University of Illinois | Urbana, IL


In 2012, Ron received a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Here, he currently continues his education as a M.S. student in Plant Breeding and Genetics. Ron’s research focuses on the development of early genetic selection methodologies for perennial crops, which otherwise require long time lapses till phenotyping and subsequent selection. Ron aims to focus his academic career on the betterment of breeding and genetic methods designed for woody perennial crop improvement.


Greater Peoria Economic Development Council | Peoria, IL

Vice Chair

Tory is the Director of Marketing at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.  He has worked in multimedia production and marketing in various different forms for the past ten years.  He first became enthusiastic about agriculture and food systems issues when he stumbled upon the writings of Wendell Berry while living for a year in a rural town of 500 people while waiting for his first son to arrive.


Originally from Southern Illinois, Tory spent a few years living in both Chicago and Los Angeles and eventually ended up in Peoria, IL where he now lives with his wife and two children.  He has a BS in Journalism from Bradley University and is currently pursuing a master's degree in community and economic development through the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University.


CDK Global | Chicago, IL


Michael Murray is an owner and operator of Lifestock Nursery, an agroforestry propagation and consulting business that he co-founded in late 2013.  His passion for health, economics, and ecology are what drew him to agroforestry and restorative agriculture systems.  Previously, Mike worked as a valuation specialist for PricewaterhouseCoopers and as an owner of a small content marketing agency.  He hopes to leverage his background in finance, accounting, and marketing to support the advancement of continued agricultural innovation.


Butler University | Indianapolis, IN


McKenzie Beverage is the Sustainability Coordinator for Butler University in Indianapolis. In this role she facilitates sustainability programming, coordinates climate action planning, and teaches a sustainability practicum course. As a board member of the Savanna Institute, she assists in collaboration and communication with farmers across the Midwest.


McKenzie grew up in Indiana. Most of her time was spent riding bikes and building forts outdoors. Her family took many trips to Brown County Indiana which sparked her love of nature. As a college student, she spent her free time volunteering at farms of all shapes and sizes, including a farm in central Costa Rica and an Amish family farm in rural Indiana. These experiences helped shape her understanding of the delicate nature of current food systems and instilled a desire to radically change them.


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 (IU). While at IU, she worked as an intern with the IU Office of Sustainability and became enthralled with sustainability education at institutions of higher learning. 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.


Autumn Berry Inspired | Urbana, IL

Dustin Kelly is a Master's student in crop sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.  He came to many of the principles of permaculture and sustainable agri-forestry through his experience at a small organic farm in Urbana, Illinois.  There he discovered on the land a large population of autumn olive trees that provide a tasty and nutritious edible fruit.  After learning the tree grew widely and was considered to be an invasive pest, Dustin began to develop a plan to help mitigate the damage the autumn olive causes to the environment and the economy.  His pioneering solution is to harness the biological force of the species by "re-domesticating" it and transitioning it into a commercial crop.  Dustin feels that the tree should not be introduced to new areas, but the tree can work well in a managed food forest system in places that are already heavily invaded.


University of Wisconsin | Madison, WI

Co-Executive Director

Keefe Keeley comes from the Kickapoo Valley of Wisconsin. He studied biology at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and then traveled on a Watson fellowship to live with farmers in the UK, Zambia, New Zealand, India, and Japan and research the spiritual dynamics of their relationships with the land. He returned to Wisconsin and worked in various capacities at a diversified organic farm, which led to work with the state’s Department of Agriculture in local food system development. His volunteer work with non-profit organizations has spanned agriculture, conservation, research, and development, including service as president of Community Conservation, Inc. His research for a MS in Agroecology at the University of Wisconsin focuses on engaging farmers with their forests.


Keefe joined the Savanna Institute to support farmers leading us into a livable future for all. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he enjoys canoeing, bicycling, backyard berries, and escaping the city to plant trees on his family’s farm.


University of Illinois | Urbana, IL

Co-Executive Director

Originally discovering nature while running through the forest preserves around Chicago, Kevin is passionate about applying ecological concepts to solve environmental issues. He received BS degrees in ecology and environmental engineering from the University of Illinois. He is currently pursuing a PhD there as well, studying the biogeochemical transition of a corn-soybean rotation to a diverse alley cropping system.


While at the University of Illinois, Kevin spearheaded the establishment of several innovative experiments on production agroforestry. He is also the owner of Midwest Agriculture & Restoration Services LLC and two innovative agroforestry farms in central Illinois that grow chestnuts, hazelnuts, and currants.

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