Our team offers a bumper crop of collective experience.
MeeCee's years of experience, technical knowledge of client 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.
Recently Baker was named number three on City and State's Power Ag 100 and one of the 50 over 50 by the same group. She also was recognized as a top 30 Lawyers and Lobbyists by the Central Penn Business Journal and was pleased the firm was recognized in the City and State Top 50 Lobbyists.
MeeCee, husband Jim Garofalo, a retired PA State Police Major, and daughter Libby, a Lutheran seminarian who was the former state FFA President, live on the Baker homestead farm in Juniata County.
Caleb's organizational skills, impassioned advocacy, and media savvy allow him to activate client audiences and attract the attention of decision makers. Caleb has become the go to source for both industry personal and legislative staff.
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 the rising voice of rural Pennsylvania's next generation.
Raised on a Huntingdon County farm that has borne his family's name for over a century, Wright grew up as the grandson of the region's renowned veterinarian, Doc Kyper. Prior to joining Versant Strategies, he taught high school agriculture in New Hollard, PA, and in his earlier youth was a state FFA (Future Farmers of America) officer and national FFA officer candidate.
Wright graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Extension Education and was named as the College of Agricultural Science's inaugural Emerging Leader Candidate working one on one with the College's Dean. More recently, he was named one of “30 under 30” (the only Pennsylvanian) by AgGrad, and a 40 Under 40 by City and State PA. Further, Caleb has been listed on City and State PA's Ag Power 100 List. A skilled speaker, his energized commitment to rural America also earned him the Youth Agricultural Award presented by the Penn State Agriculture Council. Wright has served on numerous boards in leadership positions, including President of the PA FFA Foundation, Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society Board and volunteers to support the advocacy efforts of the National MS Society. Caleb is a Penn State College of Ag Sciences Armsby Society Member.
Along with supporting day-to-day operations of the firm, Wright actively lobbies in both Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. on behalf of Versant's clients.
Ron's service as an elected Representative provides inside the Capitol knowledge of the legislative process. This experience and his ongoing relationships with elected officials and staff give Versant’s governmental relations practice an edge in client service.
Ron's extensive experience in state and local government help Versant’s clients set strategies to achieve their legislative and regulatory goals. Ron served in the PA House of Representatives for over 20 years and was an active member of the House Consumer Affairs and Rules Committees. Ultimately, he was named Secretary of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee and became Chairman of the House Liquor Committee. Prior to his election to represent the 162nd House District, Ron served as Mayor of Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania. More recently, he worked in governmental affairs serving a myriad of interests in the State Capitol. His ability to navigate the political system and develop game day style contingency strategies affords Versant clients elevated service.
Versant appreciates having Andrea’s financial management skills on hand – and so do clients.
Andrea manages accounts receivable and payable, prepares invoices, and generates the financial documents that keeps Versant’s business arm running smoothly. Updegrove’s bookkeeping skills gleaned from her experiences with a broad range of organizations (local businesses, large corporations, associations, and nonprofits) are available to and valued by clients.
John BarleyFounder of Versant Strategies
The Versant team thanks former House Appropriations Chair and Founder 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.