Interim Executive Director
Birgit grew up in a college town in southwest Michigan, in a household that enthusiastically supported sustainable agriculture, local foods, and family farms. There was a short period in her life where she rebelled by eating store bought sandwich bread (instead of home-baked), but she soon came to her senses.
After completing her bachelor's degree, Birgit moved to Chicago to start an MBA program (concentrating in Information Systems) and to get married. After completing her MBA she joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a database administrator. Several years later she moved to California, and spent several years as an application developer/database administrator at UC Berkeley. Birgit very much enjoyed having a backyard full of fruit (including kiwi), vegetables, and herbs year-round! After moving to Champaign in 2004, Birgit took at job at the University in information technology. In 2014, she took over managing an annual, week-long, international scientific conference, and really enjoyed the change of pace.
Birgit and her husband live on a 5-acre "mini-farm." They have experimented with growing several kinds of grains, have a large (1,800 square foot) garden under a hoop house where they have grown a wide variety of open pollinated vegetables year round, and have a 1/4 acre woody perennial polyculture of fruits and nuts. They got their first livestock (bees) in the Spring of 2016. They have solar panels and two small wind turbines, and heat their house in the winter with a 14,000 pound masonry heater (fueled by short-rotation coppiced firewood from their property).
Birgit is very excited to join the Land Connection and looks forward to helping to grow something she hasn't before -- farmers!
Terra was born in Florida but raised in Central Illinois, where four generations of her family has farmed. Of course she couldn’t wait to leave what seemed a capital B Backwater, so she "lit out for the territories."
After spending time at the University of Oregon and the University of California at Berkeley, andthen finishing up an undergraduate and graduate degree in English literature and biology at Illinois State University, she went to Japan and worked as a teacher, writer, and editor for five years, and then to New York City where she worked as a writer and editor for almost a decade. During those years, she traveled extensively, from Nepal to Eritrea to Morocco to the Baltics. While visiting “third world” countries she found she often ate better foods than in the US because their foods were fresh, local, and unprocessed.
As she gradually returned to her roots in Central Illinois, Terra realized that the best food in the world could and should be grown by small, diverse farms that mimic nature, and that communities should be able to feed themselves independent of fossil-fuel based agri-chemicals. In 2001, she founded The Land Connection to save farmland, train new farmers, and connect consumers with fresh local foods.
Terra is the author of The Seasons on Henry's Farm, which was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2010. She has been honored with a Green Award from Chicago Magazine, a Good Eating Award from the Chicago Tribune, and a rural achievement award from Lt. Governor Sheila Simon.
Terra’s favorite food is a lightly fried duck egg on toast.
Farmers' Market and Food Access Manager
Sarah grew up in Pontiac, Illinois, and while she remembers a few key produce seasons throughout the year (picking strawberries just as school got out for the summer, sweet corn in July, really good apples in the fall) she mostly thought all fruits and vegetables were just available year-round. It wasn't until living in Hungary after college that she really learned the value of eating food in season. She would even exchange private lessons for cherries, melons, and peaches as big as a softball.
As she spent the next 6 years teaching English in Hannover, Germany, then Paris, Sarah came to appreciate open air markets, often crossing the city to find her favorite vendors. After completing M.A.degrees in Communication and Linguistics at the University of Illinois, Sarah began teaching at Parkland College and took a seasonal position with the Urbana Market at the Square. Through this position she was able to learn more about local food, help administer Link matching programs to expand struggling families' food budgets, and hone her photography skills at the market. In 2012 she became assistant director of the Urbana market and joined The Land Connection in April 2015 for the launch of the new Champaign Farmers' Market.
Sarah is an avid photographer and swimmer. She loves travel, history, and languages, she has grown up doing 18th century re-enacting. Sarah enjoys firing cannons and is certified to serve on smoothbore artillery crews.
Sarah's favorite food is carrots. Or strawberries. Or peaches. Or sugar snap peas
Farmer Training Program Manager
Mallory grew up on an Ohio farm where her father and grandfather worked the land. She spent her summers roaming the acres with her younger brother and many cousins. Mallory passed many hot summer hours helping her grandmother freeze and can the bounty from her large farm garden.
In 2003, Mallory left the farm to attend Ohio Northern University to study Political Science, International Studies, and History. There, she studied abroad for a year in Joensuu, Finland where she met her husband Paul. This was followed by a Master's degree in Social Statistics from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom from 2007-08. Graduation came just in time for the global financial crisis of the Great Recession. Unable to find entry into her chosen field, Mallory headed west for adventure in the mountains of Colorado. There she skied, white water rafted, and contemplated the topics of sustainability and resiliency. This time was transformative and Mallory realized she had found her mission in life, to create a more sustainable and resilient world through the transformation of agriculture and our food system.
With her mission in life identified, Mallory set out to farm in the Midwest. She purchased 85 acres of stunning land in Pike County, Illinois, and started a fruit and vegetable farm. She operated a CSA, sold at several west-central Illinois farmer's markets, and sold to restaurants and grocery stores. This life was fulfilling, fun, and exhausting. In 2015 Mallory saw an opportunity to have a greater impact on improving the local foods system, she joined John Wood Community College as the Sustainable Local Food Coordinator. There she taught others how to start and operate their own Fruit and Vegetable production businesses. She also ran the on campus demonstration farm, held field days, and conducted community workshops on sustainability topics. A year later, The Land Connection advertised for a new Farmer Training Program Manager. Realizing this was an opportunity that was too amazing to let pass, Mallory decided the time was right for a move to Champaign!
In addition to all things farm and food related, Mallory enjoys musical theater. Watch closely, occasionally she'll appear in a community theater production.
Mallory's favorite food is her custom salad mix (the secret ingredient is cilantro).
Hyde Taidghin O'Brien
Marketing & Outreach Coordinator
Taidghin grew up in downtown Philadelphia, PA. He went to a small Quaker school in the Germantown area of Philly and then traveled to St. Louis where he attended college at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his BSBA in Marketing and International Business and his BA in Art History with minors in Anthropology and Visual Communications. He work at the University upon graduating and then took a job at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011. In 2014 he met his husband, Rey Dalitto, and in 2015 they moved down to Champaign to become involved in the local foods movement.
After working at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery and Hendrick House, Taidghin heard of the Marketing & Outreach Coordinator position at The Land Connection and applied. He was glad to finally be working at a wonderful non-profit where he could use his diverse skillset and experiences to further a cause he believed in. When he's not at The Land Connection Taidghin is working with his husband to promote Lucky Pierre Bakers, the bakery they started together that Rey manages and bakes for full-time. You can even catch them selling their doughnuts, bagels, rolls, and bialys at the Urbana Farmers Market (both in and at the square).
Taidghin loves to cook, organize things, garden, paint, and cuddle up with their 3 dogs while working on a design project.