Network Profiles: NHFA Backbone Team – Jennifer Wilhelm

Author: 
Melissa Groves

Jennifer is a research associate with the NH Food Alliance at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Sustainability Institute. In her role, she works with the NHFA research team to conduct food systems research and works with stakeholders to influence policy and debates about the future of the NH food system. She is presently a doctoral candidate in natural resources and environmental studies at UNH. Jennifer earned a Master’s degree in environmental conservation from UNH, and a Bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Green Mountain College. Prior to returning to UNH, Jennifer worked as the sustainability coordinator at Phillips Exeter Academy.

In her work for the NH Food Alliance, Jennifer is currently conducting a statewide survey to gain a better understanding of NH residents' perception of local food and agricultural expansion on the landscape. "By understanding consumer attitudes and purchase behavior, the NH Food Alliance will better understand how to shape strategies in the education, food accessibility, and market development opportunity areas," she explains. How NH landowners perceive the agricultural landscape—and their willingness to support land use planning that encourages agricultural expansion—will help guide the development of strategies related to the land resources and access opportunity area of the Viability Initiative. It will also help inform NH Food Alliance's future recommendations related to land conservation policymaking.

One of the challenges Jennifer experiences is the lack of existing data in this area. "Much of the data that would be useful for our work does not currently exist, thus understanding exactly where we stand, in terms of asset mapping/current food system infrastructure, is challenging," she says. "Being able to obtain certain baseline data would be really useful in guiding the NH Food Alliance's work moving forward."

Jennifer's work is helping to bridge this knowledge gap. She will soon begin identifying and tracking indicators for the Viability Initiative, which will enhance the work of the NH Food Alliance and the Viability Working Group. "We intend to create a series of reports and educational outreach materials to share our progress and findings with the greater network."

In her free time, Jennifer manages a small-scale, mixed-vegetable farmstead in Madbury, NH.