Our Speakers


Airin Beechler
Coming soon







Deena Bosworth
Deena originally joined MAC in 2011 and became director in 2013. Bosworth previously served as director of legislative relations for the Michigan Attorney General's Office, as assistant county administrator with the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners in Florida and as legislative director and senior policy adviser for the Michigan House Republican Caucus. She has a B.A. in anthropology from Western Michigan University.

Mike Brown
Mike worked for the Delaware Department of Agriculture from 1982 through 2001, where his primary responsibilities were forest management on private lands, state lands management, fire control, and policy planning. Mike worked for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control from 2001 through 2010 where he managed Delaware’s Nonpoint Source Program and served as the State’s District Operations Section Administrator. Mike has served as the Executive Director of the National Association of State Conservation Agencies (NASCA) since October, 2010.

Brad Deacon
Brad Deacon is the Director of Legal Affairs and the Emergency Management Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development.  He oversees the Department’s legal issues including coordination with the Attorney General’s Office, as well as emergency planning, preparedness and response activities.  Brad represents the Department on multiple homeland security and preparedness boards and is an adjunct professor at MSU College of Law teaching Agriculture and Hospitality Law.

Laura Doud
Ms. Doudis an Environmental Engineering Specialist with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.Most of her work includes waste storage facilities, fuel storage, drinking water and irrigation wells, concrete and soils investigations, aquaculture, food processor waste water issues and the siting of livestock production facilities under the Michigan Right to Farm program. Ms. Doud is a 2001 graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biosystems Engineering.She is also aprofessional engineer registered in Michigan.

Joanne Foreman
Joanne Foreman is the Invasive Species Communications Coordinator for Michigan’s Quality of Life team – DNR, DEQ and DARD.  She is working to raise citizen awareness and encourage action to combat invasive species in Michigan. Prior to taking on this assignment, she worked for 12 years as the Executive Director for the Barry Conservation District, managing diverse agricultural and natural resource projects.  Joanne holds a master’s degree in English from MSU and served as an assistant professor of English at Olivet College before venturing into the field of natural resources.

Suzanne Forraht
Suzanne Forraht has worked with the Berrien Conservation District as a Groundwater/MAEAP Tech since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture. In her spare time she helps on the family farm consisting of 500 acres of row crops, apples, peaches, pears, & grapes and also runs a 70 acre U-Pick operation in Baroda. She enjoys camping, rafting, and road trips with her four kids whenever possible.

Rebecca Grumet
Rebecca Grumet is a Professor in the Department of Horticulture and the Graduate Program in Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology, and is a W.H. Beal Outstanding Faculty at Michigan State University.  Her research deals with vegetable genetics and genomics, with a primary emphasis on cucurbit flower and fruit development and disease resistance.  She is currently the lead PI for the USDA-SCRI CucCAP project and she also has performed research, teaching and outreach in the area of biotechnology biosafety. She has worked both nationally and internationally through USDA-, USAID- and Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation- funded projects regarding risk assessment for transgenic crops, has participated in, or co-coordinated, several national workshops for risk assessment of genetically engineered crops, and is a member of the MSU Institutional Biosafety Committee.  R. Grumet has authored or co-authored more than 100 papers, was the lead editor for a book published in 2011 on ‘Environmental Safety of Genetically Engineered Crops’ and in 2015 for ‘Genetics and Genomics of the Cucurbitaceae’. 

Rich Harlow
Rich Harlow has been the manager of the Farmland Preservation program (PA 116) since 1990 and the Qualified Forest Program (QFP) since 2013.  PA 116 provides tax benefits for lands encumbered by both temporary and permanent restrictive covenants.  The QFP provides a property tax reduction in exchange for sustainably managing privately owned forest lands. Prior to working with the State, he worked, for 17 years, in various planning positions, including Planning Director, in Meridian Township, Michigan, planner at the Lima Allen County Regional Planning Commission in Ohio and as a planner in Xenia, Ohio. He has a Master degree and has taken class work towards a second graduate degree in Urban Planning at Michigan State University.  He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and currently also teaches classes at Michigan State University as adjunct faculty.

Tori Harris

Tori Harris earned her Master’s degree in Biology from Grand Valley State University in 2017. Her thesis work focused on the effects of anthropogenic stresses on macroinvertebrate communities within Muskegon Lake. Her background also includes aquatic sciences/water resources and habitat restoration. Tori started at the Allegan Conservation District as a Watershed Technician after finishing her Master's degree. She is now the Executive Director of the District and splits her time in the administration and technician roles. 


Russ Hicks
Russ Hicks began working in water safety in 1969.  He was on the Quiet Water Symposium Planning Committee for 22 years, chaired the committee four times, and was the Quiet Water Society President for nine years.  He directed the seven year effort to remove the 1918 West Sanitation Low-dead Dam on the Grand River in Eaton Rapids.  It was replaced with a fish-ramp and rock rapics in 2016.  He currently serves on the A.S.D.S.O.'s Dam Safety Speakers's Bureau.  He retired from teaching and coaching career at Eaton Rapids High School in 2006.  In his spare time he operates Columbia Wooden Boat Works where he restores antique wodden canoes and rowboats.

Fallon Januska
Fallon grew up in Muskegon, Michigan. She has obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology with an Aquatic Science Emphasis and a Chemistry Minor from Grand Valley State University. As an undergraduate she spent multiple summers working at Annis Water Resources Institute. In 2016, she started with the Saginaw Bay Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) as a member of the Strike Team. Currently she is the Coordinator of the Saginaw Bay CISMA. 

Joe Kelpinski
Joe Kelpinski is the Program Manager for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). Joe’s responsibilities within this program include managing the day to day operations of the program, overseeing grants with local conservation districts, working with the MAEAP partners to continue to improve, promote and evaluate the program, and working with communication and technical committees within the program to address issues and review MAEAP standards within the MAEAP systems. Additional responsibilities include working with partners to identify opportunities and challenges for the MAEAP program.  Joe is a graduate of Michigan State University.  He began his career as an Agriculture Agent with Michigan State University Extension in Genesee County for five years.  From there he spent five years as a regional swine agent in the six counties of the thumb region, focusing on environmental management and manure utilization on swine farms. Joe left that position to become one of the two initial verifiers in the MAEAP program in 2001, and worked in that capacity before becoming the MAEAP program manager in November of 2014.

Julie Kirkwood

Julia has worked as a natural resource professional for over 25 years.  For the past 16 years she has worked for the MDEQ Nonpoint Source Pollution Program collaborating with watershed stakeholders to protect and restore rivers and lakes. She serves on multiple statewide inland lake partnerships and is the chair of the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership. She has led the development of the MI Shoreland Stewards Program. Some of her favorite times are paddling on inland lakes with her family especially in the quiet morning and evening hours.


Ryan Kuhl
Ryan Kuhl is the MAEAP Technician for the Huron Conservation District in Bad Axe. He runs a majority of the scenarios and eligibility checks through the Great Lakes Watershed Management System for the Huron Conservation District office.


Steve Law
Steve Law is the Capacity Programs Manager for MACD. Steve retired from NRCS in 2014 after having provided assistance to Districts across Michigan for 31 years.  Starting out in 1983 as a Soil Conservationist in Bay County and moving on to Hillsdale, Missaukee, Ingham and then Clinton County where he served as the District Conservationist for 12 years.  As Resource Conservation and Development Coordinator in Grand Rapids, Steve assisted 10 Counties in central and west Michigan to plan and implement resource conservation and community development projects.  With details as Acting Area Conservationist in Grand Rapids, Flint and Marquette Steve finished his career as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Coordinator in the Michigan NRCS State Office where he was responsible for the obligation of 20 million dollars in financial assistance annually. Steve is a huge supporter of Conservation Districts and the work they do across the State. He has assisted many Districts both individually and in groups to plan and implement improvements in operations that when implemented have resulted in substantial increases in local financial and political support for the Districts and their activities. 

Elan Lipschitz
Elan is the Director of Land Conservation for Little Forks Conservancy. Elan works with landowners as they make their decisions about how best to preserve their properties. He works to negotiate the terms of a conservation easement if that is the route of land protection decided upon by the landowner. In addition, Elan oversees the management of the Conservancy’s nature preserves. Elan is involved in a variety of collaborations to improve that natural resources of our local communities.

Kyle Mead
Kyle has been employed with the Van Buren Conservation District since 2004 as a MAEAP Technician completing over 200 verifications in that time.   Van Buren county is a heavily irrigated county with a large population of blueberry and grape farms which led Kyle to Irrigation and Small Fruit Specializations.  Kyle has 2 children and 3 step-children, he and his wife live in Lawton.  Fun fact: Kyle can identify an illegal fuel tank setup from 1,000ft away at 50mph and has the cell phone numbers of 90% of the blueberry farmers in SW Michigan.


Gordon Nobach

Gordon Nobach is a MAEAP Technician with the Lenawee Conservation District and a certified Agronomist. He grew up in Eaton Rapids, Michigan on his family’s 1200 acre Organic row crop farm and studied at Michigan State University where he graduated with a Degree in Crop and Soil Sciences. On the weekends he spends his free time helping on his family farm and trying to lower his golf handicap when it’s too wet.  




Becky Otto
Becky Otto is the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service-Michigan (NRCS-MI) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Coordinator in East Lansing.  Becky has worked on the NRCS-MI Conservation Program Staff since 2010, first serving at the Wetlands Reserve Program Coordinator, then as the EQIP Coordinator in 2014.  Prior to arriving in East Lansing, Becky worked as a soil scientist, soil conservationist and district conservationist with NRCS in Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as a project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit.  Becky is a Certified Crop Advisor and enjoys getting back to Wisconsin to work on the family farm.


Tracy Page
Tracy Page is the Aquatic Education Coordinator for the MI Department of Natural Resources. Currently she coordinates the Salmon in the Classroom program and other aquatic education needs for the DNR. She has extensive experience in aquatic education, and providing professional development opportunities. Tracy holds a dual B.S. degree in Marine Biology/Oceanography (Marine Science) from the University of Hawaii-Hilo, and a proM.S.c degree in Zoo and Aquarium Management: Non-formal Education from Michigan State University.  She lives in mid-Michigan with her husband and two daughters, enjoying the outdoors, their pets, and traveling.

Mike Parker
Mike is the Conservation Partners Program Specialist currently serving as the DNR Wildlife Division’s Conservation Partners Program Specialist where he oversees the division’s private lands programs, including serving as the DNR liaison on state and national Farm Bill programs.  Mike has over 19 years experience assisting private landowners in Michigan enhance their lands for wildlife, with an emphasis on grassland and wetland restorations.  The DNR’s private lands program provides technical and financial assistance to restore habitat for a variety of game and non-game species.  Prior to joining the Wildlife Division in 2011, Mike spent 14 years as a Regional Wildlife Biologist for Pheasants Forever.  Mike is a graduate of Michigan State University, an avid outdoorsman and lives in Okemos with his wife, three daughters, and two bird dogs.

Don Peterson
Since 2001, Don has been president of his own company, Renewable Resource Solutions, LLC (RRS), whose client base ranges from the federal government to private landowners. Projects include business plans, feasibility studies, resource analysis, grant writing, wood energy assessments, and a variety of other projects. Don graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry, from Michigan Technological University in 1979. Don has served as executive director of the Sustainable Resources Institute (SRI) since 2005 and as administrator of the Wisconsin and Michigan Master Logger Certification programs for the past 10 and 13 years, respectively. He is also the executive director of the Safety and Woods Worker (SAWW) Training Program. He spent 17 years with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in a variety of forestry positions, the last five of which he worked as a Forest Products Specialist. Following that, Don was Executive Director of the Forest Industry Safety and Training Alliance for five years. Don is a member of GLTPA, MAT, Partners in Forestry landowner cooperative, and current chair of the Wisconsin Consulting Foresters Association.

Mike Philip
Mike holds a bachelors degree in entomology from Michigan State University and a masters degree in entomology from North Carolina State University. He has worked for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for 15 years, focusing on invasive pest detection and management. He has managed MDARD’s nursery licensing and inspection program since 2015. A native of Williamston, Mike now resides in East Lansing with his wife and three children.

Colleen Reynolds
Educated at Kellogg Community College with an associate's degree in the sciences, Colleen Reynolds is now working toward her bachelor's degree in accounting at Davenport College.  She works full time at Barry Associates Inc, and as part owner she has worked in accounting and its practices for over 23 years.  Her goal now, is to earn her Enrolled Agent accreditation within the year.    As office manager, her duties include talking to the Federal and State tax agencies on a regular basis, overseeing a staff of data entry clerks and bookkeepers, preparing personal tax returns, reviewing small business clients' banking and tax issues, among other things.  Colleen has been a Quick Books Pro Advisor for over 12 years.  She spends much of her time in the field teaching.  She is a QuickBooks ProAdvisor trainer and coordinator.  Her role as advisor includes introducing the Quick Books program to new businesses and teaching them to implement the program.  Colleen has been heading up our e-file division since its inception 10 years ago.  In that capacity, she has been a beta tester for the QuickBooks software company as well as a speaker and a teacher for other small tax professionals.

Jared Ross
Jared is currently a Research Assistant in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at Michigan State University.Jared is interested in a range of applied research topics intended to inform management of fisheries and aquatic resources.He is very interested in studying conservation practices intended to protect aquatic habitat and biota and has worked on riparian buffer issues in southeastern Alaska as well as determining the effectiveness of drainage water management to reduce the export of water and nutrients from farm fields in highly agricultural landscapes.He is additionally interested in landscape-scale assessment and planning to inform prioritizing where to most effectively allocate limited resources for natural resources management.Jaredis a proud Michigander and in his free time enjoys hunting, fishing, and foraging for wild mushrooms.

Meredith Smith
Meredith Smith, MDARD Communications Representative. Meredith has served as the communications representative for MDARD since June 2017.  Her responsibilities include promoting MAEAP and other MDARD programs to producers and to the general public. Prior to coming to MDARD, Meredith worked as a communications representative for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Meredith earned her Bachelor Science in Journalism and African American Studies from Northwestern University. 

Julie Spencer
Julie Spencer has been the Gratiot Conservation District Administrator since 2011. Julie studied Geography at Central Michigan University with concentrations in Cartography, Remote Sensing & GIS, Environmental Analysis &Land Use Planning, and Earth Science. Her Master’s is in Geographic Information Sciences (GIS), with research in GIS Approach to Identifying Areas for Preservation in the Chippewa River Watershed. Julie loves to write newsletters, grant proposals, newspaper articles, and novels. 

Andrea Stay
Andrea Stay, Grants and MAEAP Training Liaison at Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.  Andrea works as the grant project manager for the MAEAP program with an emphasis on activities in the Western Lake Erie Basin and coordinates the MAEAP technician training program. Previously, Andrea spent 13 years working at Eaton and Ingham Conservation Districts and has been at MDARD since 2016.  She has a bachelors degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Public Administration from Western Michigan University.

Bob Sweet
Bob Sweet is a Michigan native with over 30 years of experience in fisheries and water quality programs.  He has worked in Michigan’s Nonpoint Source Program for the past several years with a focus on pass through grants, outreach and education, and watershed management planning.



Bill Vandercook
Bill Vandercook is passionate about creating positive communities through sound economic growth. Recently, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning, from University of Michigan Flint (2018), which included an internship with the Farmland Conservation Easement Program within MDARD. Bill has been a licensed real-estate broker for decades, and assisted numerous corporations and individuals in the development, preservation, and marketing of their property. Bill is the founder and Principal of Landowners Planning and Resource Group, LLC. Landowners’ seek Bill’s advice regarding the future development and/or preservation of their property, and conservation strategies to transition family properties on to the next generation. Bill co-founded and was the past director of the Sporting Lands Alliance, a 501(c)(3) with a mission of preserving land, access to land, and involving youth in outdoor activities (2008-2004). From 2004-2001, he was employed as a Land Use Specialist for Lapeer, St. Clair, & Sanilac County’s Conservation Districts’, and staffed Lapeer County’s Purchase of Development Right Program. Bill and his wife Gayle were both born in Pure Michigan, and are active outdoor enthusiasts who love hiking, camping, kayaking, and biking together.

Kevin Walters
Kevin Walters is an aquatic biologist with the Aquatic Invasive Species Program in Michigan DEQ’s Water Resources Division.  He has also worked as an invasive species specialist with the Great Lakes Commission and a marine biologist with California Department of Fish and Game.  Kevin holds a B.S. degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University and a M.S. degree in Biology from San Francisco State University.  He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and three daughters where he enjoys sailing, photography and writing.

Leslie Warner
Leslie Warner has worked with the USDA Farm Service Agency since 2010. She is currently the County Executive Director in Ionia County, after holding the same position in Van Buren County for five years. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the University of Illinois. In her spare time she raises sheep and goats on her small farm in Belding.



Jodi Wehling
Jodi Wehling is the owner and managing consultant of People Matters, LLC a full service human resources consulting firm. She works with clients, publishes articles and videos, speaks and trains on human resources topics. Jodi has over 26 years of Human Resources operations and leadership experience. Her expertise spans all HR disciplines including HR strategic planning, position design, recruitment and hiring, policy development, pay and benefits, employee relations, employee communications, and performance management. Jodi is trained in the holistic disciplines of quality and human performance improvement, and has earned a master’s degree in Labor Relations and Human Resources from Michigan State University.

Ryan Wheeler
Ryan Wheeler is the Invasive Species Biologist for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, Forest Resources and Wildlife Divisions.  In his current position, Ryan works with many aspects of comprehensive invasive species management, with an emphasis on building and strengthening collaborative partnerships. Some of Ryan’s key responsibilities include serving as a technical contact for many projects funded by Michigan’s Invasive Species Grant Program and as part of a multi-agency committee working on decontamination policy and recommendations for preventing the spread of invasive species in Michigan.

Linda Zabik
Linda is the MAEAP Technician for Kalamazoo County.  Linda made her way west to Michigan from Massachusetts to pursue a Master’s Degree in Hydrogeology from Western Michigan University. After working 16 years as an environmental consultant, Linda started work at the Kalamazoo Conservation District in 2004. Linda enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors watching soccer, skiing, biking, and hiking.





Conference Information

Date: June 4 - 5, 2018

Location: Bay City, DoubleTree by Hilton

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