Who we are

Melissa Dorothy Wischerath, Executive Director and Staff Attorney

Areas of focus:  food and agriculture law, administrative law, strategic vision in coordination with Board of Directors and community stakeholders

Background:  Melissa Wischerath is staff attorney and founder at the Center for Sustainability Law. Her practice at CSLAW centers focuses on empowering local communities to protect limited natural resources by participation in regulatory oversight, advocacy and litigation. Melissa’s focus is towards representing individuals and stakeholders in heritage-based industries in all stages of environmental and administrative legal proceedings to achieve greater sustainability and protect, preserve and ensure compliance with environmental and land-use laws and regulations.

Prior to law school Melissa worked at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a nonprofit organization that develops and supports limited equity housing cooperatives throughout New York City, both as an AmeriCorps tenant organizer and as a project associate in the legal department. Additionally, she served as an AmeriCorps member in Redwood City, CA creating holistic educational programs for children geared towards English as second language learners.

While at the University at Buffalo Law School, Ms. Wischerath worked as a law clerk at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, volunteered as a student attorney in the Legal Aid Bureau and served on the board of the National Lawyers Guild and Public Interest Law Journal. Currently, she serves on the board of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History Architecture and Culture, and is an advisory board member of the Buffalo Young Preservationists, Citizens for a 21st Century Park on the Outer Harbor, and Northwest Conservation Land Trust.

Education: BA in Art History with a concentration in Latin American Art from Fordham University; JD from the University of the State of New York at Buffalo Law School.

Bar and Court Admissions: State of New York, State of Oregon, United States District Court, Western District of New York, United States District Court, Oregon,

Favorite Local Food: mushrooms

Jordan Fox Besek, President Board of Directors

Areas of focus: Long-term program development in cooperation with the Board of Directors and staff, Media Relations, Environment and Society Research.

Jordan works with staff, funders and partners in order to secure sustainable co-evolutionary relationships with the natural world, as well as each other. Jordan brings with him his history of working for non-profits and cooperatives big and small, as well as his knowledge of human ecology, to grow the Centers vision. He considers himself an avid bicyclist, that is, until he goes riding with bike pro and Program Director Liz Veazey.

Background:  After graduating Alpha Sigma Nu from Fordham University in 2006, Jordan moved to Prague, Czech Republic to become a Researcher and Expatriate Outreach Coordinator for Amnesty International Czech Republic.  A year later he moved back stateside to work for the American Civil Liberties Union National Office in New York City, first as the Media Relations Liaison and Researcher and later as a Youth Outreach Coordinator. By 2009, however, Bernie Madoff inspired staff cuts forced Jordan’s hand and, tired of the big city, Jordan moved to Buffalo, New York to be with his wife and to get involved with the local sustainable food movement. There he was elected to the Board of Director’s at the local food cooperative (the Lexington Co-operative Market), received an Environmental Justice Fellowship from Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to help recent refugees negotiate their reliance on fishing for food to feed their families in a severely toxic environment and also completed an M.A. in Urban and Regional Geography at SUNY Buffalo. Today, in addition to serving as a founding Board Member for the Center for Sustainability Law, Jordan is a Sociology PhD student at the University of Oregon specializing in Environmental Sociology, Urban and Community Sociology, Theory, the Sociology of Science and Animals and Society.

Education: BA in Journalism from Fordham University; MA in Urban and Regional Geography from the State University of New York at Buffalo; pursuing  PhD in Sociology from the University of Oregon.

Favorite Local Food: Honey

Lucas Nebert, Science Adviser

Areas of focus: science adviser, citizen science coordinator

Lucas joined CSLaw in late 2013 to help provide scientific expertise to the Biotech Sunshine Campaign. He is fascinated with the shifting roles of science and knowledge in our agriculture and our food system. An advocate of community-directed science and local expertise, he works to inform public understanding of agricultural biotechnology and to facilitate sound scientific methodologies among food producers for a more innovative and resilient food system.

Background: Lucas Nebert is a natural science researcher with specialization in plant and soil microbial ecology in agricultural ecosystems. Currently a PhD student at the University of Oregon, he is studying the nature of microbes that form beneficial relationships with plants, with particular attention to open-pollinated corn varieties grown in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Lucas was a Fulbright Fellow at Wageningen University of the Netherlands (‘08-’09), continuing on to earn an M.S. degree in Soil Quality, with a specialization on soil biology and biochemistry of agroecosystems. His main research focus in the Netherlands was on the role of soil-dwelling animals such as earthworms and ants in mediating greenhouse gas emissions from the soil via interactions with soil microbes. Lucas has also developed expertise in soil biogeochemical cycling, nutrient dynamics, soil carbon, soil food webs, agroforestry and agroecological farming practices, and on the importance of ecological agriculture in mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Education: BA double major Biology and Chemistry at Willamette University in Salem, OR; MS in Soil Quality at Wageningen University in the Netherlands; currently pursuing a PhD in Environmental Science, Studies, and Policy (ESSP) at the University of Oregon, and is actively researching under the U of O Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IE2).

Favorite Local Food: Open-pollinated flint corn

Liz Veazey, Program Director

Areas of focus:  Program development, fundraising, organizational development, website/online communications

Liz joined CSLaw in mid-2013 and is leading efforts on our Biotech Sunshine Campaign, developing other campaign ideas, as well as supporting foundation and event fundraising.  She is somewhat of a tech geek, so she is excited about expanding our web presence and supporting other technical facets of the work as they arise.  Additionally, she is working to strengthen our ongoing organizational development especially in regards to support for and development of our board of directors.

Background:  Right after graduating from college, Liz co-founded two environmental organizations: the Energy Action Coalition (EAC) and the Southern Energy Network (SEN).  Both focused on working with youth to build a clean energy future, the former as a coalition of groups in the US and Canada and the latter in the Southeast US.  Liz was a co-chair of the EAC Steering Committee for two years, and, at the same time, Director of the Southern Energy Network for three years.  In addition to extensive experience with new environmental non-profit organizations, since 2008 Liz has served as board member the Highlander Research and Education Center, which has been central in the fight for social justice in the South and Appalachia since 1932.  She has a range of experiences from launching a successful international youth climate blog to developing a campaign that raised $6 million over three years to appearing in Vanity Fair to engaging thousands of Southern youth in clean energy and climate change work.

She has always supported her local food system and been aware of the interconnectedness of food, energy, and climate change.   She cares about where her food comes from and the accessibility of fresh, safe, and healthy food for others, so she participates in her local food system by gardening, volunteering at an all-volunteer grocery store (Growers Market), and being a member of a local farm’s winter CSA.  Additionally, she has an academic interest in food writing a paper on urban gardening in Detroit and Cuba and a report about food systems and resiliency to climate change in the Willamette Valley.

Education: BS in Environmental Science with a Minor in Biology from the University of North Carolina; MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon (projected by March 2014)

Favorite local food: heirloom beans

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