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.

Julie Maitland, Chair
WASDA Representative
New Mexico Department of Agriculture
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Julie is the Division Director for Agricultural Programs and Resources (APR) with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. She has been in this role for 20 years. Her program encompasses natural resource policy analysis and natural resource programs. Included in her portfolio is the Healthy Soil Program, Soil and Water Conservation District Program, Administration for the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, as well as policy issues related to water, land management, wildlife, conservation, climate, among others. She is the co-lead for New Mexico's Natural and Working Lands Climate Action Team, sits on the steering committee for the Southwest Climate Hub, and is the designee to the New Mexico Water Trust board. Julie has a master's degree in economics, she is a certified facilitator, and is certified in basic incident command training systems including tabletop exercises.

Anna Merriman, Chair-Elect
Farmer/Rancher Representative
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.

Kent Wasson, Past - Chair
Farmer/Rancher Representative
Peaks & Prairies
Whitewater, Montana

Kent has farmed and ranched in Northern Montana for all of his life - 65 years on his family's farm. He's purchased many smaller places nearby to grow to the operation they are now. His son and him crop around 12,500 acres and have 400 mother black angus cows. As many in small communities, Kent has been on many types of infrastructure type boards, including Montana State University ag research station advisory board. Kent is the local airport commissioner.  His value-added quest lead a group of area farmers to purchase a high dollar USDA patent of a molecule with which they created one of the best motor oils in the world,  beating mobile one in every test. Kent is proud of his work in helping solve problems in ag and leaving his soil and place in a much better place for generations to come.

Matt Baur
At-Large Representative
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.

Kristy Borrelli
Associate Director
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.

Kaley Chapin 
Elko, Nevada

Kelly Crane
Western Extension Directors Representative
University of Wyoming Extension
Laramie, Wyoming

Kelly is an Associate Dean for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Director of University of Wyoming Extension. Kelly received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management from the University of Wyoming, and his undergraduate degree in rangeland resources from the University of Idaho. Kelly’s applied research and educational outputs focused on plant community assessment protocols; wildlife-livestock interactions; and developing practical rangeland management strategies to enhance livestock grazing opportunities. His extension career began at the University of Wyoming where he served as an area educator and state extension range specialist. Kelly also owned and operated a successful rangeland consulting firm, and served as the Rangeland Extension Specialist for the University of Idaho before returning to Wyoming in 2011.

Chandra Holifield Collins
ARS Representative
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

Vance Owens
National Program Leader
USDA-NIFA Representative
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 Ritten 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. 

Milan Shipka
Land Grant Institution Representative
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.

Brenda Simpson 
NRCS Representative
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
Farmer/Rancher Representative
BKW Farms
Marana, Arizona

Bryce Wrigley
Agri-business Representative
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. Wulfhorst 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.

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 […]