Senior Director, Public Policy
Traci Bruckner joined the SAFSF team in October 2018 with nearly two decades of experience in public policy. She leads SAFSF’s work that helps funders fully engage in the policy process, both in support of their grantees and in their own activities, to shift inequities in food and agriculture systems.
Traci spent 15 years with the Center for Rural Affairs, leading their federal and state policy efforts around agriculture, conservation, and beginning, women, and socially disadvantaged farmer issues. She also worked on state health care and tax policy issues. During her tenure at the Center, Traci served as a member and chair of the USDA Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. This Advisory Committee provides recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on policies and programs that create and foster opportunities for a new generation of farmers and ranchers. Traci also served on and chaired the governance council of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a national grassroots coalition advocating federal policy reform for the sustainability of food systems, natural resources and rural communities.
Before joining SAFSF, Traci was with the Northeast Nebraska Behavioral Health Network as a community outreach director, working to build community supports to foster a pipeline of behavioral and mental healthcare professionals. Prior to that, Traci was the policy director of the Women’s Fund of Omaha, working on a host of policy issues that impact women and girls.
Traci holds a bachelor’s of science from Wayne State College in political science and sociology. She is based in Nebraska, where she lives with her husband, Brian. They recently moved their son, Sam, to CU Boulder, where he is studying vocal performance and opera.
Renee Brooks Catacalos
Vice President, Strategy and Impact
Renee Brooks Catacalos provides strategic leadership, management, and guidance for SAFSF’s external-facing work with members, prospective members, the philanthropic community and the sustainable food and agriculture sector. As part of the executive leadership team, she ensures SAFSF’s work aligns with and supports the achievement of our strategic goals and ensures that strategy and impact are in sync with the organization’s operational and financial functions.
Renee joined SAFSF in 2019 with decades of experience in local and regional food systems and sustainable agriculture work in the Chesapeake Bay region, including as publisher and editor of Edible Chesapeake magazine and deputy director of Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. She has served on the boards of ECO City Farms and FRESHFARM Markets, on the Steering Team of the Chesapeake Foodshed Network and is the author of The Chesapeake Table: Your Guide to Eating Local. Renee also brings extensive experience in association management and communications from positions with the Houston Association of Realtors, the Houston International Protocol Alliance, VOLLMER Public Relations, and the American Institute of Architects, Potomac Valley Chapter. She served as Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Department of State in Mexico City, Mexico and Istanbul, Turkey.
Renee is a graduate of the University of Virginia and lives in University Park, Maryland with her husband, Damon. She enjoys absorbing history, culture and new culinary ideas through travel and is an avid home cook. She “maintains” a hardy herb garden which thrives on neglect and is thrilled to have relationships with an array of amazing farmers, ranchers, and food producers in the Chesapeake region that keep her pantry and freezer well-stocked for visits home from her two adult children.
Virginia Clarke is the executive director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF), a network of grantmakers and investors working together to amplify the impact of philanthropic and investment communities in support of just and sustainable food and agriculture systems. She has led the network in its growth and impact since starting with SAFSF in 2003 as a part-time coordinator.
Prior to SAFSF, she worked with a variety of international education programs including the University of California’s Education Abroad Program as the regional director assistant for Asia and Africa, and the Salzburg Seminar in Austria where she was a program director and led outreach efforts in Latin America. Other life/work opportunities involved a stint at the World Bank; leading a management reorganization for a private clothing manufacturer; assisting immigrants in their efforts to secure legal residency in the U.S.; and creating/running a restitution project for juvenile offenders in Western Massachusetts. Her fluency in Spanish stems from living and working in Spain, Bolivia and Mexico.
Virginia has a Masters in International Administration from the School for International Training and a B.A. with honors in Spanish from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A TEDx Manhattan alumni (2014), Virginia lives in Santa Barbara, has two daughters and one grandaughter.
Susie DiMauro joined the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) staff on a full-time basis in September 2016 after working with SAFSF in various part-time capacities since 2013. She works on many aspects of SAFSF’s core programming, collaborating closely with SAFSF staff and funder planning committees to develop the SAFSF Annual Forum and other programming, including webinars, learning calls, and in-person and online events.
Before joining SAFSF, Susie advanced the goals of mission-driven organizations through nonprofit management, event coordination, and project management with a Ventura County consulting firm. Her past experience includes research projects exploring the historical and ecological dimensions of regional food and agriculture systems, including archival study of small farmers displaced by the creation of Shenandoah National Park. She also coordinated the front office of a dental practice, served as a consultant for the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic at Washington University School of Law, and enjoyed stints with several urban farms, a southern California land trust, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
Susie is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with degrees in anthropology and environmental studies. Outside of work, you can find her practicing pilates, connecting with friends and family, dabbling in arts and crafts, and going for long hikes.
Vice President, Operations and Finance
Bridget Dobrowski is Vice President, Operations and Finance of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders. She oversees all aspects of SAFSF’s critical infrastructure including information technology, finances, human resources, and organizational structure and protocols. She’s been with SAFSF for over 10 years and has been involved in every aspect of the organization’s growth and development during that time. Starting in a programmatic role and leading the development of the annual SAFSF Forum, Bridget managed newsletter communications and partnered with members on webinar creation for many years, while also overseeing much of the infrastructure she manages today. She transitioned out of program development when SAFSF spun off from its fiscal sponsor and incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit in 2019.
Bridget has a master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from the Bren School at the UC Santa Barbara. Prior to working for SAFSF, she led a collaborative network at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary focused on agriculture’s role in improving water quality along the central coast of California. She also spent three field seasons working for the National Park Service and Forest Service as a biological science technician. She is forever grateful that she got paid to hike and camp in such inspirational environments. Bridget was raised in Montana and Ohio and now resides in Santa Barbara, CA with her partner, where she spends her time doing yoga, fixing things around the house, sewing, riding her electric bike, and enjoying the local wineries.
Operations and Management Director
Stacy Nwokochah joined the SAFSF team in September of 2017 and currently serves as their operations and management director. She manages various aspects of our CRM database and information technology infrastructure, as well as financial tracking, governance support, and administrative requests. Her responsibilities vary, but she ultimately plays a critical role in maximizing the effectiveness of SAFSF’s core operations.
She has a background in organizational management and health care. From nonprofit operations management to pharmacy and hospital administration, she brings an extensive skills set and an ability to see unique approaches and creative processes to solve problems. She is passionate about the health industry and believes that whether a job indirectly or directly impacts a community, the helping profession is an area of importance. She has a master’s degree in healthcare operations management from George Washington University and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In her college career, she was a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. With her previous experience, she appreciates organizations that encourage outreach in various aspects of awareness for the betterment of communities. Independent of her career and academic interests, Stacy enjoys capturing moments in life through photography, traveling, exploring new places, dance, music, fashion, and lifestyle blogs.
Erin Olschewski started with Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) in January 2021. As a Program Director, she will work on existing and future SAFSF programming. Prior to joining our team, Erin oversaw the corporate philanthropy work of a national natural-foods grocery store, establishing partnerships and granting funds to hundreds of small nonprofits each year. She also developed mission-driven marketing, employee scholarship, and food bank donation programs during her tenure. Previous to that work, Erin managed partnerships, communications, food desert farm stands, fundraising events, and more for an urban farm and youth development nonprofit.
Erin holds a B.A. in Communication from the University of Utah where she focused her studies on food justice and social change. As a student, she explored the impact of entertainment education on nutrition, sustainability, and social justice issues through a research-led thesis. She also co-launched a successful campaign for more sustainable, humane, fair, and nutritious food on campus. After graduating she joined the field team of the national nonprofit and movement-leader, Real Food Challenge. She traveled the west educating students about topics like corporate consolidation and empowered them to develop campaigns for better school food systems in partnership with diverse community stakeholders.
Erin grew up in Moab, Utah but currently lives in Boulder, Colorado. When she’s not working, Erin enjoys cooking and baking new recipes, frequenting farmers markets, and tending to her many houseplants.
Data and Administrative Assistant
Ellen Serpico joined Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) in October 2021. As Data and Administrative Assistant, she provides critical support to the operations team.
Ellen earned a B.A. in Environmental & Sustainability Studies and a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Kentucky. As a student, she focused her studies on environmental ethics and food justice, and she worked on research projects in horticulture, grassland ecology, and local food systems. She also co-developed a volunteer mentor program that facilitates experiential environmental education for youth. Prior to joining SAFSF, Ellen provided operations and program support at a nonprofit leadership development organization, as well as a local labor union for service employees.
Although she was raised in Oregon and Kentucky, Ellen now lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband, Nate, and their cat, Marmalade. Outside of the virtual office, she loves to run, ski, rock climb, read, and play piano.
Maggie Smith joined the Sustainable Agriculture Food System Funders (SAFSF) in June 2021 as the Communications Director. Her role supports and touches each piece of SAFSF’s work and is key to celebrating power and impact. She oversees and manages all external communications, develops and maintains media relationships, and provides insights on organizational communications strategies and approaches.
Maggie holds a B.S. in Agriculture & Natural Resources from Berea College. Her background is in story-based communications strategy, grassroots fundraising, and community food system assessments. Her previous position focused on implementing and executing a story-based communications strategy for the grassroots, Kentucky farm and food policy organization, Community Farm Alliance. During her time there, she led 5 Community Food System Assessments across Appalachian Kentucky, and managed the Breaking Beans: Food and Farm Story Project. She also participated in several regional networks, like What’s Next EKY and the Central Appalachian Network. Her time working in Appalachia deepened her love as a native and grew her understanding of the regional food systems that weave her home together. She is eager to bring this perspective and voice into SAFSF.
Maggie grew up on a tobacco farm in Bethel, Kentucky. She comes from a long line of farmers, gardeners, and cooks. They passed down to her their love for the land, their passion for people, and their way of connecting the two through food. She currently resides in Lexington, Kentucky with her fiancé Austin and their dogs, Chip and Dolly. In her free time, she enjoys trying new recipes, journaling, and traveling.