MEET THE TEAM
WiWiC is a state-wide collaborative effort led by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in partnership with Renewing the Countryside, Marbleseed (formerly MOSES), and Wisconsin Farmers Union. A five-year multi-faceted project funded by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), WiWiC connects Wisconsin women landowners with local women conservation professionals, practices, resources, and funding opportunities. Six Regional Coordinators facilitate virtual and on-farm field day programming. Fifteen Conservation Coaches offer mentorship and support to women in their region or their field of expertise. Connect with us here and we'll connect you to a nearby network.
ESTHER S. DURAIRAJ
"Women are nurturers ...of their families, of their land, of the earth. Women are also change makers and transformers. By bringing conservation to the doorsteps of women of today, imagine the changes we can bring about in conserving the natural resources for our future generations."
Dr. Esther Shekinah is a Research Agronomist at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute with more than 20 years of sustainable agriculture research experience in both India and the US. In addition to leading the WiWiC team, she is researching cover crops and industrial hemp with the goal of developing production practices that encourage diversity in organic cropping systems.
SOUTH EAST REGIONAL COORDINATOR
Milwaukee, Racine and Walworth Counties
"I love that we are creating a safe and welcoming space for women to learn and connect with one another. Male dominated fields can be intimidating, and sometimes even unwelcoming, spaces for women, so I think what we are doing is crucial."
Noemy is the Assistant Policy Director at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and works to advance federal, state, and local conservation policies, programs, and funding. In addition to her Regional Coordinator work with WiWiC, she also supports producer-led watershed protection groups. Noemy is from Long Beach, California, but now lives in Madison. She graduated from UW Madison with a Personal Finance degree and a certificate in Sustainability.
WEST CENTRAL REGIONAL COORDINATOR
Pierce, Pepin and Buffalo Counties
"I am passionate about farming, about local foods and of course about the environment. I see this project as an opportunity to work alongside incredible women who are capable of leading the change for nature and our well-being and to stand up for conservation on their own land and in their communities."
Sara George works with Renewing the Countryside, a nonprofit that supports food systems and sustainable rural development, to facilitate systems that support an innovative model that uses farmers markets as low-cost food hubs for rural towns and smaller cities across Minnesota. Sara is a farmer, a market manager at two farmers markets, VP of the MN Farmers Market Association, a FSMA trainer during those cold winter months.
WEST CENTRAL REGIONAL COORDINATOR
Monroe, La Crosse and Trempeleau Counties
"It's so inspiring and energizing to be working with women landowners who are bringing their creativity, energy and love to shape the way we care for land. Conservation needs more of this energy to face the environmental and social challenges that lie ahead of us."
Alanna works with Renewing the Countryside and as a doula and free-lance consultant hosting DIY nature-based workshops. She grew up on dairy farm in Central Wisconsin and holds a B.S. and M.S. in Forestry and Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She has also worked for nearly two decades at the Aldo Leopold Foundation. She and her husband and daughter raise grass-fed beef, and Alanna has experience with many land-care practices, including prairie restoration, prescribed burns, and timber stand improvement and harvest.
NORTH WEST REGIONAL COORDINATOR
Polk, Barron and Dunn Counties
Stephanie is the Wisconsin Women in Conservation Coordinator at Marbleseed (formerly MOSES). She and her husband raise grass-finished beef and farm with her parents just outside of El Paso, Wisconsin, in the Rush River watershed. She has implemented rotational grazing with the help of the NRCS and inherits her love of improving the land through conservation practices from her Dad, who was one of the first farmers to practice no-till in Pierce County. Her other interests include photography, music, and traveling with her family.
ELENA GUTIERREZ BYRNE
SOUTH WEST REGIONAL COORDINATOR
Vernon, Crawford and Grant Counties
"I'm excited to see this project connect women for a shared effort of continuous improvement in our land stewardship practices. As a landowner myself, I acknowledge that it sometimes feels like a private and lonely affair, but that the chance to invest time and energy into learning and networking has great potential for change—for ourselves, and our shared commitment to conservation."
As Local Foods Specialist at Renewing the Countryside, Elena Gutierrez Byrne works to facilitate growth for regional farm and food businesses through research, networking and communications, including work with the FEAST! Local Foods Network and the Artisan Grain Collaborative. She holds a doctorate in nutritional sciences from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and resides on 8 acres in rural Black Earth.
NORTH EAST REGIONAL COORDINATOR
Marathon, Portage, Shawano, Waupaca, Outagamie and Brown Counties
"I am really excited to take part in this project. I think there is so much power in creating networks of women across the state who are able to learn with, and from each other. I am thrilled to work with our partners to build connections around conservation in Wisconsin."
Kirsten Slaughter is the Chapter and Education organizer for Wisconsin Farmers Union. In her work she collaborates with WFU chapters to host educational events on a wide array of topics, helps to build connections between members, and organizes other educational events across the state. Kirsten has been part of the WFU and Pheasants Forever team organizing Women Caring for the Land events across the state for the last two years.
"Working on this project is important to me because Wisconsin women landowners are so important as stewards of the land they own or co-own. This project will build capacity in these women to develop confidence and make well-informed decisions regarding their land’s management, benefitting Wisconsin’s natural resources."
Rebecca Christoffel is an E Resources Group team member. She holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from UW-Madison in Wildlife Ecology and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Fisheries and Wildlife. Her work focuses on the human dimensions of natural resources management. Prior to her work at E Resources Group, Dr. Christoffel was the State Wildlife Extension Biologist and a faculty member at Iowa State University.
EVALUATION AND TRAINING
"I am committed to reaching women with information and pathways for them to enact their dreams, which always include protecting the land. It's a bonus for me to help a program develop that has strong underpinnings of evaluation culture to serve program participants well."
Dr. Jean Eells started E Resources Group, LLC in 1997 when there were almost no opportunities for women in conservation in rural Iowa. The business survives and Jean conducts evaluation, research, and interpretation projects from her home, still in rural Iowa. Her work on women's landownership and agricultural conservation has led to spin-off programs across the Midwest and further.
"Women and conservation are kindred spirits, but too often these visions for healthy land and soil hit barriers navigating a system still geared for and run primarily by men. This project gives women a needed voice and support in advocating for land stewardship."
Lisa Kivirist has worked with women in the sustainable agriculture space for over ten years, leading the award-winning Soil Sisters (a project of Renewing the Countryside) and founding the Rural Women’s Project of the Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service. Her book, Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers, compiles advice and inspiration from over 100 women across the country. She and her family run Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B, completely powered by renewable energy.
MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
"Conservation is contagious. It's addictive! You can't walk on a prairie in summer and not want to have one. I'm persuaded that if we can create more content and experiences that put women in touch with other women who are practicing good stewardship, we can transform the landscape and heal our overburdened waters."
Kriss Marion is an urban journalist turned small scale farmer. She practices managed grazing with sheep, cattle, and goats on a small degraded wetland that's returning to sedge meadow through conservation practices. She is a Communications Specialist with Wisconsin Farmers Union and runs Circle M Market Farm BnB with her husband Shannon.