Ken Meter is one of the most experienced food system analysts in the U.S., integrating market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns. Meter holds 50 years of experience in inner-city and rural community capacity building. His local economic analyses have promoted local food networks in 144 regions in 41 states, two provinces, and four tribal nations. His new book, Building Community Food Webs, features several of the most innovative community foods efforts across the US. Meter developed a $9.85-milllion plan for local food investment for the state of South Carolina, and completed similar studies for New Hampshire, New Mexico, Hawai’i, Alaska, Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota. He has written strategic food plans for some 20 regions, and has often worked with Montana partners. Meter is a member of the International Economic Development Council, consulting to the organization and offering presentations at several national meetings. His work can be found at www.crcworks.org.
Dr. Kyle Bocinsky is the Director of Climate Extension for the Montana Climate Office at the University of Montana in Missoula and Co-Project Director for the Montana Drought and Climate Project, which seeks to make climate information more useful for agricultural decision-making in Montana. Trained as a paleo-climatologist and computational archaeologist; Dr. Bocinsky partners with communities across the western US to support climate and drought resilience through honoring and understanding the long-term relationships between people and landscapes.
Lyndsay Gutierrez is the steering committee chair for the Montana Food Hub Co-Op. This project brings together many of her passions in one place including strengthening local food systems, supporting entrepreneurs and bringing the best food directly to the community.
Lyndsay believes that food is at the heart of community and culture. By building the Montana Food Hub as a Co-Op, the community is directly involved and invested in the entire life of their food from seed to table and back around.
As the owner of Nourish, Lyndsay already engages the community in their food through health focused cooking classes and programs as well as a food truck. This brings together her culinary training as well as her BS in Health and Wellness and MS in Nutrition and Integrative Health with a focus in Community Health Education. Montana Food Hub will create opportunity for better food, healthier humans and soil, and growth of food businesses for the region.
Marisela Chávez is PhD candidate and Food-Water-Energy NSF Fellow at the University of Montana. She has spent the last 10 years focusing on environmental conservation, culture, and social justice issues in Latin America through a variety of academic, professional, and volunteer experiences. Her interest in urban beekeeping came after moving to Missoula, after she and her husband began experimenting with keepings bees on their rooftop in front of Mt. Jumbo.
Michal De Chellis 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. Michal consults with AERO on it MFEI program management.
A native of Eureka, Montana, Tracy McIntyre served 12 years as the Economic Developer for North Lincoln County. During her tenure, she averaged over $1 million in investment into the community annually and led the creation and development of a Tobacco Valley Business Incubator. In 2009 McIntyre began working with the Montana Cooperative Development Center a Cooperative Development Specialist and took the reins as the organization’s Executive Director in 2019. McIntyre is currently working on several initiatives and cooperative projects, including housing, childcare, value-added and sustainability in agriculture, shared services and labor, cooperative education, and bridging the gap between cooperative development and the overall economic development community. She is an active board member of the Montana Economic Developers Association, completing two terms as President. During her leisure time, McIntyre can often be found with a fly-rod in hand fishing one of the many excellent streams in Montana, spoiling her niece and nephews, volunteering for the local museum, or exploring rural communities with friends.
Ivan and Chia Thrane are based out of Red Lodge, Montana. After being gifted a piece of family ranch land in Red Lodge from his grandmother in 2008, Ivan had to choose how to manage the land and the invasive weeds that came with it. He chose goats as a way to relate to the land, starting with 9 goats and eventually building a grazing herd of a 1,000 head. Ivan and Chia quickly learned the power of grazing, animal impact and relationships between plants, animals and humans. Their vision has evolved from a livestock production model and a goal to eliminate invasive weeds, to a model that values relationships. “Relationship Grazing,” as they call it, is a way to strengthen the often invisible ties between humans and the ecosystems of which we are living members. Since starting Healthy Meadows LLC in 2010, Ivan and Chia have learned that building strong relationships takes time and commitment, but also requires listening and being open to feedback from the animals, plants, and soil that doesn’t always match modern human goals. They are guided by the question, “how can we become better caretakers of ourselves, the land, and the community of life that we are active members in?”
Cole Mannix is part of an extended family that has ranched together in Montana’s Blackfoot valley since 1882. In 2012, he helped form the Ranchers Original meat company to add value to livestock and promote land stewardship, serving as Director of Operations from 2014-2016. From 2017-2020, Cole worked for an agriculture and conservation organization called Western Landowners Alliance, becoming Associate Director in 2019. As founder and manager of Old Salt Co-op, he aims to help build a supply chain that regenerates land, habitat and community. Cole did undergrad degrees in both biology and philosophy at Helena’s Carroll College and a masters in theology at Boston College. He enjoys living in Helena with spouse Eileen and sons Finn and Charlie, seeking out live music wherever it can be found.
Jan Tusick is the co-founder and Director of the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center, part of the Mission West Community Development Partners organization. The Center is home to Montana’s only Shared-Use Food Processing and Manufacturing Facility, with a focus on incubating start-up food product enterprises, strengthening Montana’s food supply chain and bolstering our local food economies. The facility is 13,000 square feet, FDA registered, USDA Meat Inspected, Certified Organic and licensed for retail and wholesale food production and storage.
During the last 20 years Jan has effectively assisted food businesses, cooperative groups and value added agricultural ventures in their business development, providing business and market planning, capitalization development, feasibility analysis, and navigating the food regulatory world. Jan is certified in HACCP, Better Process Control School and has completed the Produce Safety Alliance Train the Trainer Course.
Jan is a founding steering committee member of Grow Montana – a coalition of organizations focused on developing and pursuing policies that will strengthen Montana’s regional food economy. She currently serves on the board of directors of Montana Farmers Union. Jan lives on an eighty acre sheep farm with her husband, Will. Their main production is natural lamb, which they direct market.
Ms. Kraczkowsky is the current President of the Butte Food Co-Op Board of Directors. She has been involved in the Butte Food Co-Op since the conception of the project and served on the initial Steering Committee. She is a strong believer that food co-ops can be a source of strength and empowerment for all communities…but especially one like Butte, with its longstanding history of working cooperatively. Ms. Kraczkowsky sees a food co-op as an opportunity for farmers and ranchers to grow their business, a connection point for consumers to the food they eat, a vital driver to the local economy, and an inclusive community and educational hub that advocates for healthy nutrition practices.
Ms. Kraczkowsky received her B.A. and MA in Public Health, and her MBA, all from Johns Hopkins University. A lifelong fitness, health, and nutrition advocate, she has over eighteen years of combined experience in consulting and the nonprofit sectors. Ms. Kraczkowsky currently lives in Butte with her husband Nate, and their three dogs (Bruno, Dewey, and Mya)
As NCAT’s Regenerative Grazing Specialist, Linda Poole is overseeing NCAT’s Water for Soil Project. Linda has been raising animals and vegetables for over 40 years, and has served as a consultant monitoring range health, assessing wildlife populations, tracking livestock performance and facilitating conservation collaborations. Her areas of expertise include grazing, rangeland management and monitoring, genetic selection and husbandry of livestock , biodiversity, process-based restoration; conflict resolution and consensus building.
Marni Thompson is an Area Planner with USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services). A native Montanan, raised on a ranch in Townsend, Marni has a passion for soil health. She is a member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, and part of the collaborative, multi-partner MT Soil Study Project.
Patti Armbrister is a fourth generation farmer, growing up on a diverse crop Michigan farm founded in 1866. She has over 50 years of experience in agriculture, beef production, vegetable gardening, and forage production. Patti has traveled to agriculture operations in 45 of the lower 48 states and all of the lower provinces of Canada. In 2007, she joined the Hinsdale Public School as Agriculture Educator and FFA advisor. Patti is driven by a passion to provide a healthier, more resilient future for her son and future generations.
A progressive leader and educator in Montana’s Farm to School & local food movements, Patti is a leader in Montana’s regenerative agriculture movement, having studied intensively with Dr. Elaine Ingham, Nicole Masters, Gabe Brown and Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, among others.
Steve Charter is a third-generation cattle rancher in South Central Montana. He started working with innovative grazing practices in the early 1980s after being introduced to holistic resource management. Steve says, “I’ve made some good progress in restoring the Range but still having many challenges in the semiarid environment. For the past six years, I’ve been trying new regenerative practices to restore soil biology. One of our main ways of doing this is creating vermicast in our beds and applying that to the soil in various ways. Still in the learning stage on all of this but will be glad to talk about what we’ve been trying.”
Todd Ulizio is a farm kid turned accountant, turned wildlife biologist, turned farmer. He and his wife Rebecca own and operate Two Bear Farm, a 100 acre farm in Whitefish, Montana with 13 acres in Certified Organic Vegetable Production with a strong interest in using regenerative ag practices to improve nutrient density, wildlife habitat, and soil health. Todd is action oriented, and has pushed the community food system in the Flathead Valley to be more collaborative, more strategic, and small business oriented. In 2021, the Ulizios, together with Wicked Good Farm’s Brooke Bohannon and Sean Hard, opened The Farmers’ Stand.
Andrew Valainis joined MREA as Executive Director in 2016 after two two service terms in the AmeriCorps EnergyCorps program, the first in Butte with the National Center for Appropriate Technology conducting energy efficiency and renewable energy outreach programs, and the second in Missoula helping the City produce its Conservation and Climate Action Plan. Prior to moving to Montana, Andrew’s work focused on wind turbine technology research and development, and utility scale wind farm design. He is currently working on a graduate degree in Energy Regulation and Law from Vermont Law School.
Evora Glenn joined MREA in 2020 first as a Research Intern and now as Program Coordinator 1. She grew up in Olympia, Washington and earned her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Resource Management at the University of Washington where she focused on environmental problem-solving. Upon graduating, she joined the Washington Conservation Corps, maintaining public access trails and restoring watersheds in rural Washington. In 2018, Evora moved to Montana to enroll in the Master of Resource Conservation program at the University of Montana and managed two research projects that focused on how inclusive, collaborative processes can help address complex environmental challenges. Her work also examined the interconnections of our food, energy, and water systems and how to collaboratively address challenges that intersect multiple sectors.
Karl Johnson, founder of Yes! Compost, “Compost Collection Company in Montana”, says his company wriggled its way into being by filling a need in his community: a compost collection service that creates quality vermi-compost. Their mission? Build soil! YES Compost strives to bring back the natural nutrient cycle within our community by redirecting all of our food wastes away from the landfill, and instead use them to replenish our soil and foster new plant growth.
Lizzie Peyton is Big Sky SNO’s Community Engagement Director. She has called Big Sky home for almost two decades working as a personal chef, whitewater raft guide and in the non-profit sector. She is committed to sustainable living practices and environmental health at all levels, and has studied soil health and regenerative agriculture through the Savory Institute and CU-Boulder, by working on a biodynamic farming collective in Tanzania.
Michele Schahczenski is Yellowstone Valley Food Hub’s General Manager. She grew up three hours west of Billings, in Whitehall, and found her way home again to MT after graduate studies at American University in Washington, DC, and volunteering with Peace Corps Paraguay, where she was an agricultural extension agent and a researcher studying the Paraguayan organic movement. A vegetable farmer, beekeeper, and local food enthusiast, Michele has devoted her life to improving regional food systems and supporting rural communities.
Farm Commons, based in Duluth, MN, is the foremost national resource on legal issues and managing risk for the agricultural community. Believing that farm business owners should be in charge of the legal dynamics that shape their destiny every day, Farm Commons empowers agricultural communities to resolve their own legal vulnerabilities, within an ecosystem of support.
Gretchen Boyer, Farm Hand Nourish’s Executive Director, has been with Farm Hands since 2004 and was the first paid employee. She is passionate about growing local food, eating good food, and making sure everyone in our community has access to it.
Senator Mary McNally is a member of the Montana State Senate, representing District 24 in Billings, and is current chair of the Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee. She assumed office in 2015 and her current term ends on January 2, 2023. Sen.McNally earned her B.S. in urban studies from Worcester State College in 1978, her MBA from Indiana University in 1980, and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1998. Prior to her election, Sen. McNally was Academic Dean of Sinte Gleska College and taught at the Montana State University Billings College of Business.
Sam Mascari started growing food for his community of Livingston, MT 10 years ago. Montana Roots was born minutes from where Sam grew up on an island in the Yellowstone River. There he began harnessing the power of water and giant Koi fish to grow greens aquaponically. Today, Montana Roots sells speciality microgreens and edible flowers all over the state. Sam loves playing music, singing, writing and exploring the world. He and his wife Mary had their first baby last year and they are starting up a permaculture homestead and community teaching center outside of Livingston.
Bruce Peterson is a retired teacher in Glendive, where he grew up and has lived most of his life. Bruce and his wife Sue have three daughters and one son who are all grown and doing well all over our great state. They also have ten grandchildren who keep them busy and put lots of miles on their car. Bruce spent 37 years teaching middle school math and sciences, three years tutoring math students at Dawson Community College, and since retiring has been instrumental in starting and helping operate a new recycling facility in Glendive! Bruce and Sue’s PV system was installed this fall and went fully operational on Oct. 26th. Bruce has been a member of Northern Plains Resource Council and the Glendive-area affiliate, Dawson Resource Council, for several years.
Christina Angell has a long history with food, nutrition and sustainability, beginning with cooking at a young age with her mother. She has a Bachelors degree in Nutrition and a Masters degree in Sustainable Food Systems, both from MSU. This degree, along with her experience at the Bozeman Community Co-op and volunteer work on a local farm, led her begin Root Cellar Foods in 2014, together with local farmers. She is currently the sole owner of Root Cellar Foods. On her “down time” she enjoys being outside and cooking with her husband, son, and two dogs, Lilly and Henry.
Matt Elsaesser has decades of combined experience running recycling operations and advocating for recycling in Montana. He founded 406 Recycling in 2018 with the vision of providing Montana businesses, organizations, government agencies and households with secure, convenient and local electronics recycling that ensured high environmental stewardship standards are met through the entire end of life recycling process.
Grow Montana is a broad-based food policy coalition whose common purpose is to promote community economic development and education policies that support sustainable Montana-owned food production, processing, and distribution, and that improve all of our citizens’ access to healthy Montana foods.
Scot Chisholm is the Executive Chairman & Co-Founder of Classy, a social enterprise B-Corp that creates world-class online fundraising software for nonprofits, modernizing the giving experience to accelerate global social impact. Since 2011, thousands of nonprofits have collectively raised over $3 billion dollars on the Classy platform, tackling social and environmental issues of every kind. Scot co-founded Classy when one of the largest cancer organizations in the country refused to accept the money he raised during a fundraising pub crawl held to honor his mom, a two-time breast cancer survivor. Scot was inspired to start Classy to make it easier for anyone to support a cause that’s meaningful to them, while at the same time making it easier for organizations to make lasting connections with the next generation of supporters. Classy is well known for its company culture and social enterprise business model that includes the Classy Awards, now the largest social impact award show in the country, its early support of the Pledge 1% movement, and its employee giving program called #ClassyGives.
Most recently Scot founded Haskill Creek Farms – a plant-based health and wellness company with a focus on medicinal herbs and hemp – as well as Save Farmland – a pending 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that protects and promotes small farms in the Flathead Valley Montana and beyond. Scot currently serves on the Leadership Council for the California Nature Conservancy and on the Advisory Boards at Abundant Montana and Team Rubicon, having previously served a four-year term on the founding Board of Directors.
Scot is a frequent speaker on social entrepreneurship, trends in giving, and the journey of scaling a startup-for-good.
Abundant Montana is Montana’s megaphone for local food. Through our widely distributed virtual maps, our committed social, video, and print media campaigns, and our affordable business marketing services, we are educating consumers about the value of local food, and supporting food and farming entrepreneurs and enterprises building successful, well-connected, and thoughtful businesses.
Northern Plains Resource Council is a grassroots conservation and family agriculture group. We organize Montanans to protect our water quality, family farms and ranches, and unique quality of life.
Sammie McGowan is Abundant Montana’s Communications Supervisor. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business from the George Washington University. After years in corporate America, 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 creating healthy soil and making healthy food accessible for all people. She loves that Abundant Montana combines all of her skills and passions. You can usually find Sammie hiking with her dog, Charlie, rock climbing, or tending to her backyard garden!
Drew Shanafelt is the Director of Abundant Montana, living out his dream of promoting and improving access to local, nutrient dense food that stewards our land, water, animals, and seeds. You will find him at the park with his dogs, Barley and Creed. During the summer he is a competitive ultimate frisbee player for Montana MOONDOG, and in the winter he can be found skiing or making sourdough bread.
Erin Austin believes growing, cooking, and sharing food in community heals. As AERO’s Director of Community Partners, Interim, Erin supports executive management of the organization and oversight of AERO’s community partners and grant-based Food Systems programs. Her diverse career path includes working on organic farms, managing school meal programs, researching transit oriented development, advocating for sustainable agriculture policy, and directing nature-based therapeutic trauma programs.
Robin Kelson is AERO’s Executive Director, former AERO Board of Directors member, and also owner of The Good Seed Company, an heirloom seed company dedicated to re-establishing the community practice of selecting, saving and sharing seeds for common use. A biochemist and attorney by training, she has worked extensively in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. The common thread in all her vocation choices has been asking the question “how does this work enhance the resiliency of our species?”