I was born and grew up in Butler County, Ohio, down near Cincinnati. My parents purchased a small farm when I was eight and we raised horses and hay, sending me on the hunter-jumper and dressage-show circuit throughout middle and high school, and selling trained horses and hay to area stables.
We dabbled in a few other things: chickens for eggs (though most ended up as coyote food); goats for horse companions, weed control and milk for cheese (which mostly ended in the trash; cheese-making is hard, y’all!); but the horses and hay remained our main business.
We never got beyond hobby-farm status since the farm did okay paying for itself — but not supporting us — so dad worked in the auto industry and my mom taught fifth grade until retirement.
Interestingly, after dad passed and I was living full-time in Michigan, mom wanted out of the hay business but wanted the land kept in farming. She sold it to a charity group that raises hay for the Cincinnati Zoo, and I have a picture of one of the rhinos that eats hay grown on our farm!
I came north to study environmental policy at Michigan State University. I wanted — and still want — to help farmers achieve their goals of being great stewards of the land, water and air. I paid the bills working in different State of Michigan departments for several years while looking for a career to connect me back to agriculture.
Fortunately, Michigan Farm Bureau was the connection! Every day I get to help farmers understand the environmental regulations affecting their farms, point them toward voluntary conservation programs to boost the power of their on-farm practices, and represent agriculture on various councils and committees: The Michigan Water Use Advisory Council (that recommends legislation and funding to improve water withdrawal regulations), the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Advisory Council (advises MDARD how MAEAP can help farmers with environmental activities), and several Right to Farm committees that write the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices.
Keeping up with our smart, innovative farmers — and Michigan’s many environmental challenges — keeps me plenty busy, but when I’m not working I love to read and have a huge library at home! I hike and camp around the Great Lakes, mostly in northern Michigan and Ontario. I play video games with my son and husband, and ponder how I can restart a garden in the house we moved to a few years ago. We have a huge deer problem, so some kind of greenhouse may be in order!