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]  Learn more about him in this Conservation Chat  [audio file, March 11, 2015]

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. In 2014 he received the One World Award for Lifetime Achievement. He also 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 is coordinator of the ISU Extension and Outreach Local Foods team. He leads 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 worked 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.

Kim Vo

Administrative specialist

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

A long-time employee of Iowa State University, Vo came to the Leopold Center in July 2015, providing leadership in accounting, budgeting and administrative support. She reviews all proposal budgets, participates in the Leopold Center's grant application and submission process and responds to inquiries regarding grants, accounts, budgets and University policies and procedures. She also assists with events and activities planned by the Leopold Center. She previously had worked at Survey and Behavioral Research Services at the ISU Research Park. She received her business adminsitration and accounting degree from Iowa State University in 1989. In 2007, she was awarded the CYtation Award that is presented annually by the ISU Professional and Scientific Council.

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 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. In 2012, she received the CYtation Award presented annually by the ISU Professional and Scientific Council. 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.


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. Read more about her work on microfinance in the United States.