Our team offers a bumper crop of collective experience.

  • MeeCee Baker, PhD

    President/CEO

    MeeCee’s years of experience, knowledge of clients' issues and homegrown commitment to their concerns have made her name synonymous with agricultural and rural issues in Pennsylvania.  In sum, she is credentialed and connected.

    Dr. Baker owns Versant Strategies, a premier governmental relations firm focused on agricultural, environmental, and rural issues.  Versant has represented dozens of clients in the Harrisburg and DC marketplace ranging from small farms and businesses to Fortune 500 companies.  Baker’s networking skills allow her to efficiently and effectively move client messages to advocate on their behalf.

    Previously, Dr. Baker served in the executive office of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. While there, she directed the educational outreach for the Department using the knowledge, skills, and traits she perfected during her 20 years behind a teacher’s desk at secondary and post-secondary institutions.  Baker served as a faculty member at Penn State, an adjunct professor at North Carolina State University, and was the first woman elected as president of the National Association of Agricultural Educators. She is known across the nation as a published author and columnist with frequent engagements as a motivational keynote speaker and workshop presenter.

    Dr. Baker was named an Alumni Fellow at the Penn State University and delivered the commencement address at the College of Agricultural Sciences spring graduation. She also received the prestigious Medal of Honor Award from the Philadelphia Society for the Promotion of Agriculture (PSPA), the oldest (1785) continuously operating agricultural society in the country. PSPA was involved in establishing the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. In addition, Baker was honored with the esteemed Jefferson Award by the Penn Ag Democrats.

    MeeCee, husband Jim Garofalo, a retired PA State Police Major who now works with USDA Investigation and Enforcement, and daughter Libby, a former state FFA president (Future Farmers’ of America), live on the Baker homestead farm in Juniata County.

  • Caleb Wright

    Chief Operating Officer

    Caleb’s organizational skills, impassioned advocacy and ability to activate our clients’ audiences place him at the forefront of the Versant team.

    Chief Operating Officer Caleb Wright’s roots in Pennsylvania’s agricultural community are deep, and accolades earned during his young career have marked him as a voice of rural Pennsylvania’s new generation. Raised on a Huntingdon County farm that has borne his family’s name for over a century, Caleb grew up as the grandson of the region’s renowned veterinarian, Doc Kyper, with a family legacy of serving the rural community. Prior to joining Versant Strategies, he served as a PA State FFA Officer, was a National FFA Officer Candidate, and taught high school agriculture.

    Caleb is a graduate of Penn State with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Extension Education. He was named as the College of Agricultural Science’s inaugural Emerging Leader Candidate, working one-on-one with the College’s Dean. Caleb investigated recruitment and retention of students in Agricultural Education as a Penn State research project. A skilled speaker, his energized commitment to rural education also earned him the Youth Agricultural Award presented by the Penn State Agriculture Council. Wright was elected to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society Board and also serves on the Board of the PA FFA Foundation.

    Along with managing day-to-day operations of the firm, Caleb actively lobbies and assists with organizational management.

  • Andrea Updegrove

    Chief Financial Officer

    We appreciate having Andrea’s financial management skills on hand – and so do clients.

    Andrea manages accounts receivable and accounts payable, prepares invoices, and generates all the financial documents that keep Versant’s team running smoothly. Her bookkeeping skills are also available to and valued by clients. Her versatility in serving the accounting needs of different client interests stems from her experiences with a broad range of organizations including local businesses, corporations and nonprofits.

  • Elizabeth Smith

    Communications Specialist

    Need some well-crafted words and pictures to support your efforts? Elizabeth has got you covered.

    From graphic design of a media kit to writing news releases, Versant’s Communications Specialist Elizabeth Smith creates the pieces to help package and promote our clients’ messages. She lends her design and editing skills to all manner of advertising, promotional materials and publications.  

  • John Barley

    Former Partner and Consultant

    Also available for counsel is former House Appropriations Chair John Barley.

    Beyond his service within state government, Barley was a frequent deliverer of political commentary on TV. He is also well known as the founder of Star Rock Farms in 1963, which has grown to become Pennsylvania’s largest multi-enterprise farming operation.