Staff

Robin Kelson, Executive Director

Since 2013, Robin has owned and stewarded her Whitefish-based heirloom seed social enterprise/passion project, The Good Seed Company. “The community practice of selecting, saving and sharing seed is at the heart of human resiliency. Helping re-establish that practice is why the Good Seed Company exists. ” A food grower, biochemist and attorney by training, and a life-long student of metaphysics and the natural world, Robin has a deep curiosity about human vitality and exploring what constitutes resiliency. An AERO member and advocate since attending her first Expo in 2015, Robin joined AERO’s staff as Co-Executive Director in 2020 after two terms on the AERO Board of Directors. Email Robin at [email protected].

Drew Shanafelt, Abundant Montana Director, Interim

Drew is a western Washingtonian turned Montanan, and a former AERO Board member. A competitive ultimate Frisbee athlete. An aspiring reformer of modern society looking for ways to make people happier and healthier. A lover of food and the culture behind it. Drew dreams about a food system that is healthy for people, regenerative for our planet, accessible to all, community based, and powered by renewable energy. Abundant Montana has an essential role in building this food system in Montana, and it has never been more important that we do so. Email Drew at [email protected]

Erin Austin, Director of Community Partners, Interim

Erin believes growing, cooking, and sharing food in community heals. Her diverse career path has always centered on sustainability and equity. She brings experience working on organic farms, managing school meal programs, researching transit oriented development, advocating for sustainable agriculture policy, and directing nature-based therapeutic trauma programs. She believes that through a process of reconnecting to our internal environment, our communities, and the outdoors, we can restore balance with nature, pursue ambitious solutions to climate change, and lead joy-filled, sustainable lives. Erin holds a B.A. in Global Development Studies with a minor in Global Sustainability from the University of Virginia and a 200 hour yoga teacher certification. Erin also works as a Farm to School Gardens Manager with Garden City Harvest in Missoula, MT and is a former AERO Board member. Find Erin at: [email protected]

Gillian Thornton Andrews, Member Outreach Coordinator

Gillian is a beginning farmer and rancher in the Jocko Valley. She is the co-owner of Thunder Road Farm in Arlee, MT, which produces grass-finished beef and U-pick raspberries. Foundational to the farm are three main concepts: improving the ecological integrity of the land in our care, treating our animals well and with respect, and providing healthy, nourishing food to our community. Before turning to farming, Gillian studied Anthropology at the University of Oregon, and received an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. She worked as a place-based educator in Missoula for seven years, where she got to explore and share the wonders of the natural and built world with children. In addition to her work on the farm and with AERO, Gillian is also the Communications Coordinator for the nonprofit conservation organization People and Carnivores. She enjoys exploring the mountains behind her farm, getting to know new places, and pampering her chickens. Find Gillian at: [email protected]

Sammie McGowan, Local Food/Communications Coordinator & Supervisor

Sammie is Abundant Montana’s Glacier Country – North Local Food/Communications Coordinator & Supervisor.  After graduating from the George Washington University with a BA concentrating in marketing and international business, she set her sights on conquering Corporate America. When that failed to fulfill her, she moved to Alaska to become a hiking guide in Denali National Park where she found her passion for caring for the earth and all its inhabitants. As a Sustainability Educator for the Whitefish School District’s Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship, she found a passion for growing healthy food, creating healthy soil, and making healthy food accessible for all people. She is excited to use her marketing background to fulfill Abundant Montana’s Founding Principles, which perfectly align with all her passions! When she isn’t creating content for Abundant Montana, you can find her hiking with her dog, Charlie, rock climbing, or tending to her backyard garden! For Abundant MT matters in the Flathead Valley and the NNW corner of the state, email Sammie at: [email protected]

Mary Auld, Local Food/Communications Coordinator

Mary Auld is Abundant Montana’s Glacier Country – South Local Food/Communications Coordinator. She grew up in interior Alaska and upstate New York. She’s managed farm to school programs, worked on farms, and reported for public radio stations and newspapers. She has a Masters in Environmental Journalism from the University of Montana. Mary loves cooking with Montana-grown veggies, taking care of her house plants, and spending time on rivers. For Abundant MT matters in the Bitterroot and the southern section of Glacier Country, email Mary at: [email protected]mt.org

Natalie Wilkinson, Local Food/Communications Coordinator

Natalie is Abundant Montana’s Yellowstone Country Local Food/Communications Coordinator. Born and raised in Bozeman, she is excited about work that bridges gaps in the food system and builds networks of community-based support. She formerly worked at Fork and Spoon, a pay-what-you-can restaurant in Bozeman. In addition to her Abundant MT duties she also works at Gallatin Valley Botanical, a local organic farm. She believes that local food ought to be accessible to local people, and that all Montana communities deserve to steward the abundance of this state. We have a long way to go before we get there. In the meantime, Natalie is most often found singing while driving a tractor, embroidering flowers, or talking about how Bozeman’s municipal budget could be better allocated. Ask her about why land is so important for food justice, or why she likes slugs so much.For Abundant MT matters in Yellowstone Country, email Natalie at: [email protected]

Contractors

Michal DeChellis, Montana Food Economy Initiative Program Manager

Michal is a food systems consultant with a background in public health, farm to school, and program and project management. Michal is passionate about building an equitable and humane food system and promoting healthy and vibrant individuals, communities, and ecosystems. For information about AERO’s MFEI program contact Michal at: [email protected]

Sam Blomquist, Cottage Food Program Manager

Sam grew up chasing chickens, pigs, sheep and goats around her family’s farm on the front range of Colorado.  She counts herself lucky to have spent her career digging trails across the Pacific Northwest, Idaho and Alaska; backpacking with at-risk youth throughout Montana; growing vegetables in the Gallatin Valley; and most recently in nonprofit administration. 

Sam holds a BS from University of Montana in Resource Conservation and a MS from Montana State University in Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems and is a Registered Dietitian.  She believes deeply in the connection between food, agriculture, health, and community and is delighted to be part of the AERO team as the Cottage Food Program Manager.  For details on AERO’s cottage food programming, email Sam at: [email protected]

Board of Directors

Mark Juedeman, Helena

Treasurer

Mark grew up on a dryland grain farm in north-central Montana, and a ranch between Great Falls and Helena.  He moved to Houston to work for an energy company in 1980 after graduating with a degree in Earth Science from Montana State. In 1991 he and his family moved to New Orleans, where Mark was active in historic preservation, bicycle advocacy, education, the environmental non-profit The Green Project, and obtaining personal experience with renewable energy technologies such as small wind and PV.  Katrina displaced Mark and his family back to Houston, where he was involved with local food, urban sustainability, and permaculture, and where he founded Transition Houston, the 40th official Transition Initiative in the US.  Now that he is back in Montana he can help on the family ranch, while staying involved with Transition US and local sustainability initiatives. Mark looks forward working with AERO to support local regenerative agriculture, promote renewable energy, and help to build community resilience.

Madison Boone, Bozeman

Chair

Madison Boone is the Program and Communications Manager for the Montana Institute on Ecosystems (IoE) at MSU in Bozeman. Originally from Oklahoma, Madison developed a passion for sustainable agriculture and local food systems after working on an organic vegetable farm in Arkansas and the Heifer International-owned Heifer Farm in Massachusetts, where she helped holistically manage their livestock. Madison came to Montana through the Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) Program in 2016, through which she served in Bozeman with the non-profit One Montana and MSU-Extension Service in Gallatin County on projects related to agriculture, water, and climate change. She began working for the IoE in late 2017 in her current role and continues to help with research projects related to climate and agriculture while also working to bring together interdisciplinary groups to address environmental and natural resources challenges in Montana. She is excited to serve on the AERO Board to help build support for the organization and its programs and ultimately work towards a more resilient, sustainable vision of agriculture in the state.

Erin Carroll, Bozeman

Secretary

Erin Carroll is currently attending Montana State University in Bozeman, studying Plant Biology.  She became interested in agriculture after learning about the effects of industrial agriculture on human health, and its impact on the natural environment. Her interests are in developing locally adapted crops, expanding genetic diversity and getting more people involved in growing their food. She is excited to support and build upon AERO’s work and looks forward to seeing more local, sustainable, and resilient food and energy systems in Montana.

Chris LaRoche, Missoula

Vice-Chair

Now living in Missoula, Chris hails from Billings, by way of Washington.  A long-time advocate of sustainability, Chris is looking forward to supporting AERO in carrying out its mission.

Ada Smith, Missoula

Growing up on a small farmstead in rural Wisconsin and summers on her grandparents ranch in Montana were formative in developing Ada’s interest in food systems that connect and sustain people and places. In Ada’s current research as a PhD Candidate at the University of Montana, she is working with ranchers to understand how adaptive rangeland management practices are being utilized to support ecological and economic sustainability in Montana. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Wellesley College and her M.A. in Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia working in partnership with Gitxaala Nation to understand and support a community food sovereignty program, which included efforts to integrate Indigenous knowledge into food literacy curriculum. Prior to her time in Canada, Ada spent two years developing a permaculture garden classroom in the Dominican Republic. Ada seldom says ‘no’ to adventure and learning new ways to move through landscapes — she is especially excited about developing her recently acquired skills in hunting in order to harvest more of her own food here in Montana.

Rob Byron, MD, MPH, Hardin

Robert is an internist who lives in Hardin, Montana.   He received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, served four years as an officer in the US Navy, before then earned his MD from the University of Louisville.   Following residency at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, he moved to Hardin where he worked on the Crow Reservation for over two decades.   After retiring from the Indian Health Service Dr. Byron worked as a hospitalist in Billings and helped start Bighorn Valley Health Center, a federally qualified health center in Hardin.   He was appointed to the Montana Board of Environmental Review in 2015 and is a former governor of the Montana Chapter of the American College of Physicians.  With Lori, his wife, he is co-chair of the Citizens Climate Lobby Health Team and helped start Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate.   He is one of the lead authors of the recently released “Climate Change and Human Health in Montana” report.   He has been a strong advocate for sustainability, environmental justice and climate change issues at the state and national level.

Andrew Crowe, Bozeman

I attended MSU, completing my degree in Cell Biology and Neuroscience. I have a diverse occupational background, recently I resigned from the medical field to gain a deeper understanding in the relationship between production and consumption in the food industry.  My generalist perspective uprooted my ability to accept the social norms in medicine, agriculture, energy, and community. My intentions have been directed towards circumventing conventional practices to allow for more resilient, regenerative solutions to be realized, with insight from biomimicry, social neuroscience, personal experience and curiosity. I enjoy making, learning, conversations of substance, gardening, designing and fly fishing.

Colter Schroeder, Livingston

Colter grew up on a cattle operation in the Bitterroot valley.  He graduated with a BS in Bio-Chemical Engineering from Montana State and went to work for Schlumberger.  He and his family moved with Schlumberger every few years and lived in: Thibodaux, LA, Corning, NY, Houston, TX, Abu Dhabi, UAE, St. John’s, NL, then Houston again.  During a job scare in 2016 he attempted to move his family home only to discover that traditional living / agriculture were not viable.  In an attempt to fix some of the problems in traditional agriculture he found Permaculture.  After discovering Permaculture he attempted to learn everything he could about sustainable / regenerative living.  Once back in Houston he was able to get his Permaculture Designers Certificate from the Houston Permaculture Guild.  He started the Houston Permaculture Labor Co-Op to try and bring together people with the desire to learn, with people that had projects that needed labor.  During the 2020 Covid pandemic Colter moved his family back to Montana while working remotely, and purchased a property in the Livingston area.  He and his family have founded The Intentional Homestead and are building it up, while bringing sustainability / regenerative practices to their community.

Alternative Energy Resources Organization

Mailing address: PO Box 1558, Helena MT 59624

Physical address: 32 S Ewing St #333, Helena MT 59601