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MFT is thrilled to celebrate the promotion of Policy & Research Director Ellen Stern Griswold into a new leadership position as Vice President and Deputy Director.
Ellen will be second to President & CEO Amy Fisher, and her responsibilities will include deepening MFT’s policy, research and Farm Network programs; bolstering MFT’s capacity to secure public funding; ensuring that farmers’ needs continue to be at the center of our policy priorities; defining MFT’s climate strategy; launching a new initiative to help MFT better measure the success of our programs; and overseeing core administrative areas.
“I am excited to work alongside Amy and our entire staff to integrate and develop MFT’s programming,” said Ellen. “This organization has already accomplished so much. As we look ahead, there are a number of opportunities and challenges facing farmers, but MFT will be there to provide support for a vibrant and thriving agricultural sector in Maine.”
In her announcement, Amy shared, “In my brief time at the helm of Maine Farmland Trust we’ve had to rise to the challenge of PFAS contamination on Maine farms. Ellen Griswold has been a proactive and strategic partner in delivering results for Maine farmers, and it is clear that we will be able to accomplish so much more for agriculture in Maine by elevating her to a greater leadership role.”
Over the past five years as Policy & Research Director, Ellen has led MFT’s state and federal policy work, working with farmers and partners to achieve myriad successes, including the establishment of a $60 million state fund to support PFAS-impacted farmers and further PFAS research, and a state ban on the land application of PFAS-contaminated sewage sludge and compost made from that sludge. Ellen’s policy work has also supported the provision of $40 million for the Land for Maine’s Future Program, and the establishment of the Maine Healthy Soils Program and the Maine Nutrition Incentive Fund.
Ellen has also been a strong leader and collaborator in partnerships across the state to drive policies that advance farming and climate resilience in Maine. As a member of the Maine Climate Council’s Natural and Working Lands Working Group, Ellen secured more support for climate friendly agricultural practices and farmland conservation in Maine’s updated climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait: A Four-Year Plan for Climate Action. Ellen advocated within the state’s Agricultural Solar Siting Stakeholder Group and at the Legislature to advance more balanced solar siting frameworks in Maine to minimize impacts to important agricultural resources.
“Ellen believes in Maine’s farmers,” said Penny Jordan of Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth. “I have worked with people over the years [who] might have listened, but they did not hear. Ellen listens and hears and can then clearly articulate the needs of the group she is working with, and work to develop approaches, ideas, and designs. The fact that Ellen will be working across departments at MFT and will seek tighter connections with farm partners – you couldn’t have picked a better person.”
Ellen has also organized a statewide collaborative effort with farmers and partners to hear directly from farmers about policies to strengthen farm businesses and grow Maine’s agricultural sector. This effort culminated in a final report that synthesized all of the feedback into the top needs and priorities of Maine farmers, which MFT and many of its partners have used to inform policy and programmatic work.
“I am excited to see a strong leadership team at Maine Farmland Trust, an organization that is doing important work to support agriculture in our state,” said Amanda Beal, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and former MFT President and CEO. “I had the pleasure of working with Ellen in my time at MFT and greatly appreciate her dedication and desire to utilize her talents for the benefit of Maine farmers.”
Prior to joining MFT, Ellen Griswold practiced federal energy regulatory law for eight years in Washington, DC, working on the development of energy policy in Congress and advising clients on energy and environmental regulatory requirements. Her deep personal interest in the structure of our food system – and its implications for agriculture producers, the environment, and public health – led her to pursue a new career in agriculture and food policy. She obtained her LL.M. in Food and Agriculture Law from Vermont Law School, her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, and her BA in Public Policy from Brown University.
“Ellen’s expertise at the intersection of law, policy, research and engagement has broadened MFT’s impact,” commented MFT Board Chair Meredith Eilers. “Through her work, Ellen has been able to strengthen MFT’s role in critical agricultural issues and conversations across the state, such as solar siting, climate resilience, processing infrastructure and broadband expansion. We are so lucky to have her in this new role at MFT.”