Traci Bruckner serves as SAFSF’s Policy Program Director, and joined the SAFSF team in October 2018. Traci comes to SAFSF with nearly two decades of experience in public policy.
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, Member and Strategic Partnerships Director ([email protected])
Renee Brooks Catacalos brings decades of experience in local food systems and sustainable agriculture, as well as association management and communications, to her position as Membership and Strategic Partnerships Director with SAFSF.
Her involvement in food and ag began as a public relations consultant to restaurants and nonprofits. This evolved into three years as publisher and editor of Edible Chesapeake magazine, followed by three years with Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, as community building coordinator and deputy director. Renee has served on the boards of ECO City Farms and FRESHFARM Markets. She is currently on the Steering Team of the Chesapeake Foodshed Network (CFN) and co-chairs the CFN’s Advisory Group responsible for piloting an initiative to create guidelines and strategies for increasing Community Ownership, Empowerment and Prosperity (COEP) within the region. She is also on the board of the Neighborhood Design Center. Renee is the author of The Chesapeake Table: Your Guide to Eating Local, published in October 2018 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Prior to joining SAFSF, Renee was executive director of a 600-member local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Before becoming involved in food and ag work, Renee was deputy director of the Houston International Protocol Alliance, a senior executive with a public relations firm, marketing and public relations manager for the Houston Association of Realtors, and a U.S. consular officer in Mexico City and Istanbul.
Renee graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs. She lives in University Park, Maryland, with her husband, Damon, a criminal defense attorney with a focus on representing indigent clients. Their daughter is studying anthropology at Temple University and their son is an Army ROTC cadet studying civil engineering at Drexel University, both in Philadelphia.
Virginia Clarke is the executive director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF), a network of grantmakers working to strengthen connections, build capacity, and foster collaboration of the philanthropic and investment communities in support of vibrant, healthy and just food and farm systems. She started with SAFSF in 2003 as a part-time coordinator and has led the network in its growth and impact ever since.
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, CA and has two daughters.
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 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 alternative 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.
Bridget Dobrowski is the Managing Director 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 SFSF 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, wheres she spends her time doing yoga, fixing things around the house, sewing, riding her electric bike, and enjoying the local wineries.
Abbie Nissenson has been part of the SAFSF team since 2012 and currently serves as one of SAFSF’s program directors. In this capacity Abbie works closely with staff and our funders to develop events, webinars, and other resources, and contributes to long term visioning and strategy for the organization. She has a passion for social justice and civic engagement and brings that lens to her work at SAFSF. Abbie’s previous job experience includes working as a program director for The Junior Statesmen Foundation and interning for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Abbie received her master’s in public policy and management from the Heinz School at Carnegie Mellon University. It was while living in Pittsburgh that Abbie learned about urban farming, volunteering on an organic farm in the Morningside neighborhood. Abbie received her BA in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in Santa Barbara with her husband, an industrial ecology researcher at UCSB; their two daughters; and a cat named Bird. She delights in hitting the local farmer’s markets, cooking, camping, and making bad puns.
Stacy Nwokochah joined the SAFSF team in September of 2017 and currently serves as their operations and management associate. She supports the operations team by managing various aspects in development and maintenance of information technology software, as well as tracking revenue, expenses, governance, and administrative requests. Her responsibilities vary, but she ultimately plays a critical role in maximizing the effectiveness of SAFSF’s core operations.
Prior to joining SAFSF, Stacy had been working primarily in health-related organizations holding technical and administrative positions. 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 earned a bachelor’s degree in at the University of California at Santa Barbara and currently pursuing a master’s degree in healthcare operations management at George Washington University. In her college career, she enhanced her academic and leadership skills by being 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.
Wendy Sosa joined SAFSF in January 2019 as a Program Associate, collaborating closely with SAFSF staff and funder planning committees to support SAFSF core’s programming and events.
Before joining SAFSF, Wendy worked in student services outreach at Hartnell Community College in Salinas, CA. Prior to that, Wendy was the philanthropy coordinator for Driscoll’s in Watsonville, CA supporting all aspects of the company’s philanthropic programs in the Americas. Wendy graduated from the University of California Irvine with degrees in international studies and political science. She also completed the Small Farmer Education program with the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association in Salinas, CA.
Wendy is new to Santa Barbara and is excited to explore her new community. She enjoys travel, gardening, music, and volunteering.