Past Board Members


Jess Alger operates a dryland organic grain and grassfed organic beef operation outside of Stanford, Montana. Jess first got involved with AERO through a Farm and Ranch Improvement Club program in the early 1990s. His Farm Club started out by experimenting with a legume called black medic to add nitrogen to the soil as an alternative to using chemical fertilizer. Jess has continued his on-farm research over the past 20 years studying numerous other crop and grazing rotations to control weeds and boost production with organic methods. In 2003 Jess installed a 10 kW net-metered Bergey wind turbine that provides much of the electricity he uses on his ranch.

Cori Ash first started her work with agriculture about tens years ago in the beautiful Flathead Valley. In 2006, Cori moved to Missoula where she started farming with Garden City Harvest and blending agriculture, community development and education.  Cori now manages the Youth Farm, a 2-acre farm and youth employment program, that is a partnership between Garden City Harvest and Youth Homes.  When not farming, cooking, or eating, you can find her pursuing her myriad of other loves.

Jim Baerg was raised on a farm on the Hi-Line and graduated from Glasgow High School. After attending the University of Montana for several years, he moved to the Gallatin Valley. He was an early proponent and practitioner of Energy Efficient residential construction, starting in the mid 1970s. He also has considerable experience with historic restoration and remodeling. He is particularly proud of his work restoring the Tinsley Homestead House at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. Jim lives with his family in Livingston. His design and consulting business, Montana Energy+Design focuses on sustainable building design, consulting on technical energy issues, and supporting sustainable community projects.

Eric Bergman and his wife Audra operate Groundworks Farm, market farm outside of Great Falls, Montana, his hometown. The path to farming has led Eric through work in biological research, natural history education, and sustainable development projects. He identifies with the good work of sustainability and justice that AERO advances. Besides the opportunity for deliberate living, he enjoys the elegant complexities of ecological farming, and recognizes its necessity for healthy communities.

Sally Bostrom has been a community leader, activist and volunteer for over 40 years. While a resident of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Sally represented the environmental community on a broad based “smart growth” coalition. The group included ranchers, farmers, community leaders, and policy makers that worked to build consensus on issues relating to residential growth, public transportation and working lands. This unique collaborative community effort became a model for other areas of the country.

Barb Brant lives and works in Whitefish, Montana. As Special Projects Coordinator for Montana Coffee Traders it is her mission to have everyone asking “Who’s your Farmer?” whether they are talking about Kale or Coffee, and to bring Flathead Valley residents and tourists the delights and bounty of Montana local foods. She is a founding member of Nourish the Flathead and Farm Hands—non-profit organizations that are educating the Flathead about Food systems, creating gardens, farmers markets, and hosting fun food events.

May Conley is a student at the University of Montana studying Environmental Studies and Psychology. She is interested in incorporating farming with Clinical Psychology. Born in Brooklyn, May finished high school in the Flathead Valley where she began working on farms and at a farmers market. She has spent the past two years being a Farm Hand at Purple Frog Gardens, and the past three years running the SNAP booth at the Whitefish Farmer’s Market. She helped launch the SNAP2 program at the Whitefish Farmer’s Market two summers ago, a program that attempts to provide equal food access in the Flathead Valley.

Courtney Lowery-Cowgill is a writer, editor and farmer based in Central Montana. She and her husband Jacob run Prairie Heritage Farm — a small, diversified, organic operation that grows vegetables, heritage turkeys and heritage and ancient grains. Courtney’s off-farm job is as the managing editor of PBS MediaShift and she also writes about raising kids, food (and sometimes a little ruckus) on her blog and for various publications. She is the former editor in chief and the co-founder of the now offline magazine NewWest.Net and also the co-creator of the Rural News Network project at the University of Montana, which helped small towns revive their newspapers online.

Anna Jones-Crabtree is the Sustainable Operations Coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service. She received a Ph.D. in Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology where her dissertation work focused on the paradigm of sustainable decision-making. Anna is a registered Professional Engineer, as well as a farmer.

Anna Diffenderfer lives just outside of Bozeman with her hubby and three kids (oh, and dog, cats and chickens) and is knee deep in graduate studies at Montana State University.  She has a Business Marketing degree from California State University, Chico and after some life experience and fine tuning of priorities is now pursuing a graduate degree in Sustainable Food Systems, partnered with Dietetics.  Her career goal is to educate people, particularly the future stewards of this earth, about the importance of partnering sustainability with holistic wellness creating healthy communities, individuals and families.  She is MSU’s Farm to College Coordinator, co-manager of MSU’s student farm, Towne’s Harvest Garden and active in the student club Friends of Local Foods.  She also serves on the board of Farms for Families, always plants way too many zucchini and tomato plants in the garden and is a wanna-be hobby farmer.  Originally from Northern California, she has found her home in Montana.

Jean Duncan is the Director of Finance & Administration for Women’s Voices of the Earth (WVE) in Missoula. She has worked for the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, the Montana Hunger Coalition, the Good Food Store, and the Organic Certification Association of Montana (OCAM.) She has extensive experience with natural foods stores and cooperatives. She helped to establish Sundog Ecovillage near Missoula, where she lives with others in a community with a small ecological footprint.

Ian Finch was born and raised in Helena but now calls Missoula home after planting his roots there over the past six years. He received his degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana with a special emphasis in Environmental Justice.  He was elected as the National Campaign Coordinator for the United Students for Fair Trade, where he set about forming a national coalition to spearhead The Fair Trade University Campaign.    Then, after a brief summer farming in Oregon, Ian returned to Montana to coordinate the Farm to College Program at the University of Montana, where he also cooperatively runs a campus composting program and demonstration garden.  Ian is thankful to live with his three best friends and dog, Porter, plays music at every chance, and loves a good dance.

Jeffrey Funk has been an avid organic gardener all his adult life, and has been deeply interested in energy issues for much of that time. He believes that how we envision agriculture and energy issues will largely define the future of our society, and that the challenges we will face on both fronts are nothing short of extraordinary. The grassroots work and consensus building in AERO is important in contributing to that vision, and to fostering a practical approach to community life in the twenty first century. A resident of Bigfork, Jeff has worked as an artist blacksmith since 1976 — an artist producing both sculpture and architectural forged metalwork on commission, from plowshares to public sculpture. He has a particular interest in the history of metals and fuels.

Judith Fraser is a former Program Manager, of Wilderness and Trails, for the Bitterroot National Forest. In this capacity she supervised over 20 employees, managed a large budget, administered numerous trail contracts, and was involved in strategic planning. Before this position she spent many years in magnificent wilderness. She has an MS in Environmental Studies with an emphasis on resource management and a passion for plants, especially wildflowers. In retirement, she is an avid, non-linear gardener and addicted to Farmer’s Market. Her grapevine climbs a huge crabapple tree.

Pam Gerwe is a partner/operator of Purple Frog Gardens, a first generation market farm in Whitefish, Montana. Working with teenagers and community members in the dirt is one of her favorite things to do. She likes making compost, vermicompost and driving the tractor. Pam is slowly decreasing the farm flock of laying hens from a high of 750—she hopes never to have more than 200 chickens again. She loves the way the year divides her attentions. About half the year is spent farming/marketing and growing food/community. The other half she gets to travel around the Flathead Valley and Montana to talk about farming, growing food, community and the importance of eating local.

Kristina “Kiki” Hubbard’s own farming experience has been limited to a jaunt on a combine in Iowa, butchering turkeys, and keeping a modest garden at her home in Missoula, but she has always had a profound respect for farmers and ranchers. Her roots extend to Wisconsin’s gentle green terrain, but it’s in the Rocky Mountain West where she works as a researcher, writer, and organizer for food and agricultural organizations. She is Director of Advocacy for the Organic Seed Alliance, and is a consultant for the Center for Rural Affairs. Kiki loves to sip coffee, tell terrible jokes, and bake crackers.

Erin Janoso raises veggies, salad mix, and egg-laying hens on pasture in Roundup, a small town in cetnral Montana’s Musselshell County. Erin’s Badger Rock Farm sells its sustainably-raised products to Roundup residents and cafés, as well as at the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market in Billings. During the winter months, Erin works with her husband, Jim, on his microscope sales and service business, and on the renovation of the 100-year-old bank building that is their home.

John MannAfter receiving his BA in psychology from the University of Oklahoma, he moved to Bozeman and met his wife Jodi. After moving to Helena in 2004, his interest in gardening and agriculture became more vivid while learning to shear sheep, spin yarn, and weave. John and Jodi now own a farm, complete with a flock of Icelandic sheep, in Toston.

Nathan Merrill is a fifth generation wheat farmer in Big Sandy. He moved back in 2007, after ten years spent in Portland, OR, and has been running his family’s organic operation ever since. While living in Portland, Nathan helped start Ethos Music Center, a non-profit that has grown to be one of the fastest growing not for profits in Oregon, teaching the love of music to approximately 4000 underserved kids per year. After helping get Ethos on its feet and realizing the need to take the farming reins from his father, Nathan returned to Montana with his proven drive to succeed and is using that as he builds up his farm to a goal of complete renewable energy independence. He faces the challenges of remaining organic as a large scale small grains farm by constantly researching and implementing practices that, although much more time and labor intensive than conventional, offer him a complete sense of satisfaction at the end of the season knowing that he is producing a much healthier and sustainable food source. Nathan resides in Big Sandy with his wife, Mary, their three organic energy sources, and a dog.

Kate O’Brien was absolutely instrumental in the concept, design, and creation of AERO’s new website. She, her husband Frank, and their sons Henry and Ben recently moved from Whitefish to Neskowin, a small town on the Oregon coast.

Jill Owen resides in Choteau with her husband and two horses. Jill owns and operates Mountain Front Market in Choteau, a grocery store specializing in organic and locally grown foods.

John Palm has been working in the residential and commercial building/renewable energy industry since 1986. John’s focus has been on the ever-evolving development and adoption of energy efficient building practices, coupled with the smart application of alternative energy technologies. Through his business, Bozeman Green Build, John has had the opportunity to design and implement some of Montana’s largest solar PV systems. Through his membership on the Board, John is eager to help AERO educate the greater Montana community about our state’s solar resource, and to help folks get the tools to adopt our state’s solar rescue, and to help folks get the tools to adopt renewable energy today- whether it be solar PV, solar hot water, or passive solar through energy efficient building design. John lives west of Belgrade with his wife, kids, a small, organic beef herd and some laying hens.

Bruce Smith is the Dawson County Extension Agent in Glendive. He has a BS in Agricultural Production/Animal Science, a BS in Agricultural Business from Montana State University, and an MBA from Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo. Bruce managed food manufacturing plants in California, Illinois, and Idaho before returning to Montana. He is currently working on developing local food systems, value-added agriculture, and rural leadership development.

Brett Tallman has been a self employed woodworker and building contractor for the past 14 years and focuses mostly on creative designs. He has also spent several years as a coach for the Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation. Brett has a degree in physics from Montana State University and has had a long time interest in alternative energy, energy conservation, and sustainable practices.

Charlotte Trolinger completed her architecture degree in Chicago in the 70s, of which passive solar, appropriate design, and pedestrian, bicycle, and mass transit planning were all important components. While still in Chicago she became involved in the city’s urban garden program. In 1981, she moved to Bozeman to teach photography in the Media and Theatre Arts Department at MSU. As a faculty member and community activist, Charlotte’s courses and workshops focused on both image content and civic involvement. She recently moved to Boulder, MT.

Annie was born in Bozeman and has lived and worked around the state, country, and world in the meantime.  With professional experience in land use planning and economic development and academic degrees in planning and sustainable agriculture, Annie is thrilled to be back in Montana, putting her knowledge to work for the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) in Missoula.  Annie’s work for CFAC focuses on farmland conservation and beginning farmer and rancher development.  When not behind her desk, Annie can be found hoofing it up and down mountains in sun and snow or on the water, preferably on a sailboat, although rafts and canoes are growing on her!

Originally from New York State’s Hudson Valley region, Lyra moved to Montana in July of 2008 to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the FoodCorps program sponsored by Grow Montana and Montana Campus Compact (MTCC). In the last two years she has worked with MSU’s Farm to College-Montana Made Program helping to boost local food purchases to 15% and organize events like the Local Food Fair. Lyra attended Green Mountain College for her undergraduate studies where she received a BA in Environmental Studies. At Green Mountain Lyra fostered her passion for sustainability in energy and food production and lead her to Montana for a post graduation job. In the fall of 2009 she began her graduate studies at Montana State in Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems. She has continued her work as coordinator of the Montana Made Program and is working on a master’s project around tools for farmers related to on farm food safety regulation.

Elisa, originally hailing from Vermont, lives in Bozeman where she currently works for Keystone Conservation, a Bozeman-based non-profit which focuses on helping people live and work in partnership with land and wildlife.  She is just starting to delve into the complex world of Holistic Range Management with Keystone, and enjoying the challenge. Elisa has worked with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA VT) and VT Food Education Everyday (FEED), helping to spread awareness about the environmental impacts of the food systems and the importance of localizing food. With a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School and a B.A. in Environmental Sociology from St. Lawrence University, Elisa has a diverse and interdisciplinary background. She loves living in Bozeman and having the mountains right in her backyard.