Meet the Leaders

Women Leaders Supporting Cultivate 2012

Leigh Adcock

LeighAdcockGilbert, IA
Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN)

Leigh is Executive Director of The Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN), sustainable agriculture and female farmer advocate.  She is featured in the bookFarmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat.

Traci Bruckner
TraciBrucknerWayne, NE
Center for Rural Affairs

Traci focuses on conservation methods, Farm Bill programs, and strengthening small businesses and family farms through her service as Policy Analyst and Rural Policy Program Assistant Director for the Center for Rural Affairs (CFA).  She was elected and serves as Chair of the USDA Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.

Anna Claussen


Minneapolis, MN
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

At IATP, Anna focuses on biomass and the bioenergy economy; as well as the creation and retention of natural and social wealth within rural communities in order to improve the quality of life for all residents. She bridges years of practice in the Urban Design and Planning field with a life deeply rooted on a Minnesota family farm.

Aurora Conley
aurora conleyOdanah, WI
Honor the Earth

Aurora is a Native Woman working in environmental justice, women’s rights, and child advocacy. Her affiliations include Bad River Tribe, White Earth Land Recovery Project, and Honor the Earth.  Aurora has traveled extensively with environmental justice leader, Winona LaDuke, and helps lead efforts to protect native stands of wild rice manoomin and food sovereignty justice issues. Aurora is also a proud White House Project Alumni.

Poppy Davis
PoppyDavisDes Moines, Iowa

Poppy is currently pursuing a JD at Drake University Law School. She worked for the USDA for seven years, four of them in Washington DC where she was a founding member of the USDA for Veterans Reservists and Military Families Task Force and served on the management team of Secretary Vilsack’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative.  Prior to coming to the USDA she was a California CPA specializing in family-scale farms and agriculture-related not-for-profits.

Pakou Hang

pakouhangSt. Paul, MN

Pakou is an advocate for research of medicinal plants, immigrant rights, and healthy food availability. She has helped her family farm for over 20 years, and works with a group of Hmong farmers in the Twin Cities area. Pakou works with the Institute for Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives at the University of Minnesota to examine traditional Hmong medicinal plants.

Diane Hatz


Cold Spring, NY

Diane conceptualizes, develops and implements innovative solutions to problems with food and farming. She is currently the Co‐Founder & Director of The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming. She is also a TEDster and the curator/host for TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat”.

Dr. Rose Hayden-Smith
rosehaydensmithVentura, CA
University of California

Rose has worked with 4-H programs, the USDA, as well as University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Division to help promote sustainable food systems and practices.  Hayden-Smith has been featured on blogs, television shows, and she is currently working on writing and publishing her own book.

Melinda Hemmelgarn

melinda Hemmelgarn_0Columbia, MO

Melinda is a registered dietitian, “investigative” nutritionist, and award-winning journalist, and a trail-blazer of nutritional education programs.  She has 30 years’ experience in clinical, academic and public health nutrition.

Beth Holtzman


Berlin, VT
Women Ag Network, University of VT

Beth is outreach education coordinator for the Women’s Agricultural Network (WAgN), a program of University of Vermont Extension. WAgN has been providing education and technical assistance geared to the needs of women farmers since 1995.

Liz Johnson

liz_johnsonDuluth, MN

Liz serves as a consultant for the Women Food and Agriculture Network.  From 2004 to 2012, she coordinated The White House Project leadership training programs within the Midwest region. A leader in the design and implementation of rural women’s leadership programs, Liz has worked and trained with thousands of women from 250 cities and towns across the Midwest, and even more women from across the country.

Faye Jones

FayeJonesSpring Valley, WI
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)

Faye is an organic farming veteran, with over 31 years of experience that range from serving on several Wisconsin advisory councils promoting sustainable agriculture to currently serving as Executive Director of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). Despite her heavy involvement in community endeavors, Jones also runs Morning Glory Farm with her husband Mark.

Sheila Karpf

SheilaKarpfWashington, DC
Taxpayers for Common Sense

Sheila joined TCS in 2012 and works primarily on agriculture and biofuels issues. Prior to joining TCS, Sheila worked for Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and as a policy analyst at the Environmental Working Group. Sheila received a M.S. in Environmental Policy from the London School of Economics and a B.S . in Economics and Management Information Systems from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Lisa Kivirist


Browntown, WI
Midwest Organic and Sutainable Education Service (MOSES)

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, award-winning author, and director of the Rural Women’s Project of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service. She works extensively to promote eco-friendly business and sustainable agriculture, and is huge promoter of including women’s voices in the ongoing debate over viable methods of food production.

Ariane Lotti

ArianeLottiWashington, DC
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Ariane is the Assistant Policy Director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. She has served as the Policy Director for the Organic Farming Research Foundation, and Policy Associate for OFRF and NSAC. She is a published author, and has worked on and conducted research on organic and conventional farms in the US and Europe.

Michele Meyer

MicheleMeyerAshland, WI
Northland College

Michele serves as the Dean for Student Life at Northland College. She oversees the office of Sustainability and is the chair of the Sustainability Work Group.  She collaborates with regional organizations including the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, University of Wisconsin Extension, and Wilderness Inquiry on a variety of issues impacting the Lake Superior Watershed.

Maria Miller


Windsor, CO
National Farmers Union

Maria oversees theNational Farmers Union’s (NFU) overall education program strategies as Director of Education. She works with Farmers Union state education directors and volunteer leaders to provide educational and leadership building opportunities to Farmers Union youth. Maria develops educational outreach programs for members of all ages, rural residents and consumers.

Kathy Mulvey

KathyMulveyWashington, DC

Kathy works as the Executive Director at the Conflict Risk Network at EIRIS. In the past she has worked with the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) as Policy Director, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and United to End Genocide.

Jenga Mwendo

Jenga_MwendoNew Orleans, LA
Backyard Garderners Network

Jenga is the Director of the Backyard Gardeners in New Orleans, LA.  She is heavily involved with the food security and sustainable agriculture movement within the New Orleans communities after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Demalda Newsome

DemaldaNewsomeTulsa, OK
Newsome Community Farms

Demalda began Newsome Community Farms, Inc. and the North Tulsa Farmer’s Market  in order to empower low-income communities by increasing their access to ownership of their food systems through means of education, workshops, and community collaborations.  One of the farmer’s market’s main objectives is to provide community members and area farmers a place to sell and purchase fresh and nutritious produce.

Julia Olmstead

JuliaOlmsteadMinneapolis, MN
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Julia’s work focuses primarily on biofuels, the bioeconomy, and domestic climate policy as it relates to agriculture. For much of the last decade Julia has worked on issues related to sustainable agriculture and biofuels as a journalist and scientist, with a couple of years doing human rights work in Cuba and Colombia mixed in.

Katie Peterman

Karen Peterman

La Farge, WI
Organic Valley

Peterman is the leader of the Cooperative Action Network (CAN) for Organic Valley as well as other organizations involved with cultivating the ecological, social, and economic vitality of food and farming.  She owns Laughing Sprout Family Farms.

Carolyn Sachs


University Park, PA
Penn State University

Professor of Rural Sociology and Women’s Studies, Carolyn is also the head of Women’s Studies Department at Penn State University. Her research examines issues of gender and agriculture, and gender and environmental issues.

Erin Vilardi

ErinVilardiNew York, NY
Women’s Leadership Works

Erin is the Founder of Women’s Leadership Works. She also directs leadership development for The Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. Her work focuses on developing Athena’s CORE10 – a innovate set of leadership competencies for 21st century women leaders – as well as professional education programs and strategic partnerships.

Lydia Villanueva

lydiavillanuevaHereford, TX
CASA del Llano

Lydia is an invaluable presence in the latino community of the Texas Panhandle. Her work in connecting with these farmers, as well as empowering latina women to take on powerful leadership roles, has formed her non-profit organization CASA del LLano INC into a force to be reckoned with.

Severine von Tscharner Fleming

severinevontscharnerflemingRhinebeck, NY
The Greenhorns

Severine is a documentary film director, activist, organizer and successful farmer. Her work in promoting the youth farming community led her to establish Greenhorns, a non-profit organization that highlights this special community and participates in a slew of social, media and community events throughout her New York’s Hudson Valley.

Karen Washington

karenwashingtonBronx, NY
New York City Community Garden Coalition

Karen Washington is the driving force behind the revitalization of numerous impoverished Bronx neighborhoods through the establishment of community gardens. She is a strong believer in the connection between food and greater social justice issues, and is hard at work to educate her community and provide them with adequate support through the various coalitions and food markets.

Lea Webb

LeaWebbBinghamton, NY
City of Binghamton

Lea embodies the notion of strong, female youth leadership. She is an award-winning activist who has successfully bridged the gap between local and state politics and government to bring about positive and lasting change in her community. Her greatest achievement includes being elected as the first–and youngest–African-American representative in the Binghamton City Council.

Martine Wisotsky


New York, NY

Martine is a strategist, activist, and community educator. Her work includes exploring strategies to solve issues of national and global poverty and hunger, as well as inspiring citizens to create social change through technology and community involvement.