Staff

Jennifer W.S. Paulson 

Executive Director 

Jennifer originally joined Food Works in 2017 to manage the indoor winter farmers market, spearhead Food Works' food access program, and coordinate the Southern Illinois Farming Alliance. Jennifer became executive director in 2018- Food Works' 10th year!

Paulson brings to Food Works over a decade of experience engaging stakeholders and coordinating projects using her skills in management and design. Before coming to Food Works, Jennifer worked at the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin where she cared for thousands of objects of art and manuscripts, and managed and trained university students and volunteers. Paulson was also co-owner of Carsonhill Ceramic Studio, selling handmade pottery in farmers markets and art fairs thoughout the Austin area. She has also taught art and design courses in several universities and community colleges. Paulson relocated back to Southern Illinois in 2016 where she lives on a farmstead in Cobden. In addition to growing food with her family, she loves to paint and draw in her art studio, is a passionate home cook, and a strong believer in the importance of a robust local food economy.

Paulson earned a Master of Fine Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Columbus College of Art and Design.

Libby Ervin

Assistant Director

Libby joined Food Works as the SIFA Coordinator & then later as the Community Farmers Market Manager in 2019. She also assists in supporting local farmers markets with Link match and she is involved with the Buy Fresh Buy Local & ReGenerate Illinois statewide collaborations. She and her husband Derek moved to Southern IL from Chicago in '17 after inheriting his Grandfathers Farm. They started their farm, Glaciers End in Johnston City, while taking the Food Works Farm Beginnings class. Since then, they have immersed themselves in everything they can related to farming, agriculture and networking in Southern IL. They started an orchard on their farm as well as trying to utilize as much as they can from their land. They are in several farmers markets throughout Southern IL as well as LEAF Food Hub. Libby has worked with Seniors and the Disabled for over 20 years and has experience in business, training, education and community outreach.

Elizabeth DeRuntz

Deputy Director


Liz is joining Food Works after 6 years as the Operations Manager for the Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers and having successfully co-written several grants to fund the Food Works Mobile Farmers Market. Her position at Food Works will include grant writing for all of Food Works programs. Liz is a graduate of the 2015 Farm Beginnings class, but has not realized her farm dream. (Maybe someday). Having grown up in rural Iowa she has a deep connection to sustainable farming and agriculture. She is a 2019 graduate of SIU’s MBA program and is passionate about her new business venture The Nutty Pig Cookie Co.

Jennifer Duensing

Coordinator of Farmer Training Programs

Jennifer owns a small diverse Heritage Farm with her husband Jason near Prairie du Rocher Il called Illinois Country Harvest. They proudly grow heirloom and native flowers, fruits and vegetables, heritage grains and raise heritage pigs using all natural, sustainable practices. Jennifer is passionate about holistic farm planning and practices in all aspects and loves sharing that passion with others.

Kyle McAdams

Operations Coordinator

Kyle McAdams is our new Operations Coordinator at Food Works. He has over 20 years of experience in small business administration and will help Food Works behind the scenes as we grow. Kyle and his husband Brian graduated from the Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings program of 2021-2022 and own Pink Tiger Farm, just south of Goreville. They grow crops, such as ginger, garlic, and chilis, for their value-added products while focusing on restoring biodiversity and native habitats to their land.

Ellen Esling

Food Works Market Manager

Ellen is passionate about place-based storytelling. She grew up in southern Illinois, the fifth generation of her family’s 140-year farm legacy, Lipe Orchards. In 2023, Ellen started Local Lore Farm, where she creates her own ice cream with naturally-grown botanicals, as well as other regionally produced ingredients. In addition to ice cream, Ellen has planted heirloom apple trees, medicinal and culinary herbs, and is hosting film festivals and other community events.

She has her MFA in Media Arts (2018) from Southern Illinois University, as well as a Master of Science in Geography (2022), with a thesis exploring local food in Southern Illinois. Ellen was a graduate of the Food Works Farm Beginnings program, a former Food Works board member, and is thrilled to begin work as a staff member!

Karen Jensen-Britton

Communications and Special Events Coordinator

Karen is a Southern Illinois University-Carbondale graduate, where she majored in Zoology. A lot like most Southern Illinois transplants, she fell in love with the area during her years of school and never left. Karen and her husband, Adam, own Indian Creek Kennel in Carbondale. Karen keeps large vegetable and flower gardens on the property and raises chickens for egg production and has interest in growing her small farm. Karen has a strong passion for supporting the local food movement as well as local small business. Karen has been a long time supporter of Food Works and is excited to continue encouraging local startups to grow the local industry. She has been involved in micro farming for close to 20 years and continues to grow her knowledge and understanding of gardening, animal husbandry, and permaculture and its benefit to the soil and community.

Sam Mauro

Mobile Farmers Market Assistant Manager


Sam is an east coast transplant and moved to Southern Illinois with her husband in 2022. After years of working in a corporate environment, she left to travel the world and found herself volunteering on a cacao farm in Hawaii. This was her first taste of farm life and found that it suited her much more than she could have anticipated. She's since worked on other small farms, including BeetRoot Farm here in Carbondale, and she owned her own bean-to-bar chocolate company back in Connecticut. Sam is a self-proclaimed food nerd and is passionate about eating locally and an advocate for food accessibility.
Food Works is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a sustainable food economy in Southern Illinois.
(618) 370-3287[email protected]
Food Works
PO Box 3855
Carbondale, IL 62901
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