Julia Olmstead brings to McKnight a broad knowledge of farm conservation policy and a track record of successful on-the-ground project implementation. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as coordinator for the Farmer-Led Watershed Council Project for University of Wisconsin-Extension, where she designed, launched, and managed a multi-stakeholder agriculture water quality collaborative. The project bridged public agencies (county, state, and federal), farmers, businesses, and nonprofits, and became a regional model for voluntary, watershed-based agriculture conservation.

Previously, she spent four years as senior associate for the rural communities program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. She also has experience working as a news writer for NBC Bay Area News in San Jose, CA, and has published essays, journal articles and opinion pieces widely, including in Crop Science, Smithsonian magazine, and the Los Angeles Times.

Originally from St. Paul, Olmstead has a bachelor’s degree in botany and Spanish from UW-Madison, and two graduate degrees — an Master of Science in plant breeding and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University, and a Master of Journalism from UC-Berkeley.