Jennifer W.S. Paulson 

Executive Director 

Jennifer originally joined Food Works in 2017 to manage the indoor winter farmers market, spearhead Food Works' food access program, and coordinate the Southern Illinois Farming Alliance. Jennifer became executive director in 2018- Food Works' 10th year!

Paulson brings to Food Works over a decade of experience engaging stakeholders and coordinating projects using her skills in management and design. Before coming to Food Works, Jennifer worked at the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin where she cared for thousands of objects of art and manuscripts, and managed and trained university students and volunteers. Paulson was also co-owner of Carsonhill Ceramic Studio, selling handmade pottery in farmers markets and art fairs thoughout the Austin area. She has also taught art and design courses in several universities and community colleges. Paulson relocated back to Southern Illinois in 2016 where she lives on a farmstead in Cobden. In addition to growing food with her family, she loves to paint and draw in her art studio, is a passionate home cook, and a strong believer in the importance of a robust local food economy.

Paulson earned a Master of Fine Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Columbus College of Art and Design.

Libby Ervin

Assistant Director

Libby joined Food Works as the SIFA Coordinator & then later as the Community Farmers Market Manager in 2019. She also assists in supporting local farmers markets with Link match and she is involved with the Buy Fresh Buy Local & ReGenerate Illinois statewide collaborations. Her and her husband Derek moved to Southern IL from Chicago in '17 after inheriting his Grandfathers Farm. They started their farm, Glaciers End in Johnston City, while taking the Food Works Farm Beginnings class. Since then, they have immersed themselves in everything they can related to farming, agriculture and networking in Southern IL. They started an orchard on their farm as well as trying to utilize as much as they can from their land. They are in several farmers markets throughout Southern IL as well as LEAF Food Hub. Libby has worked with Seniors and the Disabled for over 20 years and has experience in business, training, education and community outreach.

Ellen Esling

Carbondale Community Farmers Market Manager

Ellen is passionate about place-based storytelling. She grew up in southern Illinois, the fifth generation of her family’s 140-year farm legacy, Lipe Orchards. In 2023, Ellen started Local Lore Farm, where she creates her own ice cream with naturally-grown botanicals, as well as other regionally produced ingredients. In addition to ice cream, Ellen has planted heirloom apple trees, medicinal and culinary herbs, and is hosting film festivals and other community events.

She has her MFA in Media Arts (2018) from Southern Illinois University, as well as a Master of Science in Geography (2022), with a thesis exploring local food in Southern Illinois. Ellen was a graduate of the Food Works Farm Beginnings program, a former Food Works board member, and is thrilled to begin work as a staff member!

Karen Jensen-Britton

Mobile Farmers Market Manager

Karen is a Southern Illinois University-Carbondale graduate, where she majored in Zoology. A lot like most Southern Illinois transplants, she fell in love with the area during her years of school and never left. Karen and her husband, Adam, own Indian Creek Kennel in Carbondale. Karen keeps large vegetable and flower gardens on the property and raises chickens for egg production and has interest in growing her small farm. Karen has a strong passion for supporting the local food movement as well as local small business. Karen has been a long time supporter of Food Works and is excited to continue encouraging local startups to grow the local industry. She has been involved in micro farming for close to 20 years and continues to grow her knowledge and understanding of gardening, animal husbandry, and permaculture and its benefit to the soil and community.

Sam Mauro

Mobile Farmers Market Assistant

Sam is an east coast transplant and moved to Southern Illinois with her husband in 2022. After years of working in a corporate environment, she left to travel the world and found herself volunteering on a cacao farm in Hawaii. This was her first taste of farm life and found that it suited her being much more than she could have anticipated. She's since worked on other small, organic farms, including BeetRoot Farm here in Carbondale, and she also owned her own bean-to-bar chocolate company back in Connecticut. Sam is a self-proclaimed food nerd and is passionate about eating locally and an advocate for food accessibility.

Jennifer Duensing

Coordinator of Farmer Training Programs

Jennifer owns a small diverse Heritage Farm with her husband Jason near Prairie du Rocher Il called Illinois Country Harvest. They proudly grow heirloom and native flowers, fruits and vegetables, heritage grains and raise heritage pigs using all natural, sustainable practices. Jennifer is passionate about holistic farm planning and practices in all aspects and loves sharing that passion with others.

Kyle McAdams

Operations Coordinator

Kyle McAdams is our new Operations Coordinator at Food Works. He has over 20 years of experience in small business administration and will help Food Works behind the scenes as we grow. Kyle and his husband Brian graduated from the Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings program of 2021-2022 and own Pink Tiger Farm, just south of Goreville. They grow crops, such as ginger, garlic, and chilis, for their value-added products while focusing on restoring biodiversity and native habitats to their land.

Elizabeth DeRuntz

Project Manager

Liz is joining Food Works after 6 years as the Operations Manager for the Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers and having successfully co-written several grants to fund the Food Works Mobile Farmers Market. Her new position at Food Works, as a project manager will include grant writing for all of Food Works programs. Liz is a graduate of the 2015 Farm Beginnings class, but has not realized her farm dream. (Maybe someday). Having grown up in rural Iowa she has a deep connection to sustainable farming and agriculture. She is a 2019 graduate of SIU’s MBA program and is passionate about her new business ventureThe Nutty Pig Cookie Co.

Past Staff

Margie Sawicki

Farm Beginnings Facilitator

Margie Sawicki facilitates the Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings program and writes grants for Food Works. She owns Acorn Ridge Farm, a small permaculture farm near Dongola, Illinois. Figs, asparagus and elderberries are her primary focus with herbs, summer berries, flowers and other fruits used to fill in the gaps. She completed the Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings program in 2017 and the University of Illinois New Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers program in 2016. Following sustainable farming practices, she grows for market, produces handcrafted herbal products and most recently started a cottage food operation.

Margie is a retired registered dietitian and returned to southern Illinois in 2017 after teaching at Saint Louis University (SLU) for nearly 25 years. A graduate of SIU-C, she became a community dietitian, participated in federally funded research grants and joined a team of faculty at SLU to establish an urban farm focused on organic principles, sustainability, and permaculture. She studied public policy, continued teaching and mentoring in sustainable agriculture. Since 2000, Marjorie has been actively involved in farmers’ markets, farm-to-school and farm-to-table programming, culinary/gardening camps for kids, growing food to reduce heart disease risk in the Missouri Bootheel, and creating a an urban permaculture orchard. She provided public service to the Illinois Local Food, Farms & Jobs Council, Illinois Cottage Food Act Task Force and the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity.

Dayna Conner


Dayna has been an active good food advocate since 1998 and has experience as a Biointensive food production teacher, a small business director and child educator. She is the founder of the learning gardens at River Oaks Elementary in Austin, Texas, where she taught sustainable gardening to Pre-K through 5th grades. She is also co-founder and former executive director of the Green Corn Project urban food garden initiative in Austin.

Dayna lived most of her life in the central San Joaquin Valley in California and is the granddaughter of migrant farm workers. She believes that access to healthy food is a right of all people, and that the landbase - the water, topsoil, and all living communities that interact with them - should be protected at all costs. In establishing Food Works, Dayna created practical programs to ensure that food grown in Southern Illinois is produced and marketed in ways that respect and honor growers and the living communities of which they are a part. After working in the Carbondale community for 11 years and serving as Executive Director of Food Works since 2008, Dayna moved on in December 2014 and returned to California.

Kathleen Logan-Smith

Kathleen is a long time food and environmental activist. Most recently, she served as Executive Director of Food Works from 2014-2018. She has consulted on research on Missouri permitted livestock operations and conducted outreach to communities on local food systems. While serving as Environmental Policy Director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, she edited the 59-county, bi-state St. Louis Regional Food System Study which examined health, food, and farming with an aim to promote local, sustainable food in Missouri and Illinois. Prior to serving as Policy Director, she was Executive Director of MCE from 2006-2013 helping grow the organization and diversify its support. Her work in environmental advocacy revealed the links among soil health, water quality, human health and farm policy and prompted her to turn her attention to food systems.

Kathleen now lives and works in Missouri but she continues to support Food Works and Southern IL any chance that she can.

Reanna Putnam

Reanna served as the Farmers Market Program Manager and Farming Alliance Program Specialist at Food Works. She was responsible for the operations of the Community Farmers Market (CCFM) and provided leadership, oversight and organization for the market. Reanna successfully built partnerships and secured funding for a double value incentive program at the Community Farmers bringing in new low-income customers and increasing SNAP sales at the market. Reanna also facilitated the Farming Alliance.

Reanna relocated to North Carolina in August 2017.
Food Works is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a sustainable food economy in Southern Illinois.
Food Works
PO Box 3855
Carbondale, IL 62901
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