Joan Benjamin Announces Retirement

June 11, 2024
Photo of Joan Benjamin by Carol Buckels.

Joan Benjamin, who has worked with the NCR-SARE program since 2005, has announced her retirement. Benjamin's journey in this field has been characterized by dedication, collaboration, and a commitment to sustainable agriculture and producers.

Before joining NCR-SARE’s team, Benjamin worked with the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Award Program. As a State Department of Agriculture representative, she was elected and served on NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council from 2002 to 2005.  

In 2005, Benjamin joined NCR-SARE as the Farmer Rancher grant program coordinator, supporting farmers and ranchers across the North Central region and fostering collaboration with regional farming organizations. The Farmer Rancher grant program is unique because it directly funds producers' innovative ideas, and grant proposals are reviewed by fellow farmers and ranchers. Benjamin prioritized inclusivity in assembling review teams, recognizing the vital role of grant projects in advancing sustainable agriculture. Moreover, her efforts in the review process fostered a community of practitioners who have shared ideas and been strong advocates for sustainable agriculture. Benjamin managed over 862 Farmer Rancher grants during her time with NCR-SARE, prioritizing individual attention to applicants, focusing on ideas and issues brought up by farmers and ranchers, and emphasizing relationship-building in her work.

Recognizing the need to foster a new generation of farmers, ranchers, researchers, and teachers in sustainable agriculture, she worked with council members, educators, and stakeholders to launch the Youth Educator Grant Program in 2008. 211 funded projects have helped students and young adults explore sustainable agriculture concepts and practices through school ag and science programs and summer science camps, empowering young advocates for sustainable agriculture. 

As the NCR-SARE Associate Coordinator, Joan oversaw the transition of the NCR-SARE program to its current host institution, the University of Minnesota. Joan’s attention to detail greatly aided this major undertaking. As part of the transition, Joan’s office moved from the University of Nebraska to Lincoln University of Missouri which provided opportunities to develop valuable new working relationships.

In all of her work, Joan has shown an unwavering commitment to centering farmers' and ranchers' voices in our work. That has had a transformative impact not just on our programming but on sustainable agriculture in our region and beyond. 

As Benjamin embarks on this new chapter, we, her colleagues and friends, express our deep gratitude for her invaluable contributions, mentorship, and dedication to advancing sustainable agriculture. We wish her a retirement filled with new adventures and experiences, knowing she will continue to make a positive impact wherever she goes.

Please join NCR-SARE in welcoming our new Farmer Rancher and Youth Educator grant program coordinator, Liz Brownlee.

Related Locations: North Central