Max Webster Brings Curiosity and Experience to AFT - American Farmland Trust

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November 30th, 2020
AFT Midwest Hires New Policy Manager to “Explore the Mud”
Max Webster, Midwest Policy Manager

As a kid, I didn’t care too much about staying clean and had no qualms about spending the day on my grandparent’s farm sloshing through the sticky, ankle-deep mud. Exploring the sudden openness of a place that just shortly before had been covered in plants higher than my head was just something I had to do. As I plunked one foot in front of the other, moving slowly across the sludge, I couldn’t help but ask myself about what was going on here. What did the coming and going of one crop year to the next really mean? What about this place changed with the seasons? How did this mud get so sticky? Like the pounds of the Ohio River Valley clay I brought with me to my grandparent’s backdoor when it was time to come inside, these questions and more like them have stuck with me.

In high school, I started a community garden plot in which I had no clue about what I was doing—I set a trellis for bush beans and I even let the tomatoes sprawl across the ground. This wholesome experience inspired me on career path with community gardens. After high school, I spent five years working on local community garden projects with the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati. That work brought me into communities I never would have known to work on their behalf and lit my interest in public service in a serious way.

I interned at the Mayor’s Office in Cincinnati during my senior year in college and after graduating, I completed two AmeriCorps terms, supporting community gardening efforts and local food advocacy in Wilmington, Ohio, and then leading a team on conservation and community development work in California, Alaska, and Oregon. I completed a master’s degree at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where I also worked for the Urban Resources Initiative, planting trees, and supporting community-driven greenspace restoration efforts.

For the past three years before joining the team at AFT, I worked as the forest program manager at the Washington Environmental Council where I led efforts to secure new funding for dozens of forest conservation projects and get investments in natural climate solutions to be a key part of the state of Washington’s climate action strategy.

On a field tour of Nason Ridge, a community forest project I worked to conserve in the central Cascades of Washington

After all these years of bouncing around though, I found myself ready to get back to the Midwest. I missed the mud and I even missed the humidity. More importantly, I missed the place that first inspired me to ask the questions that got me on this journey.

Few organizations take a holistic approach that AFT does to ensure that we have a strong, vibrant, and resilient agricultural community long into the future. I couldn’t be more excited to start my role as American Farmland Trust’s Midwest Policy Manager and use all these past experiences to keep building partnerships, advocating for the role that farming and land stewardship can play in solving some of our biggest problems, and getting resources out the door for farmers doing good work across the region.