Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Board of Directors


Julia Olmstead

Chairperson of the Board  |  Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Prior to joining the McKnight Foundation, Julia served as coordinator for the Farmer-Led Watershed Council Project for University of Wisconsin-Extension, where she designed, launched, and managed a multi-stakeholder agriculture water quality collaborative. The project bridged public agencies (county, state, and federal), farmers, businesses, and nonprofits, and became a regional model for voluntary, watershed-based agriculture conservation. Previously, she spent four years as senior associate for the rural communities program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. She also has worked as a news writer for NBC Bay Area News in San Jose, CA, and has published essays, journal articles, and opinion pieces in publications including Crop Science, Smithsonian magazine, and the Los Angeles Times.

Ruth Anne French-Hodson

Vice Chairperson of the Board; Partner at Sharp Law  |  Kansas City, MO

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Ruth Anne grew up on her family’s fifth generation farm in south-central Kansas. She graduated with a political science degree with honors and highest distinction from the University of Kansas and then traveled across the pond to get both her masters and doctorate in Politics at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. In 2012, Ruth Anne received her law degree from Yale Law School. After clerking in federal district and appellate courts, Ruth Anne moved back to Kansas to work as an attorney on complex litigation and appeals. She currently represents consumers, landowners, farmers, and other plaintiffs to ensure their voices are represented in large class actions as a partner at Sharp Law in Prairie Village, Kansas. Ruth Anne is also firmly committed to providing pro bono services in a wide range of areas from voting rights to representing individuals fighting wrongful criminal convictions to assisting parents facing abuse and neglect allegations. She is also focused on building and highlighting sustainable initiatives in the Midwest, most notably through her service on the boards of The Land Institute and BikeWalkKC. Finally, she is actively involved in the Rhodes community through serving on selection committees and as a Class Leader. She lives in Kansas City, Kansas, with her husband, son, and two dogs.

Rachel Stroer

President  |  Austin, Texas

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Rachel Stroer serves as the President of The Land Institute, the first woman president to lead the organization in its 45-year history. Stroer has held key roles at The Land Institute since joining in 2015, including Chief Operating Officer and Chief Strategy Officer. Surrounded by a community of scientists and researchers, Stroer is now leading the adoption of a bold new strategic vision to reconcile the human economy with Nature’s economy, starting with food. Under her stewardship, The Land Institute is catalyzing an international network of collaborators and advocates—connected across space and deeply rooted in place—working to develop diverse, perennial grain agriculture and an ecological future for all.

Funlola Otukoya

Treasurer, Investment Analyst, Impact and ESG Specialist, McKnight Foundation  |  Minneapolis, MN

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Funlola is an Investment Manager, Impact and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) specialist at the McKnight Foundation. Prior to joining McKnight, he was the Africa Advisor at Concordia, a non-profit focused on building social impact through cross-sector partnerships. Previously, he served as Investor Lead at CDP, an organization focused on ESG integration into the financial markets as it relates to climate change, water scarcity, and soft-commodity deforestation. As Investor Lead, he worked with endowment funds, investment banks, private foundations, and impact investors, among others on encouraging S&P 500 disclosure on environmental matters and using that data for business decisions. He also launched a sustainable infrastructure financing tool for cities, states, and regions.

Brian Donahue

Secretary of the Board; Associate Professor, Brandeis University  |  Gill, Massachusetts

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Brian Donahue is Professor Emeritus of American Environmental Studies at Brandeis University, and a farm and forest policy consultant. He holds a PhD from the Brandeis program in History. He co-founded and for 12 years directed Land’s Sake, a non-profit community farm in Weston, Massachusetts, and now co-owns and manages a farm in western Massachusetts. He sits on the boards of The Massachusetts Woodland Institute, The Friends of Spannocchia, and The Land Institute. Donahue is author of Reclaiming the Commons: Community Farms and Forests in a New England Town (1999), and The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord (2004). He is co-author of Wildlands and Woodlands and A New England Food Vision. He and his family co-own and manage a farm in western Massachusetts.

Board Members

Brandon Schlautman

Lead Scientist, Perennial Legumes

Hyacinth Diehl

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Hyacinth was raised on a multi-generation, extended family seed farm with strong research connections.  Their career in networking and computer security came to fulfillment as part of the founding team of CrowdStrike, where their focus was on adversary and technical strategy.  They are excited to engage with The Land Institute’s mission of transforming agricultural and food systems.

Pete Ferrell

Owner/Operator Ferrell Ranch  |  Beaumont, Kansas

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Pete Ferrell is the owner and former manager of the Ferrell Ranch, which was established by his great-grandfather in 1888. Starting as a ranch hand, he managed the family operation from 1980 until 2017. Using his ranching background, Pete worked for 10 years as a facilitator for the Executive Link program offered by Ranch Management Consultants. He was the lead landholder securing the development of the Elk River Wind Farm built on the Ferrell Ranch in 2005.  Pete has also worked as a project consultant for Energy for Generations, a wind power development company. He served as president of the Beaumont Community Association for seven years.  He is now investing his time and energy developing an apprentice program for younger persons interested in a career in regenerative agriculture.

Jill Isenbarger

Chief of Staff, United Nations Foundation  |  Pelham, NY

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Jill joined the United Nations Foundation as Chief of Staff in early 2020. In that role, Jill advises the President & CEO on strategy, direction and impact. Prior to joining the UN Foundation, Jill was the CEO of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, an organization advancing sustainable agriculture and a culture of eating that can support it.  Jill catalyzed Stone Barns Center from a local, New York-centric start-up to a formidable and highly regarded institution with national and international reach and influence.

Prior to Stone Barns Center, Jill served as Chief of Staff for The Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organization. Jill worked to advance climate change initiatives, bring the Conservancy’s Last Great Places to urban dwellers through an international traveling photography exhibition and book, In Response to Place, and developed a National Public Radio series, Stories from the Heart of the Land.  She has been a critical advocate in support of ecosystem services and helped to develop the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility with the World Bank, an initiative to create financial mechanisms valuing carbon and applying high-quality standards to help developing countries protect threatened forests and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ken Levy-Church

Scholar  |  New York, New York

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After receiving his bachelor’s in philosophy from Dartmouth, Ken grounded himself in New Mexico building passive solar adobe homes. He returned to graduate education at the University of Michigan, where he received an interdisciplinary master’s degree in Russian and East European Studies and then a Ph.D. in Central Eurasian History. His dissertation examined the evolution of an agrarian revolutionary tradition in western Georgia. Over the course of his graduate studies he studied Russian, Turkish, Persian, and Georgian and spent extended periods in Russia, Turkey, and Georgia. While teaching Central Eurasian History at St. Lawrence University, he developed numerous courses pertaining to the region, including the History of the Russian and Ottoman Empires, as well as a class on 9/11 entitled “Why Do ‘They’ Hate ‘Us’?” He then left academia to pursue philanthropic work as a board member of the JEHT Foundation, which focused primarily on criminal justice in the U.S. and became the largest criminal justice foundation in the U.S. at the time. He also founded the Fair Food Foundation (now Fair Food Network) whose mission is the development of healthy food systems in inner city America. At present he is focused on the science and business of climate change, as well as promoting the work of The Land Institute.

Deborah Neher

Professor, Dept. of Plant and Soil Science, University of Vermont  |  Burlington, VT

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Deb, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont, is a soil ecologist that uses population and community ecology approaches to developing biological indicators for environmental monitoring of soil. She led the department for 14 years until resigning from administration in 2018 to focus on applying her research to help farmers and inform policymakers. During the past decade, her research focus shifted toward biological communities in compost and their role in disease suppression by natural mechanisms. In 2015, the Soil Ecology section of the Ecological Society of America established an award in her name as the Deborah A. Neher Career Award in honor of her founding the section and serving as its first chairperson. In 2017, she was bestowed the Career Service Award offered by the Soil Ecology Society. Dr. Neher brings 35 years of experience as a researcher, educator, and graduate student mentor. She teaches courses in soil ecology, compost ecology and management, and professional development. Prior to University of Vermont, she held faculty positions in biology and environmental science at University of Toledo, and plant pathology at North Carolina State University where she taught courses in applied biostatistics, plant disease epidemiology, and introductory biology. She has published more than 100 peer reviewed articles across 30 journals and 25 book chapters on topics of biological indicators of soil, ecotoxicology and biotechnology risk assessment, climate change and soil biological crusts, plant pathology and sustainable agriculture. During her career, she has given more than 250 research presentations and earned over $11 million in extramural grant funds from National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Energy and US Environmental Protection Agency. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Science from McPherson College, a M.S. in plant biology from University of Illinois at Urbana, and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from University of California at Davis.

Lennart Olsson

Professor of Geography at Lund University  |  Lund, Sweden

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Lennart, a professor of Geography at Lund University, was the founding Director of LUCSUS 2000-17. His current research focuses on the politics of climate change in the context of poverty, food insecurity, and ill-health in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. He was Coordinating Lead Author for the chapter on Livelihoods and Poverty in IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report 2011-14 and for the chapter on Land Degradation in the special IPCC report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL), 2017-19.

Ricardo Salvador

Director and Senior Scientist for the Food and Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists  |  Washington, D.C.

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In his role at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ricardo works with citizens, scientists, economists, and politicians to transition our current food system into one that grows healthy foods while employing sustainable and socially equitable practices. Before UCS, he served as a program officer for food, health, and well-being with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where he was responsible for conceptualizing and managing the Foundation’s food systems programming. Prior to that, he was an associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State University where he taught the first course in sustainable agriculture at a land-grant university, and his graduate students conducted some of the original academic research on community-supported agriculture. He worked with students to establish ISU’s student-operated organic farm, and with other faculty to develop the nation’s first sustainable agriculture graduate program in 2000; Ricardo served as the program’s first chair. He has appeared on MSNBC and been quoted in The Boston GlobeThe New York Times, Politico and many other outlets. He was named a 2013 NBC Latino Innovator and received the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2014. He earned a B.S. in agricultural science from New Mexico State University and holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in crop production and physiology from Iowa State University.

Corey Samuels

Principal and Owner, IslandB Consulting  |  Seattle, WA

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Corey helps organizations use data to solve business problems. She leads teams and initiatives that rely on Big Data, AI, and other Analytics and Data Science approaches. With a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, specializing in modeling and simulation, she finds ways for global teams of scientists, domain experts and non-technical users to understand each other and work together efficiently. In her 20-year career, Corey has worked primarily in analytics and algorithm development software companies, including 5 years leading Wolfram Solutions operations. Her clients and projects have covered a broad variety of fields from life sciences/healthcare to space exploration to disaster remediation. She attended the UN Global Climate Change Abu Dhabi Ascent conference in 1994 with the UN Population Fund delegation. She also led a project to help determine and respond to the impact on businesses after the 2011 Fukushima radiation/tsunami disaster. Currently, she is involved with a client who is building technology to reduce energy consumption and carbon impact of data centers globally. Corey was an intern at The Land Institute in 1992, then Intern Coordinator and Interim Director of Education in 1993-4. She managed the 1993-4 Visiting Scholars in Complexity program where TLI invited thinkers to contribute Complexity and Chaos theory ideas to our research. This inspired her to pursue her PhD, attend the Santa Fe Institute Complex Systems Summer School in 1995, and join the first group of TLI Graduate Research Fellows.

Eric Schlosser

Writer and Producer  |  Monterey, California

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Eric’s work has been published in dozens of countries, performed on stage, and adapted into films. His most recent book, Command and Control, tells the story of America’s effort to prevent nuclear weapons from being stolen, sabotaged, or detonated by accident. It was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in History. His two other books were also New York Times best sellers. Fast Food Nation helped start a revolution in how Americans think about what they eat. And Reefer Madness looked at the nation’s underground economy, depicting the plight of undocumented immigrants and the injustices caused by the war on drugs. His next book is about the American prison system. Schlosser was an executive producer of Richard Linklater’s feature film Fast Food Nation, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, the documentaries Food Chains and Hanna Ranch, as well as co-producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. He was a producer of the documentary Command and Control, which was short-listed for an Oscar.

Emeritus Board Members

Sam Evans

Senior Director of Donor Relations and Stewardship McCormick Theological Seminary  |  Chicago, Illinois

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Sam is currently the senior director of Donor Relations and Stewardship at McCormick Theological Seminary. Sam was born and raised in Kansas. He was a partner and CEO of Evans Grain Company in Salina, Kansas from 1966 -1991. Although Sam and his wife, Terry Evans, live in Chicago, his heart is in Kansas. He’s been elected and appointed to numerous board committees including the Farmers and Merchants Bank Board of Directors, on which he served for 19 years. Sam is currently serving on the Board for Alloy Engineering Company. He was also a member of the Y-USA executive team with oversight of 150 employees and a $22M budget and was the overseer of the Jerusalem YMCA, partnering with YMCAs in 120 countries.

Terry Evans

Chicago, Illinois

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Terry has held one-person shows at the Art Institute of Chicago, The National Museum of Natural History, and The Field Museum, among others. She is a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. Her photographs are part of the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Art Institute, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and many others. Her recent retrospective exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City includes the catalog book, Heartland. Her other books include Prairie Stories, Revealing Chicago: An Aerial Portrait and Disarming the Prairie. Recent exhibitions include, Fractured:North Dakota’s Oil Boom at The Field Museum and Meet Me at the Trinity at the Amon-Carter Museum of Art. She has also held the position of Land Institute Arts Associate.

Jan Flora

Ames, Iowa

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Jan Flora, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at Iowa State University (ISU) and research professor of sociology at Kansas State University. At ISU, he taught in the graduate program in sustainable agriculture. His research examines relationships between community capitals and economic, community, and sustainable development. He has researched community effects of global warming and the contributions of Latinos to Midwestern rural communities. He is a volunteer community leader in AMOS, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy. Earlier in his career, he was program officer for Ford Foundation for agriculture and rural development in South America. He grew up on a farm near Quinter, Kansas.

Nancy Jackson

Eudora, Kansas

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Nancy Jackson recently co-founded Generous Change, a fundraising consultancy. She is former assistant vice president/strategic development at University of Kansas Endowment, Lawrence. She was the first executive director of the Climate and Energy Project, a nonprofit organization formed in 2007 by The Land Institute to raise awareness of and deploy energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the Midwest. She holds a bachelor’s degree in humanities and a master’s degree in environmental history, both from the University of Kansas.

Pat McLarney

Kansas City, Missouri

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Pat supervised litigation and tried cases for over 40 years, and was managing partner of Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Kansas City from 1985 to 2002. During that time, the firm grew from 65 to more than 500 lawyers in nine offices, two of them overseas. Pat’s civic engagement includes Legal Aid, Civic Council of Kansas City, and the boards of three colleges. His professional awards are numerous and significant. He was named Citizen of the Year by the mayor of Kansas City in 2002 and served as chair of the University of Missouri-KC Board of Trustees.

Conn Nugent

Washington, D.C.

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Formerly Executive Director, Citizens Union of the City of New York; Managing Partner of Liberty Tree Alliance; Director of the Environmental Programs, Nathan Cummings Foundation; and Executive Director, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

John M. Simpson

Founding Member of the Board of Directors  |  Kansas City, Missouri

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John, a Kansas City attorney, was one of the founders of The Land Institute. He is a former Kansas state senator and candidate for U.S. Senate.

Victoria Ranney

Grayslake, Illinois

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Victoria is president of Prairie Holdings Corporation, the developer of the Prairie Crossing conservation community. She is also associate editor of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers.

Donald E. Worster

Lawrence, Kansas

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Don Worster, Ph.D., Hall Distinguished Professor of American History Department of History and University of Kansas Member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, won the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year for A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir, and also the Bancroft Prize for Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s, and authored Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological IdeasRivers of Empire, Under Western SkiesThe Wealth of Nature and A River Running West.

Lloyd G. Schermer

Aspen, Colorado

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Lloyd is the former CEO of Lee Enterprises, Davenport, Iowa. He is a former publisher of the Kewanee Star Courier, Kewanee, Illinois, and the Missoulian, Missoula, Montanta. The Kewanee Star Courier was responsible for passage (1958) of the first strip mining legislation in Illinois. The Missoulian was responsible for the passage of the first air and water pollution legislation (1969) in Montana. As a result, the sterile Clark Fork River of the Columbia River became a blue ribbon trout stream. The Missoulian was responsible for establishing the Great Bear Wilderness (300,000 acres) and the Scapegoat Wilderness (120,000) being added to the existing 1 million acre Bob Marshal Wilderness. In a second career, his antique wood type sculptures have been added to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and four other museums. Boards include honorary or life memberships in the Smithsonian National Board, the Aspen Institute, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, and the World Wildlife Fund.

Angus Wright (decd.)

Sacramento, California

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Angus Wright, Ph.D., was Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies at California State University, Sacramento. He was the author of To Inherit the Earth: The Landless Movement and the Struggle for a New Brazil (2003) and The Death of Ramon Gonzalez; The Modern Agricultural Dilemma (1990). He served as Chair of Environmental Studies CSUS, President of the board of Food First! and Pesticide Action Network, and was a member of the independent citizen review panel of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Angus passed away on October 20, 2022. To read more about Angus’ life and contributions to The Land Institute, click here to view The Land Report Issue No. 133, a special edition release of the publication which contains a remembrance and reflections from friends, family, and colleagues.


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