Meet Our Research Assistants

In August of 2017, we invited recent high school graduates Alec Guenther and Kayla Ragland to join our team as research assistants. Since then, we have spent hours together solving problems and researching sustainable agriculture and funding for our future project. The following are their testimonies about what our time together has meant to them.


Alec Guenther

Concentration: Agriculture


I have been working closely with Hillary and Francesca since the beginning of Summer 2017, doing things like renovating and fixing up the barn, going on field trips to art museums, and researching indoor agriculture technology. We even went to the 3-day Farm Science Review in London, Ohio to attend workshops about farming.

I have been sacrificing my time and effort because I believe what they are doing is very important, worthwhile, and innovative. They are bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives on art and agriculture to our town, and exposing the youth of our community to things they might have never learned about otherwise. I hope that their work continues to provide inspiration and that it might stoke the flame of creativity in all of us. I know it has for me and many of the students they have taught and influenced. I am happy to be a part of this work and excited about our future plans.




Kayla Ragland

Concentration: Funding


When I first met the artists of SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing, Francesca and Hillary, I was Director of Teen Development for Empower Youth. They came to me with a plan to help the youth in our community and asked if I would help. Of course I wanted to help, and now I research for them. I have especially enjoyed recently reading about aquaponics. As a research assistant, I mostly help out by looking for grants and funding opportunities to support our future plans of programming in art and agriculture.  I advocate for our work in the community and I even helped put together the silent auction for their recent exhibition. I was also one of the many that helped turn the barn into a functional, cool, art studio. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone that helped make it what it is.

Directing, guiding, and mentoring children and teens are my favorite things to do. It’s a beautiful thing to watch children and teens become completely different people because of just one person that showed them they were loved and cared about. That’s why I help Empower Youth and Francesca and Hillary. After kids realize we are on their side, they become empowered. And guess what? Empowered people empower people! If I empower one child, they can go on to empower others and show others they are loved. It becomes a chain reaction and it matters.

I hope and pray the end result of this work is a restored community. I truly believe this ranch is a place where people come and feel like they are doing something meaningful, and that’s because they are and it’s a safe place for them.

If you read this little bio about me and take away only one thing, I hope it’s this: Empower someone! Because empowered people empower people.