The Board of Directors of Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) is pleased to announce Elena Gustavson has been named the new Executive Director, effective August 1. Gustavson succeeds Tara Kelly who was appointed in June to serve as the Planning Director for the City of Rutland. Kelly was a founding member of RAFFL in 2004 and served as the organization’s first director in 2009, a position she held for seven years.
Gustavson brings a wealth of experience to her new role. Working for the last 12 years directing programs and business systems with organizations throughout the Northeast region’s food system, including the Center for an Agricultural Economy and the Vermont Food Venture Center, Gustavson joined RAFFL in 2015 to manage RAFFL’s community programs, oversee communications, and coordinate Everyday Chef, its food and cooking program. She became a familiar face in the Rutland area as she conducted cooking workshops with a focus on nutritious food and increasing people’s cooking confidence.
“Not only do we have beautiful and productive working lands cultivated by a rich network of producers, but there is a palpable and exciting energy of change within the area communities,” said Gustavson. “It is THE place to be as Vermont’s agricultural and food scene continues to evolve and mature.”
The Board of Directors conducted a national search in June which generated 30 applicants. “After an extensive interview process with a number of highly qualified candidates, the Board and staff stood unanimously behind Elena. Her experience, knowledge of the organization, and vision for the future made her the ideal choice to take RAFFL to the next level,” said Kara Soulia, Board President. “Having such a deep pool of capable applicants reflects the interest that people have in RAFFL’s excellent work.”
Since 2004, the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link has worked to expand availability and access to locally produced foods, bolster the greater Rutland region’s agricultural economy, and increase community appreciation and understanding of the positive impact of farms and farmers on the Rutland region. In collaboration with statewide partners, RAFFL is helping to conserve Vermont’s working landscapes for future generations.
The transition from Kelly to Gustavson has been smooth and effective. Kelly noted that “I have complete faith in Elena’s talent, having worked closely with her for the past year and a half. She brings a statewide perspective to the position which is vital as RAFFL continues to serve as a leader in community-based food access and awareness.”