health, Bruce is continually amazed at the opportunities that lie just beneath our feet and how they scale up to improve both ecosystems and economics. Bruce is excited to help build connections between diverse interests to increase opportunities for soil health outreach, education, and implementation.

Connect with Bruce via Email.

Mary Sketch

Virginia Soil Health Coalition
Virginia

Soil Superpower: Finding down-to-earth (pun-intended), engaging, and approachable ways to communicate with diverse audiences.

Mary is the Coordinator of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition and is based in Richmond, Virginia. She has experience working with collaboratives and coalitions across the country at the intersection of economic and environmental wellbeing with a focus on working lands and rural communities. Prior to working with the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, she worked at the Center for Rural Strategies where she helped coordinate the Rural Assembly, a coalition of rural stakeholders across the US. She received her Master’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Conservation from Virginia Tech and her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Brown University. Through her graduate research she worked directly with agricultural producers and conservation practitioners to gain a deeper understanding of how farmers and ranchers approach conservation and land management decisions.

Connect with Mary via Email.

Jennifer Simmelink

Kansas Soil Health Alliance
Kansas

Soil Superpower: Viewing soil health from a farmer’s perspective.

Jennifer is the coordinator of the Kansas Soil Health Alliance.  The Alliance was formed in 2020 with the mission of improving and protecting Kansas soils.  Along with partnering organizations, the board of the farmers and ranchers is working to provide Kansas growers with practical, farmer and rancher proven soil health resources.

Jennifer’s interest in soil health began with her coursework and research at Kansas State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering with an emphasis in Environmental Engineering and secondary major in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.  Her interest was further deepened when she joined her husband, Chad, on his family’s farm and ranch.  Together, they are raising their three children and working to improve the soils they care for.

Connect with Jennifer via Email.

Amanda Cather

Million Acre Challenge
Maryland

Soil Superpower: Using sheep to transform sunlight into protein and healthy soils on our farm in Maryland with the help of our trusty Border Collies.

Amanda Cather is the Project Director at the Million Acre Challenge, a collaborative effort to help Maryland farmers build soil health, increase farm profitability, and improve water quality — while making farms resilient and active in the face of climate change. This farmer-focused collaborative uses soil health science, economics, education, and incentives to achieve our mission. Prior to working with the Million Acre Challenge, Amanda worked in a variety of capacities focused around farming, community gardens, urban agriculture and wildlife management. In 2014, she and her family moved back to Maryland, where she grew up, to start their own diversified vegetable and livestock operation. Plow and Stars Farm is a pastured lamb and poultry farm in Poolesville, Maryland. In her free time she loves to hike, bike, run and boat in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve while enjoying their proximity to the nation’s capital on the rare occasions when they can get away.

Connect with Amanda via Email.

Amber Radatz

Discovery Farms/University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension
Wisconsin

Soil Superpower: coming soon.

Amber Radatz is the Co-Director of Discovery Farms with a technical background in manure management and nutrient loss, and an expertise in program development, grant writing and communications. Amber received her B.S. and M.S. in Soil Science from UW-Madison.

Connect with Amber via Email.

Mark Gutierrez

Minnesota Soil Health Coalition
Minnesota

Soil Superpower:Soil Manipulation, the ability to help farmers transform their ground into healthy soil (note: superpower does not work on rocks or stones).

Mark Gutierrez joined the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition in the spring of 2021 as the Executive Director.  Mark helps carry out their mission across the state by providing soil health resources, information, education, research and mentorship to farmers. This includes behind the scenes managing grants, coordinating with partner organizations, planning soil health schools, field tours, meetings and school visits, coordinating on-farm research, and overseeing the distribution of research results and the benefits of soil health management practices through various media.

Mark majored in Agricultural Business and Agricultural Economics graduating in 2006 with an M.S. from New Mexico State University. Following graduation Mark worked for USDA as an Agricultural Statistician and a manager of the crop insurance region for Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Mark loves the outdoors and spends his spare time hunting, fishing, foraging and shed hunting.

Connect with Mark via Email.

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