Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation
Spring Newsletter 2012

From the Executive Director

Executive Director Lissa Widoff
Lissa Widoff
Highlighting the Work of Fellows on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems

Greetings Switzer Fellows, friends,  

and colleagues,


Each spring we like to highlight Fellows who are working in diverse ways on a critical environmental issue.  This year we are pulling together highlights of Fellows' work in sustainable agriculture and food systems.  The early spring this year is a gift to an already abbreviated growing season for farmers and gardeners here in the northeast, but it is also a harbinger of the unsettled weather and climatic patterns that we've seen across the country and globally.


The growing interest in the benefits of sustainable agriculture (in improved land stewardship and expanded economic opportunities) for rural communities also creates pathways for healthier foods for cities and institutions.  Urban farms and gardens are part of a growing social movement for sustainability, and deepening concerns about global impacts of climate change on subsistence farming livelihoods contribute to the rise in importance of looking at our food system as just that - a system. 


There are many aspects of moving towards a just and sustainable food system, including on the ground practices, policy dimensions, business opportunities and global trends.  A focus on just one aspect will not be enough to move us in a positive direction.  We hope that the following interviews, stories and links can help us strengthen not only our own network of Fellows working in this field, but the broader community of cross-cutting interests in which we can all play a part.


As we grow our Network of Fellows on this and related issues, we invite you to learn more about their work, our programs and investments in environmental leadership for the future.


Lissa Widoff 

Executive Director, and Switzer Fellow (1992)

Switzer Fellows: Spotlight on
Sustainable Agriculture / Food System Reform

We have a diverse group of current and former Fellows working in the areas of sustainable agriculture and food policy both within the United States and abroad


Resurgence of Local Grains in New England 

Ellen Mallory (2005) is Assistant Professor of Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Maine, Orono, and works on the resurgence of growing grains locally in New England.  In this video she explains that the movement started with organic dairy farmers, whose cost for organic grains is about two-thirds of their budget, and expanded to satisfy the growing demand by consumers looking for locally-produced food.  

 Ellen Mallory on New England Grains    

Climate Change and Global Agriculture 

Doreen Stabinsky (1991) works with the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy through a Switzer Leadership Grant (see our Switzer Network News report "Getting Real About Climate Change and Agriculture") to advise the organization on a range of issues involving climate change and agriculture.  Doreen advised IATP on how to engage governments and other NGOs on the impact of international climate change negotiations on small-scale farmers and rural communities, and on initiatives to develop agricultural soil carbon markets. She is currently a professor of global environmental politics at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.


Doreen Stabinsky  

Healthy Food in Health Care Settings 

Kendra Klein (2011) works at the intersection of public health and sustainable agri-food systems.  In this video she explains what hospitals can do to advance the agenda of healthy food and sustainable food production systems for everyone.


Kendra Klein  

Turning Niche Meat into a Movement 

Lauren Gwin (2005) is on the faculty at Oregon State University in the Ag & Resource Economics department. She co-founded and co-leads the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, a network of university extension faculty, NGOs, government officials, livestock producers, processors, and others involved with supporting small-scale processing for local/regional, niche markets, the impact of which she explains in this video. 



Working Towards Equality in the Food System 

Sara Mersha (2010) is the Director of Grantmaking and Advocacy for Grassroots International. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sara worked for 12 years as Lead Organizer and then Executive Director of Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), a grassroots group serving low-income communities of color in Providence,  RI. After serving as Visiting Faculty in the Ethnic Studies Department of Brown University, she began a master's degree at Brown's Center for Environmental Studies.  She now focuses her work on climate justice and food sovereignty, including with the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, work that she describes in the video below.




Supporting the Organic Farmers of Vermont Enid Wonnacott

Enid Wonnacott
(1990) has been the Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont for 25 years.  On a large scale, she works on the viability of agriculture in Vermont - addressing how farmers can produce food in a way that enhances the quality of the soil and the environment, market their products to their community, and maintain the scale of operation that provides a livable wage.

Read a blog post from Enid about her personal connection to the work





Read short bios of all Switzer Fellows who specialize in sustainable agriculture and food policy reform (use the Expertise drop down menu and select 'Sustainable Ag/Food Policy')


Specialized Content Just a Click Away!

Switzer website visitors can find specialized content quickly and easily.  For example, to see all content we've published recently about sustainable agriculture and food system policy, you can visit: 


You can view a complete list of available tags on our website 

Switzer Network News Reports
Switzer Network News logo

Switzer Network News
is a regular series of news reports that profile the environmental accomplishments and innovations of Switzer Fellows as leaders in their respective fields.  In addition to our food system and sustainable agriculture reports noted above, our recent SNN reports include:
Botanists and other scientists are using technology to reach wider audiences. One example is the website Go Botany! developed by 1990 Switzer Fellow Elizabeth Farnsworth and the New England Wildflower Society.  Learn about how the site was designed to engage people in identifying plants and foster social networking by viewing the Webinar "Go Botany! A Behind-the-Scenes Tour" with Elizabeth Farnsworth.

How can we ensure the water that runs off our driveways and parking lots is safe for the environment?  2009 Switzer Fellow Brenda Zollitsch works with municipalities to address pollution that impacts waterways, and collaborative approaches to stormwater issues.

How do you take a sustainability mandate at the corporate level and infuse the entire organization with it? 1992 Switzer Fellow Tim Greiner is Managing Director of Pure Strategies, a sustainability consulting firm helping companies improve the sustainability performance of their businesses, products, supply chain, and internal operations.  See the Webinar "Greening Stonyfield Farm" with Tim Greiner that describes his work with this well-known company.
Where has California's renewable energy policy been, and where is it going? What role have California's utilities played in promoting the development of clean electricity? What must utilities and state policy makers do to ensure California continues to lead on clean energy policies?  Switzer Fellow Laura Wisland works on these issues every day in her role as Senior Energy Analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Click here to see the Webinar, "Accelerating the Green Energy Transition: 33% RPS and Beyond" with Laura Wisland.

How does urban sprawl and highway expansion impact the environment and quality of life? That question is being addressed by TransForm, a coalition of environmental, social justice and public health groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, founded by Switzer Fellow Stuart Cohen.  Stuart and colleague Ann Cheng discussed their work in a recent Webinar "GreenTRIP: Great Access, Deep Affordability".

Switzer Fellow Chuck Striplen talks about the important role played by historical ecologists in uncovering the pre-colonization landscapes of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Watch these reports at our website and subscribe to receive new episodes via iTunes or email.

Switzer Network in Action

Network Innovation Grants Launched 

The major benefit of the maturing of the Switzer Fellowship Program is the expanded Network of Switzer Fellows and colleagues who increasingly support each other in their work on common interests. The role that Fellows play as leaders in their fields across academic institutions, government agencies, NGOs and the private sector creates an opportunity to model the kind of innovation and creativity in problem solving we hope to be the hallmark of the Switzer Foundation. To encourage innovation and leverage the Network in this way, the Foundation launched Network Innovation Grants for Switzer Fellows and their colleagues to develop new solutions and approaches that can benefit from cross-sector input and expanded constituencies.


Two projects have been funded so far and others seeking input are described on the Switzer Foundation Blog. We are providing funding to the non-profit Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative to work with a team of Switzer Fellows and colleagues to advise on strategies for engaging the recreational boating sector to reduce oil and gas leakage from boats through pilot technology and education, and ultimately, policy initiatives. Colleen Callahan is leading the initiative and described the project in her blog post. The second project is a grant to the Society for Conservation Biology to add a significant workshop on science communications with an emphasis on communicating through film that will be part of an all day workshop at their annual conference in Oakland, CA in July 2012. A team of Switzer Fellows is organizing the workshop and planning to prepare a guide for others seeking to learn from the experience of the workshop leaders which will include leading film and science communication professionals.


For more information about Network Innovation grants, see our website.


Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Reform Webinar Helps Fellows Put Their Work in Larger Context of Funders
As part of our topical webinar series, we recently hosted a panel of three funders who work in the sustainable agriculture and food system reform arena.  Hear what they think has the best chance of being funded right now, and find out what challenges funders face.

Brine in California's Inland EmpireSouthern California Retreat - Inland Empire: A land of contradictions
Over the last few years, as part of our ongoing outreach to Fellows and colleagues in the region, and our interest in showcasing leaders who are addressing complex and interconnected environmental and social issues, we have held an annual spring retreat that delves into a set of urgent environmental issues in southern California.
Read Executive Director Lissa Widoff's blog post about the retreat

Interested in Leveraging the Network for Your Organization?
If your organization could benefit from the thought leadership and technical expertise of the Fellows in our Network, please contact Erin Lloyd, Program Officer, to help find Fellows in your area of expertise.  The online Fellows' Directory is also available and you can search for Fellows by keyword or geographic region.

Fellows in the News

Gregory Norris's (1991) project was named one of "Ten ideas currently changing your life" by Time Magazine
The site lets visitors calculate their environmental footprint and commit to simple actions that lower their impact on the planet. It launched as a full beta on Earth Day. Visit the site

David Wiley (1999) and team release new Whale Alert app
The app helps mariners avoid endangered right whales. Read the story

Eric Jay Dolin's (1989) book was featured in a New York Times video op-ed on nutria and other invasive species
Fur, Fortune and Empire is the basis for the argument that it might be time to reconsider native status for some invasive species.
Watch the video

Read all Fellows in the News updates

In This Issue
From Executive Director
Switzer Fellow Spotlights
Switzer Network News
Switzer Network in Action
Foundation News
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Switzer Foundation
2011 Switzer Fellows 
Current Leadership Grants 
Program Guidelines
Switzer Network News
Upcoming Events

Switzer Network Party in San Francisco

May 11, 2012


Webinar: How to Write and Publish a Book (Switzer Leadership Webinar Series)

May 21, 2012


Webinar:  Blogging About Your Work (Switzer Digital Skills Webinar Series)

June 25, 2012


New England Fall Fellows' Retreat

September 14-16, 2012


California Fall Fellows' Retreat

October 5-7, 2012

Foundation News

Switzer signs on to Carbon Disclosure Project
The Switzer Foundation is one of a growing number of Foundations which recognize the role that endowments and foundations can play in influencing more sustainable practices among the companies in which they invest.
Read Executive Director Lissa Widoff's blog post about the project

Patricia Switzer, Founder and Friend, 1913-2011
In late December, we received word that Patricia Switzer, who, with her husband Robert Switzer, started this Foundation, passed away peacefully and surrounded by her family. She was a strong spirit with a wonderful sense of humor, great independence and was unfailing in her support of the Foundation's mission in service of environmental leaders.

Switzer Foundation goes to Capitol Hill for Foundations on the Hill
Every year in March, foundation representatives from around the country gather in Washington DC for Foundations on the Hill to meet with their Senators and Representatives to inform and educate them about the role of philanthropy in their states. Executive Director Lissa Widoff joined the Maine delegation.
Read Executive Director Lissa Widoff's blog post about the event

The Switzer Network goes to France!
In late November, Executive Director Lissa Widoff represented the Switzer Foundation at the annual workshop of the
Centre Francais des Fonds et Fondations (France Center for Foundations and Funds), a national organization with comparable goals to the Council on Foundations, the US counterpart that is a service organization for foundations seeking best management and grantmaking practices, as well as promoting the role of philanthropy in policy and practice throughout the country.

A Vibrant Community of Environmental Leaders
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