Nancy Williams: NCR-SARE Hero

Nancy Williams’ journey into agriculture began early in her life, rooted in the soil of rural Louisiana. As a child, she was immersed in gardening and food production through her grandmother’s role as an Extension educator and her family's dedication to cultivating and sharing their produce with their community. Her first formal steps into agriculture came through her involvement in organizations like 4-H during elementary school and the Future Farmers of America during high school.

Williams’ academic journey in agriculture started with scholarships that allowed her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in horticulture at Louisiana State University. She then completed coursework and research for a master’s degree in weed science with a minor in plant pathology from Cornell University.

From serving as an agronomist for local farmers and entrepreneurs to contributing to grassroots organizing and management for nonprofit community organizations, Williams has shown a deep commitment to advancing sustainability and economic viability.

In 2016, after 15 years as an Information Technology leader for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Williams accepted the role of President and CEO of No More Empty Pots (NMEP), a nonprofit that she co-founded in 2010 that is dedicated to improving self-sufficiency, regional food security, and economic resilience. Under her leadership as President and CEO, NMEP has pioneered initiatives like the Community Harvest subscription program, providing farm-fresh produce through CSA programs, and promoting nutritious plant-based meals.

During her tenure at NMEP, Williams served on the NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher review committee from 2011 to 2014. She was elected to serve on NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council (AC) from 2012 to 2019. From 2017 to 2019, she assumed the role of AC Chair, where she helped guide and shape strategic initiatives. She also took on added responsibilities as co-chair of the Youth Educator Committee, underscoring her commitment to fostering education and supporting the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Williams completed a planned succession from NEMP in 2023 and is now the Managing Partner at Block 27 Consulting, a family business focused on leveraging strengths and talents to cultivate collective generational wealth for clients and communities. She supports sustainable innovation through her work on the Center for Rural Affairs Advisory Committee and the Board of Directors for multiple Omaha nonprofits, including Omaha 100 and Heartland Family Service.

Among her many honors, Williams received a 2020 Wells Fargo's Can Do Future award, Food Day Omaha’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022, The Bloc’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022, the 2022 Jim Wolf Equal Justice Award, and the 2024 Outstanding Woman in STEM Award from the Nebraska Women in STEM.

Leaders in sustainable agriculture offered tributes as Williams was nominated and selected to receive this recognition, including:

  • I worked with Nancy on the AC for a couple of years. While I was aware of the importance of urban agriculture, Nancy's organizational skills and her powerful and clear voice made me realize how urban agriculture could impact not just those farmers and food buyers but entire communities. - Jim Goodman, Farmer and President of National Family Farms Coalition
  • I've had the pleasure of seeing Nancy's vision for addressing poverty and food insecurity through the lens of sustainable agriculture. As founder and executive director of No More Empty Pots,  she leveraged her knowledge of sustainable practices and relationships with sustainable food producers and support organizations to build a food oasis for her community. She had both rural and urban in mind with her solution -- a place to teach more about sustainable agriculture practices, utilizing the fruits of production, as well as a place to provide storage, minimal processing, and preparation of local foods, while simultaneously creating avenues for entrepreneurship and workforce development. It's been our organization's pleasure to partner with Nancy on many occasions, as well as include her input as an advisor using her vision as a model for what communities can do to create solutions in the food system while fostering sustainable agriculture practices. - Sandra Renner, Center for Rural Affairs