Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture


Mark A. Rasmussen


515- 294-3711
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Mark Rasmussen began work June 1, 2012 as permanent director of the Leopold Center. His appointment followed a long and successful career as a research microbiologist at the National Animal Disease Center, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service facility in Ames, Iowa; and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine in Laurel, Maryland. He comes to the Center with extensive and diverse experience in teaching, administration and private industry and has farmed full-time in Nebraska.

In addition to serving as director of the Leopold Center, Rasmussen is a tenured professor in the Iowa State Department of Animal Science. He plans to establish a director’s research program at ISU, reflecting his current interests in microbiology and climate change.

Prior to his return to Ames, he was supervisory microbiologist and research director at the Center for Veterinary Medicine. In that position he provided technical guidance and research support for regulatory decisions on drugs, feed additives and contaminants in animal feeds. While at the center, he focused on the microbiology of animal feed, including work on distiller’s grains, and the use of plant secondary compounds to prevent bacteria in an animal’s gastrointestinal tract from becoming resistant to antimicrobial drugs.

From 1988 to 2006, Rasmussen was a scientist and later research leader at the USDA-ARS National Animal Disease Center facility in Ames. He managed food safety research including projects on E. coli, Salmonella, antibiotic resistance, plant toxins and gut microbiology/ecology. He holds two patents (1995 and 1999) related to his research, notably for optical scanning instrumentation that detects contamination on beef carcasses. This imaging technology recently was recognized by ISU as ranking 14th in lifetime earnings generated for the university as a result of technology transfer activities.

Rasmussen grew up on a farm in northeastern Nebraska, west of Sioux City, Iowa. He has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture (1976) and a master’s degree in animal science (1979) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Ph.D. in dairy science (1986) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA degree (1996) from ISU.

He has held research positions in private industry including development of methods to cultivate algae for capturing carbon dioxide from coal-fired utility plant emissions. He received the USDA Honor Award for Food Safety in 2004, the ARS Award for Superior Technology Transfer Achievement in 2003 and a 2001 Iowa “da Vinci” citation for science, engineering and technology development.

Rasmussen’s professional and scientific expertise extends to various areas of agriculture, microbiology, food safety, animal health, ruminant nutrition, and antibiotic resistance.

Read his full bio [PDF]

Frederick L. Kirschenmann

Distinguished Fellow

209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

A longtime national and international leader in sustainable agriculture, he shares an appointment as Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center and as President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. He also continues to manage his family's 1,800-acre certified organic farm in south central North Dakota.

He is a professor in the ISU Department of Religion and Philosophy and holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago. He has held numerous appointments, including the USDA's National Organic Standards Board and the National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production operated by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and funded by Pew Charitable Trusts.

In April 2010, the University Press of Kentucky published a book of Kirschenmann's essays, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, that trace the evolution of his ecological and farming philosophy over the past 30 years.

He converted his family’s farm in North Dakota to a certified organic operation in 1976. He developed a diverse crop rotation that has enabled him to farm productively without synthetic inputs (fertilizers or pesticides) while simultaneously improving the health of the soil.

Kirschenmann’s farm has been featured in numerous publications including National Geographic, Business Week, Audubon, the LA Times and Gourmet magazine. In 1995 it was profiled in an award-winning video, My Father’s Garden by Miranda Smith Productions, and is still widely used as a teaching tool. Kirschenmann also has been advisor for several documentaries including American Meat and Symphony of the Soil.

Kirschenmann served as the Leopold Center's second director from July 2000 to November 2005 and has been recognized widely for his work. He was one of the first 10 recipients of the James F. Beard Foundation Leadership awards in 2011 and received the 2012 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award from Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Read his Leopold Center columns and other writings

Watch a January 2012 Tedx talk, Soil: From Dirt to Lifeline

Download full bio [PDF] or read more from when he joined the Leopold Center [PDF]


Craig Chase

Marketing and Food Systems Initiative Research Program

(515) 294-1854
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Craig Chase leads the Center's Marketing and Food Systems Initiative and has a 40 percent appointment with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach as coordinator of the statewide Local Food and Farm Program funded by the Iowa legislature to increase availability of Iowa-grown products. He is a member of extension's Iowa Food System Working Group and the Regional Food Systems Working Group that includes 17 regional food groups throughout Iowa.
Chase has 27 years of experience in extension programs, as a farm management specialist with a focus on applied economics, food crops, niche markets and alternative agricultural enterprises.
More about his publications and presentations  [ISUE websites]

Jeri Neal

Ecological Systems Initiative Research Program,

209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of Responsibility: Oversees various outreach activities and other work in the Center's Ecological Systems and Research Initiative. Conducts research on the development of ecologically friendly systems that are more resilient and less costly to farmers, communities and the environment. She oversaw the Center's grassland agriculture program that began in 2004, is  a founding team member for the Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie (STRIPS) - and represents the Center on several multi-state, landscape-level programs including the Mid-American Agroforestry Working Group and Green Lands, Blue Waters.

From 1993 to 2001 she coordinated the Center's competitive grants program and research issue teams. Her previous experience includes work in several capacities for Ralston Purina, Cargill, and Quaker Oats companies in Missouri, Texas, and Iowa. She holds a bachelors degree in Grain Science and Milling Management from Kansas State University and a master's degree in International Development Studies from Iowa State University. Her agrarian roots are in Kansas, where her parents are still actively farming. Outside interests include cycling, skiing, and slow food.

Heather Scott

Administrative Specialist

(515) 294-9388
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of responsibility: Manages the Center's grant accounts and finances

Heather Scott joined ISU in April 2013 with a full-time appointment that is split between the Leopold Center and the Iowa Pork Industry Center. She works at the Leopold Center primarily in the afternoons, and also provides backup office support for payroll and purchasing. She is an Enrolled Agent with a background in public accounting and tax work. Before coming to ISU, she worked 31/2 years as staff accountant at the Allen L. Kockler Company in Nevada, Iowa, where she prepared financial statements and corporate and individual tax returns. She also mentored five interns and created a training program for the company. Scott has a degree in Accounting from Iowa State University (2010). She grew up on a farm near Ferguson in Marshall County, where her father and brother manage about 5,000 acres of farmland. She lives in Ames.

Blue Maas


209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of Responsibility: Provides secretarial support to the Director and Distinguished Fellow, as well as general support for other members of the Center staff. She also answers the telephone, fields inquiries and requests for publications, makes arrangements for meetings, maintains the Center's extensive database, and helps the staff with various mailings and other projects. She joined the Center staff in October 2006.

Malcolm Robertson

Cross-Cutting Initiative Research Program

515- 294-1166
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of Responsibility: Provides assistance in applied economics for Leopold Center research initiatives and special projects, and co-leader of the Leopold Center's Fruit and Vegetable Working Group and the Mid-American Agroforestry Working Group. He is developing methodologies to assess externalities of various production systems, including niche pork and organic flax, and ways to track improvements to crop-livestock diversity. He also is working with the Center's grassland agriculture program to help document enterprise budget information for alternative crop and livestock enterprises.

Joined the Center in May 2006, after working two years as partnership program manager for the ISU College of Agriculture's Corn and Soybean Initiative. He is a native of Zimbabwe, where he has experience as an irrigation engineer for the greenhouse and agricultural export industry, and owned a drip and micro-irrigation company. He was senior horticulturist for the country's largest chemical company for several years, and introduced integrated pest management practices to the company's sales force and growers. He holds a master's degree in agricultural and applied economics from Clemson University in South Carolina.

Mary Adams

Outreach, Policy Initiative Research Program

515- 294-5832
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of Responsibility: Oversees various outreach activities as assigned by the director, acts as Center's Advisory Board liaison, and assists with Policy Initiative activities. Editor of annual report and technical writer for summaries of completed Leopold Center-funded research projects.

Her previous writing and editorial experience includes positions with Iowa State University's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), Iowa State University Press, University of Illinois Press, and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). A graduate of ISU's department of journalism and mass communications, she grew up on an Iowa dairy farm.

Laura Miller


209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of Responsibility: Edits and designs The Leopold Letter, the Center's quarterly newsletter, monthly Notes e-newsletter and the quarterly Research Results newsletter; works with news media; prepares materials for displays, other publications and the Center's web site, and oversees general communications for the Value Chain Partnerships (VCP) project of the Leopold Center.

Joined the Center in 1998, after more than 10 years working as editor and communications consultant for ISU Extension and the Safe Farm program. Also worked as food editor for the Ames Tribune and reporter and editor for several Kansas City newspapers. A graduate of the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism, she received a master's degree in mass communication in 1993 from Iowa State. Grew up on a small farm in Grundy County, Iowa, where her parents still live.

Corry Bregendahl

Associate Scientist

209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of responsibility: Conducts project- and center-related evaluations. Manages evaluation-related data collection activities including design and delivery of survey instruments, face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, and focus groups. Develops coding schemes, codes data, and conducts statistical and qualitative analyses of results. Writes evaluation reports and presents findings.

A transplant from Alaska with a Geography undergraduate degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Corry moved to Ames in 1998 where she earned an MS in Rural Sociology at ISU. She joined the staff of the Leopold Center in 2009. For eight years between graduate school and the Leopold Center, she worked as an assistant scientist for the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. In her free time, she volunteers as an organizer for Farm to Folk, a 200 member multi-producer Community Supported Agriculture organization based in Ames.


Lynn Heuss

Program Assistant

515- 201-9405
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of responsibility: Assistant coordinator of the statewide Local Food and Farm Initiative (LFFI) program, led by Craig Chase, who also directs the Leopold Center's marketing and Food Systems Initiative. She also works with the Regional Food Systems Working Group, a coalition of 17 different local food organizations working throughout the state; and the Iowa Food Systems Working Group, educators and specialists with ISU Extension who are developing programs and resources.

A  native of Indiana, Heuss has lived in Iowa for many years. In 2003, she started Connection Café that offers free meals and other resources in downtown Des Moines five times a week. Other past positions include development director at the Iowa Food Cooperative, working with beginning farmers in the Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter in Des Moines and as a resource for Midwest farm-to-school programs. She has an undergraduate degree in religion from Grandview College in Des Moines and has studied theology at Notre Dame. She is enrolled in the public policy master’s degree program at ISU and is a program coordinator for Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

Arlene Enderton

Program Assistant

(641) 425-4948
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-1050

Areas of responsibility: She works as an evaluation assistant for various Leopold Center programs and projects including the Regional Food System Working Group, the Iowa Food System Working Group, the statewide Local Food and Farm Initiative coordinated by the Leopold Center and the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative where the Leopold Center is a partner organization. Tasks include conducting interviews, creating surveys, analyzing data and writing reports.

Arlene grew up in on a small, diversified farm in north central Iowa. She received undergraduate degrees from Iowa State University in agricultural biochemistry and agronomy and later received a master's degree in rural sociology from the University of Missouri. Between degrees she spent five years working in community development in the Dominican Republic, where she gardened with children and opened a women’s center.  She also helps her husband in his work as manager of an apple orchard in northeast Iowa, where they live.

Alice Topaloff

Program Assistant

515) 294-8530
209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011

Areas of responsibility: She works with the Marketing and Food Systems Initiative in development and administration of the Local Food and Farm Initiative program, the Iowa Food System Working Group, and related projects.

Alice grew up in France. She has an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Sciences, and a Master’s degree in Agricultural Development from AgroParisTech (France). Between degrees she spent some time in the Caribbean with the International Research Center for Agricultural Development and participating in agro-ecology research and sustainable pest management practices. She also worked at the Federal University of Ceara (Brazil), where she led research on farmers’ conditions in the Landless Workers’ Movement. Interested in the evolution of farming and the growing impact of the local food movement in the United States, she wrote her master’s thesis on northeast Iowa farms in 2013. She fell in love with Iowa and wanted to be part of the local food movement.

Priyanka Jayashankar

Adjunct Assistant Professor

(515) 294-7544
Gerdin Business Building
Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa 50011

She splits her time between the College of Business where she teaches a class on management and the Leopold Center. Currently, she is working with Craig Chase to conduct research on marketing strategies and value chain development with a focus on local food systems. She has a Ph.D. in business administration from the Maastricht School of Management in The Netherlands. As part of her research, she conducted field studies in the microfinance sector. Her research interests include marketing strategies for non-profit organizations, social entrepreneurship, microfinance and value chain development. She has worked with the international NGO Hand in Hand to launch a social entrepreneurship program  modeled after a similar project at the Harvard School of Business. She has undergraduate degrees in journalism and economics from India and has coordinated a Dutch multinational company's dairy market research project in India.

Savanna Lyons

Graduate Research Assistant

(515) 294-1712
209 Curtiss Hall

Areas of responsibility: Research and production of materials for the Local Food and Farm Initiative (LFFI) program, led by Craig Chase. Her research focuses on best practices in aggregation and distribution of local foods, with an emphasis on how to coordinate production among farmer groups and steadily meet the needs of volume buyers.

Savanna received her B.A. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard University.  Before joining the Leopold Center, she worked on a variety of community and workforce development projects in West Virginia, where she helped to manage a farmers market and was an active board member with the West Virginia Farmers Market Association.  During 2010-2013 she was the founding drector of the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, a statewide nonprofit focused on food systems development, state food policy, education and collective action. She currently is pursuing an M.S. in Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. 

Stefanie Brook Trout

Communications Graduate Research Assistant

209 Curtiss Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa 50011-1050

Areas of responsibility: Writing press releases and feature stories, designing publications, preparing materials for social media and working on a variety of other projects to support outreach at the Leopold Center.

Stefanie received a B.A. in History and the Program in the Environment from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2007 and a M.A. in Teaching from Marian University, Indianapolis in 2011. Stefanie is currently a candidate in the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. In addition to working at the Leopold Center, she is the student coordinator for the Everett Casey Nature Center and Reserve, the coordinator of the Bluff Creek Bee Club, the treasurer for AgArts, and an intern for Ice Cube Press.