Jackie de Batista, Executive Director
Jackie joined Farmers Rising in 2019 and feels, in many ways, it was like coming home. She is a local, sustainable farmer who went through the Stateline Farm Beginnings program in 2007 when she and her husband took over her family’s multi-generational farm in Pecatonica, Irish Grove Farms. Jackie’s greatest passion is bringing people together; if she can do this through food and farming, even better.
Jackie is dedicated to ensuring a vibrant, healthy, equitable future for all inhabitants of this amazing planet, making her a natural fit for an organization that embodies these same values. Jackie has a strong programming background in environmental education and leadership, a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, and an M.A. in Environmental Studies, Sustainable Development, and Policy from the University of Illinois—Springfield.
Trisha Wilks, COMMUNITY PROGRAMS director
Trisha came to Farmers Rising in 2018 as an On Farm Educator. In 2019, Trisha moved into the role of Administration Director. In the spring of 2023, Trisha transitioned into her current role of On Farm Education Director, where her heart truly lies!
Trisha attended Rock Valley College and Northwestern University, and has a deep passion for Environmental, Social, and Climate Justice. She loves working at the Learning Center and is consistently inspired by her co-workers, saying, "This team of people is dynamic and passionate. Being able to take “Goat Breaks” and to hold and play with baby goats is pretty amazing too." She also enjoys serving the community in a number of environmental conservation roles including the Trail Stewardship program with the Winnebago County Forest Preserve and as a River Watch participant.
Tedd Snowden, URBAN FARM Director
Tedd began working with Farmers Rising as an on-farm educator in 2011. Since 2012 he has worked with the Roots & Wings program in Rockford, first as the Marketing Manager and now as the Program Director. Tedd brings more than 20 years of sales experience to his work at Farmers Rising and has successfully expanded the youth Community Supported Agriculture program from 5 to over 40 CSA share holders, established innovative markets at workplaces of health-minded organizations, and started on and off site market stands at Blackhawk Courts and other Rockford Housings Authority complexes. Tedd recognizes that working within our urban communities in this way can have positive impact, socially, economically, and educationally, while providing food security through urban agriculture.
Kate Larson, Farmer Training Director
Kate joined the Farmers Rising team in January 2022. With her husband, Andy, Kate owns and operates a free-range egg farm in Pecatonica, Illinois where they are currently raising their three daughters and 600 chickens. Previously, Kate worked as a high school teacher in Des Moines, Iowa where she taught Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science. Kate holds a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame where she double majored in Anthropology and Environmental Science. Kate also holds her M.A. in Teaching for Secondary Science from Iowa State University. Working with the team at the Learning Center feels like the culmination of a journey for Kate; bringing together her professional experience with her passions for education and farming. She says, “I love how we reach a wide range of farmers. I truly believe that everyone, from farmers who are just starting out to seasoned experts, can learn something new to improve their farming business.”
AJ Boucek, Administrative Manager
AJ studied political science and environmental studies at Augustana College. He joined the Farmer Training department at Farmers Rising in 2018, transitioned to the role of Administrative Assistant in late 2019, and now works as our Administrative Manager. He continues to lend his talents to the Farmer Training when possible.
AJ lives with his wife, Olivia, and his three cats: Buffy, Leo, and Julian. His favorite thing about working at Farmers Rising is hanging out with Ninja, our resident farm cat.
Yatte Moore, URBAN FARM Manager
Kenyatte Moore, affectionately known as Yatte, began as a youth apprentice in our Roots & Wings Urban Farm program at Blackhawk Courts Farm in 2014. Through this training program he gained competencies in growing practices, farm planning, personnel management, harvest and post-harvest handling, and marketing. In 2016, Yatte stepped into the role of farm manager and now skillfully oversees our indoor and outdoor growing spaces, our CSA businesses and our farm stands.
rashad x, farmer training MANAGER
Rashad joined Farmers Rising after spending years teaching topics ranging from social entrepreneurship to community organizing, running startup ventures ranging from an indie film social streaming platform to an adult bootcamp cooperative, as well as growing organic veggies/herbs on farms, backyards, and community spaces in both Virginia and Illinois.
Joining the team was an opportunity to merge all of his experiences in the pursuit of expanding the sustainable farming ecosystem in the region. He hit the ground running and has no intention of slowing down until we heal our societal ruptures from the land and each other.
When Rashad isn’t working, he conducts rigorous and innovative sociology research and advises social movement organizations nationwide.
Otherwise, you will find him asking someone what made them smile recently and how they feel!
Ritchie Wai, Farmer Training Coordinator
Ritchie hails from the low, red clay and sandhills of North Florida. In his past, he studied environmental science and policy near the dredged sand beaches surrounding Tampa Bay and served amongst the limestone cragged Appalachian foothills of South Middle Tennessee with AmeriCorps.
Ritchie has worked with high tunnel horticulture, aquaponics, regenerative grazing, and small organic vegetable operations in a temperate continental climate. He has also coordinated between educational institutions, students, and communities developing and running environmental and food production focused programming. He is a member of the National Young Farmers Coalition and the current secretary of the Southeast Tennessee Young Farmers Chapter.
Andy Skupien, chef
Andy has always had a passion for food and nature. He's spent over twenty years in the restaurant industry and has been blessed to work for some of the best chefs in our area.
In the summer of 2020 Andy opened Man Bundt Bakery which specializes in plant-based baked goods with a heavy focus on locally sourced ingredients. It brings him great joy showing the kids who attend our camps how tasty farm to table can be! Andy thinks it's wonderful introducing kids to vegetables they may not have ever seen before.
In his free time you can find Andy hanging with his family, hiking, or in his garden.
There are no strangers, only friends we haven't made yet.
Bertha Jurado, livestock manager
Bertha was born on a farm in Mexico where she lived until the age of 5. Later, Bertha received her accounting degree in Durango, and soon after moved to the United States. Bertha joined the Farmers Rising as Livestock Manager, caring for our livestock and directing the goat breeding program.
Bertha is passionate about all animals and loves working with them. Her talents extend beyond the flocks and herds at Farmers Rising: Bertha is also our resident soap-maker! Using goat milk from our herd, Bertha creates the deliciously scented, beautifully sculpted bars of soap you can find on our Farm Store shelves.
Randy Mermel, lead educator
Randy Mermel has 15 years of experience working as an Educator at Farmers Rising. He graduated from Arizona State University with a BS in Environmental Science. He enjoys sharing the farm as a living classroom with people of all ages and backgrounds, and specializes in teaching about natural building, forest ecology, wilderness survival, and organic gardening (with an emphasis on compost building). Randy loves to teach about regenerative farming, and especially loves to witness the magic and wonder of a participant's very first farm experience--from sampling fresh broccoli from the field, milking a goat, or splashing in the creek. He lives with his family in a geodesic dome in Roscoe and loves to travel and explore the natural world.
Jessie Mermel, Educator
Jessie loves to nurture opportunities for people to experience wonder and awe in the natural world. She graduated with a degree in Sustainability Studies from Roosevelt University but is driven to go deeper than sustainability and study systems of regeneration, restoration/re-storying, and rewilding. She has been an Educator at Farmers Rising since 2008 and a Master Naturalist since 2012. A longtime activist, she helped organize the Rockford chapter of 350.org and now leads women’s circles.
Jessie loves to help people think about our connection to the soil and choices in food systems as a solution to climate change. Jessie has a wanderlust for exploring the natural world by canoe, foot, or bicycle and loves to indulge in camping and backpacking. She lives with her husband - also an educator at the Farmers Rising, teenage children, dog, cat, and chickens in a geodesic dome.
allyson rosemore, Educator
Allyson has a MEd in Learning Sciences and Human Development from University of Washington, and these days, they farm vegetables and mushrooms in Rockford with their wife, Aida. They came to farming through curiosity about the ways that food production land can support place based learning and educational sites can support food production- so it's no surprise that they've found a home educating at Farmers Rising.
Allyson loves when a question from a program participant allows them to guide a conversation that deepens everyone's ideas about our relationships to food, each other, and the more-than-human world. What they love most about their work as both a farmer and an educator is the opportunity to be a lifelong learner.