Synergy Circle | Harvard, IL

Rebecca is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Synergy Circle, an arts and ecology retreat.  She has worked in land preservation and restoration for over 25 years including her current position as Planning and Land Use Administrator for Lake County Forest Preserve District. Rebecca’s passion for conservation is rooted in her many childhood experiences including those with a neighbor who shared stories of plants, nature and gardening. Rebecca has always been drawn to the outdoors and earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. Inspired by the wisdom of permaculture and observing patterns in nature, Rebecca creates outdoor spaces that are both ecologically sound and welcoming to people. Building on her strong botanical background and passion for agroforestry and food systems, one of Rebecca’s personal missions is to share with others the healing experience of being connected to nature and all it offers. She currently lives in McHenry County, IL with her husband, where they spend much of their time working on the land, developing native food forests, experimenting with test plots and numerous other creative pursuits.


Atten Babler Risk Management LLC | Galena, IL

Vice Chair

Will Babler is a partner at Atten Babler Risk Management LLC, a commodity trading firm where he works with clients to manage their risks in agricultural and energy markets. Previously, Will was an engineer at John Deere and worked for Avista Inc. as a developer of avionics software.


Will is also engaged in renewable energy, regenerative agriculture and conservation activities. He is a developer of solar energy projects, a partner in a Midwest perennial crop farm, and he serves on the finance committee of the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation. Will is a board member of Mercaris, an organic and specialty crop trading and market data company.


Will grew up in Southwest Wisconsin on a large diversified farming operation working on row crops, dairy and beef, cut flowers and other various entrepreneurial activities. As a National Merit Scholar, Will attended Iowa State University on a full academic scholarship. After completing his bachelors of science in mechanical engineering he attended the Stuart Graduate School of Business where he completed a graduate program in financial markets.


CDK Global | Chicago, IL


Mike Murray is a director of Corporate Development at CDK Global, a leading technology provider in the automotive industry. In this role, Mike helps acquire and sell businesses,  form and manage partnerships, and inform the company strategy. His passion for health, economics, and food are what drew him to agroforestry and restorative agriculture systems. Earlier in his career, Mike helped found an agroforestry propagation nursery and consulting business. He has a double major in finance and accounting from the University of Illinois and previously worked as a valuation specialist for PricewaterhouseCoopers.


The University of Texas at Austin | Austin, TX


McKenzie Beverage is the Senior Zero Waste Coordinator for the University of Texas at Austin. In this role she coordinates facilitates UT's goal to achieve Zero Waste by 2020.


McKenzie received her Master's in Public Affairs from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, both from Indiana University. After graduating, McKenzie worked in sustainability at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she met and began working with members of the Savanna Institute. Her dedication to sustainability education and desire to change the food system drove her to take a Permaculture Design Course and become involved in the Savanna Institute.


In her free time, McKenzie enjoys rock climbing, gardening, fermenting things, and exploring natural areas with her dog.


Paicines Ranch | San Jose, CA

Sallie Calhoun is a software and ranchland pioneer. An engineer by training, she spent twenty-five years growing a software company with her husband, which they sold in 2000. Then they did the craziest thing they'd ever done: they purchased a 7600 acre ranch south of San Jose, Ca – the Paicines Ranch. Sallie will share her story-in-progress including how she is activating her portfolio in service of her passion for grasslands and soil. So far that has included raising grass-fed beef, running a packing plant, and making loans to support sustainable agriculture. They have a vision of what they want the land to look like and they use cattle as a tool to realize that vision. Sallie was also a long-time Chair of the Board of Directors of Holistic Management International, an organization dedicated to helping farmers; ranchers and land managers use and conserve their land effectively. In addition to their philanthropic plans to give all of their money away during their lifetime, Sallie and her husband are in active inquiry about what it means to shift their investment portfolio to align with their mission. We welcome this savvy and successful engineer's perspective on how she's Leading with Land and seeking leverage to help create the new economy.



Greater Peoria Economic Development Council | Peoria, IL

Tory is currently the Director of Communications & Outreach and the Rural Development Coordinator at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.  He has worked in multimedia production and marketing in various forms since 2007 and in community and economic development since 2014. Tory has a BS in Journalism from Bradley University and is currently pursuing his MA in Rural Community and Economic Development through Western Illinois University.  In his spare time he hangs out with his wife and two boys, serves on the associate board for Peoria Public Radio, and tries to make time for music, hikes and gardening.


Red Fern Farm | Wapello, IA

Kathy Dice grew up in the Midwest as a city girl. She received a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology from ISU and began a career teaching and implementing conservation practices in Iowa. Kathy has worked for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Louisa County Conservation Board. She is a soil commissioner for her county and the winner of the 2015 Practical Farmers of Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award with her husband, Tom Wahl. Kathy and Tom bought 56 acres of steep, rugged timberland in Louisa County in 1986.  In 2001 they added 31 acres of rolling farmland. Over time they established Red Fern Farm: a farm of fruit- and nut-producing trees, shrubs, and vines. They grow high value tree crops, including chestnuts, pawpaws, heartnuts, persimmons, Asian pears, and others, and  operate a small tree nursery.


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