Linda Kleinschmit: NCR-SARE Hero

May 25, 2016
Linda Kleinschmit

Coordinated by the NCR-SARE Alumni Organization, the term "NCR-SARE Hero" recognizes the leadership, vision, contributions, and impact that certain people have made in the field of sustainable agriculture in the region.  

Linda Kleinschmit is the owner operator of a 365-acre certified organic rotational grazing, grass-fed beef operation along with her husband, Martin, in Hartington, Nebraska. The Kleinschmits raised five children on the farm, and have been active in the sustainable agriculture movement for decades. Linda Kleinschmit graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and taught in local schools for a number of years. In addition to being a farmer, teacher, and mother, she has worked on sustainable agriculture and public policy issues for more than 40 years. Kleinschmit served on NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council from 2002-2006, chaired the planning committee to host the national SARE conference in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin in 2006, and between 2007-2012, she served as both the Associate Coordinator and Interim Coordinator for NCR-SARE’s Professional Development Program. She continues to serve on NCR-SARE’s Technical Review Committee, Alumni Organization, and Nebraska’s State SARE Advisory Committee. Kleinschmit currently serves on the Nebraska Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Committee, and in the past has served on the State Board of Directors for Nebraska Farmers Union, the Center for Rural Affairs Advisory Board, the Coordinator and founder of EQUAL (a local farmwoman’s organization), the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, the Steering Committee for Ogallala Commons, the state and national steering committee for Kellogg’s Integrated Food and Farming System Initiative, and the Community Alliances of Interdependent AgriCulture, among other organizations. The Nebraska Farmers Union recognized Kleinschmit’s years of devoted service to sustaining agriculture in Nebraska with a Presidents Award in 2007, and the Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association and the University of Nebraska Research and Extension Center honored her for her Outstanding Contributions to Northeast Nebraska Agriculture. She has been the recipient of numerous grants from organizations including the National Rural Coalition Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  

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

  • "I first met Linda when she chaired the planning committee for the national SARE conference in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  My initial impression was 'Can this unassuming person really herd all these cats?' because there were a lot of big personalities with strong opinions at the table.  But in her quiet way, Linda made sure everyone was heard and guided us to consensus and a path forward on local foods (my job) and all the other arrangements for a successful conference.  That experience exemplifies Linda's servant-leader style.  She gets things done not by pushing people but by listening to them and finding ways they want to work together toward a common goal.  I had the privilege of working under Linda's direction for several years when she co-directed and then led the North Central Region's Professional Development Program.  Three things stand out in my mind from those years.  First is the training on "Privilege, Power, and Difference" that she organized for NCR SARE.  By involving the trainees in planning the program, she got a high level of participation and interest in a subject that often scares people away.  Second is her support for adding regional training efforts to the professional development program.  These regional training programs added a significant amount of hassle and cat-herding to her job, but she was ready to help every step of the way.  And third and perhaps most important is the sense I always had that Linda cared about me as a person and a friend, and not just as a colleague." - Diane Mayerfeld, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator at UW-Extension Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), and Wisconsin SARE State Coordinator
  • "I have known Linda Kleinschmit for over 30 years and she has always been a strong supporter and advocate for sustainable agriculture in Nebraska. When Linda was working for North Central Region SARE as PDP Coordinator and I was serving as the Nebraska State SARE Coordinator, Linda provided excellent support and valuable suggestions on how we could improve the SARE Program and provide education to make sustainable agriculture an important component of agriculture in Nebraska. Over the years she has worked tirelessly in different capacities to educate people on the importance of SARE’s principles of sustainable agriculture and in engaging farmers on these issues. Today, Linda continues to carry the sustainable agriculture banner, serving on state ag committees, participating in different organizations and being an active member of the Nebraska SARE Advisory Committee. I am proud to know Linda and congratulate her on being an NCR-SARE Hero!!" - Gary Lesoing, Nebraska SARE State Coordinator
  • "In the 1990s, Linda Kleinschmit and I worked together on a rural women’s leadership project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and SARE. Linda led a group of farm women who learned about managed grazing, identified farm and community issues that they wanted to work on, and gained confidence to become stronger leaders in their communities and decision makers on their farms. As a farmer and long-time activist, Linda clearly understands and appreciates how sustainability and rural vitality depend on women’s empowerment and racial justice. She is a dynamic organizer, a deep thinker, a passionate advocate, a tireless worker, and a truly kind and generous human being. The years I spent working with Linda helped me understand sustainable agriculture not just in terms of food and farming systems, but also as a social movement." – Cris Carusi, Communications Manager at the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and former Director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society.

Coordinated by the NCR-SARE Alumni Organization, this recognition honors the leadership, vision, contributions, and impact that these heroes have made in the field of sustainable agriculture in the north central region. The NCR-SARE Hero Recognition honors individuals who 1) have provided service to NCR-SARE or national SARE, 2) have shown leadership in sustainable agriculture locally and regionally, and 3) have made lasting impacts to sustainability in the North Central region. 

NCR-SARE is one of four regional offices that run the SARE program, a nationwide grants and education program to advance sustainable innovation to American agriculture. Since 1988, NCR-SARE has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program. The program, part of USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture, funds projects and conducts outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.

Related Locations: North Central