Mark Shepard, President
Mark Shepard is the founding President of Restoration Agriculture Institute. He is also the CEO of Forest Agriculture Enterprises and runs New Forest Farm, a 106-acre perennial agricultural forest considered by many to be one of the most ambitious sustainable agriculture projects in the United States.
New Forest Farm is the first known attempt to develop Restoration Agriculture in the United States. It is a planned conversion of a typical row-crops grain farm into a commercial-scale, perennial agricultural ecosystem using oak savanna, successional brushland, and eastern woodlands as ecological models. Trees, shrubs, vines, canes, perennial plants, and fungi are planted in association with one another to produce food (for humans and animals), fuel, medicines, and beauty. Hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts and various fruits are the primary woody crops. The farm is entirely solar and wind powered, and farm equipment is powered with locally produced biofuels that are not taken from the human food chain.
Trained in both mechanical engineering and ecology, Mark has developed and patented equipment and processes for the cultivation, harvesting and processing of forest derived agricultural products for human foods and bio fuels production. Mark was certified as a Permaculture designer in 1993 and received his Diploma of Permaculture design from Bill Mollison, the founder of the international Permaculture movement.
Mark serves on the board of the Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development Council. He teaches agroforestry and Permaculture worldwide. Mark is a farmer member of the Organic Valley cooperative, the worlds largest Organic Farmer’s marketing co-op, and is the founder and chief Cydermaker for the Shepard’s Hard Cyder winery in Viola, Wisconsin.
Peter Allen, Executive Director
Peter plays many roles at RAI, including grant-writer, teacher, researcher, and promoter of Restoration Agriculture. He is currently finishing his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison researching the history and ecology of the Midwestern oak savanna and the agricultural potential of savanna restoration. He has a B.S. in Environmental Science with a concentration in Ecosystem Science from Indiana University, and an M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from UW-Madison. He has extensive experience in performing ecological research, teaching, gardening, restoration, and land management.
During his undergraduate studies, Peter worked on several major ecological research projects including periodical cicada ecology in Southern Indiana, and forest ecology and management in Northern Wisconsin. In his six years at UW-Madison, Peter has worked as a teaching assistant at every level from freshman to graduate students in courses including Plants and Man, Contemporary Life Science, Introductory Biology, Modeling and Analysis of Environmental Systems, Introductory Environmental Studies, and General Ecology. He has also designed and taught several courses including a seminar on restoration ecology, and the Nelson Institute Capstone Course. His proposal to teach a course on Restoration and Ecological Design won a campus-wide competition, and he developed and taught this course in the Summer of 2011. Working on the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, this class collected ecological data, conducted ecological restoration, and designed and planted a perennial polyculture of hazelnut, plum, currant, and serviceberry. The class documented all its activities and wrote a management plan for the area, compiling and publishing all this on a website.
Peter is also an avid gardener and passionate about growing healthy, local food. Since his time in Madison, he has established nearly a dozen gardens in town; in yards, abandoned lots, and community garden plots. He also has experience in ecological restoration; conducting controlled burns, controlling invasive species, collecting seeds from prairies, and seeding new prairies. He volunteers with the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, the UW-Arboretum, and the Madison Audubon Society. He helps his family manage a 250-acre hunting reserve in Western Kentucky, establishing food plots and controlling invasive vegetation. Peter is excited to integrate all of these experiences and interests towards the growth development of Restoration Agriculture Institute. You can follow his blog online at becomingnative.com.
Brandon Angrisani, Vice-President
Brandon’s primary RAI interests are the integration of savanna and woodland Restoration Agriculture systems; the development of plant species from the Fagales order for Northeast Restoration Agriculture; the integration of regionally traditional agricultural practices redesigned with an ecological and social focus; case-specific, participatory farm research; and on-farm education programs that empower future Restoration Agriculturalists.
Currently Brandon is pursuing an agroforestry master’s degree from the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri. In tandem with the agroforestry program, Brandon is studying ecological forest management at Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks of New York, where he serves as adjunct faculty with the draft horse program.
Brandon received a bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College where he studied ethnoecology. In the last decade, he has worked to reunite agriculture and ecological systems as he studied, taught, and engaged in community development and ecological agriculture both in the USA and abroad. He also worked as a Forest Service Wilderness Ranger in the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont. From 2010 to 2011, Brandon served as the Farm Manager for Sterling College’s educational working farm in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. In addition to livestock and pasture management, and experiential field-instruction he served as a member of the steering committee for Sterling College’s Sustainable Agriculture major, and developed student curriculum in ecological agriculture and design.
In the Spring of 2013, Brandon plans to begin a Restoration Agriculture research and education working farm in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. He intends for the farm to host a family practice medical clinic to directly connect agriculture and healthcare, in what may soon be called Restoration Healthcare. Ultimately the farm will combine the health clinic, education programs, a community center, and case-study research – to create an adoptable pattern for rural, agricultural community restoration. In Vermont, he also plans to begin work as an agroforester, forester, and farm design consultant in order to help expand Restoration Agriculture throughout New England’s multifunctional landscape.
Kevin Wolz, Secretary
Kevin is currently a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Integrative Biology and Environmental Engineering. His primary role at RAI is the design, implementation of the two Illinois research plots.
Originally from the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Kevin’s time running through and ecologically restoring the local forest preserves opened his eyes to the natural world. Today, his studies and activities focus on the application (engineering) of ecological concepts (biology) to solve global social and environmental issues, especially agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, and education.
Kevin has traveled around the world studying the social, economic, and environmental components of sustainability. He has been involved in climate change activism both locally and nationally, especially through his participation in Power Shift 2011. He is also highly involved in projects to increase creativity and innovation in higher education.
On campus, Kevin also conducts research on the effect of climate change on plant physiology and ecosystem function. Through a combination of field work, lab work, and mathematical modeling, he will contribute to several publications in the coming year. He plans to continue into graduate school after graduation next spring.
Kevin is also an avid runner and musician. He currently serves as Head Coach of the Illinois Track Club and Assistant Coach of the Illinois Cross Country Club.
Ron Revord, Treasurer
Ron is a recent graduate of The University of Illinois in Molecular and Cellular Biology. He is actively involved in the execution of research at all three of the RAI’s research sites. As RAI develops, Ron’s specific area of research will focus on variety improvement of hazelnuts and chestnuts with emphasis towards yield and disease resistance. In this respect, he is currently conducting a preliminary study on the hazelnut and chestnut nurseries of Forest Agriculture Enterprises.
Ron’s research background consists of diverse experiences while attending The University of Illinois. His Junior and Senior year were spent researching native and non-native lignocellulosic bioenergy feedstocks at the Energy Bioscience Institution. During this time, he was a part of experiments in agronomy, chemical composition, and cytogenetics. The diversity of experimental design provided great education for the multifaceted research approach RAI will take in studying their agricultural system.