Equipping Next Gen Ag Leaders 2022-2023 Program

This is an archived site for the 2022-2023 cohort. For information on the 2024-2024 site, click here.

Congratulations to the 2022-2023 Equipping next gen ag and

conservation professionals mentorship program cohort


Thank you and congratulations to the incredible mentees and other partners in this program! You can find final mentee communication projects on the 1 Mississippi site and view videos and photos here of mentees Lia Carrillo, Guolong Liang, Gurparteet Singh and Aaryn Wilson presenting their personal reflections on the cultural roots of conservation at the 2023 Soil & Water Conservation Society Annual Conference in Des Moines, IA.

Dr. Akilah Martin and Green Lands Blue Waters have received funding to run two future cohorts of this program (see the current program website here). Read on below for more information on the completed 2022-2023 program.

Initial Press Release

We are faced with the complex challenge of nourishing people while also nurturing the land that sustains us. The next generation of agricultural and conservation professionals will need to envision, embrace, and effectuate landscape-scale transformation to truly set us on the path of agricultural sustainability. This challenge requires us to fully and authentically leverage our diversity. Diversity leads to resilience in both ecological and human systems. Human diversity and diverse agricultural landscapes are not independent of one another: We must embrace them BOTH simultaneously. 

This 2022-2023 mentorship program focuses on an outstanding cohort of students of color connecting with incredible mentors, farmers, and trainers, representing diverse ag communities across the Upper Midwest.

This program is funded by a 2022 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Equity Conservation Agreement.

USDA is an equal opportunity employer, provider and lender.

Mentees in the 2022-2023 program:

Aaryn Wilson, B.S. in Plant Science from University of Minnesota (MN)

From Minneapolis originally, Aaryn became interested in food as a teenager, and considered becoming a chef before deciding to study food and agriculture. Since graduating, Aaryn has been working on food waste reduction and organic recycling, organic lawn care, and with urban farmers as well as connecting youth to natural resource science. He sees the need for both climate and racial justice, and to remove the barriers black and brown people face in accessing wild and agricultural spaces. He hopes to turn his passion for working with African American and immigrant communities in our food system and his interest in agricultural science and environmental policy into a successful career. 

“My vision for the future of agriculture is one that pairs our deep need for climate justice with our complementary need for racial justice.”

Daniel Hayden, Plant Pathology PhD student at University of Wisconsin - Madison (WI)

Daniel has always held working with and serving Indigenous people as a core value, and as a PhD student at UW Madison, he found a way to utilize his interest in plant science to serve the tribal community. Daniel’s research focuses on collaborating with tribal corn growers to help them optimize reduced-tillage practices. This work has highlighted the many challenges these farmers face, as well as the way in which their knowledge and values support equitable, dynamic, sustainable, and productive agricultural systems. Daniel’s goals are to farm Indigenous crops, support and teach tribal youth, and continue collaborating with tribal communities through research. 

Contemporary Indigenous growers still heavily maintain their traditional agricultural values. I hope to see these values and knowledge outside of Indigenous systems where there is a focus on community, diversity of crops, land stewardship, and matrilineal leadership.”

George Odumbe Oganda, Crop Science Master’s student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (IL)

George is interested in regenerative agriculture, including how it can improve soil health and reduce insect pest pressure in specialty crops. Ultimately, he would like to work at agricultural research stations, developing solutions to food security and environmental challenges and providing extension services to growers. He is acutely aware of capital limitations faced by small farmers, and wants to find ways to ensure that they can learn about and benefit from these practices. George has a global vision for making regenerative agriculture more accessible to small-scale farmers, from local farmers in the Midwest to vegetable growers in his home country of Kenya. 

“Through this program I hope to be guided on how best I can use my expertise to better myself and meet the needs of the community in terms of improving crop production and conservation.”

Guolong Liang, Agriculture and Water Quality Program, UW-Madison Extension (WI)

After finishing his Master’s degree researching how horticultural crops respond to environmental stress in Wisconsin, Guolong joined UW Extension to work on the intersection of agriculture and water quality issues. During his studies and career, Guolong observed how structural racism and social injustice limit farmers (especially underrepresented farmers), and how the current agricultural system is rooted in land theft and colonialism. From conversations with small-scale farmers in Costa Rica to working side by side with local CSA farmers in southwest Wisconsin, he saw part of how the political system treats these populations differently. These experiences inspired him to include fighting injustice as an important career goal. Guolong envisions an agriculture industry that is just, collaborative, and transparent, one where farmers and other stakeholders communicate well and can earn a respectable living without destroying the ecosystem. Guolong is particularly interested in serving Asian farmers, beginning by listening and understanding their needs.

“Research and studying abroad inspired me to pursue my career goal as to learn about how and why people from different backgrounds farm the way they farm and how they interact with their surrounding nature.”

Gurparteet Singh, Land and Atmospheric Science PhD student at the University of Minnesota (MN)

Gurparteet has been interested in physical sciences since childhood, which lead him to an undergrad degree in Agricultural Engineering and the development of a UV radiation filtration system for disinfecting vegetable crop fertigation solution. He has also been deeply troubled by the iniquity in the agricultural system, including massive corporate profits at the expense of growers and agricultural workers. Gurparteet’s compassion and concern for the human impacts of industrial agriculture motivated him to work on a farmer suicide prevention project as a teenager in India. As a student at the U of M, Gurparteet studies the water quality benefits of intermediate wheatgrass, and is committed to developing sustainable solutions for the environment.

“According to me, environmental sustainability and social justice is the future of agriculture. Regenerative agricultural systems can be strengthened by involving diverse agricultural landscapes and farming communities.”

Heather Rose, Owner of Forever Healing Us LLC; MS in Health Promotion and Leadership (IL)

Heather is passionate about health and wellness, including utilizing alternative medicine and therapies to address mental illness and reduce trauma footprints with a self-love curriculum. A key pathway she sees to self and community sustainability are more BIPOC owned and led gardens. Heather aims to encourage diversity in farming and gardening by both becoming a farmer herself and empowering others to do so though a wellness farm center: a space to teach and guide the BIPOC community. She envisions a local agricultural system, diverse in both people and crops. To this end, reaching underserved farmers and community members is Heather’s top priority.

“I want to pave the way for the BIPOC population to further equip, educate, empower, and encourage more diversity in crop profiles on a farm as well as the leaders to further expand the narrative of becoming a black farmer in the Midwest which is almost nonexistent.”

Korede Olugbenle, Agronomy PhD student at University of Wisconsin - Madison (WI)

Korede grew up in the city in Nigeria and got interested in agriculture because he wanted to help improve Nigeria’s agriculture sector after it deteriorated. During graduate school, he developed an interest in research, and currently plans to pursue a research career helping developing farmers around the world, especially working with perennial crops in Africa. Korede envisions a future that includes independent farms, drastically reduced pollution, management practices that improve the land for the next generation, and a better public understanding of and relationship with farmers.

“This mentorship program will be helpful for me because it will give me the chance to get the thoughts of someone who has the experience and knowledge of establishing themselves and what I should expect when I reach that stage as well.”

Kyla Muhammad, Master Naturalist, Illinois (IL)

Kyla has always been a nature lover, but an edible plants class sparked a deeper curiosity about ecological systems, native species, and land stewardship, and the realization that caring for people, wildlife, and the land aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, teaching others about how to grow food for themselves or their communities in regenerative and sustainable ways can be one of the first steps toward building more resilient, self-sufficient communities. Currently, Kyla is working on overcoming systemic hurdles to develop training and land access programs for BIPOC farmers. Long-term, she envisions a diverse, regenerative, decentralized agricultural system that offers fair compensation and equal opportunities – “an agricultural future worth fighting for.”

“I know that land ownership and land access are HUGE issues for many BIPOC and other underserved growers and farmers trying to grow food in their communities, I’d like to work on figuring out additional ways to secure land access and to find paths to land ownership for BIPOC growers.”

Lia Carrillo, Iowa State University (IA)

Lia has had a lifelong passion for conservation and wildlife, which motivated her to pursue a degree in Animal Ecology and Wildlife at Iowa State University. In 2021-2022 she worked with Practical Farmers of Iowa through the Green Iowa AmeriCorps program, becoming interested in agriculture as well. Despite not coming from a farming background, she has a deep connection to the topic: hearing stories from her father, originally from Mexico, about working on the land and growing food are close to her heart, especially as she has learned more about the challenges of farming. Lia is especially motivated to work with Spanish-speaking and beginning farmers, as she has seen how underserved those groups are. Lia hopes to continue deepening her knowledge of agriculture and conservation so that she can support an agricultural future with more regenerative practices to support healthy soil, wildlife, and people.

“What I hope to see myself get out of this program is continuing my understanding of agriculture and conservation and how they work together.”

Milcah Kigoni, a PhD student in Crop Science and Agronomy and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (IL)

Milcah brings a background in biochemistry and over three years experience working in crop genomics research, proteomics, machine-learning, computational biology, big data analytics, system development and programming. At international CGIAR crop research institutes, she supported practical integration of genomics in plant breeding for research programs based in Africa, South East Asia and South America. In her PhD program, she is studying plant breeding methods that complement intercropping. Milcah is passionate about translational crop research aimed at breaking down the complexities of cutting-edge research, to formulate practical solutions for crop improvement. Growing up in rural Kenya surrounded by small-scale, resource-limited farms, Milcah was inspired to develop livestock and crop production solutions for small to midsize farms and drive economic and social empowerment through agriculture. She is particularly interested in using her plant breeding and research skills to serve resource-limited and underrepresented farmer communities in Kenya and globally.

“I believe that my engagement with the mentor and farming communities will bring invaluable growth and insight to my research and enhance development of feasible and community-driven solutions.”

Nurfadila Khairunnisa, Applied Economics Master’s student at the University of Minnesota (MN)

Nurfadila is currently in her second year in the Applied Econ program, and works on projects looking at the effect of fresh fruit and vegetable consumption among an ethnic community in rural MN and creating financial benchmarking reports for organic farms in the upper Midwest. Nurfadila’s primary interest is in work that supports low-income and underserved communities along the supply chain, including underserved Somali grocery stores in rural Minnesota. Originally from Indonesia but raised in Minneapolis, she brings a deep understanding of the value of culturally appropriate food availability and the importance of including underrepresented groups in the food supply narrative. She envisions an agricultural system that feeds everyone, but that is also truly accessible to everyone.

“While I gain plenty of quantitative skills from research projects, I believe that my experience would be incomplete without simultaneously working on gaining on-the-ground experiences and knowledge in agriculture, especially among underrepresented members of the ag community.”

Sami Maldonado, Operations Coordinator, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minneapolis (MN)

Sami has been interested in agricultural, justice, and environmental issues for a long time. Seeing both stunning biodiversity and environmental degradation on her first visit to Ecuador, her father’s home country, inspired her to take action. As an undergraduate, she studied Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, attended conferences, mentored youth through an urban agriculture non-profit, and served as her university’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) Chapter President. As the Operations Coordinator for Minnesota Farmers Union, Sami is actively working towards equity for farmers, climate resilient farming, and a thriving food system. Sami believes that farming should be an option open to everyone, and she is motivated to understand and address challenges by working with a diverse array of Minnesotan farmers.

“My vision for farming centers on equity. Farmers should be able to financially support themselves and their families.”

Our incredible 2022-2023 mentors!

Akilah Martin - AM Root Builders, Inc

Dr. Akilah Martin is first and foremost in partnership with soil and water. Akilah earned her BS degree in Soil Science from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University and her Doctorate from Purdue University in Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Akilah is abundantly living life through two core values: Freedom and Joy. To that end, she is a certified coach focusing on supporting clients in building high energy relationships. Dr. Martin’s passion work includes enhancing relationships of individuals and communities to environmental and natural resources. Her teaching and scholarly/research interests are centered in soil and water quality in urban communities. Current projects include: urban ag, food sovereignty, enhancing food access, life expectancy and health inequalities, installing rain gardens to create a “sponge town”, and building container gardens for “growing your own groceries.” Her areas of expertise include farmer outreach and adoption, equity and justice, policy, research, teaching, writing, publishing or other communications, soil health, and community engagement. In addition to her work, Dr. Martin loves soil, traveling, being creative with any space, reading, skateboarding, bike riding, hot yoga, and swimming.

Dr. Martin resides in Chicago. Through the mentorship program, she would like to create a high energy relationship where she and a student co-journey on their path of living a life of abundance. She’s hoping to connect with a learner who is self-aware, self-compassionate, and most of all living in harmony with the Earth.

Britt Moore - University of North Carolina Wilmington

Eric Britt Moore (Britt) is an assistant professor of environmental protection at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Britt’s professional experiences include soil science researcher at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, lecturer of agronomy and environmental science at Iowa State University, and cover crop specialist for Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Britt also works to promote civic empowerment through youth and adult training programs centered on science literacy, environmental justice, and community gardening. Britt is a Chicago native, and his academic background includes a B.S. in Agricultural Science from Truman State University, a M.S. in Crop Production & Physiology and Sustainable Agriculture from Iowa State University, and a Ph.D. in Soil Physics from Iowa State University. Britt’s areas of expertise include Midwest agriculture, on-farm conservation, equity and justice, research, teaching, writing, publishing or other communications, cover crops, soil health, environmental benefits of cropping systems, and community engagement.

Celize Christy - HEAL Food Alliance

Celize is an Organizer at HEAL Food Alliance, where she connects members to campaigns, programs and the alliance’s greater network. Celize comes to HEAL’s campaign and policy work by coordinating farmer-led education programming, advocating for BIPOC farmers in Iowa with Practical Farmers of Iowa, and coalition building and organizing with sustainable agriculture organizations. Celize earned her B.S. in Animal Science and Global Resource Systems with a minor in Spanish from Iowa State University and a M.S. in Rural Sociology and International Agricultural Development from the Pennsylvania State University. Celize’s work has taken her globally working with livestock farmers in Uganda, Rwanda and Italy. Celize roots her advocacy efforts around the stories, voices and experiences of both urban and rural farmers of the Midwest. Celize currently lives in Dallas, Texas on occupied Jumanos, Kiikaapo, Tawakoni and Wichita Land and enjoys exploring local businesses/shops, drinking ginger tea, and playing with her miniature pinscher pup, Luz.

Celize’s areas of expertise include Midwest agriculture, farmer outreach and adoption, equity and justice, policy, research, agroforestry, livestock, perennial crops, environmental benefits of cropping systems, cross-sector collaboration, and community engagement. As a mentor, Celize hopes to provide a space for a BIPOC student to openly explore and navigate the world of agriculture, conservation and food systems, offering a sounding board to guide and support a mentee in professional ideas and goals.

Donale Richards - Madtown Food Services

Donale was born in Madison, WI and raised by many family members from America, Jamaica, and the Gambia. He received a B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering from UW-Madison in 2017 and has since focused his work on educating communities on food and agricultural systems. He started Madtown Food Services in 2019 to help family members turn their passion for cooking into a business. One day, he hopes to operate a farm-to-table restaurant and help other entrepreneurs along the way. Donale also works part-time for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute where he researches federal and state policies related to the Farm Bill. He often teaches beginning and underserved farmers about USDA grant programs and connects them to other people and resources that can expand their farming operation. Based in Madison but working throughout the Midwest, Donale’s areas of expertise include Midwest agriculture, farmer outreach and adoption, equity and justice, policy, teaching, soil health, and community engagement.

Through the mentorship program, Donale hopes to provide insight on career and entrepreneurship opportunities in food and agriculture, specifically to those interested in strengthening local and regional food systems. A quote he often reflects on in his food and justice work: “The idea of freedom is inspiring. But what does it mean? If you are free in a political sense but have no food, what’s that? The freedom to starve?” – Angela Davis

Jose Franco - USDA ARS Dairy Forage Research Center

Dr. Franco is an agroecologist with the USDA-ARS Dairy Forage Research Center (DFRC) in Madison, WI. His research focus is at the intersection of cover crop systems and precision agriculture. He explores methods to increase cover crop performance and inclusion in dairy forage rotations. An essential part of this work is evaluating value-added benefits of cover crops in addition to the potential suite of ecosystem services they provide. Additionally, Dr. Franco’s research strives to create multifunctional agricultural landscapes through the use of cover crops and alternative forages, and utilizes a systems framework to evaluate the combination of precision and conservation management practices and their impact on long-term dairy system sustainability. Outside of work, Dr. Franco enjoys exploring new areas, especially the countryside. He’s particularly fond of foreign crime dramas (British especially), biking and kayaking, chocolate and exploring new flavors, and visiting antique shops for unusual and rustic gems!

Dr. Franco’s areas of expertise include Midwest agriculture, equity and justice, research, teaching, writing and publishing, agroforestry, cover crops, small grains or annual rotations, perennial forage, soil health, environmental benefits of cropping systems, and cross-sector collaboration. Through the mentorship program, he is hoping to share his own experiences with students considering graduate school or careers in agricultural-related fields. He notes, “I believe I can provide a unique perspective given my diverse background, not having grown up in agriculture, and having taken a circuitous path to my career in research. In terms of a mentee match, my only request is that the student be curious and come with a lot of questions!”

Lillian Hang - Hmong American Farmers Association board member

Lillian Hang is currently a member of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), and has been one since the fall of 2013 which made her eligible to lease a three acre plot on the HAFA Farm in 2014. Lillian has been farming with her parents for over 25 years and connects her interest in public health to her summers picking and selling vegetables at the farmers market. Lillian graduated from Brown University with a degree in Community Health and received a Masters from Yale University in Public Health, and a Masters from the University of St. Thomas in Business Administration. Lillian currently serves as a Senior Lead Analyst at Optum Labs and grows herbs and flowers commercially.

Serge Koenig - Sauk County Land Resources and Environment Department

Serge Koenig has been a Sauk County natural resource professional for twenty-seven years. He has a Watershed Management degree and a Soils Minor from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. Serge has been working with landowners and various organizations in Sauk County to sustain and improve its natural resources. He is a tireless advocate of managed rotational grazing as a tool for regenerating our soils, water and human resources. In his free time he loves spending time with his family gardening, traveling, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and coaching his two boys’ soccer and basketball teams.

Serge works in the Baraboo/Sauk County area in Southcentral/Southwestern Wisconsin. His areas of expertise include Midwest agriculture, farmer outreach and adoption, on-farm conservation, equity and justice, farm economics/markets, livestock, perennial forage or perennial grains or biomass, soil health, environmental benefits of cropping systems, and community engagement. Through the mentorship program, Serge hopes to help ignite a passion for environmental protection in the next generation while helping a mentee figure out their meaning and purpose and live their life accordingly.

Piero Taico - Downtown Springfield, Inc

Piero Taico is the Assistant Director of Downtown Springfield, Inc in Springfield, Illinois. A long-time champion for all things local food, Piero is responsible for Springfield’s Old Capitol Farmers Market. Prior to DSI, Piero served as the Communications Coordinator for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, aiding in their shift towards statewide organizing – advocating for agriculture that works for farmers, communities and the environment. While working for the Alliance, he visited farmers and farmers markets from Carbondale to Chicago, telling the story of revitalizing Illinois’ regional food system to help shift policy and empower local farmers. Piero has also served on the Diversity Committee for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition


About This Program

Who is this program for?

This is a program for graduate students or similar-stage emerging leaders interested in careers in agriculture and conservation. The 2022-2023 program cohort is made up of students and leaders who are committed to reaching underserved farmers and passionate about creating a more equitable and sustainable agricultural system across the upper Midwest. This program focuses on students of color enrolled in graduate programs in agriculture, conservation or related fields (Masters or PhD) or similar-stage emerging leaders in the US Upper Midwest, particularly in IA, IL, MN, WI and MO. 

Program Details and Benefits

This program included several components, such as:

Virtual training series with Q&A sessions with ag professionals

Throughout the program, four virtual trainings will be offered. Each of these trainings will be led by accomplished professionals with deep content expertise, as well as lived experience as a person of color working in the predominantly white fields of ag and conservation in the Upper Midwest. Sufficient time will be provided for Q&A with each training to ensure that students have time to engage with the trainers. Topics of the four trainings are below and more information will be added as details are confirmed. 

Training 1 – Addressing Local Ag & Natural Resource Issues

Training 2 – Solutions to Frequent & Changing Weather Patterns through Climate Smart Agriculture

Training 3 – Preparing for a Career in Ag & Natural Resources

Training 4 – Effectively Communicating Science & the Importance of Ag & Natural Resource Issues

Farm visits led by farmers of color

The program includes several options to visit farms across the Upper Midwest. Students will be invited to visit the farm closest to their location. Site visits will be hosted by farmers of color. We’ll tour the farm and hear about each farmer’s commitment to the land and have a candid discussion about all aspects of their farming experience.

Minnesota. In Minnesota, we’ll visit with Moses and Lonah Momanyi. In addition to running their own successful farm (Dawn 2 Dusk Farm), they founded the organization Kilimo Minnesota in 2020. Kilimo Minnesota is an organic incubator farm with a mission to empower emerging farmers of African descent, socially and economically, through mentorship, farmland access navigation and community building. Kilimo Minnesota offers a three to five year hands-on training program that includes farming experience, group classes, networking and one-on-one business mentoring. The program, founded by and for farmers of African descent, is uniquely situated to give emerging farmers an opportunity to learn growing techniques and business skills in a new climate, country and culture while in a comfortable peer setting. Moses also works closely with another budding organization, the African Growers and Producers Alliance.

Iowa. In Iowa we’ll visit a regenerative organic farm bringing humanely-raised meats and eggs to consumers. Jóia Food Farm is a diverse livestock and organic grain farm located near Charles City in Northeast Iowa owned and operated by farmers Wendy Johnson and Johnny Rafkin. They left the bright lights, big city of Los Angeles in 2010 out of a desire to connect with food and to live a life filled with intention and genuine purpose. A life that integrates the land, family, community, the work they do, and the food they raise. Wendy and Johnny are advocates of nutrient dense slow food, from raising it to preparing it. They believe in the principles of agro-ecology, with a focus on biodiversity, the sharing of animals and plants working together to create healthy soils, healthy animals, healthy plants, a healthy environment and most importantly, healthy food. They raise heritage pigs, sheep, turkeys, ducks and chickens. They grow certified organic grains and lush pastures and use regenerative methods to grow the livestock in the soils and plant trees, including fruit and nut trees and bushes annually to increase the diversity on the farm.

Wendy is originally from Iowa, but left the farm she grew up on to go to college, move to Los Angeles and fulfill a career in the fashion industry. After 18 years away from the farm, she returned with an entirely new appreciation for the family farm and a vision for its future. A farm is a place to grow roots figuratively and literally, and she is making every effort to do so. Wendy helps manage her family farm in addition to implementing the strategies and new ideas on the farm she and Johnny have made home. She loves learning and continually finding new and better ways to grow soil, food, awareness and community. Wendy is also active as a Climate Land Leader, connecting Iowa livestock farmers to markets through 99 counties, and as a board member at Practical Farmers of Iowa. She’s featured in PFI’s feature length film Livestock on the Land.

Illinois. Mrs. Zintambila is also known to many as Mama Chiko, Mama Mboga, Mama Janet, Ms. JZ, Mama Mahindi and Mama Wetu. Born and raised in Kenya, East Africa, she migrated to the USA in 1979 in pursuit of further education at Iowa Wesleyan College, Mt. Pleasant IA. She subsequently obtained her Master’s degree in Counselor Education from Western Illinois University, Macomb IL. Living in the Midwest, a rich agricultural area, Mrs. Zintambila’s love for growing crops, in particular those native to her home country, Kenya, has evolved. Her late husband Professor Dr. Henry Zintambila and her sons Chiko Zintambila and Vincent Airo Mmata have worked side by side during the growing season helping in many aspects. Currently, her main crop, White Green Maize used for roasting, boiling and making Githeri a famous traditional Kenyan dish makes many ethnic families in the USA happy. Mrs. Zintambila resides in Normal, Illinois. She also works for Homes of Hope Inc in Normal.

Regenerative ag conference attendance options

Funds are available to cover registration and mileage for each student to attend one (nearby or virtual) sustainable agriculture or natural resource conservation conference/ workshop in the region. Choosing which event to attend and arranging logistical will be determined between each student and the program coordinator, but potential events might include the Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference; Grassworks Grazing Conference; Savanna Institute’s Perennial Farm Gathering, 17th Annual Emerging Farmers Conference; Food Sovereignty Symposium and Festival, MOSES (Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service) annual conference; the Midwest Soil Health Summit, The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival; events hosted by the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative, Soil and Water Conservation Society, Missouri’s Center for Agroforestry, NCAT/ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture, or similar events.

Professional communications training & coach - come away with a polished outreach product!

One of the four virtual trainings discussed above will be focused on Effectively Communicating Science and the Importance of Natural Resource Issues. 

Planned topics featured in this training include:

  • Knowing your audience
  • Honing your key messages – accessibility without ‘dumbing down’
  • Tone and language to get your point across
  • Making it relatable – using visuals, analogies, on-the-ground examples, stories and humor

Building off of this training, each program participant will be responsible for identifying a final communication output to develop over time and finalize by the end of the program. This could be a blog post, an op-ed for a local paper, a podcast, a research brief, a farmer interview or other human interest story, an infographic or another output you dream up! You will be provided with professional coaching/ editing to help shape your piece and program staff will assist with basic formatting/ graphic design as appropriate as well as working with you to develop a promotions plan for the piece.

$1,000 stipend at program completion

Program participants will receive $1,000 in stipend funds at the completion of the program. These funds include $600 associated with the completion of a final communications output and an additional $400 with the completion of the full program, including participation in an end-of-program evaluation.

Background on Host Orgs

Who is hosting this program?

This mentorship program is run by Green Lands Blue Waters and the Mississippi River Network and would not be possible without the incredible mentors, farmers and trainers participating.

Green Lands Blue Waters (GLBW) is a vision for profitable agriculture based on keeping the soil covered productively year-round: farming with Continuous Living Cover. GLBW is primarily a networking organization with a broad range of partners – universities, researchers, educators, producer associations, environmental groups, businesses, nonprofits, governmental agencies, and practitioners. GLBW acts as a connector, collaborator, convener, and communicator serving multiple partners and focusing on opportunities and challenges that our partners identify but cannot tackle alone. 

The Mississippi River Network (MRN) is a coalition of over 60 organizations dedicated to creating a healthier Mississippi River by working for the well-being of the people, land, water, and wildlife of America’s largest watershed. We inspire people to restore and protect the natural, recreational, and cultural treasures of the River and utilize grassroots organizing and nonpartisan education of decision-makers as pathways for achieving this mission.

Why this program?

Green Lands Blue Waters (GLBW) and the Mississippi River Network (MRN) are committed to diversifying the crops we see on the Midwestern agricultural landscape and the people involved with all aspects of agriculture. We believe in a relational, reciprocal and networked approach to the work we do. We take a long-game perspective in transforming agriculture, including by increasing representation, building partnerships, and creating conditions for social and environmental change. This mentorship program is one immediate step in the creation of pathways toward long-term transformation. 

You can read more about GLBW’s human-centered approach here: Our Journey to a Transformed Agriculture through Continuous Living Cover; Why continuous living cover crops and cropping systems, and a human-centered, equity-focused approach to their implementation, are imperative and exciting, and how this can look on the agricultural landscape.

To hear directly from student voices in our network, check out the Civic Scientist series.

For further resources, dig into MRN’s Anti-Racism Resources Hub.