“I’m a 4H kid who still loves riding horses, gardening, and being outside. I have lived in Maryland for the past 17 years, starting with a position as a Soil Conservation Planner at the Montgomery Soil Conservation District. That work sparked my interest in the connection between agriculture and natural resources, and shortly after that, my nerdy love for science led me to study soil science in graduate school. So any time someone wants to talk about soils, send them my way!”
What new things are going on in your life, business, or farming operations?
“I still live in Frederick with my husband, Eric, and two daughters, Caris and Gemma, who are now 6 and 4 years old. Over the past few years, I have enjoyed teaching and more recently directing the Master’s program in Environmental Biology at Hood College in Frederick, MD, and consulting for the Montgomery County Office of Agriculture. Then last year, I had the opportunity to start a new position as the Applied Agricultural Scientist with the Nature Conservancy’s Chesapeake Bay agriculture team. I now get to work with partners across the Chesapeake Bay watershed to apply new research ideas to on-the-ground projects that can help agriculture achieve increased environmental and economic sustainability.”
How has LEAD Maryland helped shape you as a leader and your professional career?
“When I applied to LEAD, it felt like a stretch into a commitment that I wasn’t sure I was totally ready to make, but one that was well worth the effort in the end. During LEAD and many times since I’ve experienced that same discomfort of stretching myself but then being glad I did because of being rewarded for what I learned or contributed as a result. So I guess since that first application to the program, the practice of going outside my comfort zone and saying “yes” even when it makes me uncomfortable, has helped me grow personally and professionally. And it gets easier every time.”
What value does LEAD offer to Maryland and agriculture as a whole?
“LEAD builds ties among people who work in agriculture and with and for farmers. Those ties not only develop within a LEAD class but being a LEAD alumna has also jump-started conversations with other alumni and helped to build more relationships in the industry. The Fellowship is an experience that everyone is enthusiastic about, has learned a lot from, and is eager to discuss. Developing those personal connections can be essential later in work-related conversations, projects, and interactions that help drive progress forward.”
What surprised you most about LEAD? Is there something you got from LEAD that you didn’t expect?
“There are a lot of answers to this question, but one of the most unexpected things I got out of LEAD was the seminar that included the Myers-Briggs test. Going through that evaluation as a class, and learning about different communication preferences and personality types, was eye-opening and I took it as a real celebration and recognition of what we all bring to the table. The perfect closing exercise was being randomly but fortuitously paired with someone who was my opposite in all categories (I’ll call out Rob Burke if I can!) and then being tasked with reading and responding to an activity together. It was a perfect demonstration of how people approach tasks, process information, and complete work differently, and we were able to laugh about those differences instead of perhaps being frustrated by them. I have thought back to that many times since in both my personal and professional life, trying to recognize when those fundamental differences in how we process information and express ourselves can be an unnecessary point of conflict that gets in the way of doing great work together.”
What advice would you offer a potential LEAD fellow applicant and a present LEAD Fellow?
“I think I learned as much from my classmates as I did from our seminars together, so enjoy the experience, take the opportunity to dig into topics and learn about different perspectives, and go on the international trip, wherever it takes you. You will be plugged into a growing network of fellows who are eager to get to know you and work with you to support Maryland agriculture.”