ESMC/ESMRC Team

The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) is a member-based organization launching a national scale ecosystem services market for agriculture to recognize and reward farmers and ranchers for their environmental services to society. The Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) is ESMC’s research arm. ESMC members represent the spectrum of the agricultural sector supply chain with whom we are scaling sustainable agricultural sector outcomes, including increased soil carbon, reduced net greenhouse gases (GHG), and improved water quality and water use conservation. The ESMC/ESMRC team supports all efforts of the ESMC and the ESMRC in the development of this market.

Debbie Reed – Executive Director

Debbie Reed was named Executive Director of the ESMC in May of 2019 upon the establishment of the Consortium and subsequently assumed the same role for the ESMRC upon the creation of the Research Consortium in November of 2019. Reed’s role in leading the ESMC builds on decades of experience in agriculture climate change mitigation and sustainability efforts at the national and international level. Previously, Reed led the Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (C-AGG), a national multi-stakeholder coalition, supporting the development of tools, support systems, knowledge, and programs to improve quantification of GHG from agriculture. Prior to her work with C-AGG, Reed worked 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 has held numerous leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including special assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics (REE) and special assistant to the Administrator of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

She has graduate and undergraduate degrees in human nutrition/dietetics, chemistry, and communications.

Shiva Scotti – Chief Financial Officer

Shiva Scotti holds a Master of Business Administration from The Ohio State University, where she majored in Marketing Management with a minor in International Business. Scotti’s experience spans an array of businesses and includes developing new products, determining brand positioning and media plans both in the U.S. and abroad, growing relationships with professional sports leagues (i.e., NBA, NFL, NHL and endurance athletes) and sponsors, managing communication strategies internationally, and facilitating global education coursework and projects. She has worked for several Fortune 100 companies including Kimberly-Clark Corporation on the Kleenex Brand and Abbott Laboratories. Additionally, Scotti has worked in a corporate leadership marketing role in Munich, Germany, and has experience working for a global nonprofit organization focused on climate change mitigation and soil sustainability technologies. As a former Executive Director of a leading certified data destruction company, Scotti delivered higher overall technical efficiency of the business, as well as deeper and stronger client relationships.

Scotti speaks both Spanish and German conversationally, in addition to her native English tongue, and currently resides in Westerville, Ohio, with her husband and four children.

Caroline Wade – Program Director

Caroline Wade provides leadership and coordination across the ESMRC project team, Working Groups, and Strike Teams to guide research, development, demonstration, and deployment of cost-effective, scalable technologies and approaches necessary to accomplish program goals, objectives, and outcomes. Prior to joining the ESMC team as a Project Manager in September 2019, Wade was the Agriculture Program Director for the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy where she led their sustainable agricultural initiatives to improve water quality and soil health while addressing the impacts of climate change through engagement with local partners and the ag supply chain. She previously worked for the Illinois Corn Growers Association where she served as the Nutrient Watershed Manager and collaborated with partners in Illinois and across the country on sustainability efforts in agricultural production systems. Throughout her career, Wade has worked to unite environmental science and agriculture by focusing on practical yet innovative solutions to the many interconnected natural resources issues facing the Midwest and beyond and by engaging with multiple stakeholders. She has served in collaborative leadership roles for the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership, the Illinois S.T.A.R. program, Field to Market’s Education and Outreach Committee, and in Midwest Row Crop Collaborative project development and implementation.

Wade graduated from Illinois State University with a B.S. in Environmental Health and Environmental Science and a M.S. in Agriculture. She finds inspiration in the wonders of the natural world and spends her free time enjoying mountain biking, kayaking, camping, hiking, and gardening.

Bruce Knight – Lead Consultant

Bruce Knight is a nationally recognized expert on conservation, agriculture, and the environment. Knight is the principal and founder of Strategic Conservation Solutions, LLC. From 2002 to 2006, Knight served as Chief of Natural Resources Conservation Service, the lead U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agency for conservation on private working agricultural lands. Knight was the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs at the USDA from 2006-2009. Drawing on his experience as a former association executive, lobbyist, regulator and Capitol Hill staffer, Knight has a broad understanding of how Washington works. He also brings firsthand knowledge of farming to his national policymaking credentials. A third-generation rancher and farmer and lifelong conservationist, Knight operates a diversified grain and cattle operation in South Dakota using no-till and rest rotation grazing systems. His farming and ranching background gives him the opportunity to practice stewardship and husbandry, providing firsthand knowledge of the interdependency of animal, plant, and human health with the environment.

Knight is a graduate of South Dakota State University. He and his wife, Julie, co-founded Strategic Conservation Solutions in 2009. The Knights have two children.

Paul Meints, Ph.D. – ESMRC Research Director

Dr. Paul Meints provides research support and dissemination related to the development, demonstration and deployment of projects and activities undertaken by ESMRC. A scientist with education and experience in agronomy, plant breeding and genetics, and seed physiology, Meints formerly served as a tenured faculty at Mississippi State University working in agronomy and seed physiology research and teaching. He has experience overseeing a multi-disciplinary research portfolio across subjects including: Water Quality, Soil Health and Fertility, Agronomics and Genetics, Sustainable Polymers and Green Chemistry, Livestock Feedstocks, and Biofuels and Engine Technologies. Most recently, as the Research Director for Minnesota Corn Growers Association, he developed and implemented a commodity group research program supporting farmer derived research to discover practices that would reduce nutrient loss to ground and surface water and encourage implementation of sustainable practices such as cover crops and conservation tillage practically across the landscape. Prior to that, Meints served as the Research Program Manager at the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.

Meints grew up on a family corn, soybean, pork, and beef farm in Chippewa County in Western Minnesota. He has a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, a master’s degree in plant breeding genetics from the University of Minnesota and earned his Ph.D. at Oregon St. University. From 2004 – 2007, he and his wife, Donna, worked in Kenya, East Africa, to bring opportunities through education and on-farm example to enable Kenyans in sustainable agricultural practice and life.

Cassie Kniebel Aherin – Project Manager

Cassie Aherin leads the planning, coordination, and implementation of pilot projects to test and refine ESMC protocols and all relevant aspects of projects requiring demonstration, field testing and refinements. Aherin will also serve as ESMC/ESMRC’s point of contact for producer customer service, including support for the ESMC Producer Circle. She grew up on a diversified farming, commercial cow-calf, and Red Angus seedstock operation in the Flint Hills of Kansas and graduated from Kansas State University with B.S. degrees in Animal Science and Agribusiness. Aherin then worked for Elanco Animal Health for four years in sales and marketing positions with their U.S. poultry vaccines business and as an account executive on their multi-species distribution team. In spring 2018, she started working for the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University as the program manager for the CattleTrace Pilot Program for animal disease traceability. In this role, she managed the administration of the program and day-to-day operations, which included communications efforts with multiple stakeholders, engaging producer and industry partners across the supply chain, and coordinating technology installations and partner relationships.

Currently residing in the St. Louis area with her husband, Aherin will complete her Master of Agribusiness degree from Kansas State University in May 2021. She continues to help at her family’s farming and ranching operation as much as possible.

Benjamin Bartley – Project Manager

Benjamin Bartley leads ESMC/ESMRC’s protocol adaptation and refinement work, including management of the protocols and the asset, credit, and program certification process. Bartley has worked in food systems and sustainable agriculture throughout his career, from vending at farmers markets and processing livestock to working in cooperative extension and as a farm food safety auditor. His experience spans the non-profit, private, and public sectors, including employment as an independent consultant and at a cooperative, family-owned business, social enterprise, and academia, most recently serving as Program Area Leader, Food Systems and Local Food with Penn State Extension. His prior positions entailed program area leadership, project management, and value chain coordination. Bartley also brings firsthand experience in policy advocacy on both a state and federal level around climate-smart agriculture, food access, and farm business vitality. He has a proven ability of working with a wide range of stakeholders, particularly food producers, businesses, researchers, and funders.

Bartley earned a Master of Business Administration from Drexel University and is pursuing a Masters in Ecosystem Management and Administration from Penn State. He also studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and was a National Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program.

Brandy McFadden – Administrative Lead

Brandy McFadden handles scheduling and other administrative support for the ESMC/ESMRC team. Working in various fields of administration since 2015 and successfully managing an executive office for the past two years, she has effectively streamlined communications and office operations for over five years. She is excited to bring her efficient organization skills and attention to detail to the ESMC team.

Deke Alkire, Ph.D. – Program Development Consultant

Dr. Deke Alkire is responsible for the development the ESMC Certified Technical Assistance Provider Program and the ESMC Certified Verifier Program. This includes development of program curricula and training modules for ESMCs national market program. His role includes conducting trainings and accreditation seminars to train cohorts of ESMC certified technical providers and verifiers. Alkire previously worked for the Noble Research Institute as a Livestock Consultant and Consulting Manager for nine years, serving producers in the southern Great Plains. Most recently, he was the Project Manager for the Integrity Beef Sustainability Pilot Project, a collaboration between the Noble Research Institute, Beef Marketing Group, Tyson Foods, Golden State Foods, and McDonald’s.

Alkire has an Animal Science degree from the University of Missouri, a master’s degree from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. He is passionate about helping farmers and ranchers be good stewards of their land resources, having grown up immersed in agriculture in rural Missouri where he continues to be involved in his family’s small row-crop and cattle operation.