MEET THE TEAM
WiWiC is a state-wide collaborative effort led by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in partnership with Renewing the Countryside, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), and Wisconsin Farmers Union. A three-year multi-faceted project funded by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), WiWiC brings together Wisconsin women landowners to connect and learn about conservation practices, resources, and funding opportunities. Five regional coordinators plan and facilitate virtual and field day programming. Fourteen conservation coaches - whose stories are told through our blog and archived on the Coaches page - offer mentorship and support to women in their region or their field of expertise.
ESTHER SHEKINAH: PROJECT LEAD
"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. D. 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.
ALEJANDRA HERNANDEZ: SE REGIONAL COORDINATOR
"I am excited about this project because I love supporting and amplifying the work of women. I believe it is crucial to create a strong network of Wisconsin women landowners so that they know of each other and rely on each other for support and knowledge sharing. One of the sweetest things in life is women empowering women!"
Alejandra Hernandez is a Conservation Policy Associate at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. She earned her Masters from the Yale School of the Environment with a specialization in Ecosystems and Land Conservation and Management. She is driven to create equitable systems and policies that improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities while also promoting resilience to climate change.
JENNIFER NELSON: NW REGIONAL COORDINATOR
"I want to spread the word to women landowners that they have conservation and organic production options! We need to strengthen our network of county, state and non-profit agencies so that we can all better promote land conservation practices. Our water supply, local food system, and community health depend on it."
Jennifer Nelson works with Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES), facilitating farmer education and farmland access. With her partner, she co-owns Humble Pie Farm in Plum City, Wis., growing Certified Organic bedding plants, produce and flowers. Jennifer has managed and been on the board of multiple farmers’ markets in the Midwest.
KIRSTEN SLAUGHTER: NE REGIONAL COORDINATOR
"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.
ELENA GUTIERREZ BYRNE: SW REGIONAL COORDINATOR
"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.
SARA GEORGE: WC REGIONAL COORDINATOR
"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.
REBECCA CHRISTOFFEL: PROJECT EVALUATOR
"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.
JEAN EELLS: 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.
LISA KIVIRIST: OUTREACH COORDINATOR
"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.
KRISS MARION: COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST
"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.