ESMC Board of Directors
Chad Ellis, ESMC Board Chair
Chad Ellis assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Texas Agricultural Land Trust in March of 2020, leading the organization in its mission to conserve the Texas heritage of agricultural lands, wildlife habitats and natural resources. Prior to that, Ellis served as Industry Relations and Stewardship Manager at the Noble Research Institute (NRI) in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he focused on the important role of stewardship in agriculture production for long-term sustainability in our country and created opportunities for the advancement of stewardship principles. He first came to NRI in 2012 as a pasture and range consultant, working directly with agricultural producers in the southern Oklahoma area. Previously, he spent 10 years working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI), as regional rangeland management specialist for the 15 central states. Ellis also served as a district conservationist in Texas and state range conservationist in Florida.
Ellis not only promotes and advocates land stewardship principles, he also implements it within his own family operation in Lohn, Texas. Mr. Ellis is passionate on helping empower the producer to be better tomorrow than they are today. He provides this passion and leadership as chairman of the National Grazing Lands Coalition (NatGLC), a producer lead organization. NatGLC supports voluntary ecologically and economically sound management of all grazing lands for their adaptive uses and multiple benefits to the environment and society through science based technical assistance, research and education.
Kris Johnson, Ph.D., ESMC Board Vice-Chair
Kris Johnson, Ph.D. is the Director for the North America Agriculture Program of The Nature Conservancy. In this role he leads efforts to integrate science into collaborations with public and private partners to catalyze conservation and improved agricultural management across North America. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, Kris was the Sustainability Scientist at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. He received a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and an MS and PhD in Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota, where his dissertation research focused on ecosystem services in agriculture. Kris was a Fulbright Scholar, a MacArthur Scholar, and remains a Senior Fellow in Sustainable Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota.
Emily Johannes is head of Sustainable Sourcing for Nestlé USA. She leads the U.S. food and beverage sourcing strategy in support of Nestlé’s global and regional sustainability and animal care commitments. She is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Nestlé Responsible Sourcing Standard. Her role collaborates on projects with suppliers, farmers, non-governmental organizations, and stakeholders in the US on topics of climate action, animal welfare, and social responsibility. Emily joined Nestlé from K·Coe Isom, where she was the Director of Sustainability Services. She has worked for over 18 years implementing environmental/sustainability strategies, measuring and reporting metrics, driving responsible sourcing programs, and developing verification schemes.
Dr. Rattan Lal
Rattan Lal, Ph.D., is a Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and Director of the CFAES Rattan Lal Center for Carbon Management and Sequestration at The Ohio State University, as well as an Adjunct Professor of University of Iceland and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), India. He served as Sr. Research Fellow with the University of Sydney, Australia (1968-69), Soil Physicist at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria (1970-87), and Professor of Soil Science at OSU (1987 to date). He has authored/co-authored over 1000 refereed journal articles and more than 550 book chapters, has written and edited/co-edited more than 100 books. He was included in the Thomson Reuters list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds (2014-2016), and he is among Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers in Agriculture (2014-2021), as well as ranked #1 in Agronomy and Agriculture overall, #34 globally for the year 2020, and #73 globally for career from 1973-2020 among the top 2% of scientists by Stanford’s Ioannidis (2019, 2020, 2021).
Ashley McKeon is the Director of Regenerative Agriculture at Cargill in the company’s Global Impact group. In this role she leads Cargill’s global strategy to scale regenerative agriculture and deliver on Cargill’s sustainability commitments within our supply chains. Prior to this role, she led Cargill’s sustainability and climate policy and advocacy efforts in Washington, DC, and has nearly fifteen years of U.S. federal government experience in Congress and the Executive Branch leading on agriculture, climate change, and conservation policy issues. During her career, Ashley led efforts to increase investments in soil health and climate change in the 2018 Farm Bill and improve conservation public-private partnership programs. Ashley earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science from the University of Portland in Oregon.
Mary Jane Melendez
Mary Jane Melendez is Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer for General Mills. She also serves as President of the General Mills Foundation. Mary Jane stewards the company’s sustainability and philanthropy efforts, working closely with Supply Chain, Sourcing, the Foundation and other key business leaders to develop, coordinate and execute programs to achieve companywide targets. Mary Jane is responsible for advancing collaboration to drive change by promoting environmentally and socially responsible practices across our entire value chain, from farm to fork and beyond. Her role combines accountability for taking care of our planet and nourishing our communities to amplify the impact of General Mills as a global force for good. Mary Jane serves on the boards of Partners in Food Solutions and the Saint Paul and Minnesota Community Foundation.
Mary Jane’s strategic business leadership was recently recognized by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal as a 2018 40 Under 40 Award Winner. She was named one of Latino Leaders’ Top Latina Executives in Corporate America in 2018. Mary Jane earned both her MBA and bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.
Debbie Reed is the Executive Director of ESMC and the Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC). Debbie’s role in leading ESMC/ESMRC builds on decades of experience in carbon markets, agriculture climate change mitigation and sustainability efforts in the US and internationally. Debbie previously led the Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (C-AGG), a national multi-stakeholder coalition supporting the development of tools, technologies, knowledge and programs to improve quantification of GHG from agriculture and GHG mitigation opportunities for the sector. She was also the founding Executive Director of the International Biochar Initiative. Debbie served in the Clinton Administration at the White House Council on Environmental Quality as the Director of Legislative Affairs and Agricultural Policy and in the U.S. Senate as a Senior Staff on natural resource and agricultural issues for U.S. Senator Robert Kerrey of Nebraska. She held numerous leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She has graduate and undergraduate degrees in human nutrition/dietetics, chemistry, and communications/journalism.