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MISSION: The Women’s Environmental Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is an environmental research, renewal and retreat center designed to create and share knowledge about environmental issues and policies relevant to women, children and identified communities especially affected by environmental injustices; to promote agricultural justice, organic and sustainable agriculture and ecological awareness; and to support activism that influences public policy and promotes social change.(Original Mission from 2003)

 In brief our mission brings together agricultural, food and environmental justice, one community at a time; one farm at a time and one person at a time and all of us together.


(1)  Education Program. WEI offers a variiety of courses to our rural and urban communities, including Organic Farming 101 and Organic Farm School: See 2014 Schedule.

(2)  Farm and Farming Program: WEI runs an organically certified demonstration and education farm which supports a CSA, cultural heritage projects, an active internship program, community visitors and volunteers.

(3)  Growing Power and Urban Farming Projects: WEI is a Regional Outreach Tranining Center for Growing Power inc.; offers an annual Growing Power training weekend, and supports two urban farming projects:  24th Street Farm and Little Earth of United Tribes Farm, and a city-wide Community Food Justice Council (a coalition of urban farms)

(4)  Environmental Justice/Community Advocacy Program (EJEAC): WEi supports environmental justice research in urban  areas to develop policies and work with communities especially disadvantaged by environmental and food justice inequalities.

(5)  Eco-Retreat Center Programs. WEI offers its Eco-Retreat Center located on the WEI farm campus as a community resource to advance its justice mission. WEI members can rent rooms or the whole Eco Retreat facility;  WEI offers a number of annual events open to the public and free of charge at the Eco Retreat Center. See 2014 Schedule.

OBJECTIVES: These programs are dedicated to the following objectives:  environmental, agricultural, food justice especially affecting women and children and economically challenged communities.

• to create knowledge, scholarship and educational materials for those working on environmental, agricultural and food justice issues, especially related to women, children, and disproportionately impacted communities;

• to become an information hub that organizes current research and writing on environmental, agricultural and food justice issues related to identified communities;

• to demonstrate leadership in civic involvement, global responsibility and stewardship around environmental, agricultural and food issues at both the local and global level

• to provide both on-site and off-site educational outreach in seminars and experiential learning workshops on practical activities related to sustainable organic agriculture, women’s environmental health, and socio/agricultural issues

• to develop strong affiliations with local environmental, farming and food justice groups and secondary and post-secondary institutions to create collaborative programming and projects

• to create an institute that will provide a model for environmentally-friendly construction, land stewardship and conservation practices, renewable energy, resource development, and organic food production and processing.


CONTACT INFORMATION:  FARM  OFFICE:  15573 RIVER ROAD, NORTH BRANCH, MN 55056, 651-583-0705, wei@w-e-i.org
                                      CITY OFFICE:  MN WOMEN'S BUILDING, 550 RICE STREET, SUITE 215, ST. PAUL, MN, 55103
                                      Follow WEI on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.



Karen Clark, Executive Director. Karen is a progressive Minnesota State legislator for 28 years, public-health nurse and OB-GYN nurse practitioner, community organizer, graduate of the JFK School at Harvard and ovarian cancer survivor of 7 years. Karen's passionate dedication to environmental justice is reflected in her legislative, community and personal priorities. Karen is a part-time instructor at the University of Minnesota and also at the College of St. Catherine's Graduate Program of Holistic Health Studies. Karen is a volunteer ED.

Jacquelyn Zita, Director of Education and Operations & Farm Manager. Prominent Women's Studies scholar and educator, Jacquelyn is the former Chair of the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota and  serves as WEI's volunteer Director of Operations and Education and manager of WEI's Amador HIll Farm.  Dr. Zita holds a BS in Biology and Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Washington University, St. Louis. Formerly President of the National Women's Studies Association, Jacquelyn brings experience as an educator and institution builder plus her extensive knowledge of women's biology, women's health issues, organic farming, and gender and environmental studies.   

Annelie Lindberg-Livingston, WEI Education and Curriculum Coordinator, graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a B.S. in Biology.  She received her Master of Science in Integrated Biosciences from the University of Minnesota Duluth in July of 2012.  Her thesis research project focused on insect ecology and evolution.  Annelie taught as a graduate teaching assistant while earning her Master’s and served as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Minnesota Duluth during the fall of 2012, teaching an upper division Plant Biology course.  She also worked as a farm assistant on a local fruit and vegetable farm, volunteered with the Duluth Community Garden Program, and worked at the Duluth Farmers Market.  Between earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees, she worked at the Environmental Protection Agency in Duluth, conducting amphibian toxicology research.  Annelie lives in St. Paul and spends a lot of time thinking about, preparing, and eating delicious meals. 

Christina Elias, 24th Street Urban Farmer, Christina's gardening and farming experience began when she was bicycling across France and she discovered a small farm at "La Benechie."  She stayed for more than a year to help care for the goats, make cheese and create a garden to grow produce from which was served "Table of the Host" - a bed and breakfast that served a five course meal to guests each evening.  Her formal education includes a degree in both Spanish and French from Arizona State University, as well as Masters studies in theatre from California Institute of the Arts.  She worked for more than ten years as a teacher, and one of her favorite teaching experiences was working at Dream of Wild Health with the "Cora's Kids" youth program, which brought her back to farming. Christina produced large community art installations through The Walker Art Center's Open Field titled: "We Are All Connected" (2011) and "The Abundant Harvest" (2012) which expressed her philosophy: there is abundance available to us all when we work together as a community and are willing to share. After spending four years developing "The Good JuJu Garden" (2010 to present) which is still producing food for the community on land provided by American Indian Community Development at 2121 14th Ave. So. in Minneapolis, she is now proud to be the Farmer for the "Mashkiikii Gitigan" = The Medicine Garden, also known as the 24th Street Community Urban Farm.  Her hope is that The Mashkiikii Gitigan is the beginning of something very exciting and positive for the Phillips Community in Minneapolis!  Christina is thankful to her Grandmother and Grandfather, for their love of the earth that has been a huge influence in her life.

Gina Sapp, WEI Farmer and CFJC Herb Apprentice, has a BS in Education and an Associate’s degree in Physical Therapy Assistance. She was a Chisago County Master Gardener for 10 years, and she and her husband own a small farm in Almelund, MN where they raised Scotch Highland Cattle and chickens for many years. They currently farm a home garden and orchard for their personal use. Gina has been active as a volunteer in medical missions work, and participated in a trip to Guatemala where the team served the medical needs of the indigenous Mayan population. She is also an active member of her home church in Almelund, and serves on the Sunday School and Adult Education committees, among others.

Suyapa Miranda, WEI’s Environmental Justice Education and Advocacy Collaboratives Development Apprentice and East Side Neighborhood EJEAC Community Organizer, is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas with a BA in Modern and Classical Languages.  She is coordinating WEI’s right-to-know exposure to toxic substances project with Hmong farmers, Hmong Health Care Professionals, Latinos and other communities of color in the East Metro and East St. Paul. Suyapa has over 10 years advocacy and community organizing experience. She currently serves as a Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Service Board Member, as an East YMCA board member and on the League of Women Voters Development Committee.

Aisha Gomez, WEI’s Community Action to Renew the Environsment (CARE) Project Coordinator and Community Organizer for Phillips Neighborhood, a US EPA funded partnership with Hennepin County, is a University of MN graduate with a BS in Environmental Sciences Policy and Management with a minor in Sustainability Studies.  Aisha has worked for the Phillips Community Energy Cooperative, as a  community health surveyor for WEI’s Phillips Environmental Steering Committee Initiative (PESCI), written for the Sustainable Agriculture Department at the U of Minnesota and has held various food service and retail jobs.  Aisha has volunteered in community radio, the Youth Farm and Market, HIRE MN, WEI and Open Arms MN. She is proficient in Spanish.

Fardin Oliaei, East Metro EJEAC Principal Investigator. Fardin has a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences, MS in Biology and BS in Chemistry. She is respected nationally and internationally for her scientific research, her writings and lectures on air pollutants, persistent bio-accumulative toxic pollutants, PBDEs, flame-retardants, dioxin, plus newly identified environmental contaminants. She served as the Lead Scientist and Coordinator of Emerging Contaminants at the MN Pollution Control Agency and is best known locally for her research findings on PFCs. Her research emphasizes the impact of these contaminants on human health and the ecological risks associated with toxic exposure. Dr. Oliaei has taught at several Minnesota colleges and universities and currently serves on the Board of the Forum of Women in the Environmental Field and on the Advisory Group on Fate and Exposure Modeling for the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SFTAC).  Dr. Oliaei recently received her Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School at Harvard University which she attended as a Bush Fellow.

Emily Moore, EcoAware Project Coordinator, WEI Representative for the Healthy Legacy Project and Project Coordinator for US EPA Small Environmental Justice Grant Project. Emily recently retired from 20 years at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, where she worked most recently as a pollution prevention specialist helping individuals reduce toxicity in their workplaces and homes by adopting environmentally preferable products and practices. She holds a B.S. in chemistry and an M.A. in biochemistry from the University of Michigan and has taught in high schools and colleges in California, Indiana and Minnesota.

Laurie Allmann, Land Registry Project Coordinator.  Environmental writer and spoken-word artist Laurie Allmann has a keen interest in bridging the gap between the scientific community and the general public. She was the recipient of a Minnesota Book Award for Far From Tame: Reflections from the Heart of a Continent (University of Minnesota Press, 1997); was a member of the writing team for the public television documentary series Minnesota: A History of the Land (1997, 1998), has been a regularly featured essayist/commentator for Minnesota Public Radio’s Voices from the Heartland series (1991-1993). As a freelance writer, she has written extensively on conservation topics for nonprofit groups and government agencies, authoring such publications as “Land Protection Options: A Handbook for Private Landowners” and “Natural Areas: Protecting a Vital Community Asset.” Her creative writing has also been adapted for stage performance, including the prose-poem “Collector Road,” the dramatic monologue “Citizens of a Sweetwater Sea,” and the one-act play “River Café.” She is honored to play a role in the work of WEI, helping to advancing its vital mission of environmental justice and sustainability.


Elizabeth Makarewicz, Originally from central Missouri, Elizabeth has spent the past six years living in the upper Midwest.  After earning a Spanish and Anthropology degree from Beloit College in Wisconsin, she moved to Iowa to serve first as an AmeriCorps, and then as a FoodCorps service member with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative.  Through her service with FoodCorps she helped to build and tend gardens, procure food locally for school cafeterias, and teach nutrition and food systems education in three rural school districts.  She is currently working towards a career in sustainable agriculture.

Michelle Johnson, graduated in May 2013 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Spanish, History, and Chican@ and Latin@ Studies.  Her involvement with youth at Community GroundWorks Troy Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin in 2010-2011 was a transformative experience for her, making it evident that she would like to be involved with environmental and food system work for the long haul. Though originally from St. Paul, MN, she is spending the summer with her 99-year-old grandmother in the Detroit area.  During this time she enjoys hearing stories from her grandma, reading, studying herbal medicine, and making plans to one day become a doula. Michelle is eager to collaborate with folks at WEI during the late-autumn season and to continue learning alongside the communities in which she is involved. 


Sharon Day, Board Member, is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, an artist, musician, educator, and community activist. Sharon directed the Ogitchidag Theater Project for youth and created the Manidoowahdak Odena Housing Village for families living with HIV/AIDS in Minneapolis. Sharon  is particularly skilled in creating collaborations of people from diverse backgrounds to work on social justice issues.

Hattie Bonds, WEI Treasurer, Hattie Bonds is a retired public school administrator, a former Science teacher and community member who has served in many capacities.  She is one of the founding members of EJAM, The Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, and has served as president of The Minnesota Alliance of Black School Educators. Hattie has a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education from Lincoln University, Jefferson, Missouri; an M.A. in Educational Administration from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, Missouri; a Post-M.A. Secondary Science Certificate from the University of Missouri at Columbia, Missouri; and Doctoral courses from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Tiffany Enriquez, Board Member earned her B.A. in Art for Social Justice from the U of M and worked 10 years  in experiential education with ages ranging from preschool to college, including two years as a co-teacher in Metro Urban Studies at HECUA  and as an environmental justice educator  for a local nonprofit.  Tiffany currently works at Achieve Mpls, the strategic non-profit partner of Minneapolis Public Schools where I coordinate Career and College readiness efforts at Roosevelt High School.  Tiffany has two young children who keep her on her toes from sunup to sundown and for whom she works relentlessly to improve educational outcomes for MN youth.

Collie Graddick, Board Member, is an Agricultural Consultant with the MN Department of Agriculture (MDA) managing the MDA/ US Environmental Protection Agency's Urban Pesticide Educational Initiative program.  Collie has worked with MDA for 18 years.  Collie earned a BS in Plant Science from Fort Valley State College in Georgia and an MS in Plant and Soil Science from Tuskegee University in Alabama. Collie is active in Afro-Eco and networks with numerous farm justice organizations.

Nancy Hylden, Board Member, joined the WEI Board in July, 2011. In addition to being an organic foodie, she is an avid runner and an enthusiastic amateur artist.  Nancy  is also an attorney at Faegre & Benson law firm in Minneapolis.

Elizabeth Kerwin, Board Member, is a Sister of St. Joseph and part of the Leadership Team of Loyola Spirituality Center where she has done spiritual companioning, retreats, and workshops for more than twenty-five years.  Prior to forming the leadership team, Liz was the Director of the Spirituality Center for eighteen years.  She serves on the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  She is a founding member and continues on the Earth Partners working group of the commission. Liz is a gardener, singer, cook, and reader and is passionate about the care of the earth and the health of all that lives on the earth.

Robert Lilligren, , Board Member, is serving his third term as the Council Member representing three inner-city neighborhoods (Phillips, Whittier, and Stevens Square) on the Minneapolis City Council, where he chairs the Committee on the Whole. Robert serves on numerous boards, including the Empowerment Zone Board, Minneapolis Convention Center Board, Midtown Community Works Partnership, Minneapolis American Indian Center Capital Campaign Committee, Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, OutFront Minnesota Board Member, Native American Community Development Institute (Charter Member),  and is a founding Board member of bikeon.org. An avid environmentalist and bicyclist, Robert is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and is the first American Indian to serve on the Minneapolis City Council.

Maria Regan Gonzalez, Board Member, is a South Minneapolis community member and health equity advocate. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and Spanish Studies and holds a postgraduate certificate in Rural Sociology from La Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo, Mexico. Maria works as a Health Specialist for the City of Bloomington's Public Health Division to create policy, systems, and environmental changes to increase access to healthy food for low-income residents. Over the years, she has collaborated with a number of communities on work spanning local and international food systems. She is passionate about health equity, food justice and the connection between identity, health, and food. She enjoys camping, backpacking, jazz, and creating art.

Jen Kader, Board Member, currently serves as the Volunteer and Outreach Manager for Great River Greening.  Jen received her BA in International Relations from Wartburg College and a certificate in Community-Based Development from Colorado State University.  She intends to pursue a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning with a concentration in Soil and Water Conservation.  Her professional background includes a VISTA term as the Assistant Sustainability Coordinator for Wartburg College and working for different organic farms and CSA operations before becoming the community organizer for the Whittier neighborhood in south Minneapolis.  In 2013, she worked for Conservation Corps and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in the area of water recreation and stewardship and completed the Master Water Steward program.  Jen is an avid cyclist, urban gardener, and strong local foods proponent concerned about environmental justice and climate change.

Becky Lourey, Board Member (on leave) is a retired Minnesota Senator now working as a farmer, writer, and small business owner. Senator Lourey provided 16 years of leadership in the Minnesota State Legislature, first in the House and then in the Senate where she was an effective champion for numerous economic and social justice issues including affordable health care, sustainable agriculture, civil rights for all, disability issues, affordable housing, Native American rights and the environment. The mother of 12 children, Becky Lourey is known for her articulate grasp of many issues and her ability to forge alliances with diverse groups. She and her husband are owners of a small rural business that provides child care and living wages for their 50 employees. Currently, she is working on a book about global sustainability and world peace.



The Women’s Environmental Institute is committed to the policy that all persons have equal access to its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance, veteran status or gender/sexual orientation.