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 in 2017 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

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.

JEANNINE RICHARDS, MA

Program Manager

Contact: jeannine@savannainstitute.org

608-448-6432 ext. 103

Jeannine originally hails from the wooded hills of Western Massachusetts but has lived on the edge of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area since 2003. She studied Conservation Biology and Environmental Policy at Boston University and obtained a Master’s degree in Zoology from Miami University’s Global Field Program. After working on private lands conservation and environmental education for over a decade at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin, Jeannine returned to school to pursue a PhD at UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Her research focuses on the potential for nature conservation in the shade coffee agroforests of Central America. She is passionate about fusing agricultural and conservation goals to build sustainable food systems that can support us into the future.

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.

BILL DAVISON, MS

Tree Crop Development 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

Research & 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 Agriculture & Restoration Services and Seven Sisters Farm. Kaitie is excited to continue her work helping create resilient, regenerative farming systems with the Savanna Institute.

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