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Meet the VACD Team


Jill Arace
Executive Director

Jill has nearly thirty years of non-profit management and sustainable development experience, mostly overseas. She lived and worked in Thailand and Cambodia for eleven years, managing relief and development programs for several organizations. She returned to the US to attend graduate school, where she earned two masters degrees – one in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and the other in Economics from Boston University. After graduate school, Jill moved to one of her favorite places – Vermont – where she worked for eleven years at the Institute for Sustainable Communities managing civic participation and sustainable development programs. After traveling the world, Jill began learning more about conservation and community development in Vermont and in the beautiful Mad River Valley, where she lives and facilitates sustainable agriculture initiatives. Jill is particularly interested in supporting local food production and building bridges between different segments of the community. 

Jeff Farber
Technical Programs Manager
Jeff has had a long and varied career of non-profit administration, project management, and conservation activities. He has served on the Middlesex Planning Commission for the past five years, is restoring a forgotten farm apple orchard, raising organic fruits and vegetables and managing the woodlot on his 10 acres. Before coming to VACD in 2008, Jeff served on the staff of UVM's Division of Continuing Education, where he designed and managed distance learning programs for post-graduate professionals. Jeff is also a self-employed media producer developing award-winning documentary films and projects focusing on conservation and social change issues. He brings a wide range of managerial experiences and a strong commitment to conservation work to his position as VACD's Technical Programs Manager.
Carrie Youngblood
Office Manager
The manager and bookkeeper of our virtual office is the current business office manager of Black River Design Architects. Carrie Youngblood is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has lived in Vermont for more than 30 years. Her previous office/financial positions have included the non-profits Downstreet Housing, VPIRG, Heaton Woods Assisted Living Facility, and Turtle Island Children's Center, as well as four years at Solar Works (now Real Good Solar). Carrie lives in Montpelier and is active in the United Church of Christ, currently a member of Bethany Church, Montpelier, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Vermont Conference where she was Moderator of the 2011 Annual Meeting. She is also the Treasurer of the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra and sings in the Vermont Philharmonic Chorus.
Joanne Dion
Program Assistant

Joanne Dion is a Program Assistant in the Middlebury NRCS office and also works part-time as the Program Assistant for VACD. She was previously employed as an office manager at  Vermont Adult Learning (VAL).  Prior to working at VAL, she was a program services clerk at the Vermont Fire Academy in Pittsford.  She’s also worked as a hot lunch lady! She left VAL in April 2015 to join her daughter and her family in Greeley, Colorado to assist them with the preparation of having their 2nd child, selling their house and packing up the moving truck for the road trip to Vermont where her son-in-law secured a teaching/research position at UVM.  She is thrilled that her grandchildren are now close by, and she is the proud mother of 4.  She is an advocate for recycling, composting and reducing waste of all kinds.  She enjoys walking, camping, growing red zinnias in the summertime and quiet time in the morning with a good cup of coffee.

Luke Rackers
Communications Coordinator

Luke Rackers loves to learn new things, help people solve problems, tell stories, inspire creativity, and build community. As a two-time Goddard graduate (BA ‘09 & MFA ‘12), Luke fell in love with the Vermont landscape and culture, inspiring a move to the state in the fall of 2016. He is the founder and Executive Director of a nonprofit arts organization that is dedicated to supporting the work of living composers and encouraging creativity in the 21st Century. Luke grew up on a family farm in central Missouri and designed a small urban farm in Denver, CO. He is very excited to build on his agricultural and environmental roots through his new position as Communications Coordinator for the VACD. Luke and his spouse, Tonya, live in Montpelier with their spry hound dog, Sprocket. Most of his free time is spent teaching piano and composition lessons, performing new music, keeping Sprocket out of trouble, container gardening, and enjoying the beautiful Vermont outdoors and local food scene.

Troy Dare
Rural Fire Protection Program Manager
Born and raised in Rockland, Maine, Troy grew up enjoying life on the ocean as a Rockland High School Tiger dabbling in cross country, track, drama and other theater groups. He also developed a strong passion for guitar and music. After high school he attended Vermont Technical College majoring in Civil Engineering Technology. In the summer months he worked as a Stern-man on a few lobster boats and played guitar in a few professional rock bands. During his senior year at VTC, Troy did work-study for the Vermont Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Councils Vermont Rural Fire Protection Task Force on the Rural Fire Protection initiative. In the spring of 1998 the VT Legislature started funding the Dry Hydrant Grant Program and Troy has worked as the Engineering Technician for that program for 15 years until the RC&D's closed their doors in 2013. Troy has now moved on to become the Rural Fire Protection Program Manager for the VACD to continue the Dry Hydrant Grant Program and help evolve the Rural Fire Protection Program to another level of service & support for Vermont communities & Fire Departments.
Susie Walsh Daloz
NRCC/VACD Agriculture Programs Manager
Susie has been immersed in agriculture and education since she graduated from Oberlin College in 2000. She has managed a diverse set of farm-based projects from a large vegetable CSA to a university-based farmer training program. At The Food Project in Boston, The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley and at various projects in between, Susie worked to connect people to their food, the land and the endlessly complex world of food systems. As the founding Director of UVM Continuing Education’s Farmer Training Program, Susie thrived on supporting aspiring farmers in building knowledge and skills for a career in sustainable agriculture. In her work at the Institute for Social and Economic Development, she brought her program management and farmer training experience to support and enhance refugee farmer incubator projects across the country. She loves the sight of steam rising from the compost pile, the satisfaction of getting hay in before it rains, the taste of over-wintered spinach in early spring and the humbling feeling that there is always more to learn about farming. Susie lives in Middlesex with her husband, two daughters and five lucky chickens.


Meet the VACD Technical Staff


Clarice Cutler
DEC RCPP Conservation Planner, Middlebury
Born and raised in VT, Clarice returned to VT in 2015 after living in Oregon and Washington for six years. While out west, Clarice wrote her undergraduate thesis on the distribution of conservation easements in the US and directed a cooperative weed management area. Clarice is transitioning to VACD/NRCS from the Vermont Land Trust where she conducted annual easement monitoring and supported new farm projects. Clarice is looking forward to continuing to work with conserved farmers at VACD. In her spare time Clarice can be found exploring the mountains and waterways of the northeast with her husband Jonnie and dog Khoda.
Tucker Malone
South Lake Champlain Cartographic Technician, Rutland & Middlebury
Tucker is a 7th generation Vermonter who grew up on a small dairy farm in Franklin County. His experience dairy farming sparked a passion for agriculture and conservation. He followed this passion to Johnson State College where he majored in Biology. Along the way taking many courses with a conservation focus. While at Johnson Tucker completed an internship with Cold Hollow to Canada as their Mapping Specialist Intern. After graduating in May 2017 Tucker followed his passion for conservation to VACD as a Cartographic Technician in the Middlebury Field Office, where he assisted land treatment planners in creating maps to aid in the implementation of land treatment plans. This experience sparked a deeper interest in Land Treatment Planning. In December Tucker was able to transition to Land Treatment Planner in the St. Albans Field office, where is able to work closely with farmers to implement land treatment plans in the North West Region of the state.
Keegan Griffith
Cartographic/Land Treatment Planner
Keegan Griffith grew up in New York and after high school he spent a year in Finland as an exchange student and used it as an opportunity to experience Finnish culture before starting college at Plattsburgh State University. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science from Plattsburgh State. After which he began a graduate program at the W.H. Miner Institute and the University of Vermont in the plant and soil science department. His project looked at erosion and nutrient runoff from corn silage production on some research plots planted with a winter rye cover crop. Cover crops, Keegan says, "are like a fridge, they keep the nutrients fresh for the spring." In his free time, he can be found outside riding his bikes or hiking. Keegan is looking forward to exploring the area and making new friends.
Joseph Bondi
Wetlands Restoration Technician
Joe Bondi is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. He graduated with a degree in Environmental Science, focusing on ecology and organismal biology. For the past two years, Joe has served as an ECO AmeriCorps member with a local non-profit in Northwestern Vermont and in the NRCS state office in Colchester. Joe has a passion for wetlands and forest ecosystems and spends most of his time exploring their wonders. He is excited to bring his passion to the VACD team and help get things done in NRCS’ Wetland Reserve Easement Program. In his spare time, Joe enjoys exploring Vermont’s mountains, spending time with friends, and hanging out with Champ by the lake.
Julia Grey
Conservation & Easement Program Assistant
Julia received her masters degree in historic preservation from UVM, and has a varied background in customer service, insurance, and nonprofit work. With an undergraduate background in cultural anthropology, Julia has spent time abroad researching indigenous Andean cultural practices in northern Chile. She has held internships in conservation easement monitoring and preservation planning, and most recently authored a historic context of village greens throughout Vermont. She hopes to use her position at VACD to further the goal of building sustainable communities in Vermont. While not at work, you may find her hiking and cross country skiing with her husband and their two little girls or in her bee yard.
Michelle Smith
Land Treatment Planner

Michelle joined VACD in the summer of 2011 as a CREP planner and is now working as a Land Treatment Planner. Prior to her role with VACD, Michelle worked as a Conservation\GIS Technician with USDA Farm Service Agency for more than four years where she gained extensive experience in GIS and conservation programs. Michelle is a MA native but has been living in Vermont for over thirteen years. She earned her undergraduate degree at Green Mountain College in environmental studies with double minors in biology and geology. As a graduate student, Michelle studied environmental sciences with a focus in conservation biology. She attributes her life-long love of the environment largely to her parents, who always encouraged her to explore the outdoors through backpacking, hiking, and family canoe trips.

Lauren Newman
Cartographic Technician

Lauren grew up in Ohio and moved to Vermont to pursue a degree in forestry from the University of Vermont. She spent her summers in Ohio working in a leasing office and helping people find apartments. Lauren discovered her love of working with spatial data and GIS after taking Intro to Geographic Information Systems and decided to pursue a minor in Geospatial Technologies. Her capstone project was working to create a planting prioritization map for the Winooski Tree Board looking at spatial data, inspiring her to continue working with GIS in Vermont.

Jimmy Young
Land Treatment Planner

Jimmy graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor of Science degree in Energy & Environmental Policy. He also completed a Graduate Certificate in Wetlands & Water Resource Management from the University of Florida. Before joining VACD’s technical staff, Jimmy served as an ECO AmeriCorp member with the Northwest Regional Planning Commission and the Missisquoi River Basin Association in Northwest Vermont. As a Land Treatment Planner, he hopes to gain a deeper understanding of agricultural-water quality concerns in the state and learn as much as he can about conservation planning through various inventory analysis tools. In his spare time, Jimmy enjoys going to concerts/music festivals, snowboarding, and chilling by Lake Champlain with friends.

Brittany Choiniere
Land Treatment Planner

Brittany Choiniere is a native Vermonter from Orleans County with a passion for agriculture and water quality. In 2014 she earned a B.S. in Integrated Environmental Science and wrote a thesis on cumulative precipitation and temperature data from 2000-2013 and its relationship for climate change in Vermont, called “A Comparative Study of Local Climates in Vermont”. While at Northern Vermont University – Johnson she participated in Vermont EPSCoR’s Research on Adaption to Climate Change (RACC) program, which lead to her weather data and analysis thesis. Prior to joining VACD she was apart of Crothers Environmental Group, LLC as an Indoor Air Quality Specialist. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, fishing, kayaking and hunting with her husband Josh and German Shepard Winston.

Cindy Watrous
Land Treatment Planner

Cindy Watrous grew up in Piermont, NH on a small dairy farm.  She attended Becker Junior College earning an Associate of Applied Science for Veterinary Assistant.  Cindy was a Dairy Herd Improvement Association Technician for 23 years and enjoyed her work with the farmers in Addison County.  Cindy received her training on GIS from FSA and joined VACD in December of 2006 as a Land Treatment Planner covering Addison, Rutland and Bennington Counties. Cindy owns a small sheep farm and is a fiber artist who dyes and processes her own sheep’s wool into felted creations.   In her spare time, Cindy enjoys gardening, seeking treasures at yard sales, repurposing items and spending time with her two grand-daughters. 

Lauren Gibson
Conservation Programs Technical Coordinator

Lauren began working with VACD as a Land Treatment Planner in the spring of 2015 in the St. Albans NRCS Field Office, and she is the now the Conservation Programs Technical Coordinator. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology and has done graduate work in wildlife biology. She moved to Vermont in 2013 with her husband after living in 7 other states working on various wildlife management projects. Lauren grew up on Long Island, New York and has always had a passion for wildlife and the outdoors, fostered mainly by her father. She is an avid birdwatcher and enjoys kayaking and hiking. She gardens exclusively with native plants and propagates her own wildflowers.

Brittany Cole
Conservation Planner

Brittany, a native to Franklin county in northwestern Vermont, graduated from Plattsburgh State University with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology. During her undergraduate years Brittany focused on wildlife ecosystems and completed two independent research projects; the first focused on white-tail deer behaviors over a season gradient in urban, rural, and agricultural settings and the second examined utilizing beaver baffles for dams and culverts. After graduation Brittany returned to her Franklin county agricultural roots with VACD and since has been furthering her knowledge on water quality and soil health while aiding the small, conserved farms. While not at work Brittany enjoys hiking, nature walking, or simply relaxing outside with her dogs.

Olivia Whittemore
Land Treatment Planner

Born and raised a stones throw away from the Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, Olivia moved to Vermont in 2012 to attend Saint Michael’s College. She earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies and International Relations, and wrote her undergraduate thesis on the water footprint of livestock production. Olivia is passionate about supporting local, sustainable food systems, and working within Vermont’s strong non-profit community. Prior to joining VACD in 2017, she was a livestock and produce apprentice at Simple Gifts Farm, a diversified organic farm in Amherst, MA. Most of her free time is spent exploring the local food scene, bouldering, container gardening, or expanding her house plant collection.

Justin Michaud
Land Treatment Planner/Conservation Planner

Justin Michaud is a native Vermonter who grew up on a family dairy farm. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Sierra Nevada College and a Master of Science degree in Biology from Eastern Kentucky University. Justin joined the VACD team in 2015 and currently works as a Land Treatment Planner and Conservation Planner in the Newport field office. He loves playing with his two children, working on a diversified farm, fishing, gardening, and snowboarding.