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 Interim Co-Executive Director in 2020 after two terms on the AERO Board of Directors. Email Robin at [email protected].

Drew Shanafelt, Abundant Montana Director

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

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. Email 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. She enjoys exploring the mountains behind her farm, getting to know new places, and pampering her chickens. Email Gillian at: [email protected]

Sammie McGowan, Abundant Montana Assistant Director

Sammie is Abundant Montana’s Assistant Director. 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! Email Sammie at: [email protected]

Randi Rae Wing, Nakoda Aaniiih EDC Food Sovereignty/Local Food Coordinator

Contractor

Amba Wastae. This means “Hello” in my Language. My name is Randi Rae Wing, soon-to-be Randi Rae Fetter. I am from the Fort Belknap Reservation and am a Proud Member of the Assiniboine Nation. My Indian Name is White Snow Woman and I am a proud Mother of 2 daughters and 4 step children. I am currently attending college pursuing a Business Degree with a passion for bookkeeping. I just received my Master Gardener certificate. In my spare time, I quilt my Mother’s Star blankets that she sews and I love baking cake pops, which is an art in itself. I am excited to have joined the AERO team and am excited to share my culture and explore the thought of food sovereignty in our area. Email Randi at: [email protected]

Sam Blomquist, Cottage Food Program Manager

Contractor

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]

Anthony Pavkovich, Communications Coordinator for Abundant Montana

Anthony is a dedicated storyteller unafraid of getting his hands dirty. Whether knee deep in manure, riding an old, semi reliable tractor, covered in feathers butchering chickens, or running his way up a remote peak, he’s always keeping his eyes and ears open for captivating stories. With a masters degree from the University of Montana in Natural Resource and Environmental Journalism and years of freelance experience, he’s excited to share in Abundant Montana’s growth and work with partners across the state to spread the importance of local, community based food. Email Anthony at: [email protected]

Tracee Hume, Communications Coordinator for Abundant Montana

Tracee’s passion for food system equity and sustainability led her to pursue a career in community nutrition. Her experience working in public health, community gardens, and school nutrition programs have strengthened her belief that healthy people and a healthy planet go hand-in-hand. She’s excited to collaborate with Abundant Montana’s vibrant community of local food businesses. When she’s not at work, you can find Tracee adventuring outside or in her kitchen cooking! Email Tracee at: [email protected]

Michal DeChellis, Montana Food Economy Initiative Program Manager & Local Food Coordinator (Southwestern Montana)

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]

Kelsey Miller, Local Food Coordinator (Central Montana)

Kelsey is Abundant Montana’s Local Food Coordinator for Central Montana. She lives in Harlowton, Montana with her two daughters and their dog. She also works as the Wheatland County Weed District Coordinator. She has been passionate about agriculture and sustainable food production since her youth. Working, learning, and playing in the great outdoors bring her the most joy. She also enjoys growing, producing and harvesting food for her family on her small rural homestead. Email Kelsey at [email protected]

Sarah Eiden, Local Food Coordinator (Western Montana)

Sarah is Abundant Montana’s Local Food Coordinator for Western Montana. She believes place-based food systems can work to restore the linkages between communities, individuals, and their ecologies. Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Sarah holds a B.A. in International Relations from Virginia Tech. As her work took her around the world she became increasingly passionate about equitable and participatory community food systems. In 2019 she moved to Missoula Montana where she earned a M.S. in International Conservation and Development while researching the ecosystem services provided by community food forests. It was at the University of Montana she fell in love with farming as a student intern at the PEAS farm. Sarah also works as the Farm to School Coordinator with Garden City Harvest in Missoula, MT. When not farming, you can find Sarah hiking, biking, and climbing throughout Montana’s public lands. Email Sarah at: [email protected]

Clare Jurczak, Local Food Coordinator (Southeast Montana)

Clare is Abundant Montana’s Local Food Coordinator for the Southeast Montana region. Clare hails from Alaska where she grew up subsistence fishing and hunting and first developed her love for connecting with people through food. While earning her degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana, Clare was introduced to farming at the student PEAS farm and was instantly hooked on growing vegetables. Now living in the rural town of Ballantine, Clare continues to grow, harvest, and cook food for her friends and is learning to raise livestock under the mentorship of her ranching neighbors. With a varied background of natural resource work in Alaska fisheries and environmental education with the Bureau of Land Management, Clare has always valued sustainability and environmental stewardship. Her vision of an equitable food system for Montana is one that embraces ecological and cultural diversity and allows communities to self-actualize sustainable food production practices. Clare is thrilled to be working with AERO to help grow the local food economy in Yellowstone County and surrounding areas. Email Clare at [email protected].

Sydney Dickinson, Local Food Coordinator (West Central Montana)

Sydney grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and recently moved to Helena after graduating from Montana State University with her B.S. in Food and Nutrition. Her passion for nutrition started when she noticed the valuable role it played in helping one of her family members manage a chronic disease from a different approach. From this experience, she believes that everyone should have equitable access to healthy food and nutritional knowledge. She has worked firsthand and observed many sectors of the food system, including health food stores throughout Montana, in the food service industry, and on a ranch. These different experiences shaped her view on how important it is to advocate and support sustainable food systems practices while actively working to increase food security and bring awareness to the connection between food and culture.

Currently, Sydney is completing her Master of Science at Montana State University in Dietetics Systems Leadership and her Dietetic Internship. She is also completing her Area Health Education Center (AHEC) certification, which prepares and promotes a diverse, skilled primary care workforce in rural and underserved communities. As a future Registered Dietitian, her role will have the ability to directly impact the sustainability standards that exist within the Montana food systems and will allow her to be a strong advocate for food-insecure individuals. Sydney enjoys crocheting, reading, hiking, baking, and playing with her new puppy in her free time!

Board of Directors

Colter Schroeder, Livingston

Chair

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.

Ada Smith, Missoula

Vice-Chair, Secretary

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.

Richard Donovan, Hamilton

Treasurer

My connection to AERO began recently as virtuous serendipity after a new colleague, Max Milton, encouraged me to join in the virtual activities of EXPO 2021. As a sustainability scientist who has recently returned to his Bitterroot homeland, I was thrilled to see the breadth and depth of sustainable food system development throughout the state discussed at EXPO. In particular, the focus on resilient communities, regenerative landscapes, food systems and sustainability are central themes of much of my research, and connecting with practitioners in these fields will provide me and my research colleagues with critical contexts to better understand the science needed to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture in Montana.

Madison Boone, Bozeman

Madison 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.

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.

Jeremy Nadison, Bozeman

Jeremy joins the AERO board with seven years of sustainable infrastructure investment and regional food system development and lending experience. After beginning his career at Ultra Capital, a project finance investment firm, Jeremy has spent the last few years supporting his regional food system through land access, processing infrastructure, and financing projects. Jeremy is now a member of the Steward team where he focuses on financial underwriting and improving community-led financing access to farmers, ranchers, and other small food systems companies. 

Jeremy lives in Bozeman and loves spending time in the mountains of Southwest Montana.  

Beth Lusin, Billings

Beth is a fourth generation Montanan from a family rooted in agriculture and community service. She received her B.S. in Nursing from MSU and has focused on Women’s Health for 15 years. Helping women learn about and make choices to support themselves and their families, while meeting them where they are culturally and socioeconomically, gives Beth the greatest sense of accomplishment in her career. She also values the importance of holistic, preventative health. Through this journey, Beth has expanded her knowledge of plants and gardening, including greenhouses and winter gardening. Previously, she owned a small business creating organic Montana-made teas, infused olive oils, and bath products. Every step of the process brings her great enjoyment—from saving seeds, growing and preserving fruits and vegetables, and finally sharing meals using these ingredients. She works to teach the next generation these skills as well, hoping that young Montanans will choose to continue to build strong, healthy communities.

Beth resides in Billings with her husband and two daughters. They are currently working on building a completely off-grid cabin. She enjoys time in the sun, reading, and paddle boarding with her favorite sidekick, Ralph, her 4-year-old Basset Hound.

Alternative Energy Resources Organization

Mailing address: PO Box 1558, Helena MT 59624

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