Staff Spotlight: A small town, farming, and a passion to make a change brought Cora to the Center

Small Towns

Being fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by farming outside Northfield, Minnesota, and spending a lot of my childhood helping my dad on my grandparent’s farm in Webster, Minnesota, I developed a deep appreciation for the land and the people who worked it. 

I was a witness to small farm struggles accompanied by a community effort to not give up when things got tough. Through those experiences I started to question how I could help. I decided to pursue an education and find opportunities that would help me do so.

In fall 2019, I moved to Winona, Minnesota to attend Winona State University. At first, I felt lost in my life’s purpose, but the summer before my final year, I began working with  the University of Wisconsin, Division of Extension in Buffalo County, Wisconsin as an agriculture intern. I worked on alternative crop and small grain research and connected with the community through outreach events. Those experiences helped me solidify my purpose—I wanted to make a difference in the lives of small farmers and rural communities while also looking into the future on how I can help the environment. My mentor at the extension office saw my passion and encouraged me to check out a master’s program offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The next thing I knew, three weeks after earning my bachelor’s degree in environmental biology, I was moving to Madison, Wisconsin, to start my master’s degree studies in environmental conservation. 

Through my time in graduate school, I was exposed to many sides of conservation and diverse groups of people. During my final semester, I had the opportunity to work with Buffalo County Extension again, this time as the Industrial Hemp site manager. In this position, I managed three industrial hemp research sites in western Wisconsin, facilitated outreach events, and connected with members of the farming community as well as the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Those experiences, coupled with my passion for helping rural communities and small farms, prepared me for my position at the Center. As the clean energy policy associate for Minnesota, I am able to do impactful work while pursuing my passion. I am eager to advocate for rural communities and small farms, while also working with clean energy to tackle some of the most pressing environmental issues. I feel incredibly grateful to work with a talented group of people who care about rural America as much as I do.