EXPO 2021

November 10, 2021 - November 14, 2021

Welcome to EXPO 2021, AERO's 2nd Virtual Annual Conference

2020 brought into sharp focus and relief the gaps and barriers to Montana’s ability to feed its citizens sustainably. That is the gift of a disruptive event: data. Throughout 2020 and 2021 we watched AERO’s community of sustainability enthusiasts respond to the disruption’s impact by leaning in to solutions across all sectors: food, energy, housing, and health.

We’ve chosen to focus on sustainable food systems for AERO’s Expo this year because, without food, we really can’t do all the rest. And sustainable means sustainable across the board—growing practices, energy choices, distribution, sale, recovery means and access. Truly sustainable systems are resilient. They are able to adapt and respond to unexpected events that disrupt the status quo. For food systems, it is people who evaluate the data and make new choices designed to adapt and respond. People working together, invested in sustainable and resilient systems tend to get the best long-term results. Hence our theme this year—Community: the Heart of Resilient Food Systems. We look forward to gathering with you in November.



Each day has been assigned a topic area core to AERO’s mission. Individual sessions on each of the daily topics range from 60-90 minutes, with three sessions per day. 

WED, Nov 10: Enhancing Small Farm Success

THURS, Nov 11: Ensuring Food for All Montanans

FRI, Nov 12: Community Focused Solutions

SAT, Nov 13: Food Systems & Sustainability

SUN, Nov 14: Resilient Communities & Regenerative Landscapes


Back by popular demand! These 45-minute community conversations with invited guests are designed to promote opportunities for visiting, connection, and information sharing.

Grab your favorite evening beverage, put your feet up, and join the conversation.


This event has now ended. Scroll down for the 2021 Expo schedule and session recordings.


We are grateful to be able to offer this event for free, allowing it to be accessible to a wider audience. If you are able, we welcome financial contributions of any size to help defray event costs.

Contribute here.

Photo Credits: 
Many thanks to Lori Parr for the use of her photograph holding an armful of lavender on Expo 2021 promotional materials. The photo, part of a set by Ana Mackenzie Weaver-Hayes, was taken for Lori’s new book Lavender Farming: Secrets From a Hard Row Hoed, which can be purchased at Lavenderlori.com. Lori grows her lavender on a permaculture, off-grid, closed loop farm in Montana’s Mission Valley.  





9-10:30am: New Markets Through Collaboration | VIEW RECORDING HERE
Root Cellar Foods,The Farmers’ Stand and Yellowstone Valley Food Hub are three retail operations across the state dedicated to sustainability and increasing local food access, including building markets for small farms. Each venture has a unique approach and focus. Ken Meter moderates the panel, guiding a conversation that explores the power of these ventures in building community food webs and the potential impediments to their sustained success.

 1-2pm: On Farm Food Safety Planning and Practices for Resilient Businesses | VIEW RECORDING HERE
Jan Tusick, Center Director for the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center, shares strategies for on-farm food safety planning and best practices for successful farm enterprises.

 3-4:30pm: Decoding the MT Food Freedom Act: An Opportunity for Producers | VIEW RECORDING HERE
Farm Commons, the leading national education resource for farmers and ranchers on key legal vulnerabilities, reviews the risks and opportunities that the recently passed “Food Freedom Act” offers Montana producers, food manufacturers, cottage food operators and farmers’ market managers.  This is Part 2 of a 2-part workshop series on food product liability. Part 1 (Nov 3, 3-4pm), reviews the general legal concepts of food liability.

5:30-6:15pm: Virtual Happy Hour—Urban/Suburban Agriculture | VIEW RECORDING HERE
 Join guests Sam Mascari (Montana Roots) and Marisela Chavez for a conversation on high density/integrated growing operations and urban bee keeping.



9-10:30am: Grow Montana – 2021 in Review and Vision for the Future (Part 1) | VIEW RECORDING HERE
Members of Grow MT, Montana’s food policy coalition, will debrief its efforts in the 2021 state legislature session with the intention of developing a road map for success in the 2023 session. Everyone welcome.

 1-2:30pm: Grow Montana – 2021 in Review and Vision for the Future (Part 2) | VIEW RECORDING HERE
Grow MT’s Visioning Committee presents the results of its 2020-2021 member and ally survey, developed with the goal of informing Grow MT’s vision and purpose moving forward. The session will include breakout groups to explore next steps. Everyone welcome.

 3-4:30pm: Building Resilient Energy Systems in Rural Communities Today – what’s working, what’s not | VIEW RECORDING HERE
This panel explores current challenges to renewable energy (solar energy) deployment in rural Montana. Evora Glenn, Montana Renewables Association’s Programs Coordinator, will report  MREA’s findings from Phase 2 of their MT Rural Solar Access Project, an in-depth community engagement process in 10 rural communities across the state, designed to understand community members’ goals, priorities, perspectives, and interests in distributed solar; Bruce Peterson, Northern Plains Resource Council member, will share challenges experienced in the Solarize Glendive campaign; and members of the MT Legislature Energy and Telecommunications Committee will share perspectives on possible legislative remedies. Andrew Valainis, MREA’s Executive Director, will moderate.

5:30-6:15pm: Virtual Happy Hour—Adventures in Soil Building | VIEW RECORDING HERE
Join a conversation with Steve Charter, long-time AERO member and third-generation rancher, sharing his adventures in soil building in Shepherd, Montana.



9-10:30am: Stories and Next Steps from AERO’s MT Food Economy Initiative  | VIEW RECORDING HERE
AERO’s MFEI program sponsored close to 20 community-led projects designed to build on-farm resiliency and cross-sector engagement across community food systems. Friday’s session includes project reports from Montana Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative; the MSU Food Product Development Lab and MT Food Co-op collaboration with Senegalese farmers on the Bon-Bon Bouye nutrition bar; Farm Hands Nourish’s forward contracting program; Open and Local Coalition’s Community Harvest program; and the Butte Food Coalition’s Community Food System Assessment results and next steps. 

1-2:30pm: Creative Cooperatives Building Food Security | VIEW RECORDING HERE
This panel highlights the progress of three new food cooperatives dedicated to building greater food security and local food markets in their region. The Butte Food Co-op aims to feed its community with Montana-raised foods; Old Salt Co-op  in Helena, brings together ranches, chefs, butchers and creatives to offer responsibly raised beef direct to consumers, and also to diners at the just-opened Old Salt Outpost, and Montana Food Hub, brings together partners from all sectors of the food system to build a community food hub in Montana’s Golden Triangle. Moderated by Tracy McIntyre, MT Cooperative Development Center Executive Director.

 3-4:30pm: Making Food Recovery Work | VIEW RECORDING HERE
Farmhands Nourish, Yes! Compost, 406 Recycling and Big Sky SNO (Sustainable Network Organization) share their food recovery initiatives around the state and how partnering is helping build networks. Panel discussion explores outstanding issues and opportunities for community business engagement.

5:30-6:15pm: Virtual Happy Hour—Relationship Grazing |VIEW RECORDING HERE
 Ivan Thrane shares his journey from managing his Red Lodge-based goat herd as a livestock production model designed to eliminate weeds, to a model that strengthens the often invisible ties between humans and the ecosystems of which we are living members.



9-10:30am:  KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Ken Meter— “Strengthening Community Food Webs”  | VIEW RECORDING HERE
Ken Meter is one of the most experienced food system analysts in the US, integrating market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns. In his book, Building Community Food Webs, Meter featured AERO’s work during the farm credit crisis of the 1980s.  Now he asks: How are communities across the US addressing the challenges and opportunities posed by the overlapping crises of the 2020s?

 11am-12:30pm: MT Drought & Climate Project—Vision and Findings  |  VIEW RECORDING HERE
The MT Drought and Climate Project, a collaboration between the MT Climate Office, at the W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation at the University of Montana, and the Montana State University Extension Service, seeks to provide MT’s farmers and ranchers with climate information and technologies that will help with water decision-making and adaptation to both drought and water variability due to growing demand for water resources and climate-driven water scarcity. Dr. Kyle Bocinsky, the Project’s Co-Director, will share the information they are developing and how they are testing the efficacy of that information for producer decision-making.

 3-4:30pm: Abundant Montana—Montana’s Megaphone for Local Food | VIEW RECORDING HERE
The Abundant Montana directory is expanding its platform to become a dynamic marketing and media hub for local food with regional resources around the state. Come learn about our new services for educating consumers and helping food and farming enterprises succeed.

5:30-6:15pm: Virtual Happy Hour—Optimal Plant Health in High Tunnels | VIEW RECORDING HERE
 Join Patti Armbrister in a conversation on her regenerative practices that maximize plant nutrition and minimize pest impact in high tunnels and greenhouses.



9-10:30am: Water Retaining Landscapes  |
This session has been cancelled.

 11am-12:30pm: Community Food Systems Through the Social Entrepreneurship Lens  | VIEW RECORDING HERE

This panel explores the social entrepreneurship lens as an approach for supporting community-focused food enterprises building engagement and sustainability in local food systems today. Join Gretchen Boyer, Farm Hand Nourish’s Executive Director; author and Expo keynote speaker Ken Meter, and Scot Chisholm, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Classy, a social enterprise B-corp creating world class online fundraising software for nonprofits. Moderated by Robin Kelson, AERO’s Executive Director.

Everyone is welcome.

3-4:30pm: Growing Deeper Roots—Rebuilding MT Soils Through Community Initiatives  |VIEW RECORDING HERE
 Grassroots projects around the state are moving regenerative soil practices forward and transforming our landscape for the better. Updates on MT’s first Savory Demonstration Ranch in Chico; NCAT’s Soil for Water Project; the MT Soil Outreach Project, and an envisioned Soil Corps are featured.


Alternative Energy Resources Organization

Mailing address: PO Box 1558, Helena MT 59624-1558

Physical address: 32 S Ewing St #314, Helena MT 59601