Alison Martin, PhD is The Livestock Conservancy’s Executive Director. As a teenager, Alison raised backyard poultry, waterfowl, rabbits and horses. This early experience led to a career of more than 20 years in poultry science, specializing in health and vaccine development. She was a key leader on the world’s first in ovo (in the egg) vaccine for coccidiosis. Alison has a PhD in Genetics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, where she specialized in disease resistance in poultry. Alison’s skills in building collaborative partnerships have helped The Livestock Conservancy to expand its strategic scientific and technical capacity in conservation programs.


Jeannette Beranger is the Senior Program Manager for the Conservancy. She came to the organization with 25 years’ experience working as an animal professional including veterinary and zoological institutions with a focus on Heritage breeds. She has been with The Conservancy since 2005 and uses her knowledge to plan and implement conservation programs, conduct field research, and advise farmers in their endeavors with rare breeds. She is co-author of the best-selling book “An Introduction to Heritage Breeds.” At home she maintains a Heritage breeds farm with a focus on rare breed chickens & horses. In 2015 she was honored as one of the top “45 Amazing Country Women in America” by Country Woman magazine for her long standing dedication to endangered breed conservation.


Michele Brane serves as the Conservancy's Information Manager. She has a background in technical writing, editing, and documentation of medical and accounting software. She is responsible for managing the database and fine-tuning the capacity of this software. In addition, Michele works actively with the organization’s donors and works to research new funding and grant opportunities for the organization.


Charlene Couch, PhD is a Senior Program Manager for the Conservancy. She grew up on a small farm in western North Carolina with horses, beef cattle, goats, and chickens. Her doctoral degree is in Zoology with a biotechnology minor. Charlene has a keen interest in conservation of genetic diversity in livestock. She currently keeps horses and Dominique chickens.



Karena Elliott is the Development Director for the Conservancy. She was raised on a cow/calf farm in western Kentucky and has a long history of supporting agriculture. She has raised funds for colleges of agriculture throughout the United States and is also a freelance writer telling the stories of the American farming and ranching industry. You can read some of her work at Karena holds a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences and a master’s degree in education.  She has worked with horses, swine, poultry, and rabbits and even met her husband, a dairy animal nutritionist, in a sheep science class. Karena is working to help The Livestock Conservancy expand our mission to save Heritage Breeds. You can email her at


D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD has served as Technical Advisor to the Livestock Conservancy since 1978, providing counsel and mentoring to Conservancy staff, breeders, breed associations, scholars, and NGO partners. He was the moving force for establishing the Conservation Priority List and the standards for rare breed inclusion on that list. Because of the quality and originality of his approach to conservation, Dr. Sponenberg’s expertise is internationally renowned. He is the author of several books on color genetics and conservation, and is a sought after speaker domestically and abroad.  Phil is Professor of pathology and genetics at Virginia Tech. On his own farm, he is a conservation breeder of Tennessee Fainting goats, and enjoys playing with color genetics in his Brahma chickens.


Angelique Thompson serves as the Conservancy’s Senior Operations Director. Thompson oversees the financial operations of the organization, human resources, information technology and systems development, and meeting organization. Thompson also serves as a liaison to the Board in planning and organizing Board meetings. Thompson works directly with the Executive Director and Board to facilitate long-range planning geared towards operational effectiveness and organizational success.


Rhyne Cureton, also known as "Pork" Rhyne, serves as The Livestock Conservancy's Breed Association Manager. He is known across the country and even overseas as an international swine educator; educating experienced, as well as new and beginning farmers, on small-scale pork production. Rhyne has farmed in both Texas and North Carolina, raising pigs, poultry, goats, and cattle based on rotational grazing practices. During the summer, Rhyne travels to Uganda and Tanzania to train rural pig farmers on how proper livestock husbandry and health correlate to farm profitability as well as the importance of supply chain infrastructure and value-added opportunities for horticultural commodities. Rhyne has a Bachelors Degree in Agricultural Education (Professional Services) from North Carolina A&T State University. Currently, he serves on several boards and committees for organizations such as NC Choices, National Young Farmers Coalition, and EATBETA International.


Brittany Sweeney serves as the Communications Manager for The Livestock Conservancy, showcasing the amazing things that happen when people come together around a common cause. A skilled communicator with a background in journalism, Brittany handles our PR, social media and editor duties for The Livestock Conservancy News, E-News, Breeders and Products Directory and much more. Brittany is passionate about animals and food and spends her free time cooking, fostering shelter dogs and chasing after her own 5 cats, dog and backyard chickens. Email Brittany at


Cindra Kerscher serves as a Program Coordinator for The Livestock Conservancy. Having been raised in a rural, Pennsylvania farm community, Cindra fully appreciates small, family farmers.  She is currently working toward a degree in Sustainable Agriculture from Central Carolina Community College and becoming a Certified Beekeeper from the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association. She is raising several breeds of heritage chickens and a small diversified farm is in her future. Cindra answers your phone calls, emails and letters, coordinates requests for the Conservancy’s display & marketing materials, assists with Breeders Directory updates, and supports advertising and fundraising efforts throughout the year.


Cathy R. Payne, Ed.D, worked with the Large Black Hog Association to assist with their census of Large Black pigs and to develop an up-to-date list of active breeders. Currently Cathy is continuing the Gather Our Stories project. Cathy raised a variety of heritage breeds between 2010 and 2018, including Silver Fox rabbits, American rabbits, Gulf Coast Native sheep, and Guinea Hogs. She sold her farm in 2018 but continues to support heritage breeds. Cathy is the author of Saving the Guinea Hogs, a history of the breed. She plans to write additional books about heritage breeds. You can learn more about Cathy here.