Climate Ready Midwest

Climate Ready Midwest is a multi-state Extension-Climate Hub Partnership working to increase the adoption of regionally scalable climate-smart agriculture by helping to:

  • Define what climate smart agriculture means to the Midwest Extension agricultural community, and
  • Empower Extension professionals to lead climate-informed agricultural programming across the Midwest.

This project builds on the success and foundation of the North Central Climate Collaborative and includes many NC3 team members. As a part of the project, Extension professionals and the USDA Midwest Climate Hub are working together to:

  • Assess Extension’s current thinking around and planning for future climate-informed agricultural programming
  • Develop a shared road map outlining how to empower Extension to lead in climate-informed agricultural programming for row crop, specialty crop, and integrated livestock/crop agricultural systems, while including and elevating the perspectives of underserved audiences.
  • Develop a needs assessment with recommendations for expanding climate-informed programming and engagement throughout the Midwest.*
  • Coordinate a science engagement board to oversee the incorporation of accurate, translatable, and scalable climate strategies into our work
  • Expand Climate Ready Farms – an online assessment tool for farmers to better understand their farms’ preparedness for weather and climate related issues and provide stories from other producers on how they are implementing climate-smart practices.*
  • Create climate-informed carbon management and sequestration and net-zero emissions agriculture training curricula.*
  • Create climate-informed youth engagement training curricula.*

*denotes the development of publication, training, or product


For more information contact Alli Parrish, project manager, at, or Aaron Wilson, project director, at

What is Climate-Smart Agriculture?

Corn in no-till/cover crop system after 5"+ of rain.

Corn in no-till/cover crop system after 5″+ of rain. Photo Credit: SW Indiana USDA-NRCS

The current working definition of climate-smart agriculture is:

The implementation of farm management practices that are informed by climate science to increase farm resiliency in the face of climate impacts and work toward net-zero carbon emissions. This includes practices like effectively managing water supplies, weeds, and nutrient applications, implementing soil health practices, diversifying crop varieties, adjusting planting and harvest timing, and better carbon management. According to the USDA, when applied appropriately, these activities may deliver quantifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and/or increases in carbon sequestration.

Meet the Team

Project Direction and Communication

Aaron B. Wilson  – Project Director
Headshot of Aaron WilsonDr. Aaron Wilson is an Assistant Professor, Ag Weather and Climate Field Specialist with the Department of Extension in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. He is the State Climatologist of Ohio, Research PI for the Byrd Polar & Climate Research Center, and Midwest Chapter Lead Author of the upcoming Fifth National Climate Assessment. As a nearly life-long Ohioan, Aaron was inspired from a young age by the power of weather and has followed his passion with a deep commitment to the Midwest. Aaron has a diverse research background, from using state-of-the-art numerical models to solve weather- and climate-related research questions, to applied climatology and climate variability of Ohio and the Midwest. Aaron strives to help the agricultural, natural resources, and many other communities across Ohio understand the impacts of climate change and how to build resilience to its challenges.
Dennis Todey – Midwest Climate Hub Lead
Headshot of Dennis TodeyDr. Dennis Todey is the director of the USDA Midwest Climate Hub in Ames.  He has a background in ag-climatology and meteorology from Iowa State University and the South Dakota School of Mines.  He was formerly the state climatologist for South Dakota.  The hub’s role is to develop, share and encourage implementation of improved ag-climate practices in the wide range of agriculture.  The hub is a partner in the Climate Change at the New Foundation of Agriculture project with Ohio State.  The hub works with a wide variety of partners (including extension) across an eight state region over most of the Corn Belt.
Alli Parrish – Project Manger
Headshot of Alli ParrishAlli Parrish is the Regional Climate Outreach Project Manager at University of Wisconsin – Madison Division of Extension. Her primary role is serving as the project manager for the Climate Ready Midwest Project. In this role, she coordinates the multi-state team and facilitates the Theory of Change process to demonstrate climate impact and opportunities for Extension’s agricultural outreach programs across the Midwest. Prior to joining Extension, Alli was a Stormwater Outreach Specialist with the UW – Madison Arboretum. Alli earned her B.S. in botany and her M.S. in environmental conservation, both from UW – Madison.
Anne Nardi – External Communications Lead
Headshot of Anne NardiAnne Nardi is a Marketing Manager  in the Natural Resources Institute at UW-Madison Division of Extension. Anne’s work focuses on communication strategy and implementation for the North Central Region Water Network – a 12-state extension-led collaboration working to ensure safe and sufficient water supplies by increasing the scope and positive impact of multi-state water outreach and research efforts in the North Central Region of the United States.
Laurie W. Nowatzke – Midwest Climate Hub Communications
Headshot of Laurie NowatzkeDr. Laurie Nowatzke is the Coordinator of the Midwest Climate Hub in Ames, Iowa. In this role, she maintains the Hub’s partnerships, coordinates interdisciplinary projects, and communicates current tools and resources on climate-smart strategies. Prior to joining the Hub, Laurie served as a project coordinator of water quality research and outreach at Iowa State University. Laurie holds a B.S. in biological sciences from Wright State University, a M.A. in environmental policy from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in rural sociology from Iowa State University. Her Ph.D. research examined the perspectives, barriers, and attitudes of Midwest farmers who indicate willingness to adopt conservation practices in the future.

Theory of Change

Samuel Pratsch – Theory of Change Lead and Project Evaluator
Headshot of Samuel PratschDr. Samuel Pratsch directs the Evaluation Unit in the UW-Madison Division of Extension Natural Resource Institute. Samuel has 20 years of experience designing and implementing evaluations of community-based, non-formal education programs related to agricultural, nature resources, and environmental education programs. In his work, he creates opportunities for individuals and organizations to improve their projects and programs through rigorous and innovative approaches to program development and evaluation. Samuel works with community-based organizations, higher education institutions, foundations, and nonprofits across a range of social and environmental issues. He has expertise in strategic planning, group facilitation, program development and impact evaluations. Within the Natural Resources Institute, his primary focus is to provide leadership to the Evaluation Unit and support existing projects. His goal is to grow the Evaluation Unit’s national reputation as a leader in the field of nature resources and environmental education program evaluation.
Ken Genskow – Theory of Change Co-Lead

Headshot of Ken GenskowDr. Ken Genskow is a UW-Extension Specialist and Professor of Environmental Planning & Policy at UW-Madison. He works in the areas of environmental planning and policy, watershed planning, and collaborative and participatory approaches to resource management. His research and project activities explore collaborative watershed management, watershed governance, and the effectiveness of policies/programs on land and water management. Dr. Genskow holds a B.S. in General Engineering, a Master’s in Urban Planning, and a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning.
Patrick Robinson – Theory of Change Co-Lead
Headshot of Patrick RobinsonPatrick Robinson is the UW-Madison Division of Extension associate dean for Agriculture, Natural Resources and Community Development. Patrick is also an associate professor and Extension specialist. Prior to these roles, he has also worked as a regional educator, center director, and program director during his time with Extension. Additionally, he has experience working in the private sector and in a state agency. Patrick’s research and outreach have included focusing on water quality issues and the impacts of climate change, and he has been part of multidisciplinary work that has intentionally incorporated biophysical and social sciences in problem solving. Two key projects have included working on the designation of a National Estuarine Research Reserve on Lake Superior and work with Tribal Partners across the Upper Great Lakes on wild rice restoration. Patrick has a Ph.D. in environment and resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Amplifying Local Stakeholder Engagement

Climate Ready Farms

Monica Jean – Climate Ready Farms Co-Lead
Headshot of Monica JeanMonica is a MSU Extension Field Crops Educator serving the Saginaw Bay watershed region. Her position covers a large variety of crop production including integrated crop and livestock systems with an emphasis in cover crop, soil health, nutrient management and cropping system research projects. She enjoys conducting practical, on-farm research and working with farmers to improve the sustainability of their farms. Monica also serves as the Michigan chair for the Midwest Cover Crop Council and the North Central Climate Collaborative. Monica received her B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Central Michigan University and her M.S. in Animal Science from Michigan State University.
Hans Schmitz – Climate Ready Farms Co-Lead
Headshot of Hans SchmitzHans Schmitz received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Agricultural Meteorology from Purdue University.  He previously had roles in various counties over 14 years with Extension, before transitioning to serve as Lead Conservation Cropping Systems Agronomist for the state.  His expertise lies at the nexus of soil health and climate smart agriculture.  Hans lives in Cynthiana, Indiana, with his wife, Cindy, and two children.  In his spare time, Hans teaches agribusiness at Vincennes University and manages the family farm, a sixth-generation grain and cattle operation.
Christine Charles – Team Member
Headshot of Christine CharlesChristine is the Soil Health and Cover Crop program manager for MSU Extension and assists Extension Educators in their programming around soil conservation and cover cropping. Her work focuses on building programs, materials, and presentations that support and educate farmers in using conservation practices and soil health management in field crop systems. Christine received her B.S. in soil science from Purdue University and her M.S. in environmental science from Ohio State University.

Carbon Curriculum

Mike Estadt – Carbon Curriculum Co-Lead
Headshot of Mike EstadtMike Estadt is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator for Pickaway County. His areas of specialization are agronomic crop production and farm management. His on-farm research has included Dr. Steve Cullman’s soil quality work around the active carbon component of soils as well as crop seeding rates trails, soybean cyst nematode surveys and high yielding wheat systems.  He co-chairs the carbon footprint working group for Ohio State University Extension.  Mike received a B.S. degree in Animal Science, a B.S. in  Business Administration and an M.S. degree in Education from the Ohio State University.  He was a recipient of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Distinguished Service and also serves as the chapter administrator of the Ohio Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.
Peggy Kirk Hall – Carbon Curriculum Co-Lead
Headshot of Peggy Kirk HallPeggy Kirk Hall is an Associate Professor in Agricultural and Resource Law at The Ohio State University, where she directs OSU Extension’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program, teaches Agribusiness Law in the College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences at OSU, and is a research partner with the National Agricultural Law Center.  Hall’s work focuses on natural resource, land use, and property law issues that affect agricultural producers and communities.  She is a Past President of the American Agricultural Law Association and has received the AALA’s Distinguished Service Award and Excellence in Agricultural Law Award, along with the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Distinguished Service Award.  She holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in natural resource policy from The Ohio State University and a law degree from the University of Wyoming College of Law, where she served on the Land & Water Law Review.