Get to know us

We are a diverse group of scientists, producers, and public and private sector professionals dedicated to finding sustainable agricultural solutions.

Grassland 2.0 is a collaborative group of scientists, educators, farmers, agencies, policymakers, processors, retailers, and consumers working to develop pathways for increased farmer profitability, yield stability and nutrient and water efficiency, while improving water quality, soil health, biodiversity, and climate resilience through grassland-based agriculture.

Meet our team

Grassland 2.0 is more than a team, it’s a movement, and hundreds of people across the state and beyond have engaged with the project.  Outlined below are our project leaders and their areas of expertise.

John Strauser

Learning Hubs

John earned his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. He currently serves as a Scientist in the Department of Plant and Agroecosystems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research and outreach focus on the social processes that drive bio-physical landscape change by employing the concepts of place and place-making. His passion for agrarian landscapes traces its roots back to his childhood growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, and Champaign, Illinois, where he always felt a connection to the Mississippi River, Great Lakes, and Midwestern communities.

Sarah Lloyd

Grass-fed Supply Chains

Sarah farms with her husband Nels Nelson and his family on the 400-cow Nelson dairy farm in Columbia County, WI. She works off-farm as a Food Systems Scientist for the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and a Supply Chain Specialist for the University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative, working on the Grassland 2.0 Project. She also works with the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, the farmer-led cooperative founded in 2012 focusing on fresh local and regional produce, owned by the farmers and the Wisconsin Farmers Union. Sarah has a PhD in Rural Sociology from UW-Madison and a Masters in Rural Development from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Sarah is active in the Wisconsin Farmers Union, serving on the state Board and in her local county chapter. She is also the President of the Board of the Wormfarm Institute.

Chuck Anderas

Grassland Policy and Governance

Chuck is the associate policy director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. Chuck is a key organizer of Grassland 2.0’s Driftless Learning Hub. In addition, Chuck works with the Uplands Watershed Group in southwest Wisconsin. He is organizing Wisconsin’s Grazing Coalition, and he uses GrazeScape and SmartScape as tools in conversations shaping state and federal policy. Chuck grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and he got curious about water quality as a child wondering what could have been for the Fox River and the Bay.

Claudio Gratton drinking a cappuccino

Claudio Gratton

Grassland Modeling

Claudio has been on the faculty in the Entomology department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2003. His research group works broadly on the landscape ecology of arthropods in managed and natural environments. His group has been involved in research understanding landscapes and management interact to affect the conservation of beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes. They have examined the role of unmanaged “non-crop” lands in the agricultural matrix and their effects on the abundance and diversity of beneficial insects such as predators and pollinators. His group’s work on insect conservation has partnered them with Wisconsin potato, soybean, cranberry, apple, and vegetable growers as well as rotational graziers. In addition, Claudio’s group has partnered with state, federal, and non-governmental conservation organizations on research and initiatives aimed at pollinator conservation in agricultural landscapes.

Laura Paine - Grassland Farming, Outreach

Laura Paine

Grassland Farming and Outreach

Laura is outreach coordinator for Grassland 2.0. She has been involved in regenerative agriculture education and research in the Upper Midwest for more than 25 years. Her work experience includes research, education and market development work for grass-fed and organic farmers with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UW Extension, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and service as program director for Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA). Laura is an NRCS Technical Service Provider and a Certified Crop Advisor. Laura and her husband recently retired from raising grass-fed beef on their 82-acre farm near Columbus, WI.

Eric Booth

Eric Booth

Grassland Modeling

Eric is an Associate Scientist and Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Departments of Agronomy and Civil & Environmental Engineering as well as the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Generally, he studies the interactions between water, land, climate, and humans primarily using biophysical computer models and field monitoring. He works at multiple scales: from a continental look at impacts of corn ethanol production to a stream-reach investigation of different restoration techniques. He also works across multiple disciplines including hydrology, ecology, geology, agronomy, history, and social science. His research involves a strong public outreach component not only to communicate relevant findings but to better understand local knowledge, experiences, and perspectives related to water and land. He holds a BS in Environmental Engineering from UW-Madison (2004), MS in Hydrologic Science from UC-Davis (2006), and PhD in Limnology from UW-Madison (2011).

Ashley Becker Steele

Grassland Ecology

Ashley is an Environment and Resources PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research explores relationships between agricultural practices and soil health, particularly soil carbon storage, as well as opportunities for more sustainable agriculture through conversations with farmers. She grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa, so when she envisions agricultural change, she grounds herself in thinking of her family’s farming operation and rural community. Ashley finds joy in doing research that connects her to her home while providing opportunities to learn from farmers in Wisconsin and beyond.

Adena Rissman - Grassland Policy and Governance

Adena Rissman

Grassland Policy and Governance

Adena is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She leads the PIE lab: People, Institutions and Ecosystems. Her interdisciplinary research examines society, policy, and natural resources including the ownership and governance of natural and agricultural lands. Adena collaborates with social and ecological scientists, practitioners, and stakeholders on projects funded by the US Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation. She received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley on research about grazed oak woodland conservation and management.

Lexi Schank

Grassland Modeling and Learning Hubs

Lexi is a research specialist in the department of Plant and Agroecosystem Sciences at UW-Madison where she oversees the daily operations of the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial (WICST). Lexi grew up on her family’s fourth generation dairy farm in Trempealeau County where her deep-seeded passion for a sustainable agricultural future was first cultivated. She holds a B.S. in Plant Biology and Life Sciences Communication with a certificate in Food Systems from UW-Madison. Lexi’s role with Grassland 2.0 is to train producers, service providers, and community members on the suite of decision support tools and to empower communities to work collaboratively on a plan for the future that builds resilience, allowing agricultural communities to thrive.

Carl Wepking - Project Coordination

Carl Wepking

Project Coordination

Carl is an assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the program manager for Grassland 2.0. His research has been primarily focused on soil and microbial ecology, soil biodiversity and the ecosystem services provided by the life in soil and researching how human activities effect soils and their associated functioning, both positively and negatively. Particularly, his research has focused on the unintended consequences of livestock antibiotics and affect these antibiotics can have on soil microbes and the functions they regulate. Carl received his BS in Environmental Science from St. Norbert College, his MS in Environmental Science from Washington State University and his PhD in Biology from Virginia Tech where he was also a fellow within the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program.

Jim Munsch

Grassland Modeling

Jim provides financial planning expertise and training, specifically on how to use our Heifer Grazing and Beef Grazing Compasses. He works with specialty crop and livestock farms, helping operators to make data-driven decisions to improve profitability. He also raises his own grass-fed beef in the Driftless area of Wisconsin and has used managed grazing on perennial pasture for 35 years. Jim provides pasture management consulting for beef, dairy, and other ruminant producers.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a BS in Agricultural Engineering and an MS in Industrial Management.

Randy Jackson

Grassland Ecology

Randy is a professor of Grassland Ecology in the Department of Agronomy at UW-Madison. Most of our agriculture happens in the grassland biome, which has provided for our caloric needs, but undermined our drinking water, climate, and biodiversity. Most of the research in Randy’s lab seeks to understand how the management of agroecosystems influences their productivity, carbon storage, nutrient retention, and habitat. 

Alex Steussy-Williams

Communications

Alex co-coordinates Grassland 2.0 Academy and manages communications for Grassland 2.0 within the Department of Plant and Agroecosystems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to joining Grassland 2.0, Alex’s education in English Literature combined with her years of work as a farmhand, led her to ag journalism. She moved on to complete her master’s degree in Agroecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Alex brings depth of experience in group facilitation and passion for community building and participatory processes.

John Hendrickson

Grassland Modeling

John is a farm viability specialist with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He and other Grassland 2.0 collaborators designed and built the Heifer Grazing Compass and the Beef Grazing Compass, and he has helped deliver trainings on these tools across Wisconsin. He manages the Compass Program, a suite of spreadsheets designed to help farmers understand the cost of production of their various farm enterprises and market channels. John continues to create new compasses, empowering farmers to make informed decisions.

Aubrey Streit Krug

Learning Hubs

Aubrey is a writer and teacher who studies stories of relationships between humans and plants. She directs the Ecosphere Studies program at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, where she lives with her husband and son. She grew up in a small town in Kansas, where her parents farm wheat and raise cattle, and she loves limestone soils and rocky prairie hillsides. Streit Krug holds a PhD in English and Great Plains Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a co-author of the collaborative textbook The Omaha Language and the Omaha Way.

Finn Ryan

Communications

Finn Ryan is a film director and media producer whose work focuses on stories based in community, conservation, and the outdoors. In addition to producing media with Grassland 2.0, Finn works with Indigenous communities to share stories about contemporary language and cultural revitalization around the upper Great Lakes.

Courtney Bolinson

Developmental Evaluation

Courtney is an evaluation consultant specializing in developmental evaluation and systems change. She uses tools from systems thinking, program evaluation, facilitation, visioning, and conflict resolution to help people and organizations clarify their goals, evolve their thinking, and transform systems. Her role with Grassland 2.0 is to hold a mirror to the project and facilitate discussion about what is being learned and how the project should adapt accordingly. Her background as an agroecologist with an interest in grazing is a bonus for the project.

Elissa Chasen

Grassland Modeling

As a scientist in the Department of Entomology, Elissa joined the Grassland 2.0 modeling team to develop predictive models that illustrate ecological outcomes of agricultural management across landscapes. Elissa combines large ecological datasets, machine learning algorithms, and systematic literature review of agricultural practices on biophysical processes to help inform these models.  Her background is in data science, agricultural entomology and ecology, designing and researching integrated pest management plans that reduce insect pest abundance through an ecological and economic framework. She obtained her BS in Conservation Biology from UW-Madison (2005), MS in Ecology from UM-Ann Arbor (2009), and PhD in Entomology from UW-Madison (2014).

Jacqueline Wisinski

Communications

Jacqueline is an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pursuing a major in Agronomy. She is a communications assistant for Grassland 2.0, and her passion lies in effectively communicating scientific knowledge to farmers.

Anna Cates

Learning Hubs

As Minnesota’s first State Soil Health Specialist in the MN Office for Soil Health, Anna supports the Pine River Learning Hub. She is dedicated to improving soil health in Minnesota by working with farmers and conservation professionals. Anna’s research focuses on soil organic matter cycling and storage in a variety of cropping systems. She received a PhD in Agronomy and an MS in Soil Science and Agroecology from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Erin Meier

Learning Hubs

Erin is the Director of Green Lands Blue Waters (GLBW), a collaborative initiative focused on shifting the agricultural landscape of the Upper Mississippi River Basin to more acres of marketable continuous living cover (CLC) to improve water quality, soil health, agricultural and community resilience, and the long-term stability of the Basin to the Gulf of Mexico. GLBW is housed at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. Erin has over 20 years of experience and training in sustainable agriculture, local food systems, food access, natural resource conservation, clean energy, community engagement and development, and facilitating cross-sector work groups and networks. Erin holds an MS in Sustainable Agriculture from Iowa State University and is a geographer at heart with a BS in Geography from the University of Illinois and past experience as a cartographer and GIS analyst.  

Michael Bell

Grassland Education

Mike is a professor of Community and Environmental Sociology at UW-Madison. Mike’s research and teaching focuses on a wide range of topics, including issues of agroecology, community, culture, development, economy, environment, gender, participation, place, and social justice, with an eye toward both the practical and theoretical issues of how we might do a better job with all of these matters.

Greta Landis - Program Evaluation

Greta Landis

Evaluation

Greta is an Evaluation Specialist at the Natural Resources Institute in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension. She joins Grassland 2.0 after more than 10 years in agricultural systems as a farmhand, researcher, apprentice, and evaluator. Her graduate research explored cattle grazing for habitat management on public lands in Wisconsin. Her evaluation expertise includes environmental education programming, farm planning and decision-support, conservation monitoring, and interdisciplinary research.

Brooke Valdez

Communications

Brooke is working towards a degree in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a communications assistant for Grassland 2.0, and she brings expertise in social media, photography, and graphic design

Pete Huff

Grassland Modeling and Learning Hubs

Pete is an Associate Director at the Wallace Center where he oversees the Resilient Agriculture & Ecosystems Initiative and the Pasture Project. His background is in regenerative agriculture and food system program design and implementation in the U.S. and Australia. Pete began his work in agriculture through permaculture and keyline design, believing in the potential for working lands to support climate change mitigation and adaptation. This has evolved to include the economic and social benefits regenerative agriculture offer farmers and rural communities. He holds degrees in Environmental Management and History from Indiana University and a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota.

Nick Jordan - Grass-fed Supply Chains

Nick Jordan

Grass-fed Supply Chains

Nick is a Professor of Agronomy & Plant Genetics, at the University of Minnesota. He is an agricultural ecologist, and a Resident Fellow of the University’s Institute on the Environment. He does collaborative research and public engagement to advance diversification in agriculture, using a wide range of research methods. He co-directs the Forever Green Initiative, a cross-sector collaborative network working to advance crops that provide continuous living cover for Midwest agriculture. 

Margaret Krome

Grassland Policy and Governance

Margaret is Policy Program Director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin.  She helps develop state and local programs and policies supporting environmentally sound, profitable, and socially responsible agriculture.  Margaret also helps coordinate a farmer-led watershed group in southwest Wisconsin.  

Chris Kucharik

Grassland Modeling

Chris is Professor and Chair in the Department of Agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also affiliated with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and the Wisconsin Energy Institute. He is a member of the Working Groups Council for the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), and serves as co-chair for the WICCI Agriculture Working Group. His interdisciplinary research program combines ecosystem modeling with field work on plant physiology, eco-hydrology, and biogeochemical cycling to better understand the impacts of land management decision-making and a changing climate on the food-energy-water nexus. More specifically, the overall mission of his research group is to find ways to enhance the resiliency of ecosystems – and the services they provide – to drivers of global change.

David LeZaks

Grassland Economics and Finance

David is an environmental scientist and financial activist whose work is centered on developing innovative mechanisms for financing the transition to agroecological farming and food systems. Currently, he is a Senior Fellow at the Croatan Institute. Previously, he led the Regenerative Food Systems initiative at Delta Institute in Chicago, where he managed a portfolio of projects that focused on the design and deployment of disruptive mechanisms to unlock substantial capital flows into regenerative agriculture. He serves in advisory roles to Mad Agriculture, the Savanna Institute, Nourishn, Council of Development Finance Agencies’ Food Systems Finance Advisory Council, and the Transformational Investing in Food Systems Initiative, an allied initiative of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food.

Dr. Matt Ruark

Matt Ruark

Grassland Modeling and Learning Hubs

Matt is a Professor in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an Extension Specialist in UW-Madison’s Division of Extension. His Nutrient Cycling and Agroecosystems Laboratory works to improve knowledge of nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon cycling in grain, dairy, and vegetable cropping systems. He also serves as Faculty Advisor to the UW-Discovery Farms program and the Wisconsin Agri-Business Association.

We also have a diverse team of meta-stakeholders who serve as project advisors and lend their knowledge, perspectives and expertise to the project as we continually evolve. Those meta-stakeholders include:

Our collaborators

In addition to our team and meta-stakeholders, we collaborate with diverse partners from across the state and beyond including:

Grassland 2.0 is funded through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Sustainable Agricultural Systems Coordinated Agricultural Program.

Get in Touch

Keep up to date as project activities progress and more information is available.