Michael W. Sands

Senior Associate
Mike(at)libertyprairie.org, 847-812-1618

IMG_6944With over 30 years of experience in sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation and community based economic development, Mike has worked on a broad range of innovative projects around the world. Now a Senior Associate of the Liberty Prairie Foundation, he served as the organization’s founding Executive Director from 1995 to 2010.

Mike’s current interests focus on the integration of economically prosperous, ecologically sensitive farms and high quality nature into vibrant protected, working landscapes. He founded and provides leadership to the Farm Business Development Center, a business incubator for beginning organic farmers. The Farm Business Development Center, with regional partners, is developing a land plan and business model for protecting high quality farmland and developing a thriving beginning farmer community to steward and manage that land. In 2008, Mike was one of the founding members and now sits on the steering committee of Fresh Taste, a new collaborative effort encouraging diverse local agriculture and healthy eating for all in Chicago and across Illinois.

From 1995 to 2010, Mike served as Environmental Team Leader at Prairie Crossing, in Grayslake, IL. As a member of the senior management team, Mike provided leadership in the design and management of natural resources and farm lands in the innovative conservation community. He coordinated the project’s ecological and design consultants and designed the environmental education programs for general public and community members.

Prior to moving to Illinois, Mike served as the Managing Director at the Rodale Institute in Emmaus, PA. Joining the Institute as International Programs Director built on his experience living overseas running small farmer development programs in Kenya (1980-1982) and Panama/Costa Rica (1982-1984).

For the past two years, Mike has led an effort to redevelop an old abandoned factory in rural Virginia. The redeveloped building is partially occupied by Virginia Chutney, where Mike serves on the board. In his spare time, Mike spends early mornings stringing electric fence, fixing water lines and watching lambs being born at Bean Hollow Grassfed in Flint Hill, VA. Bean Hollow Grassfed started with 100 Dorper ewes and 25 weaned Angus steers to demonstrate that livestock can be an effective tool to restore soil health and plant diversity. Mike works for the Liberty Prairie Foundation in a part-time capacity.

Mike was a member of the first class (70F) at Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, and went on to receive an MS and Ph.D. in Animal Science from Cornell University. He is married with two sons, born in Kenya and Panama.

Mike can be reached at mike(at)libertyprairie.org or 847-812-1618. When he is in town, his office is located at the Yellow Farmhouse.