Welcome, Robin Turnau
After more than 25 years at Vermont Public Radio — nine as its CEO, Robin Turnau joined Shelburne Farms as Chief Advancement Officer in September. We sat down with her to chat about her career at VPR, and her new role at the Farm.
How did you get started at vpr?
VPR was my second job after graduating from UVM with a degree in Anthropology. I had grown up in a public radio household, so when I saw a membership drive coordinator job advertised at VPR, I applied. And then I worked my way up.
What are you most proud of from your time as ceo at vpr?
I was always focused on having more people engage with and listen to VPR, because I believe so deeply in its values and essential nature. I’m incredibly proud that we were able to expand VPR’s signal statewide during my tenure, to serve all corners of Vermont. During my time as CEO, the listenership of VPR reached an all-time high of more than 220,000 people. When I started in 1989, the listenership was around 90,000. To see that amount of growth and engagement with public radio in Vermont was incredibly rewarding. VPR is – and remains – one of, if not the most listened to public radio stations in the country, per capita.
You left vpr last May. How did you arrive at that decision?
I love VPR. I just felt like I had done what I could do there, and I wanted another chapter in my life. I wanted to get to know and be involved with another nonprofit – and help it thrive.
What brought you to Shelburne Farms?
I’m really curious about the agricultural future of Vermont. I care about water quality, the farm to plate movement, long-term sustainability, and climate change. Not that I’m expert in any of these things but I’m really curious about them. As I was looking to combine all these interests, Shelburne Farms came to the top of the list. I’m incredibly happy to be here.
What are you looking forward to in your role as the Farm’s Chief Advancement Officer?
I think of VPR as being all about community, and I see the similarities here at Shelburne Farms. I want to figure out how can we build even more community around Shelburne Farms, not just in the Chittenden County area but more nationally and worldwide.
Also, I’ve seen the power of fundraising and philanthropy in transforming VPR: in transforming our space, our service, the number of towers and transmitters. I’m intrigued by what additional philanthropy can do here at Shelburne Farms – in enhancing our educational mission and preserving these incredible historic structures. That’s really going to be my focus: to raise the resources and awareness of Shelburne Farms.
What are your first impressions of the Farm?
This summer, I had the pleasure of sitting in on the EFS Institute and the Farm to School Institute and that was eye-opening. I knew more broadly about Shelburne Farms’ mission to inspire and cultivate learning for a sustainable future, but I didn’t understand exactly what that meant until I saw it in person. I saw educators coming together and learning, and met folks like Peju, from Nigeria, who was back for her second EFS Institute and had brought more teachers with her because of the impact Shelburne Farms had on her. I have a much deeper understanding of what Shelburne Farms does now. And I’m looking forward to learning more!
Also the people are spectacular. The depth of their commitment and passion for Shelburne Farms shines through bright and clear. That’s really exciting to see.
What’s one thing you’d like people to know about Shelburne Farms?
There’s a lot to this organization: the market garden, inn, dairy, cheesemaking, etc. People think of it as an absolutely beautiful place, and it is, but there’s so much depth to the educational mission of helping students build a healthy future for their communities and the planet.
Robin lives in Charlotte with her husband, ten chickens (Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Ameraucanas), a dog and cat. She has two college-age children. When not at work, she’s an accomplished gardener, mushroom forager, and potter.