March 8, 2023 |Gretchen Hoffmann | Support our Efforts

Celebrating the Women Who Tell Our Conservation Stories



Silvia Abel-Caines kneels in the dirt and plants greek oregano in her farm field. Photo courtesy Silvia Abel-Caines.

Calling Dr. Silvia Abel-Caines a garlic farmer seems far too simple of a title, considering she is also a veterinarian, Ph.D. and Fulbright scholar. Dr. Abel-Caines works as the Staff Ruminant Nutritionist for Organic Valley, the largest cooperative of organic farmers in the U.S., where she helps farmers improve the nutrients available in their pastures and the health of their cows. She has spent more than three decades working in the agricultural sector, and nearly half of that time specifically with certified organic farmers.

Dr. Abel-Caines translated her love and knowledge of growing healthy food into her organic farm business called Garlic eScapePartnering with The Conservation Fund’s Working Farms Fund program to secure a 30-acre farm site in Woodstock, Illinois, Silvia will now be able to scale up production and operations. Dr. Abel-Caines not only plans to grow even more organic garlic and healing foods on the farm — she also wants to share her knowledge with the community through classes and workshops.

3 8 23 Silvia and Art Courtesy of Linda BalekArturo Caines and Silvia Abel-Caines of Garlic eScape Farm. Photo courtesy of Linda Balek.


Cathy Chavers speaking at a podium.
Cathy Chavers is the Tribal Chairwoman for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in northeastern Minnesota and serves as President of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. Before assuming the role of Tribal Chairwoman in 2016, Cathy spent more than 30 years working in education and healthcare for Bois Forte. She has shown dedication to tackling issues such as climate resiliency, infrastructure, economic development, and celebrating tribal culture and language.

Chairwoman Chavers was an essential part of the team that accomplished the historic restoration of 28,000 acres to the Bois Forte Band in 2022. Listening to her tell the story of how her people lost and regained this part of their homeland is inspiring and deeply moving. Her leadership and guidance are helping to shape the future for the 3,500 members of Bois Forte and beyond.

Kim Berns-Melhus, Minnesota State Director for The Conservation Fund (left), was gifted wild rice and other special items by Cathy Chavers (right) on behalf of the Bois Forte BandKim Berns-Melhus, Minnesota State Director for The Conservation Fund (left), was gifted wild rice and other special items by Cathy Chavers (right) on behalf of the Bois Forte Band. Photo by The Conservation Fund.


Christine Quinlan speaks into a microphone at a podium.Photo by Valerie Keefer.

Christine Quinlan
 lives and works in Colorado, where four generations of her family have owned a working cattle ranch in the wide-open prairies of the northeastern part of the state. Her appreciation of land and the vast outdoors was instilled at an early age. As Colorado Associate State Director for The Conservation Fund, Christine works to preserve open space, wildlife habitat, forests, parks, farms, ranchlands and other priority landscapes. She is an expert on Colorado conservation and her projects touch key issues in her home state, including water rights, recreation and protecting urban farmland.

Christine’s ability to bring stakeholders to the table and find creative solutions to complicated transactions has led to many successful projects with enduring outcomes, including helping to establish and expand the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site on Colorado’s remote eastern plains. Her work over 20 years on this project led her to get involved personally with Right Relationship Boulder, a group that brings resources to Indigenous people, focusing on contemporary and historic inequities. And, as a 15-year partner for conservation transactions in Adams County’s award-winning agricultural district, Christine has also helped partners meet the most urgent opportunities to permanently protect highly productive farmlands before they are lost to development.

In May 2023 we celebrated Christine Quinlan’s 25th anniversary with the Fund. We simply would not be where we are today without Christine’s contributions.

Christine Quinlan is honored with a traditional ceremonial blanket during a special event commemorating the expansion of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in October 2022Christine Quinlan is honored with a traditional ceremonial blanket during a special event commemorating the expansion of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in October 2022. Photo by Valerie Keefer.


Donna Stephens standing in front of old piles of bricks.Photo by Erik Fyfe.

Atlanta native Donna Stephens is passionate about environmental protection and historic preservation in her hometown. She has served as a Chair of the Proctor Creek Stewardship Council and has a long history of working with neighborhoods to address stormwater flooding. In 2022, Donna was chosen by the National Center for Civil and Human Rights as a “Power to Inspire” honoree. She uses her voice to educate and empower, and she is helping to change our world for the better.

We most recently worked with Donna in the effort to preserve the former Chattahoochee Brick Company site, where many Black men were forced to labor against their will under the convict lease labor system. The 77-acre property sits on the banks of the Chattahoochee River at the confluence of Proctor Creek, close to where Donna has lived for most of her life. In order to coordinate the campaign to save the site, Donna founded the nonprofit Chattahoochee Brick Company Descendants Coalition. She was instrumental in the process that led to The Conservation Fund purchasing and later transferring the property in 2022 to the City of Atlanta.

Donna Stephens speaking to eight community members standing outside on a blue-sky day at the Chattahoochee Brick site.Donna Stephens (far left) onsite with community members at the Chattahoochee Brick Company site. Photo by Stacy Funderburke.

Written by

Gretchen Hoffmann

In her role as Blog Manager, Gretchen Hoffmann helps share unique perspectives, projects and people from across The Conservation Fund and our partners. She enjoys being able to combine her passion for storytelling with her love of nature and conservation, and has worked on our blog, Redefining Conservation, since its launch in 2015. Gretchen holds a Master of Science in Biomedical Journalism from New York University and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. She lives in Westport, CT, where she enjoys playing tennis, working in her garden and being on the water with her family.