After five months of feeling physically ill and depressed, and after seeing many doctors and leaving with no answers, Erin Brown’s health took...
Executive Director of Sustainable Farms and Communities Inc.
AGE: 43 ORIGINAL HOMETOWN: Columbus, Ohio
JOB DESCRIPTION: I direct the activities of a nonprofit organization that seeks to connect mid-Missourians to local foods and sustainable activities. I also lead the $2.6 million capital campaign to construct the “shovel-ready” Columbia Farmers’ Market Pavilion and Education Center. www.farmersmarketpavilion.org
YEARS LIVED IN COLUMBIA: One year in Columbia. I’m still thawing out after 16 years in Alaska.
EDUCATION: I went to a small private school in Columbus called Franklin University, where I earned a triple major in finance, management and marketing. I then was accepted to the Master of Science in Communications program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill. It was a program that changed my life and my view on business and interpersonal communications. It was billed as the “anti-MBA.”
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: I am involved in many groups from PedNet to campus initiatives in the areas of health and sustainability. Being new to Columbia, I am still finding places to hang my hat. In the past, I have been a hospice volunteer for more than 18 years. I have served on many boards for theater companies, environmental organizations and served as a photographer for many events such as the American Heart Association Heart Walks, We The People Marches and more.
PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: I began my career in nonprofit when I was 16 years old. I have a much older brother who is disabled, and one of my first jobs was raising money for the organization that helped him manage his life. I have also been a nonprofit and occasionally for-profit consultant for more than a decade. I write grants, run annual and capital campaigns, develop marketing and communication plans and on one occasion even orchestrated a bank-to-bank acquisition. I have raised more than $50 million dollars in my career for everyone but myself. In Alaska, I specialized in the issues and efforts of the Alaska Native people.
A COLUMBIA BUSINESSPERSON I ADMIRE AND WHY: I am working with an amazing team of local business leaders on my board and steering and advisory committees, but a special place is held in my heart for the farmers of the Columbia Farmers’ Market. They work so hard to be here each Saturday morning and present to thousands of fortunate Columbians the most delicious and nutritious foods imaginable: people such as Dan Kuebler, who has given his heart and soul to this project and the market. These are my heroes! They work the land and feed us each week. Who could ask for more?
WHY I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT MY JOB: At the end of each day, I ask myself if I am doing what I want to be doing. I have always been able to answer yes. I know that my work has made a difference in the communities in which I have lived. I also know that I am usually part of a solution and not the problem.
IF I WEREN’T DOING THIS FOR A LIVING, I WOULD: This is tough. I am not doing this for a living. I like getting a paycheck, but I have always found that money is the easiest thing to make. I always do what I know I should be doing. I make the time to have the things in my life that I value. I especially never allow myself to be complacent or bored. I sleep on average four to five hours a day. As I always say: I will sleep when I am dead.
BIGGEST CAREER OBSTACLE I’VE OVERCOME AND HOW: For me it has been an issue of learning to harness my spastic and often overbearing personality. My nickname is Tigger for a reason. I know that if I have a week’s worth of work piled up, I can have it done in a day. The challenge is finding enough to keep my mind busy and not expecting everyone else to respond to my e-mails at 3 a.m. simply because I am working.
WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PROFESSION: Nonprofit work is the backbone of our society. At the end of the day, we are the ones who fill in the holes left by progress and so-called efficiencies. We work for the joy of seeing the lives of others made more fulfilled. We are not saints, but if you value your own success more than that of others, this is probably not the place for you. We deal in the reality that not everyone will have the myth of an American Dream. We help people to find their own dreams.
WHAT I DO FOR FUN: I travel. I love road trips — 1.1 million miles and so far no accidents! I hike, bike, do photography, woodworking, write poetry and prose, kayak, dive and learn something new as often as possible. Currently, I am planning on getting a sailing certificate so I can disappear into the Caribbean when I am ready.
FAMILY: I have two wonderful, loving and obedient children who follow me everywhere. They are my two Alaska Husky sled dogs, Koyuk and Sweetpea, and if you ever meet them, you will understand why they are my children. Amazing!
FAVORITE PLACE IN COLUMBIA: I enjoy the MKT to Katy Trail and all of the parks that Parks and Rec does such an amazing job of maintaining for all of us to enjoy.
ACCOMPLISHMENT I’M MOST PROUD OF: Establishing and managing the largest tribal AmeriCorps program in the U.S. and personally convincing the leadership of the Corporation for National and Community Service to increase their level of commitment to tribal programs as a percentage of their annual budget.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THAT I: I have been a professional photographer for more than 15 years and shoot weddings, portraits, events, nature and more. I have had gallery shows from Key West, Fla., to Hawaii and Alaska. I love seeing life through my lens. You can see some of my work at www.caseyrcorbin.com.