On Feb. 3, alums Stephanie Enloe (MS ‘14) and Anna Johnson (MS ‘16) opened a Central for Rural Affairs office in Nevada, IA, to continue their work related to crop insurance, renewable energy and other areas of rural community development. Although the Center focuses on a number of federal policy issues, the new office is the Center's only physical site located outside of Nebraska, where the non-profit was founded in 1973 with a mission to build “strong rural communities, social and economic justice, environmental stewardship and genuine opportunity for all…”
As a program policy associate, Enloe has worked at the Center for two years. She originally had an office in Dyersville, IA, where she worked on issues related to climate change and renewable energy. However, when Johnson was hired as a program policy associate six months ago, the duo decided to move the office to central Iowa in order to engage more directly with state officials in Des Moines. This marks a major turning point for the organization, as this is the first time in its 44-year history that the Center is intentionally involved with Iowa policy issues.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to talk with people from all over the state about farm policy, conservation, renewable energy, climate change and what the future looks like for our rural communities in Iowa,” Enloe said.
As a graduate student, Enloe worked with Dr. Lisa Schulte-Moore and Dr. John Tyndall on watershed management, a research area that greatly prepared her for the work she does at the Center. Last year, for example, Enloe served as one of 48 working group members for the Iowa Energy Plan. In this role, she specifically focused on renewable energy’s potential for economic growth and career development.
“By serving on the working group, we were able to insert a rural perspective into that project and advance some of our priorities around positioning rural communities to take advantage of renewable energy, not only for the environmental benefits but also the economic benefits,” Enloe said. “It’s a huge emerging market, with tons of investment dollars available to pay for tons of jobs, and we think that rural communities are perfectly positioned to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Although Johnson remains the new kid on the block, she has found great success during her first six months on the job. Johnson focuses on policy initiatives related to crop insurance, conservation and beginning farmers, and has shared her work across the country at multiple conferences and meetings for organizations such as the Iowa Environmental Council, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the Kansas Rural Center.
“I really, really value the opportunity to work on issues that impact rural communities,” Johnson said. “I think there’s not enough attention given to the challenges that rural communities face on a whole lot of levels, and I’m just so grateful to be a part of an organization that is focused on rural spaces and how to make them vibrant, happy, healthy communities.”
In the months ahead, Johnson will focus extensively on the U.S. Farm Bill, which will be renewed in Sept. 2018. Johnson said the Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Program was key in helping her build legitimacy and form relationships with other sustainable agriculture leaders, many of whom she works alongside now. Enloe agrees and said that collaborating with a fellow alum has been a huge professional benefit.
“Anna brings a ton of expertise and is incredibly organized and passionate about what she does,” Enloe said. “Being able to bring on a teammate who could I trust from day one to do good work has been really great.”