President & CEO
Dr. Wayne Honeycutt leads the Institute’s programs to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soils. He previously served for 5 years as the Deputy Chief for Science and Technology with USDA-NRCS in Washington, DC, where he led programs in technology acquisition, development, and transfer to ensure NRCS conservation practices reflect the latest scientific advances for conserving our nation’s soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources. He served as a Research Soil Scientist for 14 years and a Research Leader for 10 years with the USDA-ARS New England Plant, Soil, and Water Laboratory, where he led and conducted interdisciplinary research on carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycling and sustainable cropping systems development. In those roles he led national research teams for predicting nutrient availability, developed procedures adopted by ARS for enhancing national research coordination, and received regional and national awards for technology transfer.
He is a graduate of the “Mastering the Art of Public Leadership” executive development program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC and USDA’s “Performance Excellence and Knowledge” executive development program. He has served on assignments to the U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, USDA-ARS National Program Staff, and USDA-ARS Area Office Staff.
Wayne’s commitment to agriculture is rooted in his experiences with raising tobacco, corn, and other crops on his family’s 120-acre farm in Metcalfe County, Kentucky. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Forestry and Master's degree in Soil Science from the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. in Soil Genesis from Colorado State University.
Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Steven Shafer is responsible for developing and establishing the scientific direction, strategy and implementation plan for Institute research programs and establishing the research priorities for the Institute. His duties include leading the scientific research and coordinating projects carried out at various institutions that advance soil health science and result in useful and reportable results.
Dr. Shafer joined the Soil Health Institute after a career spanning more than 32 years in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In his last position, he served as Associate Administrator for National Programs in the Agricultural Research Service. In this position, he was the senior leader and manager for planning, prioritizing, and budgeting ARS’ comprehensive agricultural research programs. At other times in his career, he served as Director of ARS’ Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, USDA’s largest research installation located just outside Washington, DC; ARS Deputy Administrator for Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems national research programs; Senior Advisor for Climate Science in the Office of the Chief Scientist, USDA; Area Director for all research in ARS’ 8-state Midwest Area; and Research Plant Pathologist in ARS’ Air Quality-Plant Growth and Development Research Unit at Raleigh, NC, with concurrent faculty appointment in the Plant Pathology and Soil Science departments at North Carolina State University. His research focused on interactions of air quality with plants, pathogenic and beneficial microorganisms, and soils.
Dr. Shafer received the Senior Executive Service Meritorious Presidential Rank Award in 2011 and the USDA Secretary’s Honor Award in 2012 and 2014. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, all in plant pathology, with research emphasis on soil microbiology and chemistry. He is a native of Marion, Ohio.
Chief Operating Officer
Sheldon Jones brings over 30 years of experience to the Institute, including a balance of private sector, non-profit and public service experience. Prior to joining SHI he served as Vice President at the Farm Foundation, NFP, from 2008 to 2016, where he oversaw the Foundation’s financial operations and project management activities. His public service experience involved service as deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, 2004-2008. From 2002 until 2004, he was executive vice president of the Agri-Business Council of Arizona, the agricultural water and power membership organization. From 1997 until 2002, he was director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture. During his term, he was active in the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, serving as president of the organization in 2002. Sheldon worked in the banking industry for 14 years before beginning his career in government service. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Arizona State University.
Administrative and Communications Specialist
Byron Rath’s interest in agriculture stems from his experience at Middlebury College where he studied the work of Kentucky writer and farmer, Wendell Berry. Originally from Belle, Missouri, Byron has worked on farms in Missouri, Vermont, Turkey and Colorado. In 2008, Byron worked at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC in support of their mission to promote mutual understanding and respect. Inspired by this experience, Byron moved to Lebanon in 2010 where he taught Geography and English at the American Community School at Beirut. Prior to joining the Soil Health Institute, Byron worked for CCS, a global fundraising consulting and management firm that provides development services and strategic consulting to non-profit organizations worldwide. He is proficient in written and spoken Arabic.