Board Members & Staff


The team at the April, 2016 Happy Hour in the Greenhouse event. Pictured from left to right are: Todd Pettit, Heath Martin, Amy Pettit, Ben VanderWeele, Michelle Church, Troy Sheldon and Leslie Senden.

Meet the Board

Ben VanderWeele, President

Ben is a long-time Alaskan vegetable farmer in Palmer, Alaska.  He was on the founding board of directors and has a passion for agricultural land preservation.

 Troy Shelden, Treasurer

Troy grew up on a farm in the Dakotas and currenlty is a farmland owner.  He has lived in Alaska for the past 11 years and see’s the importance of maintaining farmland in production.  He’s seen firsthand how development encroaches and overwhelms farmland.

Todd Pettit

Todd is owner of Pitchfork Ranch in Palmer, Alaska.  Todd is a third generation farmer and rancher in Alaska.  His family has been farming in the state since the 1940s.  Todd is passionate about agriculture and land preservation because once the ground is developed it is lost to farming forever.  To insure that productive lands stay in agriculture, farmland conservation is the only viable resource to keep this land going in to perpetuity.

Michelle Church, Secretary

Michelle has lived in alaska for the past 38 years.  Michelle, along with her husband own a small hay and market farm.  In describing her relationship to Agriculture she describes that she like to eat and know where her food comes from.  To Michelle, farmland is important from an economic and environmental sense and it is her personal mission to educate the public on this importance.

Leslie Senden

Leslie grew up in Alaska, is a resident of Palmer and makes her home on the Springer system.  She recognizes the value of protecting farmland and wanted to ensure that the agriculture industry remains a viable choice for the next generation of Alaskans.

Heath Martin

Heath grew up in Alabama where his family had roots in the Dairy industry; watching his family farm get sold to (and developed by) a brick manufacturer changed Heath’s perspective about the importance of protecting valuable farm land.

Interested in becoming a Board of Director for the Alaska Farmland Trust?  Click Here to find out more information.


Meet the Staff

Amy Pettit – Executive Director

amy-pettit-headshotAmy Pettit was raised on a cow-calf operation on the Southern Oregon Coast. Four generations of her family have raised premier blank Angus and Angus cross cattle on their 2000 acre property.
Amy graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Business Management and a minor in Rangeland Resources.

Amy was imported to the State of Alaska by her husband, who was born and raised in Palmer. Amy started as a summer intern with the State of Alaska, Division of Agriculture in 2005; she took over management of the Marketing & Development team in 2009 and was responsible for facilitating the Alaska Grown program, a number of different Federal and State grant programs, as well as a wide variety of industry outreach. Amy served on the Executive team of the North American Agricultural Marketing Officials for five years and has also been a Governing Board member for the Alaska Food Policy Council since it’s inception.