The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) is a private non-profit research, education and advocacy organization with deep roots in Kansas agriculture, communities, and grassroots organizing. Begun in 1979 to address the loss of family farms, concentration of land and natural resources into fewer hands, and the rise of a capital intensive agricultural system that often leaves people out of the equation, KRC works to identify alternatives for a food and farming system built on stewardship and diversity, and that engages both rural and urban citizens, providing healthy and safe food, and meaningful livelihoods.
KRC is led by a governing board of up to 24 members from across Kansas who are actively working in the food and farming sectors. Most are active farmers or ranchers; they are also business people, educators, research and extension personnel, food activists and rural leaders. Similarly, staff work from across the state and have farm and ranching backgrounds, with many working in day-to-day activities of family operations.
Board of Directors
Angela Anderson, Allen
Kansas Water Office
Barry Barber, Winfield
Turkey Foot Ranch
Laura Fortmeyer, Fairview
Lyle Frees, Ellsworth
Retired Kansas NRCS State Agronomist & Water Quality Specialist
Charlie Griffin, Manhattan
Director, Rural Kansas Family Helpline; research assistant professor, Kansas State University
Brenda Gutierrez, Salina
Jackie Keller, Topeka
Farmer; Eastern KS Organic Crop Improvement Association
Jennifer Kongs, Topeka
B the Change Media
Luke Mahin, Courtland
Republic County Economic Development;
Zack Pistora, Lawrence
Farmer; Lobbyist, Kansas Chapter, Sierra Club
Linda Pechin-Long, Beaumont
Graze The Prairie; Holistic Management
Troy Schroeder, Albert
Schroeder Family Farms; President, Kansas Wildlife Federation
Stu Shafer, Oskaloosa
Sandheron Farm; Director, Sustainable Agriculture Program, Johnson County Community College
Donn Teske, Wheaton
Farmer; President, Kansas Farmers Union
Karen Willey, Baldwin City
Farmer; Douglas County Conservation District Board
Connie Bonfy, Wichita, Executive Director
Connie Bonfy is an art graduate of Emporia State University where she studied drawing/painting and art history. She holds a MA from Wichita State University focused on community development through the arts.
As a child, Bonfy grew up in an enchanted mid-century modern country club life of privilege, art, music, and accomplishment, glitzed with color—turquoise built-in appliances in a pink-brick home surrounded by walled rose garden—all stylish in appearance when viewed from the outer edge of the upper crust. Forced to confront some of the perilous challenges of privilege as a teen, she quickly learned—all is not how it appears.
By the time she reached her early 20s, Bonfy’s parents made a conscious decision to leave the superficial lifestyle behind, and to the shock of the entire community, began what became their forty-year exploration of how the “other half” lives. Through these varied life experiences, a curious breed of hybrid-humanity featuring both the haves and have-nots combined and expanded within Bonfy. She became driven to explore the deepest motivations of the human soul.
Before joining Kansas Rural Center, Bonfy served as grant writer/project developer for Chamber Music at the Barn, Ballet Wichita, Commerce St Art District, Bartlett Arboretum, Fisch Haus, and Hopper Bees. She managed a National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” project for Maize, KS—Arts AMaize 2014-2016, and in 2017-2019 co-directed another two-year “Our Town” project with Symphony in the Flint Hills and Harvester Arts. A third “Our Town” grant is launching July 2020 celebrating Marion County through music, film, art, agriculture and ecology. As a community artist with an emphasis on cultural empowerment in rural and under-recognized communities. Her work is conversational and research-based, in response to the social, built, and natural environments we situate ourselves within. She collaborates with schools, city/county councils, civic groups, arts organizations, neighbors, and develops cooperative environments that encourage civic engagement, education, and community progress. She believes in small towns, optimists, festivals, parades, deep conversations, and diversity making the whole community better.
Previously, her career as an executive director has taken her from leading a small rural Kansas arts council; to Santa Fe, NM and the Desert Chorale—a professional chorus; to a metropolitan ballet company—Ballet Wichita now in a mentorship project with Kansas City Ballet; and more recently to Salina Arts and Humanities—as a department head for the City of Salina. She continues to study painting and collage and is known for ecosystem collage works and painting colorful people and their stories in oil—with references to a culture fascinated with image—like peeling back the layers of an onion, she portrays colorful people how they happen to be. Bonfy is grateful for such a diverse career that also includes serving as the head grant writer for two community colleges in Kansas and the performing arts presenter at one.
In 2013, Al Gore certified Bonfy as a trained member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. Kansas Governor Bill Graves also honored Bonfy in 2000 with the Governor’s Arts Award for her lifelong committed work as an advocate for the arts. In 2019, she receive the Wichita Arts Council’s Gordon Evans Award for Arts Leadership. Connie lives joyfully with Lily (aka Lillian Russell), a Parsons Jack Russell Terrier in Wichita, KS.
Natalie Fullerton, Great Bend, Assistant Director
Natalie works on KRC programs that seek to grow community food solutions and the production and sales of specialty crops and other farm products in Kansas. She has coordinated KRC’s Community Food Solutions Initiative since July 2013. During this time, KRC developed the Feeding Kansas: Statewide Farm and Food Assessment with a Plan for Public Action report. Through her work at KRC, Natalie has worked extensively with farmers and ranchers, public health and health care personnel, farm and food organization and agency leaders, policy makers and others who are interested in the local food and farming system across the state. This work has included organizing KRC’s annual conference, which provides day long opportunities for farmers and ranchers, community and state leaders, health professionals, and local food advocates to gather and learn new skills or information to advance their businesses or strengthen farm and food systems. Natalie has a master’s of science degree in Public Horticulture Administration with a minor in Community & Regional Planning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and grew up on a family farm in Northeast Nebraska.
Joanna (Voigt) Will, Osage County, Pollinator Program Coordinator
Joanna comes from a long line of Kansas ranchers and farmers. These ties to the land create a deep love of the Kansas landscape and an appreciation of the role that farmers and ranchers play in conserving it. Joanna helped plant 700 pecan seedlings on her dad’s farm west of Perry when she was in high school, and returned 15 years later to help establish and run a u-pick pecan operation. She has been involved with conservation programs on two family farms, returning 10 acres of row crops to native grass prairie, planting a 10-acre riparian buffer, and installing ¼-acre of pollinator habitat on one farm, and implementing rotational grazing and a patch burn program on a farm in Osage county. Joanna lives on 170 acres in Osage County, raising landrace sheep, Scottish Highland cattle, and a collection of chickens and ducks with her husband, Hank Will. She is a beekeeper, and a certified “Bee Friendly Farmer”. She has a B.S. in Civil Engineering and a minor in English from the University of Kansas, and is nearing completion of an Environmental Sciences degree through Oregon State University.
Ryan Goertzen-Regier, North Newton, Program and Administrative Manager
Ryan grew up on a 5th generation Kansas farm in Marion County that produces row crops and raises hogs and cattle and he continues to work on the farm part-time. He gained a BS in Social Work and a certificate in Conflict Management from Bethel College, then spent several years working with refugee resettlement in South Dakota before returning to Kansas. Ryan is a beekeeper and owns Sugargrove Apiaries, LLC with a friend and hopes to produce additional agricultural products in the future. Currently serving as the Vice President of the Kansas Farmers Union, Ryan is also the Treasurer of the Central Kansas Young Farmers Coalition and holds a seat on the Harvey County Food and Farm council. Ryan and his wife Miriam recently completed the National Farmers Union’s Beginning Farmer Institute, and they reside in the Newton area where Miriam is a farmer and cheesemaker.