CEFS Graduate Student Fellowships

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The Center for Environmental Farming Systems Graduate Fellows Program was developed to provide financial support and recognition for the future leaders, researchers and contributors in sustainable agriculture and local food systems while they pursue academic research to further the field of study.

CEFS Graduate Fellows Program at NC State University


CEFS Graduate Fellows Program at NC A&T State University



2019 Cohort – NC State

Cindy Flowers

Hannah Levenson | Ph.D. Candidate | Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. David Tarpy

Pollinators are facing pressures from a wide range of factors – such as habitat loss, increased monoculture, and pathogens – which can lead to severe population declines. To combat this, providing pollinators with planted habitat has become an increasingly popular conservation method; however, there are still many knowledge gaps on the impact of this conservation method. Hannah’s research evaluates these impacts by surveying native bee populations at planted habitat across the state over time, which will result in the most detailed survey of native bees in NC to date. Additionally, Hannah is evaluating pollinator health at the habitats as well as the effect the presence of this habitat has on nearby crop pollination and the resulting yield. Results from this research will fill important knowledge gaps and aid in making future conservation decisions.

Timothy Clark | Ph.D. Candidate | Department of Sociology and Anthropology| NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Stefano B. Longo

Timothy is a PhD candidate in Sociology at North Carolina State University. His dissertation research examines the disparate effects of economic development on labor and ecology in aquatic food systems and communities. His work connects supply chain management to other issues of social justice, such as food security and community economic well-being. At NC State, Timothy also teaches several courses in the sociology department and volunteers his time with the Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Student Association (SAGSA). In addition to the university, Timothy has worked and volunteered with urban and semi-urban organic farms for several years, which allowed him to cultivate passions for gardening and sustainable food production. In the coming years, he hopes to learn more about local seafood supply chains and the potential for increasing ties across them so as to encourage sustainable food system growth. Timothy also earned his Master’s in Sustainability Studies at Texas State University, where he studied how city governments implement policies related to sustainability, social equity, and food security.

2018 Cohort – N.C. A&T

Cindy Flowers

Cindy N. Flowers | College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences | NC A&T

Cindy N. Flowers is a lifelong North Carolina resident with a passion for the growing NC’s local food system, food equity and helping people eat well. She has worked in the local and regional grocery food business for over a decade as well as on small farms and organizations promoting sustainable farming. Cindy is an advocate for small producers and began her degree because of her love for promoting participants in her community’s Small Business Center. Cindy holds a certificate in Sustainable Livestock Management from Central Carolina Community College. Cindy’s current research at NC A&T is retail price seasonality among common food items to find cost-saving trends for consumers on a budget. She enjoys raising heritage ducks and geese and is a proud parent to her toddler, Everette.

Janet Osawere

Janet Osawere | MS Student | Agribusiness and Food Industry Management | NC A&T

My interest focuses on Agricultural Economics, Finance & Marketing, Farm Management, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics. I am currently working on farm financial analysis for small-scale farmers. My research topic is titled “Farm financial analysis for small-scale, organic mixed vegetable operations.”  This focuses on preparing farm financial statements and guiding small-scale, organic mixed vegetable farmers to better understand the importance of having farm financial statements for their farm operations. In 2015, I graduated with a first class in Agricultural Economics, Bowen University, Nigeria. At Bowen University, my research focused on the effect of price fluctuation on the retail marketing of tomatoes. I analyzed the behavior of prices over a period of 5 years with a focus on identifying the causes of tomato price fluctuation, the behavior of prices and how it affects the retail marketers.

Yaqeen Salatneh

Yaqeen Salatneh | Ph.D. Student | Computational Science and Engineering | NC A&T

My name is Yaqeen Salatneh and I’m originally from Palestine. When I finished high school, I chose to study computer engineering at An-Najah National University in Palestine. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. Then I moved to Greensboro, North Carolina and finished my Master’s degree in Computational Science and Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University in December 2017.  Currently, I am a Ph.D. student in Computational Science and Engineering.  My research study focuses on identifing weeds from crops using image processing analysis for organic small farms.  During my time at North Carolina A&T State University, I took many courses that have given me the skill set to be successful in this field. Being a Computer Engineer major, I found a passion for Digital Image Processing Analysis.

2018 Cohort – NC State University

Jordan Cox-O'Neill

Jordan Cox-O’Neill | Ph.D. Student | Animal Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Carrie Pickworth

Jordan’s research pertains to grazing stocker cattle on winter cover crops following corn grain harvest to provide economic and environmental benefits for crop farmers. This systems approach is targeted to best utilize available resources while maintaining overall sustainability. Animal performance, soil health, corn grain yield, and cover crop forage production will be monitored during the grazing and crop production process and an economic analysis will be performed. She hopes this project validates the importance and beneficial gain of diversifying farms through crop-livestock integration. Her diverse disciplinary project attempts to analyze the whole system in an effort to provide valuable information to farmers and ranchers as they make important operation decisions.

Jinlong Han

Jinlong Han | Ph.D. Student | Plant Pathology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Dorith Rotenberg

Tomato spotted wilt orthotospovirus (TSWV) is transmitted by minute insects called thrips. Jinlong’s research is focused on the interaction between TSWV and western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), which is one of the most widely distributed and efficient transmitters of TSWV worldwide and locally in North Carolina. The initial infection of thrips gut tissue by TSWV is prerequisite for successful virus transmission to plants. Jinlong will investigate the biological response of gut tissue before and after virus infection at gene level and to identify which molecules within thrips gut tissue will interact with viruses for initiating the infection process. The ultimate goal of this research is to integrate the latest findings in virus-insect interaction with all other practical controls for developing and optimizing the alternative, sustainable strategies.

Tim Kloppe

Tim Kloppe | Ph.D. Student | Plant Pathology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Christina Cowger

Diversion from GAP guidelines caused a loss in fungicide efficacy and a breakdown of resistance in wheat production systems against the common fungal, powdery mildew disease in North Carolina and across the world. A very recent breakdown of a highly effective and durable resistance mechanism has led Tim to characterize the molecular-genetic relationship of wheat and the causal agent of the disease, Blumeria graminis f.sp. tritici (Bgt). He expends his research on the detection of the genes involved in this relationship by (1) collecting strains from Bgt-populations worldwide, (2) quantifying the potential of those strains to break plant resistance in machine-aided infection assays, (3) analyzing the DNA of those strains and (4) comparing those genetic signatures with the phenomenon of broken resistance.

Eliot Lee

Eliot Lee | MBA Candidate | Jenkins Graduate School of Management | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Dunning

CEFS Compass Group USA Graduate Fellow

Eliot’s studies are focused on understanding the current state of local, sustainable food value chains in the region to provide recommendations and possible solutions to developing more equitable and efficient processes. He will be supporting Compass Group’s efforts to drive compliance in product specification and sustainability initiatives. Prior to graduate school, he was an intern on the Small Farm Unit at CEFS’ Field Research, Education, and Outreach Facility at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro.

Joe Milone

Joseph Milone | Ph.D. Student | Entomology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. David R. Tarpy

Honey bee colonies are challenged by a variety of stressors simultaneously, including chemical exposure from multiple pesticides. Joe’s work takes a top-down approach to pollinator toxicology and utilizes pesticide residue data from commercial honey bee colonies to test field-relevant mixtures of chemicals and their effects on colony health. His current project seeks to better understand the impact of pesticides on queen reproductive health and the potential for interactions between pathogens and pesticides. Testing pesticide mixtures and their interactions with alternative stressors allows for a higher degree of realism and helps build on existing research focusing on single pesticides and stressors.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith | MS Student | Crop and Soil Sciences | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. James B. Holland

Matthew’s research focuses on southeastern-adapted heirloom food corn varieties. He is selecting within individual heirloom populations to maintain the food quality and original genetic makeup of these varieties while improving agronomic traits for the modern grower. Matthew’s work is directed towards providing new options for small growers to serve their local communities with the high quality heirloom products that local chefs and consumers want without the profitability concerns of unimproved heirlooms.

Andrew Smolski

Andrew Smolski | Ph.D. Student | Sociology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Stefano B. Longo

Andrew’s research investigates the impact of social structure on the development of sustainable agri-food systems. This involves examining how access to resources, property rights, and decision-making affects the ability of participants in the local food movement to enact their goals. With this research, Andrew seeks to increase the urban capacity for socially just and sustainable agricultural production. In ongoing research, he and co-authors use historical and statistical data to analyze urban food distribution in Mexico City and New York City, publishing results that demonstrate the positive benefits of public infrastructure for more equitable outcomes.


2017 Cohort – NC State University

Nicholas Basinger | Ph.D. Student | Horticultural Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Katie M. Jennings

Nicholas has a research focus on novel weed detection methods in agronomic and vegetable crop systems. His research focuses on utilizing specific light wavelengths, reflected off different plants to remotely distinguish weeds from crop species. One of his projects is to determine which wavelengths of light can be utilized for discriminating between plant species. His other project focuses on the impact various weed densities have on yields and the reflected wavelengths of light of soybean and sweet potato. Ultimately, the goal of these projects is to determine a remote weed detection method with the end result of managing weeds only where they are present.

Nicholas graduated in 2018.  Visit his LinkedIn page here.
Sam Ingram

Sam Ingram | Ph.D. Student | Animal Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Matt Poore

Sam’s research focuses on the renovation of toxic infected tall fescue pastures utilizing no-till smother (cover) crops. Soil health, agronomic performance and animal performance will be monitored during the renovation strategy and an economic analysis will be performed. Sam also has projects in finishing cattle in a pasture-based system and transitioning forested area to perennial forage pasture utilizing cover crops. All projects attempt to analyze the whole system in an effort to provide valuable information to the farmer about what takes place on their operation. Sam is involved in educational outreach, working with the Amazing Grazing program as well as the North Carolina Forage and Grassland Council and believes this outreach is an effective tool to assist farmers in adopting new practices.

Lisa K Johnson

Lisa K. Johnson | Ph.D. Candidate | Horticultural Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Nancy Creamer

Lisa’s research brings the excitement surrounding food waste research to the often overlooked production level of the supply chain. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on understanding common farming practices and market policies that increase vegetable losses in the field, determining how much edible produce is left unharvested, and finding ways to increase the recovery of unharvested crops. Lisa completed her M.S. at the University of Georgia, also in Horticulture, where her research focused on the molecular physiology of fruit crops. She is rapidly becoming a national expert in on-farm food waste.

Lisa graduated in 2018.  Visit her LinkedIn page here.
Marisol Mata

Marisol Mata | Masters Student | Horticultural Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Danesha Seth Carley

In today’s home gardening market, a large number of flower species are included in “pollinator-friendly” seed mixes but little is known about their actual nutritional quality for bees. Marisol’s research project focuses on growing several species of these native flowers in a controlled environment so as to determine the protein content found within their granules of pollen. She is also interested in learning whether changes in environmental conditions, such as temperature, fertilizer and CO2 levels affect the overall quality of the pollen.

Marisol graduated in 2018.  Visit her LinkedIn page here.

2016 Cohort – NC State University

Rachel Atwell

Rachel Atwell | Ph.D. Candidate | Crop Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Chris Reberg-Horton

Rachel has research projects that focus on winter pea production in the Southeast and using cover crop mulches for weed suppression. Her first project focuses on screening winter pea genotypes for use as grain, forage and cover crops in the Southeast. Her other graduate student research focuses on using cover crop mulches for weed suppression in both organic and conventional cotton production. Rachel also completed her M.S. degree under the advisement of Chris Reberg-Horton where her research focused on cultural weed control tactics and fertility management in organic corn and canola production.

Rachel graduated in 2017.  Visit her LinkedIn page here.
Angel Cruz

Angel Cruz | Ph.D. Candidate | Crop Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno

Angel is researching agroecology and soil conservation in El Salvador and how it impacts food security for smallholder farmers in rural El Salvador. Angel recently received a Fulbright Fellowship and a US Borlaug Global Food Security Graduate Research Award to fund her research.

Angel graduated in 2017.  Visit her LinkedIn page here.
Johanna Elsensohn

Johanna Elsensohn | Ph.D. Student | Entomology | NC State University
Advisors: Dr. Hannah Burrack and Dr. Coby Schal

Johanna utilizes insights gained from basic biology research to help inform sustainable pest control strategies. She investigates how oviposition by female Drosophila suzukii, a globally invasive pest of small fruit crops, varies as a function of season, host quality, and pest density. These results will lead to better-informed, locally optimized pest management strategies for this pest. Another project, working with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at NC State, compares socio-environmental risks among several insect genetic modification techniques and questions how different stakeholder groups evaluate those risks.

Fallon Fowler

Fallon Fowler | Ph.D. Student | Entomology | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Wes Watson

Fallon researches whether certain dung beetle groups (dwellers, tunnelers, or rollers) affect nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas production differently. She specifically seeks to answer which, if any, dung beetle traits and species are most beneficial to livestock producers and the environment. Ultimately, she plans on using this research to contribute to alternative, sustainable strategies in livestock systems, specifically in cattle production systems.

David Suchoff Photo

David Suchoff | Ph.D. Candidate | Horticultural Science | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Chris Gunter

David’s research focuses on developing screening methods for abiotic stress tolerance and avoidance in tomato rootstocks. Specifically, David is looking at morphological traits in rootstock root systems that may help improve soil resource use and acquisition. The end goal of this research is to help farmers improve their resource use efficiency via the use of these more resilient rootstocks. David also completed his M.S. degree under Dr. Chris Gunter and Dr. Jonathan Schultheis investigating nitrogen use efficiency in grafted watermelon and tomatoes. Prior to graduate school David was an apprentice on the Small Farm Unit at CEFS’ Field Research and Outreach Facility at Cherry Farm in Goldsboro.

David graduated in 2018.  Visit his LinkedIn page here.
Kaitlyn Sutton

Kaitlyn Sutton | MBA Candidate | Business Administration | Jenkins Graduate School of Management | NC State University
Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Dunning

CEFS Supply Chain Resource Cooperative Scholar

Kaitlyn’s research is focused on analyzing the food supply chain on North Carolina university campuses. As a member of the UFOODS (University Food Systems) project team, she is working to increase the understanding and transparency of how food systems work on university campuses so that small and mid-size farms can benefit from increased engagement with North Carolina campus communities. Kaitlyn’s focus has been on cultivating new market opportunities for farmers by creating supply chain links from farms to university campuses in North Carolina. Ultimately, she hopes that her research will contribute to increased access to local foods for North Carolina students and the development of greater economic opportunities for small farms.

Kaitlyn graduated in 2017.  Visit her LinkedIn page here.