2019 Conference Speakers

  • Ricardo J. Salvador is Director and Senior Scientist of the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainability-Food, and advises a range of organizations that are advancing food system innovation (including: the Science to Solutions Expert Advisory Group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; the Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land Use and Energy Initiative-Mexico, of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network; the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, FoodCorps, the Center for Good Food Purchasing, Food System 6, The Land Institute, and the Fair Food Program of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.) Prior positions include Program Officer for Food Health and Wellbeing at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Associate Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University. A native of Mexico, Ricardo’s academic background includes undergraduate studies in agriculture at New Mexico State University, and M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees in Crop Production and Physiology from Iowa State University.

  • Sarah Lovell is the H.E. Garrett Endowed Chair Professor and Director of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. Her research focuses broadly on the analysis and design of multifunctional landscapes, with emphasis on agroforestry and urban agriculture. The agroforestry work includes the integration of productive woody trees and shrubs into agricultural landscapes, to improve the environmental health and cultural significance of the agroecosystem. The work in urban agriculture assesses the benefits of food production systems including plant biodiversity, pollination services, and cultural functions, as well as the impact on food security of the participating households. Recent grants provide support for Lovell’s lab to study woody polyculture systems that could offer fruit and nut products, through a diverse mix of species that are also suitable for conservation.

  • Steve Morse is Executive Director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership in Saint Paul, MN. He is a well-known leader in the MN environmental community with expertise in public policy and a broad range of environmental issues, as well as inside knowledge of both legislative and state agency processes. Prior to joining MEP in 2006, Steve served as a Senior Fellow in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at the University of Minnesota. While there, he developed the Green Lands Blue Waters initiative. Steve was Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources from 1999-2003 and represented southeast Minnesota in the State Senate for 12 years, beginning in 1987.

  • Tammy Kimbler is the Assistant Manager of Brand Experience for the organic food brand Cascadian Farm, part of General Mills, Inc. A native of California, from a long line of farmers and ranchers, she bucked country life to spend her early career in Hollywood, working for NBC Entertainment in primetime television. In 2001, Tammy relocated to Minnesota to continue her career in advertising working with the state’s fortune 500 companies like 3M, Target, Cargill and General Mills. It was here that she reconnected with her agricultural roots through the burgeoning Midwest food movement. Always deeply rooted in the world of cooking and local ingredients, Tammy is passionate about organic and sustainable agriculture-related initiatives that focus on changing our food system for the better. Most recently, she led Cascadian Farm’s launch of the first nationally released breakfast cereal made with the perennial grain Kernza®, to raise awareness with consumers and the industry of the potential of climate-beneficial ingredients.

    When she’s not standing in a Kernza® field or drinking a Kernza® beer, Tammy spends her time teaching food preservation and urban agriculture classes, as well as tending her flock of backyard chickens, and numerous community gardens in Minneapolis. She eats well and loves to feed others as often as possible.

  • Rich Biske is the Freshwater Conservation Program Director for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. As Freshwater Program Director, Mr. Biske leads the Conservancy’s freshwater policy development, conservation strategy, watershed protection and builds capacity of partner organizations. Biske collaborates with public and private sector leaders to advance freshwater protection for people and nature. He leads a team of talented scientists, regional program managers and project managers that implement conservation action throughout our 3 state chapter.

    Rich has been a leader in the Conservancy’s multi-state Mississippi River Whole System and North America Agriculture programs for over a decade. Prior to his current position he was the Southeast Minnesota Conservation Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy from 2005 to 2014. Rich led regional partnerships and initiated several innovative soil and water conservation practices along with habitat protection and restoration programs that continue today. Prior to The Conservancy, Biske was a Natural Resources Planner with the Anoka Conservation District, conducting site based habitat protection, restoration and open space planning and protection.

    Rich is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, College of Natural Resources in St. Paul with a BS in Environmental Science, Planning and Policy.

  • Jon Winsten’s focus has been on the adoption of appropriate technology for reducing production costs and improving environmental performance of livestock and crop agriculture. Dr. Winsten served as the Chief-of-Party for Winrock’s successful Sustainable Dairy Global Development Alliance project in Kazakhstan from 2006-2009 which trained farmers in dairy grazing techniques. He was a member of the technical team that authored the Grazing Land and Livestock Management carbon offset methodology for the American Carbon Registry. In 2014, he co-authored a set of case studies on grazing management for cow-calf operations in the Mid-south, focusing on the potential for reducing net GHG emissions and increasing productivity through increased soil health.

    Dr. Winsten has led projects to assess and pilot-test pay-for-performance conservation in several states and provinces and co-authored a widely-used guidance document. As a kid, he worked on his family’s dairy farm and showed registered Holsteins through 4-H. In college, he studied animal science and agricultural economics and was on the dairy cattle judging team. After college, he learned about grazing by working on several dairy farms in New Zealand. In 2001, Dr. Winsten earned his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Penn State University and has been focused on finding win-win solutions for farming and the environment since then. He lives in northern Vermont with his wife and three children and is an avid skier and fisherman.

  • Aubrey Streit Krug is Director of Ecosphere Studies at The Land Institute in Salina, KS.  She is a writer and teacher in the environmental humanities who studies stories of relationships between humans and plants. Aubrey holds a BA in English and Communications from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, and MA and PhD in English and Great Plains Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is also a student of the Omaha language. Aubrey grew up in the small town of Tipton in north-central Kansas, where her parents farm wheat and raise cattle, and considers limestone soils with rocky prairie hillsides her home ground. She is drawn to “how The Land Institute is based on an educational premise: people can, and do, learn from wild plants and ecosystems. That, and how unabashedly this organization plays the long game.”

  • Jessica Gutknecht is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate and an Associate of the Institute on the Environment, with a PhD in soil microbiology from the University of Wisconsin. She is a soil ecologist with years of experience understanding how soil and soil biological communities mediate ecosystem responses to climate change in both natural and agricultural landscapes. Her current research is centered on the idea that the soil beneath our feet offers solutions for the adaptation and mitigation of climate change, as well as other environmental challenges. Specifically, she is exploring how regenerative agriculture and perennial cropping systems, aimed at protecting soils, can adapt agricultural management for climate change, serving both people and the environment.

  • Mark Rasmussen is director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.  His current appointment followed a career as an agricultural researcher with USDA and U.S. FDA.   Rasmussen is a tenured professor in the Iowa State Department of Animal Science. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture (1976) and a master’s degree in animal science (1979) from the University of Nebraska‐Lincoln. He farmed on a diversified beef, grain and forage operation in Nebraska before leaving to pursue research and academic interests. He earned a Ph.D. in dairy/animal science (1986) from the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign. While working for USDA at the National Animal Disease Center, he received an MBA (1996) from Iowa State.  He has also held research positions in private industry.  Rasmussen’s professional and scientific expertise extends to various areas of sustainable crop and livestock agriculture, microbiology, and food safety.

  • Will Myers grew up outside of Dallas Center, Iowa. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University in Environmental Science and a Master’s Degree in Natural Resources from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Will has over 17 years of experience working in water quality and agriculture programs, serving in leadership positions in both Iowa and Nebraska. 

    Will Myers joined the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in 2015 as the Water Quality Initiative Projects Coordinator. During his tenure, he has provided leadership in the development and administration of over 80 water quality and conservation projects located across the state in support of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy implementation efforts.  In addition to these projects, he has worked to develop key partnerships and associated infrastructure to increase the pace and scale of conservation practice adoption across Iowa. He has recently transitioned into a new role within the Department as the Field Services Bureau Chief where his work continues in promoting new opportunities that will advance our collective conservation, soil health and water quality goals in Iowa.

  • As director of Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy, Rob Davis helps accelerate the nation’s transition to use of clean and renewable energy. Davis’ work on pollinator-friendly solar has been featured in trainings by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Conservation Training Center, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Electric Power Resource Institute, and the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. Rob’s work in Minnesota was recognized by MnSEIA with the 2018 Excellence in Solar Policy Award. Along with a senior analyst from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Davis is co-chair of the research and outreach committee for NREL’s study into low-impact and pollinator-friendly solar development approaches.

    Previously, Rob helped launch technology start-ups and created the international crowdsourced campaign that launched the Firefox web browser. His work has been highlighted in a Solar Power World cover story as well as featured in Scientific American, National Geographic, and Wired; referenced in the 25th anniversary edition of Trivial Pursuit; and included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. City Pages, the alternative weekly of Minneapolis/St. Paul, called Rob “a good-natured but gravely determined change agent.” He is a two-time recipient of the Teresa Du Bois Exline Award for Best Practices in Communications and Marketing and a graduate of Macalester College.
  • Christopher J. Patton, MA, MBA Minneapolis, MN. 612-418-4624, info@midwest-elderberry.coop. Degrees earned at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem – Israeli Archeology, Old World Prehistory (including paleo-environments) and University of St. Thomas, business management. Business experience includes: 3 years Exec VP for a small advertising, marketing and public relations company; 5 years as an info technologist at Pillsbury Engineering / International R&D, (Haagen-Dazs International); and 14 years adjunct professor for two Midwest universities teaching a broad range of accelerated business, culture and history courses to undergraduate and graduate adults; 6 years farming elderberry.

    Founder /President of the Midwest Elderberry Cooperative (2012), Although the coop has only about 25 paid members, he manages networked relationships with about 100 elderberry growers throughout the US. His goal is 2,250 acres of farmed and sold elderberries by 2025. MEC produces and markets native North American elder berry and flower product ingredients to (mostly) small food and beverage businesses: bulk destemmed, frozen, sanitized elderberries, dried berries, dried flowers, bulk frozen juice, freeze dried berries, and developing IQF berries and puree.

    As CEO of River Hills Harvest Marketers, LLC, Chris brings extensive knowledge about marketing shelf stable retail products for Terry Durham’s River Hills Harvest brand of native elderberry products, a leading Missouri based elderberry producer-processor. He manages regional distribution relationships in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Nationally RHHM supplies 500 retail locations through KeHE Distributors  and direct shipping.

  • Michelle Wander is the Director of the Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture Program in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois where she has studied soil stewardship, organic matter management and soil quality in partnership with farmers, consumers and policy makers for over 20 years.

  • Thom Petersen was appointed Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture by Governor Tim Walz in January 2019.

    Commissioner Petersen is a long-time resident of Royalton Township near Pine City where he lives on a horse farm. Before being appointed Commissioner, Petersen served as the Director of Government Relations for Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) since 2002, working on behalf of MFU’s farmer-members in both Washington, D.C. and St. Paul.

    Prior to his work at the Minnesota Farmers Union, Commissioner Petersen spent most of his life working for his family and his own horse and farm business. He has a wide range of experience in state and federal farm policy, and travels to almost every county in Minnesota each year to fully understand how these policies affect farmers’ daily lives. He has served on many boards and committees, including the University of Minnesota Extension Citizens Advisory Committee, Farmers Legal Action Group, Citizens Utility Board, Minnesota Ag in the Classroom, Minnesota State Organic Task Force, Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition, and the Minnesota Fair Plan.

    Commissioner Petersen received his Associate’s degree from Normandale Community College and studied at both the University of Minnesota and University of Georgia. The Commissioner and his wife Alana live in Pine City with their two sons. The Petersens show horses around the state and have competed at the Minnesota State Fair for over 25 years.

  • Kris Reynolds joined American Farmland Trust in 2017.  Kris’s primary responsibility is managing programs that promote sound farming practices to farmers and landowners in Illinois. He is also responsible for working with the partners in the AFT led watersheds to coordinate activities with farmers and landowners that improve water quality, improve soil health, enhance nutrient efficiency, utilize conservation cropping systems and meet the goals of Illinois’ Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.

    Kris previously worked as a Resource Conservationist with the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District for 15 years.  He worked with local farmers and landowners to develop conservation plans on their land.  He also spent time as a Cover Crop Specialist with the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices promoting, educating and advising on cover crop usage.  He is a Certified Crop Advisor with the American Society of Agronomy. He also holds specialty certification from ASA as a 4R Nutrient Management Specialist and Sustainability specialist. Reynolds holds a B.S. in Agronomy and Ag Business from Illinois State University.

    Kris lives and farms in Nokomis, IL with his wife Jodi and their four sons Kaden, Kolin, Kyle and Konnor. 

  • More to come…