Administrative Council

The Administrative Council, working with Western SARE Regional Coordinator and staff in Montana, Wyoming, and California, sets guidelines, develops calls for proposals, and establishes project priorities. The council tries to ensure that funded projects have the appropriate balance and diversity that can represent the region's wide-ranging geography and subject matter.

Anna Merriman, Chair
4M Farms
Malta, Montana

Anna is an organic farmer/rancher alongside her husband Cliff and two kids. They raise grain, pulses, and livestock on their operation in Northcentral Montana. She grew up on a cattle and sheep operation in the same area, leaving the area for approximately ten years, and returned to Montana in 2008. Anna has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management.

Matt Baur, Chair Elect
Western IPM Center
Davis, California

Matt has worked in pest management in both the public and private sectors for more than three decades in North and South America. Matt completed his undergraduate degree in biology at the University of California, San Diego and his graduate work at University of Kentucky on foraging behavior of braconid wasps. He worked at Louisiana State University as the soybean specialist and Pioneer/DuPont working on transgenic soybean and corn. He has been at the Western IPM Center since 2014. In addition to his professional science society memberships including Entomology and Weed Science, Matt is a member of Sigma Xi and the California Association of Pest Control Advisors and holds a PCA license in California.

Kaley Chapin, Executive Council
Battle Mountain, Nevada

Kaley is an Outreach Specialist at the University of Nevada, Reno Extension and a rancher. She has a background in agriculture with a BA in Secondary Agricultural Education. She and her husband Chase and two children ranch on multiple cow-calf operations in Northern Nevada. Her work for the University of Nevada, Reno Extension is coordinating statewide agricultural courses/certifications within the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers program, along with assisting with the Cattlemen’s Update and the meat/poultry program. Prior to working at Extension, Kaley gained a strong understanding of the cattle industry while serving as the Executive Director of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association for five years.

Milan Shipka, Executive Council
Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station, University of Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

Milan is professor of animal science emeritus and director emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He served as the extension livestock specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service with an active research program in reproductive biology and reproductive management of reindeer and musk ox. He was the go-to person for questions from people with all other types of livestock. Besides his responsibilities as a researcher and livestock specialist, Milan taught undergraduate- and graduate-level animal science and sustainable agriculture courses. He served as director of the Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station, director of the Cooperative Extension Service, and director of the Institute of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Extension at UAF prior to retiring in 2021.

Kristy Borrelli
College Park, Maryland

Kristy began as the associate director of SARE in 2021 after serving as SARE’s Pennsylvania PDP coordinator and agronomy Extension educator at Penn State University since 2016. She grew up on a family farm in Western New York, received a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology from SUNY ESF, and a master’s degree and doctorate in soil science from Washington State University. Before Pennsylvania, she was an Extension specialist focused on outreach and communications at the University of Idaho as part of a multi-state project that examined approaches to climate change on Pacific Northwest grain farms.

Judith Bullock
Grand Canyon Milkweeds
Williams, Arizona

Judith is a specialty crops producer near Grand Canyon in Northern Arizona. On the farm, she researches the synergy between specialty crops, pollinator plants, and mycelial mushroom networks. Judith's ongoing mission is to connect local producers to food supply chains by spearheading new farmers' markets in residential communities with poor access to healthy, affordable food. She educates local producers on the power of value-added products in sustainable operations, so future generations can enjoy health and success. 

Jacob DeDecker
University of Nevada-Reno
Reno, Nevada

Jacob (Jake) currently serves as the Director of Extension and Associate Dean for Engagement of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno. He’s worked for Extension programs for more than 17 years. He has a rich background in production agriculture, research in agriculture innovation, and extensive knowledge and leadership within higher-education and Extension administration. Jake has extensive experience working with community, industry, and economic development leaders identifying critical issues and paths for sustainable solutions. He also has experience leading research and community-based programs in the areas of health, natural resources, small business education, and youth development.  Jake was raised on his family’s livestock and grain farm in Illinois, and earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in animal sciences, and a certificate in business administration, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Chandra Holifield Collins
USDA-Agricultural Research Service
Tucson, Arizona

Chandra received her PhD in Soil Water and Environmental Science with a minor in Remote Sensing from the University of Arizona in 2006. She also holds an M.S. in Plant Science from the University of Arizona and a B.S. in Plant and Soil Science from Virginia State University. She is currently a Soil Scientist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s Southwest Watershed Research Center in Tucson, AZ. Her research interests include image analysis and the use of remote sensing data for agricultural applications, with current focus on operational tools for rangeland management. She was an 1890 USDA Scholar, is the Associate Director of the University of Arizona’s NASA Space Grant Program, led the development of the USDA ARS Pacific West Area’s Science in Action Summer Training Program, and enjoys working with students.

Jennifer Kahrl
Montana Red Devon
Harrison, Montana

Jenny is a farmer/rancher with two sons, ages 20 and 23.  They have raised commercial and heritage registered Red Devon cattle and a small herd of grassfed Jersey cows for the last 25 years in southwest Montana.  While not certified organic, Jenny has followed organic principles throughout for both cattle and land.  She lived off-the-grid for 20 years in the straw bale insulated house she designed and had built in 1997. She has also installed a 400 panel grid-connected solar array on the ranch, which now supports all ranch electricity, including two center pivots.  An early supporter of the Bozeman Winter Market, she has sold grassfed beef locally for 15 years and owned the Amsterdam Meat Shop in Gallatin Valley (2014-2020), expanding it from custom exempt with three employees to state inspected with 11 employees during her ownership.

Gabrielle Kirkland
Fire Circle Farm/Kali Consulting
Squaw Valley, California

Gabrielle is a beginning farmer hailing from Fresno County, California. With two decades of experience in production agriculture as an agribusiness professional, Gabrielle understands the intricate dynamics that sustain our food systems. Gabrielle got her start as a staff writer for a national trade publication working with growers across the state. She is driven by a profound passion for understanding the human element within our food supply chains which led to specializing in agricultural associations. She has an MBA with an agriculture emphasis from and BA in Journalism. Gabrielle has been a lecturer at Fresno State, teaching students about their role in the cross section of business and community in studying social entrepreneurship. Currently, she provides professional services to agricultural nonprofits and businesses. She is committed to fostering sustainable practices that not only ensure bountiful harvests but also prioritize the well-being of our communities and the environment, and she aspires to contribute to a more resilient and equitable food future.

Tawny Mata
California Dept. of Food & Agriculture
Sacramento, California

Tawny has pursued a lifelong goal of contributing to sustainability through science. Currently she is the Director of the Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) at the California Department of Food and Agriculture. OEFI leads California’s efforts in reducing livestock methane emissions, promoting healthy soils, and reducing agricultural water and energy use. Prior to holding this position, Tawny was with California Department of Water Resources as an Environmental Program Manager; The Nature Conservancy and the Great Lakes Commission's Blue Accounting Initiative as Director of Strategic Engagement; and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research as Scientific Program Director and later consultant. In 2013, Tawny was awarded an American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science and Technology Policy Fellowship at the USDA Office of the Chief Scientist. She received her B.A. in Biology from Pomona College and her Ph.D. in Ecology from UC Davis.

Vance Owens
National Program Leader
Kansas City, Missouri

Vance is a National Program Leader in the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability, Division of Plant Systems – Production. Before joining NIFA, Vance was on the faculty at South Dakota State University from 1996 to 2020. He served in Extension, research, teaching, and administrative capacities at SDSU. His research and extension activities focused on forage and biomass crop production and management. He also served as director of the North Central Regional Sun Grant Center.

John Ritten
AgNext, Colorado State University
Ft. Collins, Colorado

John is an agricultural economist at CSU and a member of the AgNext team.  He received a B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University, an MBA from New Mexico State University, and a PhD in Natural Resource Economics from Colorado State University.  His research interests include the intersection of agricultural production and natural resource management.  Prior to joining AgNext, John served as the University of Wyoming’s state Agricultural Systems Extension specialist for 14 years. 

Brenda Simpson 
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Brenda began her career with USDA working for the US Forest Service. After six years she moved to Natural Resources Conservation Service as a multi-field office Rangeland Management Specialist in Northwestern New Mexico. Her work there involved building conservation plans with private and checkerboarded ranches, the Navajo Nation, numerous Pueblos, and multiple Land Grants. In 2014, she became the New Mexico NRCS State Range Specialist. Her current position is on the National Grazing Lands Technology Development and Acquisition Team located  in Fort Worth, Texas. Brenda is a member of the Society for Range Management Accreditation Board, a Certified Professional through the Society, and Past-President of the New Mexico Section for SRM. She received degrees in Rangeland Management and Animal Science from New Mexico State University.

Brian Wong
BKW Farms
Marana, Arizona

Bryce Wrigley
Alaska Flour Company/Wrigley Farms
Delta Junction, Alaska

Bryce  is the owner and operator of Wrigley Farms and the Alaska Flour Company in Delta Junction, Alaska. He has farmed in Alaska since 1983 and has expanded his operation over the years to 1,700 acres of barley and hay production using sustainable farming practices. Concerned by the lack of food security in Alaska, he established a flour mill on his farm in 2011 that produces a wide range of barley-based food products. Bryce's farm is 100% no-till. He was an early adopter of cover crops in Alaska and hosts soil health workshops annually where soil health experts share knowledge and ideas with other Alaska farmers. He hosts many farm tours and community events, and he is always looking for new ways to engage the public about agriculture, soil health, and food security. For him, agritourism is an opportunity to educate the public and build bridges between farmers and consumers.

J.D. Wulfhorst
University of Idaho
Moscow, Idaho 

J.D. is a Professor of Rural Sociology, serving on the faculty at the University of Idaho since 2000, and has been affiliated with multiple land grant universities in the Intermountain western U.S. since 1993.  In his position, he conducts research, outreach, and teaching.  His research interests have traditionally focused on community impacts and dynamics in the rural western U.S.  Some of his research concentration areas include social-ecological aspects of rangelands, agricultural conservation, species management, and livestock grazing on public lands.  He teaches a course called Law, Ethics, & the Environment that analyzes the intersections people and communities face about environmental management challenges that do not always have fair and equitable outcomes, and/or legal and ethical inconsistencies.

Caitlin Youngquist
Worland, Wyoming

Caitlin is the Director of Communication and Education for SnapLands. She holds a PhD in soil science and specializes in soil health and compost. Caitlin served as an Extension Educator for the University of Wyoming for nine years where she worked on regenerative agriculture, soil health, no-till farming and gardening, cover crops, integrating crops and livestock, compost, ancient grains, community food security, and mental health in agriculture. Years of working with multi-generational farms and ranches has helped her appreciate the human components of soil health and regenerative agriculture. She loves working with land managers and soil stewards to help them implement restoration strategies and soil health practices on operations large and small. Caitlin lives in Northwest Wyoming with her husband where they run a small compost business and grow pumpkins and flowers for the u-pick markets. She is also a volunteer firefighter and licensed hunting guide.

AC Vacancies

The Administrative Council of the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (Western SARE) is seeking applicants for qualified individuals for three positions  representing either 1) non-government organizations, 2) agri-business, and 3) farmer/rancher on the Western SARE Administrative Council (AC). Please review the position description appropriate for you. Farmer/Rancher Agribusiness NGO TO APPLY:  Applications may […]