In the Field: Alumni making a difference through Agroecology
Katelin Holm Anderson MS’09
Katelin Anderson serves as the water quality specialist/information and education coordinator for Polk County’s Land and Water Resources Department. Much of her job involves applying for and administering grants to manage Polk County’s many bodies of water. She works with individual lake groups to study and manage their lakes and coordinates a countywide aquatic invasive species program. Anderson also gives presentations and training sessions to school groups as well as lake and river organizations. “My favorite part of my job is spending time studying Polk County’s beautiful lakes and rivers and working with all the fantastic volunteers who dedicate time to manage our county’s waterbodies,” she says. “I also enjoy the opportunity to partner with organizations—such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Polk County Association of Lakes and Rivers, the St. Croix River Association and the National Park Service—to expand programming.” Anderson has been involved with the Gaylord Nelson Audubon Society since 2001, serving as a vice president and a board member.
Andrew Barrett MS’08 MS’08
As program director with the nonprofit Edible Schoolyard NYC, Andrew Barrett works to implement cooking and gardening programs in New York City elementary and middle schools. He also supervises FoodCorps New York—a food-oriented version of AmeriCorps—identifying and supporting local partners to bring FoodCorps service members into city schools and communities. “The agroecology program helped me better understand and appreciate the many contexts and challenges of our food system, providing a perspective that continues to shape my life and work,” says Barrett, who holds master’s degrees in both agroecology and horticulture from CALS. In his free time, he likes to work in a community garden with his two daughters.
Courtney Glettner MS’13
As an administrative analyst, Courtney Glettner supports the management of natural resources for the East Bay Regional Park District in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her duties include managing databases of wildlife and vegetation records, collecting survey data on endangered species, conducting data analysis and administering environmental permits, working with biologists, ecologists and members of the public along the way. Her degree in agroecolocy allows her to thrive in an interdisciplinary line of work, she says, “in which complex issues involving humans and the environment do not always have one clear solution.” In her free time she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, yoga and painting.
Anders Gurda MS’14
Anders Gurda is an associate researcher in organic and sustainable cropping systems in the CALS Department of Plant Pathology, working in the laboratory of CALS/UW–Extension professor Erin Silva. He has spent the last two years managing the lab’s field operations and recently started OGRAIN, an initiative focusing on growing, processing and marketing organic grains. Through his work, he helps ensure that knowledge gained at the university is accessible to farmers throughout the state. “The agroecology program gave me the knowledge base, the community and network, and the platform to do work that I’m grateful to do,” says Gurda. In addition to his work with the university, Gurda manages Turned Earth Media, where he produces videos and other audiovisual material focusing on sustainable agriculture. When he’s not working, Gurda spends time camping, canoeing and biking as well as enjoying Wisconsin beer.
Noelle Harden MS’11
Noelle Harden is a health and nutrition educator with the University of Minnesota Extension, where she describes her work as taking place “at the intersection of access to healthy food, local food development and social justice.” Harden works with farmers, nonprofits, government agencies, food networks and other entities around the state to improve access to local food through education, networking and advocacy. Those activities include supporting the development of food hubs, implementation of the Minnesota Food Charter, and other food system initiatives. “The agroecology program transformed how I think about agriculture and food systems, opening my eyes for the potential changes that can be brought about when diverse groups of citizens come together for creative problem-solving at the community level,” says Harden. In her free time, she enjoys spending time on her farm and visiting state parks.
Keefe Keeley MS’14
Keefe Keeley is executive director of the Savanna Institute, a nonprofit based in Urbana, Illinois, that works with farmers and scientists to advance perennial agriculture through research, education and outreach. His passion for ecological agriculture has led him to work with farmers on five continents, conducting research and consulting on topics including grazing, agroforestry, wildlife, ethics, and marketing. In addition to his work with the Savanna Institute, Keeley serves as board president for Community Conservation, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit. He also enjoys planting trees on his family’s farm.
Emma Pelton BS’09 MS’15
Emma Pelton is a conservation biologist for the Xerces Society, an Oregon-based nonprofit that seeks to protect wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Much of Pelton’s work involves protecting and enhancing conditions for monarch butterflies in the western U.S., which in recent years experienced steep population declines. Her work entails making site management recommendations for monarch overwintering sites, documenting the quality of monarch breeding habitat, presenting workshops about best management practices for monarch habitat and analyzing monarch population trends. “I have always been interested in the intersection of private and public lands, working lands and conserved lands. Migratory insects like the monarch butterfly connect these landscapes and require conservation efforts that cross human boundaries,” says Pelton, who holds a master’s degrees in entomology as well as in agroecology. In her free time, Pelton enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest.
Marie Raboin MS’10
As a soil conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Marie Raboin provides both financial and technical assistance to private landowners through the use of Farm Bill provisions. Her main focus is to provide cost share or incentives for implementing conservation practices. “The best part of my job is working alongside farmers and landowners to do the best conservation work appropriate to the personal and financial goals on their property,” says Raboin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in soil and land management at UW–Stevens Point before moving on to CALS. In her free time, Raboin and her husband have started a hard cider orchard on their farm near Barneveld, where in the near future they plan to open a cidery.
Kristina Ralph BS’10 MS’11
As the “Generation Organic” program coordinator at CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley headquarters in La Farge, Kristina Ralph works with young and beginning farmers. The Generation Organic (“Gen-O” for short) program serves as a network for young farmers to connect and share ideas and experiences. In addition, the program supports farmer members and their children by providing services in planning, education, leadership and other opportunities. Ralph’s work orchestrates the development and execution of these services while working directly with the new farmers. “My favorite part of work is connecting with farmers and developing programs that serve them,” says Ralph. “Because I work with farmers my own age, I learn a lot and can easily empathize with their struggles in the industry.”
Mark Sieffert MS’11
Mark Sieffert works as an alliance development specialist in the USAID Bureau for Food Security, which leads the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. There Sieffert works mostly with the coffee industry, working to build public-private partnerships to address threats to coffee-growing communities in Latin America and Africa. He co-led USAID’s response to a recent outbreak of coffee rust, a devastating disease of coffee plants, focusing particularly on expanding access to finance and promoting collaborative research initiatives. His other work has focused on increasing farmer productivity in East Africa and stimulating private sector investment in climate-smart agriculture. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and daughter and says he is an “overly enthusiastic” participant in produce auctions in southern Maryland.This article was posted in Fall 2016, In the Field and tagged Agroecology, Anders Gurda, Andrew Barrett, Courtney Glettner, Emma Pelton, Grow Fall 2016, In the Field, Jacob Knudtson, Katelin Holm Anderson, Keefe Keeley, Kristina Ralph, Marie Raboin, Mark Sieffert, Noelle Harden.