Original Staff & Board


Susan Alexander

Highfields Center for Composting


Susan is an Agricultural Resource Specialist with the Winooski Conservation District.   She earned her degree in Soil Science from Cornell University and has done graduate work in hydrology.  She brings her keen interest in sustainable agriculture and viable communities to the board.  Susan has extensive professional experience in soil science, hydrogeology, water quality, regulations, solid waste management planning, as well as working directly with farmers.  In her work for the Conservation Districts Susan concentrates on water quality outreach and education to farmers/landowners and is writing the agriculture chapters for the Winooski River and Lake Memphremagog Watershed Plans.

Nicholas Comerci

Highfields Center for Composting

Board President

Nick is a soil conservationist with an animal science degree from Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture, and a Masters in Vocational Agricultural Education. He has been active in natural resource and farm planning for 20 years. Nick is employed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and works with farmers in the northeast kingdom of Vermont on manure management and water quality issues.

Fletcher Dean

Highfields Center for Composting

Fletcher earned his B.A. from Middlebury College. He teaches at the U-32 High School Apartment Program, specializing in independent living skills for transition and employment for students with developmental disabilities. He started the school gardens and helped initiate the cafeteria composting program with students and staff. He is a strong supporter of efforts to integrate sustainability concepts into the curriculum. He brings his experience of eight years as a Board member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, as well as eight years of public relations at Ben and Jerry’s, where he was active in carrying out their Social Mission. He has been a passionate backyard gardener for over thirty years, homesteading with his wife for 20 years in their Calais solar home. He also enjoys volunteering in the community.

Ed Fox

Highfields Center for Composting

Vermont Foodbank

Ed has been with the Vermont Foodbank for 9 years as the Chief Operations Officer. During this time he also served two terms as CO- Interim Chief Executive Officer. Ed came to the nonprofit world in 2003 with over 15 years of corporate manufacturing management experience with B&G Foods, Bombardier Mass Transit and the General Electric Company. He is a 1984 graduate of St Michaels College and in 1989 completed a 3 year corporate leadership management program at Crotonville in New York. He has two grown children in Brooklyn and London and currently lives in Cabot, VT with his wife Karen.

Grace Gershuny

Highfields Center for Composting

Nationally known in the alternative agriculture movement, having worked for over thirty years as an organizer, educator, author and consultant, as well as a local organic market gardener.  She has written several books and numerous articles on soil management and composting, including “The Soul of Soil”, coauthored with Joe Smillie, and “Start with the Soil”, published by Rodale Press.  She was the editor of “Organic Farmer: The Digest of Sustainable Agriculture” for its four year existence. In the seventies and eighties Grace worked for the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) in many capacities, including developing its first organic certification program in 1977, and was a founding member of the Organic Trade Association. 

From 1994-99 she served on the staff of USDA National Organic Program, and was a principal author of its first, much maligned proposed rule.  She is now consulting for the organic industry, doing a few inspections here and there, and working on a book about the real meaning of organic. Grace has taught about gardening and agriculture issues at various schools and colleges, including Goddard, Sterling, Burlington College, and now Prescott College in Arizona.  A long time faculty member at the Institute for Social Ecology, she continues to serve on its Board.  She lives, gardens and composts in Barnet, VT.

David J. Healy

Highfields Center for Composting

Mr. Healy earned his M.S. in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is GIS expert, environmental planner, policy analyst, and manager with 30 years of experience. He has worked as a consultant for the last fifteen years as the owner of his own business and partner in Stone Environmental. He has worked for the federal and state governments in policy, planning and regulatory positions. He is considered a leading innovator in the use of GIS in solving complex analytical and technical problems. 

As a Vice President at Stone Environmental he has led the 30-person company’s efforts in offering Geographic Information System (GIS) and database application services for 13 years. He has been instrumental integrating GIS to all the company’s diverse environmental services. These efforts include using GIS: developing watershed modeling  efforts;  to examine poverty and the vulnerability of at the village level in Africa; to evaluate land use for determining best management practices to control non-point source runoff; to develop methods for using GIS for community management of on-site septic disposal; conducting community build-out analyses to determine phosphorus loading; using GIS tools to screen soils and crop databases for vulnerability to ground water contamination; and last the development of a compost management information system for CVSWMD & NEKWMD. He has provided desktop GIS training to many organizations. He has helped many organizations develop GIS capacity through a thorough understanding of their needs and capacities.

He was the Operations Administrator for the Vermont Center for Geographic Information from 1988 to 1992.

From 1981-1988, Mr. Healy was a Policy Analyst in the Office of the Governor in the State of Vermont. It was there that he developed the plan and drafted the legislation for the Vermont Geographic Information System (VGIS).   He started his career at the Environmental Protection Agency Region IX in 1972 where he worked on  programs for achieving air quality standards in the region.

Mari Omland

Highfields Center for Composting


Mari Omland grew up in the hills around Rutland.  In 2007 she returned to VT with her partner to establish Green Mountain Girls Farm (www.eatstayfarm.com).  Mari was the Director of Conservation for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy based in Harpers Ferry, WV where she launched the AT Mega-Transect and provided leadership and direction for ATC’s four regional offices.  Prior experience included a decade of work with Conservation International where she served on the Executive Management Team.  As Senior Director for CI’s West Africa program Mari led a 6-country, ecosystem-wide process that engaged 90 institutions and determined regional biodiversity conservation priorities.  She was also instrumental in the establishment of Kakum National Park and its canopy walkway, winner of the Condé Nast ecotourism award and the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow award. Omland received a BA from Williams College and a Masters in Organizational Learning at George Mason University.   

Nina Thompson

Highfields Center for Composting

M.Y.O. Biz Consulting

Nina is well experienced in supporting small and medium sized companies of all types to start up, streamline, dissolve, re-imagine, and expand. Prior to launching her consulting business, she served as Community Development Specialist for the City of Montpelier and was Deputy Campaign Manager for the 2006 gubernatorial challenger’s campaign. Nina has extensive experience in food. She was Executive Director for the Vermont Fresh Network from 2000 to 2001 and first came to Vermont as Director of Organizational Development for Farmers Diner, after serving in the same capacity for Michael Jordan’s Restaurant in Chicago.  Nina lives in Montpelier with her partner food and agricultural storyteller and journalist, Sylvia Fagin. 


Jenn Davis

Highfields Center for Composting

Community Compost Coordinator

Jenn is from Moretown, Vermont, and has been involved in grassroots community organizing for the last 15 years. She received her BA in Sociology & Anthropology from Concordia University in Montréal, where she pioneered the Sustainable Concordia project, a multi stakeholder university wide initiative to manage the university’s social, ecological and economic impacts. She coordinated the program for 5 years while community gardening, expanding her interest in urban permaculture, and raising two kiddies. In her spare time, Jenn volunteers with Montreal Birth Companions. At Highfields, Jenn spearheads the development of Close the Loop! Community-based compost progams.

(802) 472-5138 ext. 207

Maia Hansen

Highfields Center for Composting

Close the Loop! Regional Coordinator

A SerVermont Americorps VISTA Member, Maia recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in Biology and a minor in Geology. She is interested in environmental education, conservation, and water and soil management.  Maia is from the Northeast Kingdom and has worked at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps as well as multiple summer camps in Vermont. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, canoeing, skiing and knitting.  During her time at Highfields, she is most excited about developing and leading school compost trainings and helping to create a sustainable food system in Vermont.

(802) 472-5138 ext. 203

James McSweeney

Highfields Center for Composting

Technical Services

James received a BA in Agroecology from Prescott College’s Environmental Studies Program.  He spent two years in Hawaii working on a research program in sustainable agriculture development, with a focus on soil microbiology and plant health in the tropics. James’ is committed to studying and teaching about applying ecological integrity to agricultural systems throughout a wide range of climates including the tropics, drylands and his native temperate northeast.  His work at Highfields includes providing technical assistance and systems design to composters as well as operating our Compost Demonstration and Research Site.

(802) 472-5138 ext. 202

Kim Mercer

Highfields Center for Composting

Communications Manager

Kim is psyched to be working for an environmental non-profit with a strong mission and staff of talented and dedicated Vermonters. She has extensive experience in delivering brand consistency, website maintenance and non-profit marketing. She has worked for Senator Bernie Sanders, the University of Vermont, The Shubert Organization in New York City, and The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH. Kim lives in Jericho with her husband, two children, two cats, 17 hens, and a dog. She serves on her town’s selectboard and strives to attain complete transparency within local government.

(802) 472-5138 x205

Alex Utevsky

Highfields Center for Composting

Technical Services

Alex provides technical services for our partners including composters, farmers, and food scraps generators. He has worked with Highfields since 2011, and brings a range of experience in agricultural and building crafts to his work here. Before joining the Highfields Technical Services program, he managed our Research and Education Facility for two years. Prior to that, Alex worked at Vermont Compost Company, where he managed a commercial flock of laying hens fed exclusively on local food residuals and forage. Alex has worked for several diversified organic farming operations, and as a carpenter, natural builder, and sculptor’s assistant in northern Vermont and New York. He is constantly inspired by the efforts of community composters and others working to build healthy and just food systems.

(802) 472-5138 ext. 202

Karen Wiseman

Highfields Center for Composting

General Manager

Karen has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is certified by the Project Management Institute as a Project Management Professional.  Karen has worked for 19 years in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry in research, design, construction and operations, most recently as the Engineering Manager at a large contract manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals.  She is excited to apply her project and lean operations management skills to utilize every dollar donated to Highfields in the most effective and efficient way.  She is passionate about the health of the earth, enjoys gardening, cooking, playing golf and spending time with her husband and three kids.  Karen is honored to have a part to play in reshaping how we feed ourselves and care for the earth.  As General Manager, Karen ensures the office runs smoothly, staff and customers are happy and our work gets accomplished on time and on budget.

(802) 472-5138 ext. 206