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
Barry Barber, Winfield
Turkey Foot Ranch
Kurt & Andi Dale, Protection
Dale Family Farms
Laura Fortmeyer, Fairview, Treasurer
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
Nina Isley, Bird City
Y Knot Farm & Ranch
Jackie Keller, Topeka
Farmer; Eastern KS Organic Crop Improvement Association
Jennifer Kongs, Topeka, Secretary of the Board
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, Vice President of the Board
Sandheron Farm; Director, Sustainable Agriculture Program, Johnson County Community College
Donn Teske, Wheaton
Farmer; President, Kansas Farmers Union
Wayne White, Oskaloosa, President of the Board
Creekridge Farm; Author
Karen Willey; Baldwin City
Farmer; Douglas County Conservation District Board
Mary Fund, Goff, Executive Director
Mary is the Interim Executive Director for the Kansas Rural Center, stepping in for Julie Mettenburg who resigned in December 2014. Mary is the Programs and Policy Director and the editor of KRC’s newsletter, Rural Papers. She handles KRC’s communications about farm and rural policy issues. Mary represents KRC on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and monitors federal farm policy for KRC. Mary was the Project Director for KRC’s Clean Water Farm-River Friendly Farm Project, which provided planning assistance and cost-share to farmers and ranchers wanting to improve water quality on their farms. Having worked for KRC for 35 years, she can answer general questions and inquiries to or about KRC and can point people to the right “expert” on or off staff. She and her husband, Ed Reznicek, and their two children, own and operate a 400 acre certified organic farm in Nemaha County as 4th generation family farmers. Mary’s personal interests include vegetable gardening, as well as raising flowers, and reading and writing.
Natalie Fullerton, Great Bend, Program 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.
Prairie Turnip Farm
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 120 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 120 acres in Osage County, raising hair 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.
Caryl Hale, Norton, Field Coordinator
Caryl is a rural Kansas native and grew up in Council Grove near her family’s original homestead. She and her husband Aaron moved their family including three children from Lawrence after living there for 12 years to return back to Aaron’s hometown of Norton, KS, in 2013. Since then Caryl has started her own web design and social media business to meet the tech needs of her community. She volunteers on several boards including the local arts council and county Farm Bureau. She has served on the Kansas Rural Center board for 3 years and also has served as the local farmers’ market coordinator in Norton. When she has “free time” she can be found gardening, canning, taking photos, helping her husband keep bees or roast coffee, or preparing for the next hike in the Colorado Rockies. Caryl’s love for rural life has called her to civic engagement and representation for rural communities in statewide lobbying and decision making. She has more recently been actively involved in contacting state representatives and testifying for the legalization of growing industrial hemp in Kansas. She believes that hemp legalization will help farmers diversify their crops and amend their soil, while giving new entrepreneurial opportunities for sustainable hemp product manufacturing and hemp processing.