Past Board Members

Jess Alger operates a dryland organic grain and grassfed organic beef operation outside of Stanford, Montana. Jess first got involved with AERO through a Farm and Ranch Improvement Club program in the early 1990s. His Farm Club started out by experimenting with a legume called black medic to add nitrogen to the soil as an alternative to using chemical fertilizer. Jess has continued his on-farm research over the past 20 years studying numerous other crop and grazing rotations to control weeds and boost production with organic methods. In 2003 Jess installed a 10 kW net-metered Bergey wind turbine that provides much of the electricity he uses on his ranch.

Cori Ash first started her work with agriculture about tens years ago in the beautiful Flathead Valley. In 2006, Cori moved to Missoula where she started farming with Garden City Harvest and blending agriculture, community development and education.  Cori now manages the Youth Farm, a 2-acre farm and youth employment program, that is a partnership between Garden City Harvest and Youth Homes.  When not farming, cooking, or eating, you can find her pursuing her myriad of other loves.

Jim Baerg was raised on a farm on the Hi-Line and graduated from Glasgow High School. After attending the University of Montana for several years, he moved to the Gallatin Valley. He was an early proponent and practitioner of Energy Efficient residential construction, starting in the mid 1970s. He also has considerable experience with historic restoration and remodeling. He is particularly proud of his work restoring the Tinsley Homestead House at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Jim lives with his family in Livingston. His design and consulting business, Montana Energy+Design focuses on sustainable building design, consulting on technical energy issues, and supporting sustainable community projects.

Eric Bergman and his wife Audra operate Groundworks Farm, market farm outside of Great Falls, Montana, his hometown. The path to farming has led Eric through work in biological research, natural history education, and sustainable development projects. He identifies with the good work of sustainability and justice that AERO advances. Besides the opportunity for deliberate living, he enjoys the elegant complexities of ecological farming, and recognizes its necessity for healthy communities.

Sally Bostrom has been a community leader, activist and volunteer for over 40 years. While a resident of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Sally represented the environmental community on a broad based “smart growth” coalition. The group included ranchers, farmers, community leaders, and policy makers that worked to build consensus on issues relating to residential growth, public transportation and working lands. This unique collaborative community effort became a model for other areas of the country.

Barb Brant lives and works in Whitefish, Montana. As Special Projects Coordinator for Montana Coffee Traders it is her mission to have everyone asking “Who’s your Farmer?” whether they are talking about Kale or Coffee, and to bring Flathead Valley residents and tourists the delights and bounty of Montana local foods. She is a founding member of Nourish the Flathead and Farm Hands—non-profit organizations that are educating the Flathead about Food systems, creating gardens, farmers markets, and hosting fun food events.

Grace Brogan is determined to cultivate healthy, just communities, food systems, and environments. For over a decade, she has engaged in the fields of nonprofit program management, environmental & arts education, and sustainable farming through the lens of bringing folks together and paying close attention to one’s part a complicated system of relationships. She received her BA in Studio Art and English while studying environmental science, art, and politics, followed later by an MS in sustainable food systems and creative writing. Her interest in values-based economies led to her first season of organic farming in 2007 and an immersion in the programming and operations of a community-based nonprofit committed to teaching traditional crafts in 2008. She’s been combining these passions ever since. Grace currently works to connect producers with innovate market channels and citizens with healthy food, using education and communication as tools of action with Renewing the Countryside. Grace is the Secretary of the 2016-2017 Board.

Martha Brown grew up on a cattle ranch near Sand Springs, in eastern Montana. After college in Bozeman, she completed graduate degrees in Arizona and Nebraska and followed a career path in college and university administrative positions. She lives in Red Lodge, where she loves the mountains and takes advantage of every opportunity to hike or ski. Passionate about building access and demand for local food and supporting sustainable agriculture, she is a founding member of the Red Lodge Area Food Partnership Council and serves on the Leadership Team. Founded after a successful community forum on local food in 2011, the Council co-sponsors a FoodCorps service member, coordinates the expanding community gardens, annual food-related film series, farm tours, Farmers Market, organic food buying club, adult educational programs and classes, local food events and dinners.

May Conley is a student at the University of Montana studying Environmental Studies and Psychology. She is interested in incorporating farming with Clinical Psychology. Born in Brooklyn, May finished high school in the Flathead Valley where she began working on farms and at a farmers market. She has spent the past two years being a Farm Hand at Purple Frog Gardens, and the past three years running the SNAP booth at the Whitefish Farmer’s Market. She helped launch the SNAP2 program at the Whitefish Farmer’s Market two summers ago, a program that attempts to provide equal food access in the Flathead Valley.

Ellie Costello was a University of Montana Environmental Studies Masters Candidate with a focus on agriculture and policy.  She started her work with nonprofit organizations in the field of arts administration about eight years ago while she completed her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia.  Even though you will occasionally find her filling in as a substitute administrator at the Zootown Arts Community Center, she has mostly left the arts behind to work in a different medium of community building: agriculture. Since she moved to Montana in 2009, she has done outdoors conservation work, several seasons of farm apprenticeships.  She currently has also worked with Garden City Harvest, caretaking an educational not-for-profit farm, and with Organic Seed Alliance as the Communications and Advocacy Intern.

Courtney Lowery-Cowgill is a writer, editor and farmer based in Central Montana. She and her husband Jacob run Prairie Heritage Farm — a small, diversified, organic operation that grows vegetables, heritage turkeys and heritage and ancient grains. Courtney’s off-farm job is as the managing editor of PBS MediaShift and she also writes about raising kids, food (and sometimes a little ruckus) on her blog and for various publications. She is the former editor in chief and the co-founder of the now offline magazine NewWest.Net and also the co-creator of the Rural News Network project at the University of Montana, which helped small towns revive their newspapers online.

Anna Jones-Crabtree is the Sustainable Operations Coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service. She received a Ph.D. in Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology where her dissertation work focused on the paradigm of sustainable decision-making. Anna is a registered Professional Engineer, as well as a farmer.

Emily Davidson is the Outreach Coordinator for a nonprofit used bookstore in Missoula.  A native Michigander, she has called Montana her home for over 15 years.  She has a Master’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana with a focus in Sustainable Food and Farming.  Emily considers herself an urban farmer, constantly asking her landlord if she can expand the gardening space, raise chickens, or build a small greenhouse.  When she’s not gardening or walking her dog Shep, she’s out hitting the trails on her mountain bike.

Anna Diffenderfer lives just outside of Bozeman with her hubby and three kids (oh, and dog, cats and chickens) and is knee deep in graduate studies at Montana State University.  She has a Business Marketing degree from California State University, Chico and after some life experience and fine tuning of priorities is now pursuing a graduate degree in Sustainable Food Systems, partnered with Dietetics.  Her career goal is to educate people, particularly the future stewards of this earth, about the importance of partnering sustainability with holistic wellness creating healthy communities, individuals and families.  She is MSU’s Farm to College Coordinator, co-manager of MSU’s student farm, Towne’s Harvest Garden and active in the student club Friends of Local Foods.  She also serves on the board of Farms for Families, always plants way too many zucchini and tomato plants in the garden and is a wanna-be hobby farmer.  Originally from Northern California, she has found her home in Montana.

Jean Duncan is the Director of Finance & Administration for Women’s Voices of the Earth (WVE) in Missoula. She has worked for the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, the Montana Hunger Coalition, the Good Food Store, and the Organic Certification Association of Montana (OCAM.) She has extensive experience with natural foods stores and cooperatives. She helped to establish Sundog Ecovillage near Missoula, where she lives with others in a community with a small ecological footprint.

Ian Finch was born and raised in Helena but now calls Missoula home after planting his roots there over the past six years. He received his degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana with a special emphasis in Environmental Justice.  He was elected as the National Campaign Coordinator for the United Students for Fair Trade, where he set about forming a national coalition to spearhead The Fair Trade University Campaign.    Then, after a brief summer farming in Oregon, Ian returned to Montana to coordinate the Farm to College Program at the University of Montana, where he also cooperatively runs a campus composting program and demonstration garden.  Ian is thankful to live with his three best friends and dog, Porter, plays music at every chance, and loves a good dance.

Jeffrey Funk has been an avid organic gardener all his adult life, and has been deeply interested in energy issues for much of that time. He believes that how we envision agriculture and energy issues will largely define the future of our society, and that the challenges we will face on both fronts are nothing short of extraordinary. The grassroots work and consensus building in AERO is important in contributing to that vision, and to fostering a practical approach to community life in the twenty first century. A resident of Bigfork, Jeff has worked as an artist blacksmith since 1976 — an artist producing both sculpture and architectural forged metalwork on commission, from plowshares to public sculpture. He has a particular interest in the history of metals and fuels.

Judith Fraser is a former Program Manager, of Wilderness and Trails, for the Bitterroot National Forest. In this capacity she supervised over 20 employees, managed a large budget, administered numerous trail contracts, and was involved in strategic planning. Before this position she spent many years in magnificent wilderness. She has an MS in Environmental Studies with an emphasis on resource management and a passion for plants, especially wildflowers. In retirement, she is an avid, non-linear gardener and addicted to Farmer’s Market. Her grapevine climbs a huge crabapple tree.

Pam Gerwe is a partner/operator of Purple Frog Gardens, a first generation market farm in Whitefish, Montana. Working with teenagers and community members in the dirt is one of her favorite things to do. She likes making compost, vermicompost and driving the tractor. Pam is slowly decreasing the farm flock of laying hens from a high of 750—she hopes never to have more than 200 chickens again. She loves the way the year divides her attentions. About half the year is spent farming/marketing and growing food/community. The other half she gets to travel around the Flathead Valley and Montana to talk about farming, growing food, community and the importance of eating local.

Kim Gilchrist is a Missoula transplant originally from New Jersey. She studied received her degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana, studying sustainable agriculture.  She has a BS in Business Administration from Towson University in Maryland, where she spent the past few years working on communications in the retirement plan. Before moving to Montana, Kim did some work interning with a sustainable foods purchasing program for Maryland hospitals. Her goal now is to work on strengthening local food systems so farmers, communities, and consumers can all prosper. She hopes that someday we move towards a better food culture where we all appreciate good food that nourishes our bodies and souls.

Janet Hess-Herbert has lived in Montana since 1975 when she traveled west from Ohio to begin her graduate work at the University of Montana Environmental Studies Program.  Her thesis work involved researching the aquatic community in the upper Blackfoot River that led to her 32-year career with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She worked in Dillon and Kalispell as a fisheries biologist and retired from the department as the Information Management Bureau Chief in October 2011.  Janet has lived in Helena since 1999 with her husband Jeff. Children include an organic farmer in western Montana, a kindergarten teacher in Creston, a firefighter in Austin Texas and a chef in Las Vegas, one granddaughter and another on the way! She has been a life-long gardener that now includes a 1,500 square foot plot in her backyard that she spends much of her summer and fall growing and preserving its bounty. She also loves most forms of outdoor recreation with backpacking, hiking and fly-fishing at the top of the list and indoor activities of sewing, knitting and jewelry making. Community service has always been an important part of her adult life that has spanned everything from president of her daughters’ elementary school PTA to co-chair of the Helena Growing Project, co-chair of the Helena Citizens Council and membership on numerous boards and organizations. Janet’s interest in AERO began in the summer of 2006 when daughter Kaly (now Harlequin Produce) interned with the Agricultural Program.

Kristina “Kiki” Hubbard’s own farming experience has been limited to a jaunt on a combine in Iowa, butchering turkeys, and keeping a modest garden at her home in Missoula, but she has always had a profound respect for farmers and ranchers. Her roots extend to Wisconsin’s gentle green terrain, but it’s in the Rocky Mountain West where she works as a researcher, writer, and organizer for food and agricultural organizations. She is Director of Advocacy for the Organic Seed Alliance, and is a consultant for the Center for Rural Affairs. Kiki loves to sip coffee, tell terrible jokes, and bake crackers.

Erin Janoso raises veggies, salad mix, and egg-laying hens on pasture in Roundup, a small town in cetnral Montana’s Musselshell County. Erin’s Badger Rock Farm sells its sustainably-raised products to Roundup residents and cafés, as well as at the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market in Billings. During the winter months, Erin works with her husband, Jim, on his microscope sales and service business, and on the renovation of the 100-year-old bank building that is their home.

Stephanie Laporte Potts  was raised (mostly) in Michigan and studied and worked in the Washington, DC area before moving to Montana in 2010. She has a bachelors degrees in international studies and environmental studies from American University, and an M.S. in environmental studies from the University of Montana. Stephanie has a passion for bringing new people and interests together around food and environmental issues, and has worked in education, activism, and fundraising to help support positive change. Currently, she coordinates Grow Montana, a statewide coalition working to strengthen Montana’s local and regional food economy. In her free time, you can find Stephanie exploring the trails and hot springs of Montana and Idaho, or in Missoula with her husband, ducks, chickens, cat, and front-yard garden.

John Mann received his BA in psychology from the University of Oklahoma, after which he moved to Bozeman and met his wife Jodi. After moving to Helena in 2004, his interest in gardening and agriculture became more vivid while learning to shear sheep, spin yarn, and weave. John and Jodi now own a farm, complete with a flock of Icelandic sheep, in Toston.

Nathan Merrill is a fifth generation wheat farmer in Big Sandy. He moved back in 2007, after ten years spent in Portland, OR, and has been running his family’s organic operation ever since. While living in Portland, Nathan helped start Ethos Music Center, a non-profit that has grown to be one of the fastest growing not for profits in Oregon, teaching the love of music to approximately 4000 underserved kids per year. After helping get Ethos on its feet and realizing the need to take the farming reins from his father, Nathan returned to Montana with his proven drive to succeed and is using that as he builds up his farm to a goal of complete renewable energy independence. He faces the challenges of remaining organic as a large scale small grains farm by constantly researching and implementing practices that, although much more time and labor intensive than conventional, offer him a complete sense of satisfaction at the end of the season knowing that he is producing a much healthier and sustainable food source. Nathan resides in Big Sandy with his wife, Mary, their three organic energy sources, and a dog.

Kate O’Brien was absolutely instrumental in the concept, design, and creation of AERO’s new website. She, her husband Frank, and their sons Henry and Ben recently moved from Whitefish to Neskowin, a small town on the Oregon coast.

Jill Owen resides in Choteau with her husband and two horses. Jill owns and operates Mountain Front Market in Choteau, a grocery store specializing in organic and locally grown foods.

John Palm has been working in the residential and commercial building/renewable energy industry since 1986. John’s focus has been on the ever-evolving development and adoption of energy efficient building practices, coupled with the smart application of alternative energy technologies. Through his business, Bozeman Green Build, John has had the opportunity to design and implement some of Montana’s largest solar PV systems. Through his membership on the Board, John is eager to help AERO educate the greater Montana community about our state’s solar resource, and to help folks get the tools to adopt our state’s solar rescue, and to help folks get the tools to adopt renewable energy today- whether it be solar PV, solar hot water, or passive solar through energy efficient building design. John lives west of Belgrade with his wife, kids, a small, organic beef herd and some laying hens.

Bruce Smith is the Dawson County Extension Agent in Glendive. He has a BS in Agricultural Production/Animal Science, a BS in Agricultural Business from Montana State University, and an MBA from Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo. Bruce managed food manufacturing plants in California, Illinois, and Idaho before returning to Montana. He is currently working on developing local food systems, value-added agriculture, and rural leadership development.

Brett Tallman has been a self employed woodworker and building contractor for the past 14 years and focuses mostly on creative designs. He has also spent several years as a coach for the Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation. Brett has a degree in physics from Montana State University and has had a long time interest in alternative energy, energy conservation, and sustainable practices.

Charlotte Trolinger completed her architecture degree in Chicago in the 70s, of which passive solar, appropriate design, and pedestrian, bicycle, and mass transit planning were all important components. While still in Chicago she became involved in the city’s urban garden program. In 1981, she moved to Bozeman to teach photography in the Media and Theatre Arts Department at MSU. As a faculty member and community activist, Charlotte’s courses and workshops focused on both image content and civic involvement. She recently moved to Boulder, MT.

Annie was born in Bozeman and has lived and worked around the state, country, and world in the meantime.  With professional experience in land use planning and economic development and academic degrees in planning and sustainable agriculture, Annie is thrilled to be back in Montana, putting her knowledge to work for the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) in Missoula.  Annie’s work for CFAC focuses on farmland conservation and beginning farmer and rancher development.  When not behind her desk, Annie can be found hoofing it up and down mountains in sun and snow or on the water, preferably on a sailboat, although rafts and canoes are growing on her!

Originally from New York State’s Hudson Valley region, Lyra moved to Montana in July of 2008 to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the FoodCorps program sponsored by Grow Montana and Montana Campus Compact (MTCC). In the last two years she has worked with MSU’s Farm to College-Montana Made Program helping to boost local food purchases to 15% and organize events like the Local Food Fair. Lyra attended Green Mountain College for her undergraduate studies where she received a BA in Environmental Studies. At Green Mountain Lyra fostered her passion for sustainability in energy and food production and lead her to Montana for a post graduation job. In the fall of 2009 she began her graduate studies at Montana State in Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems. She has continued her work as coordinator of the Montana Made Program and is working on a master’s project around tools for farmers related to on farm food safety regulation.

Elisa, originally hailing from Vermont, lives in Bozeman where she currently works for Keystone Conservation, a Bozeman-based non-profit which focuses on helping people live and work in partnership with land and wildlife.  She is just starting to delve into the complex world of Holistic Range Management with Keystone, and enjoying the challenge. Elisa has worked with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA VT) and VT Food Education Everyday (FEED), helping to spread awareness about the environmental impacts of the food systems and the importance of localizing food. With a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School and a B.A. in Environmental Sociology from St. Lawrence University, Elisa has a diverse and interdisciplinary background. She loves living in Bozeman and having the mountains right in her backyard.

Theresa Cox grew up on the periphery of agriculture, with maternal grandparents who farmed in Central Montana, and paternal grandparents, Italian immigrants, who grew extraordinary vegetable gardens. Her own agricultural experience is limited to the care of wooden horses and dragons (as the Executive Director of A Carousel for Missoula) and cultivating a vegetable garden that has greater success nurturing her soul than growing produce. Theresa is very active in her church, where she writes a monthly newsletter column and is the chair of a committee raising funds for a $3M renovation project. Theresa and her husband, Randy, a lawyer, live in Missoula. They have three adult children. Jason is completing undergraduate studies at the University of Montana and is applying to seminaries. Jess works with Theresa at the Carousel; she and her husband, Frank, have two incredible sons: Pierce, 4, and Everett, 2. Jamie and his partner, Gabe, live in Oregon, where Jamie is a project manager at a localization company. In honor of previous generations, in fear for future generations, and in respect for her own interest in treating the earth kindly, she looks forward to serving on the AERO board to learn and to pass that knowledge on to others.

Demetrius Fassas believes that health begins with what you put into your body, with food being the first and most important medicine. Armed with a B.S. in Biology from Butler University and two years of FoodCorps service, Demetrius seeks to build momentum in the shift towards locally resilient food systems in his position with NCAT’s Farm to Cafeteria Network by bringing people together around the importance and impact of really good food.  Born in Kentucky, but a resident of Montana for over 5 years, Demetrius considers himself one of the truly Montucky Lucky and is thrilled to serve the cause of local resilience as an AERO board member.

Jeff Pernell is an entrepreneur and innovator with a background in education.  He currently runs a startup company called Galactic Farms which focuses on indoor, year-round horticultural production.  The SPACE 200 (Sustainable, Probiotic, Aquaponics, Cultivation, Environment), a small demonstration system, can be seen at the Corner Store in the Lommasson Center on the University of Montana campus.  He’s now proud to be showing off the larger demonstration center and is now accepting visitors by appointment. His passion for local year-round production even in harsh climates made for a perfect paring for several small test systems he designed and built for use on the analog Mars simulation mission in Hawaii.  His focus on food, energy saving growing techniques, and use of the latest technology makes him a great match for the AERO team.