At their February meeting, the Northeast SARE Administrative Council (AC) bade farewell to Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Rose Ogutu, and Tom Vogelmann. AC members do more than review grants. They are Northeast SARE’s connection to the region. Representatives from universities, farms, agencies, and businesses who lend their time and expertise to help Northeast SARE better serve farmers and the land.
Outgoing chair Hannah Smith-Brubaker’s first introduction to Northeast SARE was as a grant recipient - A blackberry trellising research grant. In addition to farming, Smith-Brubaker was working at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Smith-Brubaker was orginally invited to join the AC by a colleague. “I didn’t want to be on the AC as a government official. I wanted to serve in the capacity of the farmer – really examine everything from the perspective of what I consider to be the ultimate service recipient.”
That farmer-forward thinking led to one of Smith-Brubaker’s proudest achievements as an AC member, raising the cap on Farmer Grants from $15,000 to $30,000. They were also a driving force behind the adoption of the AC’s strategic plan for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) at the most recent meeting.
“I’m awfully glad we were able to accomplish those two things while I was chairing,” Smith-Brubaker said.
The AC has a prescribed structure to bring a wide range of stakeholders into the decision-making process. Each member uses their unique experiences in farming, research, and food systems to help grow businesses, strengthen communities, and protect the environment.
Tom Vogelmann served as a representative for agricultural experiment research and looks back fondly on his time on the AC.
“There have been many great moments,” Vogelmann said. “For me, the thrill is to see a lot of good science being proposed from a variety of people, from agricultural growers to marketing facilitators.”
Working with a broad portfolio of research is exciting, but Vogelmann says an organization is only as good as its people.
“The staff at Northeast SARE are outstanding, as are the reviewers,” he said. “The review teams are bright people, experts in their field. It was great to learn about new things… and it’s an awful lot of fun to give money away.”
Rose Ogutu, Horticulture Extension Specialist at Delaware State University, served for six years on the AC and was known for punctuating quiet reflection with deep insights.
“I will forever remember my time as a SARE AC member," Ogutu said.