Sand County Foundation

Kevin McAleese

Kevin McAleese mail_outline President & CEO

Kevin assumed overall leadership of Sand County Foundation in July 2015. In his over 20 years with the Foundation, he has overseen all aspects of planning, program implementation, and personnel and financial management. Kevin founded the Cooperative Sagebrush Initiative in 2007, an award-winning 11-western state public-private partnership to balance energy production, ranching, and habitat protection. He served as President of its Board of Directors until 2013. He led a 10-year program in the Great Lakes states and northeastern U.S. to enhance the regeneration of important hardwood forests that support rural economies and abundant wildlife. He has organized and facilitated regional, national, and international conferences among landholders, resource managers, and scientists. He holds a BS degree in engineering from the University of Wisconsin and an MA degree in history from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Lance Irving

Lance Irving mail_outline Vice President - Leopold Conservation Award®

Lance took the helm of Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award Program in 2016 after more than 15 years of experience in the outdoor sporting goods industry, and prior to that as a professional wilderness hunting and fishing guide. As chief sales and marketing officer at two outdoor manufacturing companies, Lance became a recognized leader in the industry for successfully identifying market needs and expanding the customer base by focusing on clearly defining a brand message and forming strategic partnerships. His work has been profiled in trade publications and television programs, and he has been honored with several high profile sales and marketing awards.

Heidi Peterson Ph.D.

Heidi Peterson Ph.D. mail_outline Vice President - Agricultural Research & Conservation

Dr. Heidi M. Peterson leads Sand County Foundation’s agricultural conservation team and sets its strategic direction in research, and farmer and rancher engagement. She brings significant leadership, teaching, and research experience surrounding agricultural conservation and water quality issues. Heidi previously served as the Phosphorus Program Director with the International Plant Nutrition Institute, and prior to that at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. She serves the scientific community on the Agronomic Science Foundation's Board of Trustees, as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota, and as an associate editor with the Journal of Environmental Quality. Heidi completed her Ph.D. in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Minnesota. At Purdue University she received a MS degree in agronomy, and a BS degree in natural resources and environmental science.

Christina Schellpfeffer

Christina Schellpfeffer mail_outline Vice President – External Relations

Chris leads Sand County Foundation’s communications and development programs. She joined the Foundation in 2013, bringing more than 20 years of experience in marketing, strategic communication and stakeholder relations to the organization. A former journalist, she covered government, public policy and politics for nearly 10 years at the Wisconsin State Capitol as Managing Editor for the Wisconsin Radio Network. As a partner in an advertising agency with a special emphasis on brand development, she consulted with organizations across the U.S. on marketing and communications issues, and led successful public relations programs securing prominent national media coverage. Her work spans industries and issues ranging from food production and medical research to environmental science and economic development.

David Bailey

David Bailey mail_outline Western Director - Leopold Conservation Award® Program

David manages the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award Program in western states. His upbringing on a dairy farm developed his love for agriculture. His professional service to agriculture included a 13-year career with the Utah Farm Bureau, overseeing its Young Farmer and Rancher program as Vice President of Organization. David, who once operated his own woodworking business, has also worked as a professional hunting guide and as a farm manager. Prior to joining Sand County's team in 2019 he worked in commercial and agricultural banking. David remains an active partner in his family's elk, horse and hay farm in rural Utah.

Alice Canchola Fenochio

Alice Canchola Fenochio mail_outline Administrative Coordinator

Alice joined Sand County Foundation as Administrative Coordinator in 2023. Previously she gained nearly a decade of managerial experience at Target as an Executive Team Leader, where she captained community involvement within her district: tracking donation goals, organizing volunteer events, and fostering active engagement among store teams. Alice holds a B.S. degree from Roberts Wesleyan University in Rochester, New York. 

Nikki D'Adamo-Damery

Nikki D'Adamo-Damery mail_outline Conservation Outreach & Equity Director

Nikki D'Adamo-Damery leads the Sand County Foundation's work with historically underserved farmers and ranchers, primarily through the Land Ethic Mentorship Program. Throughout her career, Nikki has worked to align practices with values, especially as they relate to governance, operations, engagement, and ecology. She helped to operationalize the first community land trust in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, created a cross-sector network to address community food security in central Appalachia, and supported limited resource farmers in Alabama with Heifer International. Nikki has a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University, and an MS in Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture, with a certificate in Social Justice, from Iowa State University. She is based outside of Richmond, Virginia.

Haley Diem

Haley Diem mail_outline Education and Outreach Specialist

Haley joined Sand County Foundation in 2022 as coordinator of the Pollinator Habitat Grant Program which provides grants to high school science and agriculture teachers for a hands on program that engages students in establishing pollinator habitat. Haley holds a Master of Environmental Education focused on sustainable agriculture from University of Minnesota-Duluth. She has co-owned a market garden farm in rural Iowa, and works as an agricultural educator with a variety of schools and nonprofit organizations. She is based in Duluth, Minnesota.

Craig Ficenec

Craig Ficenec mail_outline Senior Director - Agricultural Conservation

Craig joined Sand County Foundation in 2013 as a soil and water program director. He worked for seven years with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, first in California as an agricultural engineer, then in Wisconsin as coordinator of a multi-county resource conservation and development council and as statewide manager of easement and financial assistance programs. Craig also managed conservation initiatives for a non-profit organic farming business incubator program in California, evaluated watershed planning projects as a M.S. thesis in Peru, and developed domestic water projects as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras. His experience includes agricultural conservation partnerships in watersheds of the Great Lakes, Monterey Bay, and the Andes.

Liina Keerd

Liina Keerd mail_outline Program Relations Coordinator

Liina Keerd joined the Sand County Foundation in 2019, bringing decades of experience to our team. In her previous roles, Liina provided administrative support to attorneys, executive recruiters and professional engineers in Madison, Boston and New York City. She served as an assistant to a retired Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, and engaged in marketing and event planning for the law firm of Michael Best. Liina also has enjoyed a 20 year volunteer relationship with the Susan G. Komen organization. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Parsons School of Design with a focus on botanical and wildlife illustration.

Samuel Kwakye Ph.D.

Samuel Kwakye Ph.D. mail_outline Agricultural Field Data Scientist

Samuel joined Sand County Foundation in 2023. He has experience in analyzing agricultural field data sets and developing innovative solutions to drive production growth. He completed his BS in Agronomy from EARTH University in Costa Rica. Samuel holds a Master's degree in Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition from Louisiana State University, where he developed a deep understanding of statistical analysis, regression models, and data visualization techniques. Samuel worked as a research assistant at the University of Florida while pursuing his Ph.D. in Soil and Water Sciences. He applied his expertise to contribute to the update of micronutrients application rate for citrus trees with greening disease in Florida. Samuel is passionate about using data to drive decision-making. He excels at explaining complex concepts for non-technical stakeholders.

Casey Langan

Casey Langan mail_outline Communications Director

Casey joined Sand County Foundation in 2018 with more than 20 years of experience in agricultural communications. He previously served as the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation's executive director of public relations and spokesperson. Prior to that, he was a legislative assistant researching policy matters, and a newspaper reporter covering agricultural and rural issues. Casey first came to appreciate agriculture and rural landscapes on his grandparents' dairy and tobacco farm. He served on the Edgerton City Council where he advocated to plant pollinator-friendly habitats, and to install solar arrays on city buildings to reduce the city's carbon footprint.

Gwen Lewis

Gwen Lewis mail_outline Conservation Outreach Advisor

Gwen Lewis joined Sand County Foundation in 2022 as Conservation Outreach Advisor working with historically underserved farmers and ranchers, primarily through the Land Ethic Mentorship program. She brings over 30 years of experience in conservation, outreach, and land management. She recently retired after over 20 years with USDA Forest Service where she served as Equal Opportunity Manager. As a District Conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service she provided financial and technical assistance to landowners. Gwen completed her undergraduate degree in plant and soil science from Tuskegee Institute and a M.S. in environmental management from Troy University. She lives in Alabama with her husband.

Greg Olson

Greg Olson mail_outline Field Projects Director

Greg joined Sand County Foundation in 2010 as coordinator of a watershed nutrient management project in the West Branch of the Milwaukee River. In 2013, he began overseeing all field activities for water quality and nutrient management work. Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Mich., Greg has a degree in Wildlife Biology and Management from Central Michigan University. From 2004 to 2010, he worked in wetland, prairie, and forest restoration and research. Prior to Sand County Foundation, Greg worked for Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy, USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service and the US Geological Survey.

Holly Perrotti

Holly Perrotti mail_outline Director of Finance and Operations

Holly’s comprehensive Sand County Foundation role encompasses financial management, grant management, and board support. She also serves as SCF's Assistant Secretary and Assistant Treasurer. She has several years of experience in executive assistant roles with senior leaders of non-governmental organizations. Prior to joining Sand County Foundation in 2013, Holly served as an administrative assistant to the President and Vice-President of the American Postal Workers Union in Washington, DC. Holly holds a B.A. in English Literature from Gustavus Adolphus College.

Briana Schnelle

Briana Schnelle mail_outline Agricultural Conservation Specialist

Briana joined Sand County Foundation in 2022. She previously worked with farmers and ranchers in northeastern California's Great Basin, collaborating with private landowners and managers to develop farm conservation plans to encourage bird habitat, watershed vitality, soil health, carbon sequestration, and wildlife-friendly management. She manages two healthy soils demonstration projects studying the effects of compost application and diverse seed mixes on California rangelands. She has worked throughout the U.S. on wildlife research projects and developed her interest in working lands while living and working with sheep grazers in the Andes Mountains as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. Briana received a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Haleigh Summers Ph.D.

Haleigh Summers Ph.D. mail_outline Agricultural Geospatial Data Scientist

Haleigh joined Sand County Foundation in 2023 as the Agricultural Geospatial Data Scientist. She uses soil and water data and geospatial models to quantify the impact of Sand County Foundation’s conservation projects. Haleigh obtained her Ph.D. in Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Science at Iowa State University where she also received certificates in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Data-Driven Food Energy and Water Decision Making. Her dissertation work focused on the economics and efficiencies of conservation practice adoption, as well as equitable food-energy-water systems. She has an M.S. in Agronomy from Penn State University, where she researched integrated weed management in dairy cropping systems. She is based in Ames, Iowa.

Tricia Verville

Tricia Verville mail_outline Director of Agricultural Systems

Tricia Verville joined Sand County Foundation in 2021 to lead a regenerative agriculture initiative in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan Basin. She works with farmer-led groups to achieve water quality and climate resiliency goals. She previously served as a research project manager and safety lead for the Soil Health Partnership, a project of the National Corn Growers Association. Prior to that, she worked as a crop specialist, and as a deputy conservation warden for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Based in Wausau, Wis. she plays an active role in Sand County Foundation projects across the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

Katie Ziemer

Katie Ziemer mail_outline Soil Conservationist

Katie Ziemer joined Sand County Foundation as a soil conservationist in 2018. She assists farmers with writing and implementing conservation plans to achieve water quality and soil health improvements. Her work in the Milwaukee River watershed facilitates our collaborative efforts with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service. She works from the USDA's service center in West Bend. She earned dual-degrees in soil and crop science, and environmental horticulture, and she previously worked for the USDA's Farm Service Center in West Bend.