Staff spotlight: Family roots, Iowa experience inspire Alex’s work for rural communities

Environment

I come from a family with deep roots in north central Indiana. We have multiple generations on both sides of the family in that region, most recently Rochester and Flora. I was born and raised in West Lafayette, Indiana, home of the Purdue Boilermakers, which is where I received my degree in agricultural economics in 2020. Graduating from Purdue holds a special place for me because I’m the third generation to do so. The first was my grandfather, who still lives on the same farm in Flora he was born on 89 years ago.

My grandfather was a biology teacher at the local high school for 30 years. My grandmother, his wife, taught English in the same school for 27 years. They served as stewards for a farm that has now been in the family for more than 150 years.

Growing up, I spent many weekends on that farm, helping with various chores, walking through his woodlot, and fishing in the pond he built when I was a toddler. During that time, I learned about conservation and developed a deeper appreciation for the environment. I often say my grandfather treated that farm like his own biology project—embracing the environment it was in by maintaining a wildlife-friendly habitat that blended a productive farm with a love of nature. I developed a similar interest and built on it as a Boy Scout where I found a love for the outdoors. That love has motivated me to embark on all sorts of backpacking adventures in remote parts of this diverse and beautiful country.

In January 2021, I moved to Waterloo, Iowa, for an Americorps Vista position under the University of Northern Iowa’s Local Food Program, with a focus on furthering land access for beginning farmers in the Cedar Valley. There I met a lot of incredible people, all doing special things to strengthen and improve their local communities. My term opened my eyes to the camaraderie present among rural Iowa communities and appreciation for rural communities, something that is highlighted in events such as RAGBRAI. That passion was inspiring to me, and is something I see here at the Center. After my term in Waterloo, I wanted to shift into a field that I have always found fascinating and exciting—renewable energy. The combination of my time on the farm and my experiences in Iowa is what makes my position with the Center so exciting for me.

My role as a Center policy associate provides me with a unique experience of being a part of the rapid development of renewable energy production in Iowa, while placing the utmost importance on ensuring proper development within rural communities. In a place like Iowa, clean energy offers rewards for all, but most significantly for its rural communities.

I will always have my family’s Flora farm and the community that surrounds it in mind while working at the Center. I’ll think about the history behind that farm in rural Indiana and the value it holds in my family, both from a financial and emotional perspective. I know those same sentiments exist in Iowans and respect how the Center’s work impacts the land that sustains our rural communities.