REAP Food Group was originally founded under the name Dane County Research, Education, Action and Policy on Food Group. A diverse group of academics, elected officials, and citizens concerned about food issues came together to discuss galvanizing civic engagement through local sustainable food.
Planning for the Food For Thought Festival begins. For the first time, all of the passionate people and groups engaged in sustainable food work presented together publicly, raising awareness of what it means to build a sustainable food system.
REAP volunteers created the Farm Fresh Atlas in partnership with the UW Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) and the Dane County Farmers’ Market. The online version launched in 2017 at farmfreshatlas.org.
A growing understanding and awareness of local food and sustainability combined with local coalitions, tasks forces, and staff helped us add more annual events like the Buy Fresh Buy Local program and Farm to School programs. We also changed our name and officially became REAP Food Group, no longer an acronym.
We still do our work with the help of volunteers, and provide a voice for the movement working to grow a food system that is environmental and economically sustainable. Our commitment to connect eaters, producers, buyers, community members, and policy makers – to nourish the links between land and table - is as strong as ever.
Helen Sarakinos is a seasoned advocate and organizer for issues that impact our community’s kids, citizens, food, and water. As a program and Policy Director of River Alliance of Wisconsin for 15 years, she worked with residents, businesses, farmers, municipalities and legislators across the state to protect access to clean water and to ensure citizens have a say in decisions about how to use it. Helen received her master’s and bachelor’s degrees from McGill University in Montreal. She lives on the near east-side of Madison with her husband Jake, son Milo, and daughter Kyra, where they try to get everywhere by bike as much as possible, rarely miss the weekly farmers’ market and jealously guard their front yard peaches from covetous neighbors every fall.
Brianna Fiene became REAP’s Farm to Business Director in September 2018. Prior to her work at REAP, she was the vice president of a company that did supply-chain logistics, sourcing and procurement of specialty grains and beans. She developed an expertise and marketing campaign around perennial, rotational and variety specific food-crops. Before working in staple crops, Brianna worked at Tipi Produce through college, spent some time at the Sauk County Farm Service Agency, and made the trek west to California to work on organic farms there. She eventually returned to Viroqua, Wisconsin, where she worked in schools, on farms and as a grain broker. She grew up in the country near Lake Wisconsin and feels best when out on the water. She also enjoys reading, fishing, hiking, live music and running with her dog. Brianna is excited to develop strong localised food economies through the full rotation of crops grown by and for our southern Wisconsin community.
Alyssa started as REAP’s Communications Director in May 2018. As the communications guru, she is responsible for promoting REAP’s programs and events via social media, newsletters, web and graphic design. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2011 and since then, has been a writer and editor with newspapers in southcentral and northeast Wisconsin. Most recently, she was the Arts, Literature & Entertainment Editor for the Peninsula Pulse newspaper and editor of Door County Living magazine, both in Door County, Wisconsin. Working in the local food movement has been a longtime dream of Alyssa’s, and she is excited to use her communications background to share with the masses REAP Food Group’s mission of nourishing the links between land and table. In her spare time, find her biking, hiking, gardening, painting, making soy candles and going on adventures with her husband, Brad.
Matthew became REAP’s Farm to School Director in October 2018. He returns to the Midwest after nearly a decade in Arizona doing food system and policy work, most recently as grants program manager for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. Matthew is also a Peace Corps alumnus who spent two years in Malawi focused on community-based natural resources management and food systems.
Haley, originally from La Crescent, MN / La Crosse, WI, attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison and graduated in 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in History and Environmental Studies. She discovered a passion for sustainability and environmental education after spending a semester studying the natural history of the Colorado Plateau region from the walls of a tent. After a summer internship as a Troy Kid’s Garden Educator through Community Groundworks, she began an AmeriCorps service year for REAP’s Farm to School Program. Teaching nutrition and cooking to Madison students allowed her to expand on experiences of working with youth of all backgrounds and to further connect with the Madison food and agricultural communities. She transitioned to the role of Farm to School Education Coordinator with REAP after completing AmeriCorps in August 2018, and is thrilled to lead this year’s four AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators. When she’s not dressing up as vegetables for kids and growing the next generation of eaters, she enjoys cooking, flexing her (light) green thumb, any outdoor activity, and experiencing live music.
Convinced that every vibrant organization needs a stable base, Susan has honed her financial and organizational skills at a number of Willy Street businesses, including Nature’s Bakery, Red Caboose Day Care Center, and most recently, TDS Custom Construction. After years of raising sheep and living on a community-run vegetable farm in southern Dane County, she is now enjoying the pleasures of life in on the near east side. And while she has traded in her sheep for a pair of zebra finches, she continues to be fascinated by fiber arts in all forms, often trailing yarn and knitting needles into staff meetings and spending evenings stitching colorful art quilts. She also enjoys canning tomatoes in the fall, hanging out with her retired sheepdog Bella, and nurturing an ever-expanding collection of plants in her sunny river-view windows.
Noah grew up in Kenosha, WI before moving to the Isthmus to attend the University of Wisconsin Madison. Growing up in a politically active family, he developed an enthusiasm for learning about environmental, economic and social justice issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a certificate in Sustainability in the spring of 2018. After working various jobs in the food industry throughout high school and college, he saw how our food system touched the topics he was passionate about and food systems quickly became the focus of his papers. In 2016, he joined REAP as a Development Intern and has evolved into REAP’s Events Coordinator and Farm Fresh Atlas Manager. Through these roles he is excited to expand on REAP’s work to build community in our local food system. When he’s not at REAP you can probably catch Noah reading, cooking, or trying to find a game of pick-up basketball.
DREW HOWICK (Chair)
Founder, Howick Associates
JILL JACKLITZ (Vice-Chair)
Director of Education, University of Wisconsin, Center for Patient Partnerships
RUSS LEMMON (Treasurer)
UW Health Northeast Family Medical Center
TRACY KUCZENSKI (Secretary)
Test Editor, National Conference of Bar Examiners
Vice President & Division General Counsel, Spectrum Brands
Perkins Coie LLP
Director of Sales and Solutions, Purple Cow Organics
Community & Economic Development Educator, Dane County UW-Extension
SUSAN TROLLER COSGROVE
Author, Journalist, Owner of Cluck the Chicken Store
Raleigh’s Hillside Farm, Midwest Environmental Advocates
Those who are multilingual and/or multicultural, members of racial/ethnic minority groups, and persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.