MEET THE TEAM

KEEFE KEELEY, MS

Co-Executive Director

 

Keefe comes from the Kickapoo Valley of Wisconsin. He studied biology at Swarthmore College and then traveled on a Watson fellowship to live with farmers in the UK, Zambia, New Zealand, India, and Japan and study the spiritual elements of their land ethics. He returned to Wisconsin and worked at Driftless Organics, the state's Department of Agriculture, the Farley Center Farm Incubator, and volunteered as president of Community Conservation, Inc. His research at the University of Wisconsin focused on engaging farmers with their forests, and he co-edited the Driftless Reader. Keefe joined the Savanna Institute to support farmers leading us into a livable future for all. He enjoys canoeing, bicycling, backyard berries, and planting trees on his family’s farm.

Contact: keefe@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 100

KEVIN WOLZ, PhD

Co-Executive Director

Contact: kevin@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 101

Originally discovering nature while running through the forest preserves around Chicago, Kevin is passionate about applying ecological concepts to solve environmental issues. He received a PhD studying alley cropping agroforestry systems at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While at the University of Illinois, Kevin spearheaded the establishment of several innovative agroforestry experiments. He is also the owner of Midwest Agroforestry Solutions and two innovative agroforestry farms in Central Illinois that grow chestnuts, hazelnuts, and currants.

KATE WERSAN, PhD

Associate Director

Contact: kate@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 111

Kate grew up playing in the shallows where the Susquehanna River cuts across Blue Mountain in central Pennsylvania. After graduating from Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, she spent two years with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) in Arlington, VA. While working to preserve affordable housing Kate decided to return to graduate school for environmental history to learn to tell deeper and more nuanced stories about place and belonging. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kate worked with historian William Cronon, helped co-found the digital magazine, Edge Effects, and was the Managing Editor for the statewide public history project, Wisconsin 101: Our History in Objects. Her research focuses on the environmental and cultural history of timekeeping and temporal perception in 19 th century American agriculture and industry, and has won numerous awards and fellowships, including the prestigious Leopold-Hidy Award for best article in Environmental History from the American Society of Environmental Historian and the Forest History Society in 2018.

KRISTY GRULEY, PhD

Education Program Manager

Contact: kristy@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 102

Kristy grew up picking rocks from her parents’ farm fields in south-central Wisconsin. She studied Earth Science education at UW-Whitewater, where she developed an intense interest in soils, landscapes, and ecology. Later, she received a master’s in Geography from Michigan State University, and then returned to Wisconsin to earn a PhD in Geography from UW-Madison researching soils, geomorphology, and carbon sequestration in Wisconsin’s Black River State Forest. She has taught courses on soils, geomorphology, and earth science, as well as a capstone seminar on food, agriculture, and sustainability. Following graduation, she led evaluation development and implementation for various programs at UW-Madison. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, gardening, canning, and home-improvement projects.

WIL CROMBIE

Communications Specialist

Contact: wil@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 110

A Minnesota native, Wil Crombie specializes in filmmaking, design & web marketing. Wil and his wife Carly care take their homestead the Organic Compound in Faribault, MN. Wil is a co-owner of Regeneration Farms and the Tree-Range™ Chicken brand, and along with many partners manages over 40 acres of agroforestry with rotationally grazed chicken at the center of the operation. Wil seeks projects that focus on healthy ecosystems and thriving communities and has worked with organizations like Main Street Project, Regeneration International, Organic Consumers Association and Sea Shepherd. Wil also has a passion for music and has worked with influential artists like Trevor Hall, Tubby Love and Paul Izak. He continually looks forward to helping a new generation navigate itself through the digital realms and on the ground, telling powerful stories that return people to regenerative ways of thinking and community based living.

JACOB GRACE, MS

Outreach Coordinator

Contact: jacob@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 105

Jacob grew up on a family farm in northwest Missouri, where he helped his parents raise grassfed beef cattle and native prairie plants. He studied biology at Truman State University in Missouri and produced radio stories about Midwest agriculture during an internship with Harvest Public Media in Kansas City. Jacob spent three seasons as a field instructor with the Teton Science Schools in Jackson, Wyoming before enrolling as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he completed MS programs in both Life Sciences Communication and Agroecology. In addition to his work with the Savanna Institute, Jacob works with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) at UW-Madison.

Michele Manske, MS

Event Coordinator

Contact: michele@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 113

An avid camper and hiker since her earliest memories, Michele finds her purpose amongst the trees. She was raised in Minnesota, and pursued a Bachelors in Fine Art and Photography. While photographing a community event, Michele learned about PermaJax, an ecological gardening group, and immediately began volunteering with them. This experience led her back to school at the University of Minnesota to earn a Masters degree in Sustainable Agriculture. Since then, she has had the opportunity to work as a designer, illustrator, and educator for the UMN Nature Based Therapies program, a hiking guide for Global Treks in Iceland, and as a Farm Manager for Pillsbury United Communities. Michele is passionate about the environment, art, foraging in the woods with her husband and dog, and drinking coffee with her cat.

BILL DAVISON, MS

Chestnut Commercialization Lead

Contact: bill@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 109

Bill grew up in Amish country in northern Ohio, working on dairy farms through high school.  He served in the Army and used the G.I. Bill to pay for college, graduating with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana and an M.S. in Biology from Eastern Illinois University. Following graduate school, he worked for The Nature Conservancy as a Land Steward and then spent seven years as an organic vegetable farmer in central Illinois. He transitioned from farming to working as a Local Food System Educator with University of Illinois Extension where he developed programs to support staple crops and agroforestry. In his spare time, Bill enjoys gardening, bird watching, hunting, fishing, cycling, and running.

SCOTT BRAINARD, MS

Tree Crop Analyst

Contact: scott@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 107

Scott grew up outside of Albany, New York, and was first exposed to agriculture on vegetable farms in the western part of the state. He studied biology at Swarthmore College, spending his summers working for organic market farms. After graduating, he moved to Philadelphia, where he coordinated several urban gardening projects for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, before moving to Europe to obtain a MSc degree in organic agriculture from Wageningen University. Scott is currently pursuing a PhD in the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is excited to bring his experience on farms and within academia to help improve the diversity and resiliency of Midwestern agriculture.

Kaitie Adams, MA

Demonstration Farm Manager

Contact: kaitie@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 108

Kaitie is a Southern Illinois native whose commitment to good food, regenerative farming, ethical foraging, and deep rooted human connection emerged from the rolling hills of the Shawnee National Forest. These passions culminated in a large-scale research project for which she received a Master’s Degree in Anthropology in 2015 from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Kaitie’s work explored the social life of seeds and mushroom cultures on small scale farms in Southern Illinois and the powerful relationships agriculture creates. Prior joining the Savanna Institute Kaitie was a farmer & educator at EarthDance Organic Farm School, supported work at Mandala Gardens, helped run Monte Alegre Vineyard & Cellars, and sold produce at an immigrant-owned grocery. She currently runs a small business transforming produce seconds into value-added products and is the Farm Manager at Midwest Agroforestry Solutions and Seven Sisters Farm. Kaitie is excited to continue her work helping create resilient, regenerative farming systems with the Savanna Institute.

Erik Hagan, MS

Farm Manager

Contact: erik@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 112

Since 2005, Erik has devoted himself to studying, teaching, and managing agroecological systems across the country. After receiving a B.S. in Agricultural and Ecological Sciences from The Evergreen State College in 2009, Erik coordinated the South Puget Sound Small Farms Program with WSU Extension and Mason Conservation District; providing education, research and farm planning/technical assistance for producers in the region. Erik relocated to Pennsylvania in 2015 to work with the USDA Agricultural Research Service at the Pennsylvania State University while working towards a Masters in Ecology.  His research focused on alternative riparian buffer and water quality management strategies for enhancing ecosystem services within agricultural landscapes. During this time, Erik developed and managed a diversified agroforestry farm while co-coordinating outreach and training programs on agroforestry opportunities specific to the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region. Erik is excited to join the Savanna Institute and the Midwest community in discovering, developing and promoting resilient and regenerative models of agroecosystems for the Midwest and beyond.

2020 Interns

Greta Larson

Greta, a Minnesota native, has worked in no till produce and pastured protein production and more recently, perennial plant propagation and establishment. She is honored to collaborate with Savannah Institute on the ground and shares the belief that all midwesterners can find affirming and important roles in the agroforestry movement.

Dane McKittrick

Raised in the small town of Batavia Illinois, Dane managed to develop a love of the natural world amid the suburban sprawl. After spending his childhood exploring the streams, forests, and prairies of the Midwest, Dane went on to get a degree in Conservation Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During his college career, Dane was fortunate to have performed ecological research in a wide range of habitats, from the tropical dry forests of Ecuador to the seasonal wetlands of California. Throughout his studies, Dane encountered how the management of agriculture lands directly and indirectly influenced the health of natural landscapes, and how critical the interaction between academic research and applied conservation was. The Savanna Institute offers the perfect opportunity for Dane to combine his passions of sustainable agriculture, environmental research, and conservation. In his spare time, Dane enjoys kayaking, cooking, hiking, and exploring new places by any means necessary.

Hannah Patrick

Hannah grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and attended the University of Virginia where she earned her B.A. in International Relations. In school she studied environmental policy, global development, and cultural anthropology and realized everything seemed to circle back to farming, food production, and the importance of resilient food systems. After graduating she worked on multiple organic vegetable farms, became involved with various nonprofits working in the local food sector, and set about acquiring knowledge on how to live a life more in balance with limitations on natural resources. Hannah joined the Savanna Institute in order to further her education and work in creating a more just, resilient, and diverse agricultural heritage for future generations of the world.

Meredith Stamberger

Meredith grew up in rural north central Illinois where she spent most of her childhood outdoors. She attended Southern Illinois University where she completed a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture Production and managed the Student Sustainable Farm while working on her master’s degree. While in college, Meredith spent a semester studying crop production at the University of Ghana and later was a graduate intern at The Horticulture Innovation Lab in Guinea, West Africa.  In 2019, Meredith and her sister started Buzzard Glory Farm, a small-scale produce farm in Western Illinois.

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