Climate Ready Midwest

Climate Ready Midwest logo

Climate Ready Midwest is a multistate partnership working to increase the impact of climate-smart agriculture across the region. Our mission is twofold:

  • To define what climate-smart agriculture means to the midwestern Extension agricultural community, and
  • To empower Extension professionals to lead climate-informed agricultural programming across the Midwest.

Extension professionals and the USDA Midwest Climate Hub are working together to assess and build climate-informed programming by:

  • Developing a shared road map that empowers Extension to lead climate-informed agricultural programming for row crop, specialty crop, and integrated livestock/crop agricultural systems while elevating the perspectives of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color) and limited resource producers
  • Identifying needs and recommendations for expanding USDA Midwest Climate Hub – Extension engagement
  • Establishing a science engagement board to oversee the incorporation of accurate, translatable, and scalable climate strategies into Extension work
  • Expanding Climate Ready Farm – an online assessment tool helping farmers better prepare for climate-related challenges and share climate-smart stories
  • Create climate-informed carbon management and sequestration and net-zero emissions agriculture training curricula

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

Headshot of Aaron Wilson

Aaron B. Wilson  – Project Director

Dr. 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.

Headshot of Dennis Todey

Dennis Todey – Midwest Climate Hub Lead

Dr. 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.

Headshot of Alli Parrish

Alli Parrish – Project Manger

Alli 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.

Headshot of Anne Nardi

Anne Nardi – External Communications Lead

Anne 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.

Headshot of Laurie Nowatzke

Laurie W. Nowatzke – Midwest Climate Hub Communications

Dr. 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

Headshot of Samuel Pratsch

Samuel Pratsch – Theory of Change Lead and Project Evaluator

Dr. 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.

Headshot of Cindy Folck

Cindy Folck – Theory of Change Co-Lead

Dr. Alcinda “Cindy” Folck is the program leader of the Agriculture and Natural Resources in Central State University Extension (CSUE). She oversees the state-wide implementation of agricultural and natural resources programming and regional agricultural and natural resources extension educators. Her focus is programming to meet the needs of underserved, under-represented farmers in Ohio. She also promotes workshops and programming to improve sustainability, accessibility, and opportunity for those involved with agriculture and natural resource endeavors in Ohio. Folck is located on Central State University campus in Wilberforce, Ohio.

Prior to joining CSUE in 2019, Folck worked for 18 years for Ohio State University Extension in agriculture and natural resources and before then worked for 10 years with livestock commodity groups and soil and water conservation. She received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in Agricultural and Extension Education. Folck and her husband currently operate a small farm raising strawberries, caneberries, peas and sunflowers. They also have a pasture-based farrow- to-finish hog operation.

Headshot of Ken Genskow

Ken Genskow – Theory of Change Co-Lead

Dr. 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.

Headshot of Patrick Robinson

Patrick Robinson – Theory of Change Co-Lead

Patrick 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.

Moses Wanyakha, Ph. D – Theory of Change Team Member

Moses T. Wanyakha joined the USDA Midwest Climate Hub in January 2024 after completing postdoctoral work at Iowa State University, where he earned his PhD in 2023. Dr. Wanyakha is a trained agriculturist focusing on agricultural education and extension, food security and nutrition, monitoring evaluation and learning, and horticulture and agronomy. His dissertation focused on food insecurity and nutrition education, specifically exploring the role of Extension Master Gardeners in providing fresh produce to food pantries. Dr. Wanyakha’s recent work examined cybersecurity threats facing small- and medium-scale farms in the U.S., focusing on farmers’ perceptions of cyber threats as well as economic impacts. He has utilized his background as an evaluator to support writing interview protocols, surveys, analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, and development of final evaluation reports. During his appointment, he will be supporting the increased adoption of regionally scalable, climate-smart practices in the Midwest, particularly working on enhanced adaptation, carbon management, achieving net-zero emissions in agriculture, and on engaging youth. His additional roles include facilitating stakeholder understanding, creating Theories of Change, amplifying marginalized voices, and strengthening the climate science and education infrastructure through a revitalized Extension-Midwest Climate Hub partnership. His areas of interest include monitoring and evaluation, international agriculture development, agronomy, and political ecology. During his free time he enjoys playing and watching soccer, gardening, and reading.

Namah Taku-Forchu, Ph. D – Theory of Change Team Member and Project Evaluator

Dr. Namah Taku-Forchu is an Evaluation Specialist with the Natural Resources Institute Division of Extension, at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Namah received her Ph.D. in agricultural studies with specialization in extension education, with emphasis on mitigating maize post-harvest loss for smallholder farmers and her M.A. degree in community and regional planning with emphasis in linking smallholder farmers to markets, from Iowa State University.

Dr. Taku-Forchu’s research interests lie in the broad areas of agriculture, post-harvest loss, climate change, and extension programming and evaluation. Specifically, her evaluation work focuses on planning, designing, and evaluating agricultural, natural resources, and environmental projects in the United States and collecting data using participatory and culturally responsive strategies. Prior to joining the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Division of Extension Evaluation Unit, Dr. Taku-Forchu, was a postdoctoral fellow with the USDA California Climate Hub at the University of California, Davis.

Amplifying Local Stakeholder Engagement

Climate Ready Farms

Headshot of Monica Jean

Monica Jean – Climate Ready Farms Co-Lead

Monica 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.

Headshot of Hans Schmitz

Hans Schmitz – Climate Ready Farms Co-Lead

Hans 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.

Headshot of Christine Charles

Christine Charles – Team Member

Christine 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

Headshot of Mike Estadt

Mike Estadt – Carbon Curriculum Co-Lead

Mike 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.

Headshot of Peggy Kirk Hall

Peggy Kirk Hall – Carbon Curriculum Co-Lead

Peggy 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.

Youth Programming

Vacant – Youth Programming Lead

This project is supported by the intramural research program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Foundational and Applied Science Program, Grant #13429389.