Meet Our Expo Presenters!

Liz Carlisle is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at UC Santa Barbara, where she teaches courses on food and farming. She has written three books about regenerative farming and agroecology: Lentil Underground (2015), Grain by Grain (2019, with co-author Bob Quinn), and most recently, Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming (2022). She is also a frequent contributor to both academic journals and popular media outlets, focusing on food and farm policy, incentivizing soil health practices, and supporting new entry farmers.

Dan Kittredge has been an organic farmer for more than 30 years and is the founder and executive director of the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA), a non-profit whose mission is to “increase quality in the food supply.” Known as one of the leading proponents of “nutrient density,” Dan works to demonstrate the connections between soil health, plant health, and human health.

Anna Jones-Crabtree, together with her husband Doug, owns and operates Vilicus Farms, a nationally recognized first generation, organic, 9,600-acre dryland crop farm in the northern tip of Montana’s Hill County. With a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering and a minor in sustainable systems from Georgia Institute of Technology, Anna brings all her passion, skills and talents to championing organic agricultural land stewardship on a scale that matters, and developing a community of like-minded people who share their vision. Successes include incorporating renewable energy practices into farm operations, partnering with national conservation organizations, and fostering unique risk-sharing relationships with food companies, land investment firms, and community. Anna also is Executive Director of Vilicus Training Institute, focused on cultivating a conservation-based ethic for sustainable food production while also training beginning farmers on Montana’s Northern Great Plains.

Dr. Robert Byron (Rob) is a member of the AERO Board of Directors and an internist who practiced for over two decades on the Crow Indian Reservation. A founding member of the Bighorn Valley Health Center, now OneHealth, a federally qualified health center in eastern Montana, he is also former governor for the Montana Chapter of the American College of Physicians. Rob helped start Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, co-chairs the Citizens Climate Lobby Health Team, and is a member of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health. He is one of the lead authors on the 2021 Climate Change and Human Health in Montana report and an author on the 5th National Climate Assessment currently under development.

Randi Fetter (wah-ska-wiya, or white snow woman) is a proud member of the Assiniboine Nation. She strives to serve the Fort Belknap Reservation as a community worker maintaining the community garden and incorporating a youth internship, learning the foundation of our cultural way of life and teaching responsibility through garden work.

Latrice Tatsey (In-niisk-ka-mah-kii) is an ecologist and advocate for tribally-directed bison restoration who remains active in her family’s cattle ranching operation at Blackfeet Nation in northwest Montana. Her research focused on organic matter and carbon in soil, and specifically, the benefits to soil from the reintroduction of bison (iin-ni) to their traditional grazing landscapes on the Blackfeet Nation. Latrice is currently working for Pikuni Lodge Health Institute where she works with cattle producers on grazing practices that are influenced by cultural science and cultural relationships with the land.

Ecologist and writer by training, Kate Burnaby Wright’s career in conservation and experiential education led her from the Pacific Northwest to Africa to Mongolia. Now a consultant based in Gallatin Valley, Kate’s work focuses on local/regional food systems, community-based solutions, and strategic project development. She serves as chair of Open & Local, a growing network of community members working to strengthen community food systems and conserve agricultural land.

Cole Mannix  is part of an extended family that has ranched together near Helmville, Montana since 1882. He was Director of Operations for a beef company called Ranchers Original and Associate Director of the conservation non-profit Western Land Alliance before founding Old Salt Co-op, a meat business bringing Montanans together around animal-based foods and agriculture to improve human and ecological health. He lives in Helena with spouse Eileen Brennan, and sons Finn and Charlie.

Sam Blomquist is the Food and Agriculture Development Center Business Specialist at Prospera Business Network and also manages AERO’s Value Added Producer Support program. Sam has spent the past fifteen years working in the food and agriculture sector in the Gallatin Valley and throughout Montana and believes deeply in the connection between food, agriculture, economic vitality, and community.


Mary Stranahan is the founder of Goodworks Ventures and the High Stakes Foundation, through which she leverages her resources to support the people making a positive change in Montana. Her focus is on triple bottom line investments in the for profit arena and rural economic development, leadership development and environmental policy issues in the nonprofit arena.


Andrew Connor has worked in the new economy field for over a decade, previously with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (aka BALLE – now Common Future), and later as the founder and director of the Center for Community Ownership (CCO). The CCO is currently undertaking community ownership projects in Baltimore, St. Louis, Montana, and elsewhere around the United States, helping communities to start and save businesses that are essential to their local economies. The CCO also works with Montana-based businesses and organizations using Crowdfund Montana to conduct investment crowdfunding campaigns to raise capital for start up and growth.

Neva Hassanein is a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Montana, author of Changing the Way America Farms: Knowledge and Community in the Sustainable Agriculture Movement, and numerous articles on contemporary agriculture and community-based, democratic food systems. Neva and her students have helped strengthen Montana’s food system through civic engagement and community-based action research. Neva recently became a co-owner of farmland on the edge of Missoula, and will be describing the efforts of Corner Farm Village, LLC to create a conservation development, which protects 78% of the land permanently using a community land trust model. This project will be the first of its kind in Montana.

Mary Ellis is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program Director at CFAC (Community Food and Agriculture Coalition). Mary oversees all aspects of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, including managing the Farm Link Montana site, providing one-on-one technical assistance to beginning farmers, and organizing and leading classes and workshops across the state.


Lyndsay Gutierrez is a coach, chef, integrative health educator, speaker, and creator of Nourish, a Great Falls-based catering company and teaching kitchen, whose classes include “Cut the Crap” and “Food Truck Bootcamp”. Community is what drives Lynsday, a self-professed “serious food nerd”, because she understands healthy, nourishing food is at the heart of family and community and health. Ask her about the Great Falls Area Food Hub Co-op now in development!

Tricia Phelps is CEO of Taste the Local Difference (TLD), Michigan’s local food consulting, media and marketing agency, specializing in communication strategy for Michigan’s local food businesses. In her 6 years with TLD, Tricia has developed what started as a 5-county program into a widely recognized, statewide local food brand and consumer education marketing campaign. In 2020, TLD began offering white label licenses for their technology and granted the first license to AERO for its Abundant Montana program.

Drew Shanafelt is AERO’s Director of Abundant Montana. Drew’s background in Industrial and Management Systems Engineering and his commitment to realistic solutions that are consumer focused, accessible, scalable and profitable for everyone along the supply chain; from farmers to value adders to retailers, are key to Abundant Montana’s successful expansion into a marketing and media megaphone purpose-driven food and farming businesses and the organizations that support them. Prior to joining AERO, Drew managed The Oil Barn in Big Sandy.

Erin Austin is AERO’s Director of Community Partners. A former AERO Board member, Erin believes growing, cooking, and sharing food in community heals. Her diverse career path has always centered on sustainability and equity. Working internationally in alignment with her degree in Global Development Studies and minor in Global Sustainability, Erin 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.

Mary Stein is currently the Program Leader of the interdisciplinary degree program in Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (SFBS) at Montana State University, a program she helped launch in 2009. Between 2011-2015, Mary served as Deputy Director of the National Farm to School Network, successfully growing the non-profit organization and expanding the integration of local food in schools, school gardens and sustainable food system education in preK-12 schools across the US.

An AERO member and advocate since attending her first Expo in 2015, Robin Kelson joined AERO’s staff as Interim Co-Executive Director in 2020 after two terms on the AERO Board of Directors. A biochemist and intellectual property attorney by training, Robin is also a food and seed grower and a life-long student of metaphysics and the natural world. A deep curiosity about human vitality and exploring what constitutes resiliency drives her work in the world.

Michal DeChellis is a food systems consultant with a background in public health, farm to school, and program and project management. She is passionate about building an equitable and humane food system and promoting healthy and vibrant individuals, communities, and ecosystems. Michal is a Local Food Coordinator for Abundant and manages AERO’s MT Food Economy Initiative program.

Ellie Costello will guide us through our two sunrise yoga sessions at Expo. She has been teaching yoga in Montana since 2015 and a student of yoga since 2007. Her practice developed out of a need to balance the repetitive and forward-bending motions that farming requires. Her teaching comes from an Iyengar lineage, but classes are informal and all levels of yogis are welcome, from beginners to advanced. Expect a slower pace and a great wake-up with these conference classes.

Sarah Rodgers recently completed her Master of Science in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. During her time in the EVST program, Sarah focused her studies on farm-based education at the PEAS Farm and the inadvertent pesticide contamination of organic producers here in Montana. After completing her time in the EVST program, Sarah has started working at the Missoula Foodbank as the Program Application Specialist. Born and raised in New England, her time in Montana has led to new friendships, community, and involvement in the agricultural community in and around Missoula.

Alternative Energy Resources Organization

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

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