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On-Farm Education Staff

Deb CrockettExecutive Director: Deb Crockett originally joined Angelic Organics Learning Center back in 2004 as one of our very first on-farm educators, weaving together her experience as a naturalist, farmer and teacher.  In her new role as Executive Director since early 2018, she is thrilled to guide the Learning Center in growing a new generation of leaders for the local, sustainable food system. Her favorite moments with farm visitors include birthing goats, visiting the beehive, and bringing people from diverse backgrounds together to work, learn, and feast on the farm.

Katie TownsendProgram Director: Katie Townsend’s career can be summed up as everything outdoors. Camping has occupied a big chunk of her professional life with over 30 years in the field and a variety of experiences ranging from wilderness programs, northwoods summer camps to environmental education for schools from California to Illinois. Note that overnight camps are her personal favorite. Her educational background is an undergraduate degree in Natural Resource Management  from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point and a masters of science in Outdoor Teacher Education from Northern Illinois University. In addition Katie is a First Aid CPR Instructor, graduate of the Basic Camp Director Course from American Camp Association and Food Service Sanitation Manager. Katie adds, ”now let me say something about my passion and Angelic Organics Learning Center….Farm Camp matches up with what is important such as good food which is nutritious, good land which is tended carefully following the earthbeat of biodynamics and good friendships experienced between all campers and animals."

Becca CheltonProgram Manager: Becca Chelton hails from the East Coast and got her start in the local food movement through an environmental ethics class at alma mater Knox College. She interned with a series of non-profits including Slow Food USA before joining the farm as a program assistant in 2015. A habitual apartment dweller with little access to backyards, Becca loves working in the garden and caring for the livestock whenever she gets the chance.


Robert Benzel is a lead educator and culinary manager at Angelic Organics Lodge. He is a native of Roscoe and worked for Angelic Organics, our partner farm, from 2005 to 2009. Four years later, after spending five months in Mexico on his sister's farm Rancho Buen Dia, he could no longer deny his need for farming in his life. He now enjoys sharing this respect for nature with the community and friends through the Learning Center as an On-Farm Educator. He hopes to communicate to his groups an appreciation of the full responsibility of our role as stewards of the land and loving every part of it! He loves when people are excited about the forest around us and especially wild foraging - and permaculture. We can truly receive all we need from the earth if only we can give just as much in return.

Deb Crockett

Senior Program Director (Farm Office)

Deb has been with Angelic Organics Learning Center since 2004. She has a background in environmental education and organic farming.  Deb has been instrumental in influencing policies to allow backyard chickens in Beloit, WI, and Roscoe, IL. She is also the keeper of the bees at the Learning Center. Her favorite moments with farm visitors include birthing goats, visiting the beehive, making six kinds of cheese, and the alchemy as diverse groups of people join together to work, learn, and feast on the farm.

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Jessie Crow Mermel points out the dolphin weathervane on our barn as a symbol of how our food choices connect with the greater ecosystem. She is warm and welcoming, and has a strong environmental ethic that shines through her work and personal life, whether she's working with summer campers, Waldorf School campouts, or restoring the oak savanna. She graduated with a degree in Sustainability Studies and has a certification as a Master Naturalist. When not at the farm, she works as a substitute teacher in Rockford or can be found delighting in the forest or paddling the rivers. Jessie and her husband, Randy Mermel, live in a geodesic dome with their sons, dog and cat. Jessie and her family are active organizers in the local chapter, working toward creative solutions to climate change.

Joe Haverly is an Environmental Biology Professor at Rock Valley College which allows him to share his passions for simplicity, sustainability and justice with his students.  He is involved with numerous environmental organizations in the community and urges his students to volunteer their time as often as they can. He lives with his wife and 6 children on a small hobby farm just down the road from Angelic Organics but loves to escape to their small cabin tucked in the woods of the UP whenever he can. In 2015 he won the Faculty of the Year award from Rock Valley College and is currently the President of the school board for the North Boone School District.

Amanda Holmes has always loved the smell of barns and the sights and sounds of the farmyard. Equally pleasing to her is the chance to share her passions with others. Amanda spends most of her time homeschooling her four children, but makes sure there's plenty of time for exploring outdoors, working in the garden, creating things, volunteering, and helping others. In addition to teaching at Angelic Organics, Amanda works as a doula, teaches classes on infant nutrition and homemade baby food, and helps run a not-for-profit presenting hands-on, educational, live animal shows to children. Amanda has been involved with the Spring Valley Nature Center and Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg since she was a child: helping at festivals, taking care of the animals, and milking the cows. Amanda sincerely enjoys working with children and families at Angelic Organics, watching them fall in love with the farm and its inhabitants and fostering connections with the important issues surrounding our food and the important work of growing it well. 

Kellie's love of food and farm began early on as she picked green beans and tomatoes in her grandmother's garden. It continued to grow, taking her across country to culinary school and eventually assisting in public cooking classes. As the passion for food developed, she realized it was where the food came from that she most desired to engage with. After making her way back to the area, she finally found herself as the On-Farm Program and Office Administrator at the Learning Center. - See more at:

Randy Mermel enjoys helping people fall in love with vegetables they dislike. His knowledge spans from the field to the forest and he enjoys sharing it with people of all ages at camps, field trips, and workshops. He graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Environmental Science and spent several seasons with the Forest Service before digging his garden beds in Roscoe, IL. He loves to teach about sustainability, but also lives it at home where he is the founder and director of the Dome Gathering Center. His favorite programs involve teaching about natural building and organic gardening.