Food Animal Production and Local Community Relationships

There are interrelationships between food animal production, local resources (like water and energy) and local stakeholders that ultimately influence local decision-making, economy, animal numbers, and social acceptance overtime for a county or region within a state (Figure 1).

Your challenge is to create a model(s) of relationships between food animal production, local resources, and stakeholders based on history, that identify future opportunities for stability and resilience in these relationships for a series of counties in a region or state.

Your objectives are to:

  1. Identify factors that influence, or are affected by, food animal production for several counties in a state or region;
  2. Document the historical cause-effect relationships that influenced any observed change in livestock development among counties;
  3. Provide recommendations for processes that influence stability in the relationships and resilience in the system/community (and define the scope of recommendation).

The Deliverables

As a team, the cohort will produce the following products and takeaways from this challenge.

  • Plans for team communication and stakeholder engagement that can be adapted for future applications in a participant’s own work;
  • A model of relationships between food animal production, local resources, and stakeholders that demonstrates integrating qualitative and quantitative data in a system model;
  • A presentation of the model and recommendations at the INFEWS-ER symposium; and
  • A summary report for the advisors/INFEWS-ER on the process and results.

See the 2019-20 cohort model and conclusions

See the 2020-21 cohort process and stakeholder analysis

For More Information

  • Erin Cortus, University of Minnesota
  • Jacek Koziel, Iowa State University
  • John Classen, NC State University
  • Alison Deviney, NC State University

Each advisor is happy to discuss the challenge in more detail.

Graduate Mentors (for the 2020-21 cohort)

  • Margaret Carolan, Iowa State University
  • Freda Dorbu, North Carolina A&T University
  • Jackie Welles, North Carolina State University

Freda Dorbu, North Carolina A&T University

A second-year master’s student in Agribusiness and Food Industry Management at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. My course concentrates on the business aspect of Agriculture activities ensuring that the appropriate mechanisms are applied to provide food to people in a safe environment promoting the sustainability of the environment for the furtherance of the FAO goals. My thesis is on the influence of food attributes on food desert residents purchases, in Eastern Greensboro, North Carolina.


Ben Ndayambaje, University of Nebraska

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the applied ecology department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I am interested in the use of data-driven solutions/ statistics to support research findings by applying human-centered design, strategic problem solving, and systems thinking as principles of the “One Health” concept. This concept calls upon multi-disciplinary collaboration to address local, regional, and global challenges at the human, animal, and ecosystem interface. I have a growing interest in understanding the impact of climate change, and the interaction of water resources, land, energy, and food insecurity nexus. Currently, I am working on a project “Linking child stunting, microbiome, livestock health, and water quality: a One Health study in Rwanda-Central Africa”.

Glenda Pereira, University of Minnesota

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Animal Science, and my area of expertise is in dairy cattle management. My Master’s research focused on the application of precision dairy technologies to pasture-based dairy systems. Currently, I am comparing feed efficiency and production traits of crossbred dairy cattle with purebred dairy cattle in confinement and low-input production systems. I am very passionate about the livestock industry and am using my voice to help consumers trust our products, be it milk or meat. Outside of school, I enjoy being outdoors, traveling, learning a new language, or spending time with my boyfriend and cat.


Laura Rubeck, University of Nebraska

MS in Agronomy, specialization in Range and Forage Science, minor in Entomology. I have completed a graduate-level certificate in Grassland Management. For almost six years I have been employed at the US Meat Animal Research Center USDA-ARS in Nebraska in the Range and Forage Department, assisting in managing sheep and cattle grazing as well as vegetative production and growth. I have a background in prairie restoration, wildlife management, working with stakeholders, as well as scientists in completing research. I recently completed my second year of research, Water Quality Within the Presence of Riparian Grazing, evaluating water quality parameters: total E. coli, E. Coli O157:H7, total suspended solids, and nitrate-nitrogen levels within a stream utilizing high-intensity rotational grazing. I have a strong knowledge base of current agricultural production practices and issues.

Noelle Cielito Soriano, University of Minnesota

I’m a first-year MS student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities interested in odor measurement technology in livestock production systems.

Erica Timmermans, Iowa State University

Second-year MS student in Industrial and Agricultural Technology at Iowa State University. My masters work involves manure management and reviewing current application technology coupled with the windows of time available for manure application to evaluate if there is an adequate window of time for a producer given method of storage and application.

Jacqueline Welles, North Carolina State University

My course of study deals with characterization of swine CAFO lagoon sludge for transport modeling purposes to quantify the risk associated with specific lagoons following inundation or breach. I am also involved in a lagoon closure design project for two farms located in Virginia’s Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Mumuni Olarewaju Alao, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Graduate student (EdD) in Educational Leadership concentrate in Curriculum and Instructions. Curriculum studies deal with learning experience both in school and outside school. It is a field of study that actualized the objectives of education in society.

Kate Bird, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Kate is a first-year master’s student pursuing a degree in Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is interested in resource management and resilience in agroecosystems. Her research will broadly focus on approaches to complex conservation problems through projects related to the collaborative adaptive management of rangelands, ecosystem services, and functional connectivity. With a background in political science, ecology, and agriculture, Kate is eager for the opportunity to work with the LLC cohort.

Vicky Espinoza, University of California Merced

Food, Energy, Water Systems in California; specifically developing a community informed strategic alternative land use model to address groundwater overdraft in California’s agricultural lands and meet SGMA targets; lenses include land uses that promote carbon sequestration and exploring the role of the dairy industry in California’s changing agricultural landscape to address groundwater overdraft. Analyzing tradeoffs (e.g., emissions, water, and energy) of alternative land uses; Simultaneously addressing information gap among California growers and underrepresented, low-income communities through YouTube Channel called CaliWaterAg, which contains educational videos on what is SGMA, how does it impact agriculture, and how growers and community can become involved with GSP development.

Ch’Ree Essary, Texas Tech University

I received my undergraduate degree from New Mexico State University in May 2020 in Agricultural and Extension Education, communications option and am currently a master’s student at Texas Tech University studying Agricultural Communications. My areas of expertise are in agricultural and science communication, journalism and mass communication, and written communication. My background is in Extension and print journalism.

Eduardo Garay, University of Minnesota

Actual course of study at U of M: Soil management and fertility. However I have a wide background, Bsc in Agricultural Production (Agronomy+Animal Science), Food security project management experience, small-holder farmers and community development, Applying technical knowledge towards financial consulting, Impact Venture Capital Investing.

Catherine (Laney) Hixson, Texas Tech University

I am interested in swine reproduction and behavior, specifically improving reproduction rates via novel heat detection methods. I have an animal behavior and legal background. I am a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Texas Tech University. Additionally, I am a 1 and ½-year law student at Texas Tech University’s School of Law (I plan to finish my law degree following the completion of my doctoral program). In 2018, I earned my M.S. in Animal Science, with a focus in Animal Behavior and Welfare, from the University of Florida. In 2016, I received my undergraduate degree (B.S. in Agriculture) from the University of Tennessee at Martin. Ultimately, I hope to use my degrees to shape public policy as a governmental Agricultural Policy Analyst.

Gina Nichols, Iowa State University

I am a PhD student in Agronomy, working with crop models. I’m generally interested in how we can produce food without destroying the environment, social and physical.

Matthew Nowatzke, Iowa State University

PhD student in Agronomy & Env. Science using public data and a crop model to identify under-performing areas of row-crop fields for use change to perennial crops to benefit the environment and farm economy. Also researching how farmers and farm managers use precision agriculture to make decisions related to conservation.

Kimberly Post, Texas Tech University

Currently pursuing EdD at Texas Tech in Agricultural Education. Holds an MS in Entomology and graduate certificate in Emergency Services/Disaster Management from University of Florida, MS in Agricultural Education & Extension Education from Iowa State University, and a BS in Dairy Science and Poultry Science from UW-Madison. Currently working as an agriculture and natural resources agent for University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, as well as serving in the Army Reserve as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear officer. Experience with dairy cattle, poultry, small ruminants, and exotic livestock.

Alexandra Shelton, Texas Tech University

I am currently pursuing a M.S. in agricultural communications at Texas Tech University. In 2019, I graduated from Texas Tech University with my B.S. in agricultural communications and animal science. My background is in environmental communications and dairy production. A topic I have always been passionate about is the relationship between consumers and the food production chain. I want to facilitate in bridging the education gap in understanding where our food comes from and the importance of it. The relationship between community and agriculture is vital in the long term success of animal agriculture.