Meet the small but MIGHTY staff of Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

Liz Moran Stelk: Executive Director
Farmer-at-heart, organizer extraordinaire

Liz is a veteran organizer bringing experience in sustainable agriculture policy and building powerful organizations to the Alliance. Liz previously served as a Regional Organizer with the Western Organization of Resource Councils in Montana where she worked with farmers and ranchers in seven states on local, state and federal food and agricultural policy. She formerly organized health care workers with SEIU Healthcare Illinois and has led field work for a variety of grassroots and electoral campaigns.

Woody Woodruff: Conservation Associate
Budding bob-cat photographer, pond swimming expert, small grain farmer

In April of 2020, Woody, beloved friend and colleague, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Although it was not an unexpected passing, our hearts were broken. He was taken far too soon.

Woody worked in conservation for more than two decades, and has done everything from train agricultural workers in Africa about crop rotation to running the Woodruff Family Farm in Modesto Illinois. Woody’s farm consists of 100 acres of cropland with 50 acres in a corn, soybean & wheat rotation, utilizing cover crops in that rotation. The remaining cropland has been restored into a prairie/savanna restoration which is protecting four acres of wetlands. Woody has inter-planted fruit and nut trees into his six acres of pasture. The remaining 50 acres of the land is maintained in timber.

In addition to working the land, Woody worked in the conservation field since the late 1980s. During his time as a Peace Corps volunteer Woody taught farmers in West Africa about crop rotations, new irrigation techniques and other conservation practices. He’s also worked at Sangamon County Soil & Water District, testing different best management practices, improving the water quality through conservation techniques and promoting conservation programs.

In April of 2020, Woody, beloved friend and colleague, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Although it was not an unexpected passing, our hearts were broken. He was taken far too soon.

To read the Alliance’s full tribute please click here.

Molly Gleason: Communications Director
Vegetable enthusiast, aspiring apple cider connoisseur

molly circle

Molly joined the Illinois Stewardship Alliance team in January 2014. As Communications Director, Molly works to manage the websites and social media accounts, edit the newsletters, and create marketing plans and materials for various events. Molly also works to coordinate the Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Illinois chapter and is extensively involved in various other local food programming.

Molly was raised on a third generation family farm in Elkhart, Illinois, and has always felt a strong connection to agriculture and the land. Growing up she was part of her local 4-H and FFA chapters and loved helping out in the family garden. She graduated from Illinois State University with a Spanish Education degree and spent three years teaching middle school Spanish as well as one year teaching university-level English in the Dominican Republic before settling back down to her roots in Central Illinois. Molly graduated with her Masters degree in Communications from Purdue University in May of 2017. In her spare time, you can find her in the kitchen testing out new recipes, listening to podcasts, and trying to turn the pile of dirt beyond her apartment into something that will grow at least a few tomatoes.

Angie Mizeur: Office Coordinator
Farm Mom, Poison-Ivy Warrior, Tomato Sauce Entrepreneur

Angie, our Office Coordinator, joined the team in August of 2017. She has 15 years combined experience in banking, office management, and fundraising. Angie is a Springfield native and her family has been involved in a variety of restaurants in the area since the 1940s, including Club Belvedere, The Supper Club and currently the Track Shack. Her great-grandfather even used to sell produce from a horse and buggy.  She has also worked with her family to grow a home tomato canning venture into a small profitable business, Onofrio’s Classic Sauces, which sells in a variety of small and large grocery stores from St. Louis to Chicago.  She is an advocate for local food and sustainable living, currently using goats to manage honeysuckle overgrowth and raising chickens for family eggs.  Living in the country has helped her understand and appreciate the hard work of Illinois farmers.

Liz Rupel: Policy Organizer
Master of the Environment, Lover of Local, Handles-Everything-With-a-Smile

liz round frame

Liz started working for the Alliance as an Old Capitol Farmer’s Market staff member in 2016 and  in 2018 accepted the position as Policy Organizer. As the Policy Organizer, Liz engages with members to create change in our local food and farm systems. Liz will recruit and equip potential leaders from among our current membership and engage in strategies to recruit new members to the organization.

Liz has been a Springfield resident for most of her adult life and attributes her connection to local food and farm systems to her work on local farms and at local farm-to-table restaurants. She is an advocate for local and sustainable food and is looking forward to helping Illinois build the same passion. She graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield with a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Environmental Studies with a focus of policy and sustainable development. In her spare time, Liz loves to be outdoors, garden, travel, and experiment in the kitchen.

Kathleen Mueller: Northern Policy Organizer
Avid Rock Climber, Kitchen Experimenter, Native Plant Enthusiast

Kathleen is joining the Alliance after spending several years working with the urban food community in Chicago. She contributed to the early stages of development for The Urban Canopy, which launched a passion for food systems and the environment.

While completing her degree in Urban Planning at UIC, Kathleen became involved in freshwater related issues and began to see the intimate connections between freshwater and agriculture in the Great Lakes Region. Since graduating, Kathleen had a vision to work at the intersection of agriculture, natural resources and people.

Her role as the Northern IL Policy Organizer at ISA will allow her to fulfill that vision by working with local producers to champion legislation that will support farmers, the environment and communities across Illinois.

Garrett Peterson: Marketing Consultant
Urban Farmer, Lifestyle Coach, & Community-Owned Supporter 

Garrett is joining the Alliance in a consulting capacity to help the team advance the statewide Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign. Although new to the alliance, Garrett has been working to advance equitable access to locally grown food, agricultural land, and farm-based education for the better part of the past decade as a grower, land steward, educator, social entrepreneur, and policy advocate. Most recently, Garrett served as the Director of Food Systems Development at Rooted (Community GroundWorks) in Madison, WI. Garrett now resides on Chicago’s westside and is looking forward to exploring and nesting in his new community. .

Piero Taico: Communications Coordinator

Husband & Pet Dad, Photographer of All, Peruvian-American cook

Piero is the newest addition to the team as our Communication Coordinator. He will be preparing the monthly e-newsletters and quarterly print editions. Teamed with Molly, Piero will also aid in all marketing campaigns implementation and design. Finally he will curate the Alliance’s Website, Facebook, and Instagram. With his degree in Photography from Columbia College Chicago Piero is always with camera at hand so prepare to get your photo taken! 

A lifelong cook starting back in his family’s restaurants on the East Coast he is also finds any reason to cook with local ingredients. Growing up in Pekin and now calling Springfield home, Piero came to know the Stewardship Alliance from his connection as a pastry chef for the bakery Incredibly Delicious.

Ana Fochesatto: Voter Guide Intern

Community Builder, Yerba Obsessed, Eater

Ana will be organizing efforts for our 2020 Food & Farm Voter Guide. She’ll be reaching out to all of our state and federal 2020 candidates with a questionnaire that will better inform our decisions when we head to the polls in November. 

Before joining the Alliance, Ana worked for various non-profit organizations with missions relating to youth development, subarctic horticulture, and food advocacy. In August 2018, Ana graduated from Illinois State University with a Master’s in Anthropology, Applied Community and Economic Development and completed a fellowship in program evaluation with Up2Us Sports Chicago. She received her BA in Political Science and Anthropology from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Originally from Argentina, Ana grew up in Alaska and is passionate about working towards a just food system across the Americas. Her anthropological research over the past few years focuses on food and identity with a close look at a new “superfood” called yerba mate. In her spare time, Ana likes to experiment with different flavors in her kombucha brews, explore the Chicago Park District, and tutor ESL.