McKnight Hires Mississippi River Program Officer

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The McKnight Foundation has hired Julia Olmstead as Mississippi River program officer. She will join the Foundation on May 9, 2016.

Julia Olmstead brings to the Foundation a decade of experience working to foster greater environmental sustainability in agricultural landscapes. With a broad knowledge of farm conservation policy and a track record of successful on-the-ground project implementation, she has the proven ability to turn strategic program vision into real-world action.

Since 2013, Olmstead had 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, Smithsonianmagazine, 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 M.S. in plant breeding and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University, and an M.J. in journalism from UC-Berkeley.            

The goal of McKnight's Mississippi River program is to restore the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River. In 2015, about 10% (roughly $8.5 million) of McKnight’s total payout went to support this goal.



The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. Founded in 1953 and independently endowed by William and Maude McKnight, the Minnesota-based Foundation had assets of approximately $2.2 billion and granted about $88 million in 2015.  

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