board of directors



Julie Barton

Julie Barton has served on Renewing the Countryside’s board of directors since 2016. She makes it her mission to never stop learning. She is a current Ph.D. candidate in management and public service at Hamline University and her current research is on women in farming and leadership. She is passionate about visiting state and national parks. Her motto is “Be kind, fight injustice, and use education to build your world."


Rachel Friesen
Vice Chair

Rachel Friesen first came across Renewing the Countryside in 2012, as a fresh college graduate working with emerging farmers in Kansas City. She was visiting Saint Paul for a weekend conference and--awed by the incredible February weather--just three years later made Minnesota her permanent home! Rachel hails from several small towns across the Midwest, and she loves anything related to community development and food. She is currently Director of Operations at Cooper Law and is pursuing a Master of Business Administration through the University of St. Thomas. 


Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson’s passion is to improve the health and well-being of his community, particularly youth and people of low income. Johnson currently works at the Metropolitan Council with the Community Development division, administering grant projects for the Council's Livable Communities and Regional Parks programs. Previously, he ran the Minnesota State Horticultural Society's Garden-in-a-Box program, a statewide program connecting youth groups with gardening materials and education. His background is in local governance with the City of Minneapolis's Homegrown Minneapolis initiative. Johnson has a Master's Degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.


Jody Padgham

Currently an outreach specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jody Padgham was financial manager of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) for 16 years and coordinator of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) between 2001 and 2012. She was the editor and project manager of Fearless Farm Finances; trainings, resources and a comprehensive, easy to use book, first published in 2012 and updated in 2017. Jody owns and manages a 60-acre pasture-based farm in North Central Wisconsin where she raises small flocks of sheep and organic pastured broilers and rents land to her neighbors for various farming operations.





Brady Barnstable

Brady graduated with a degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and spent the first 10 years of his career as an environmental consultant. In 2011 he co-founded Minneapolis-based muesli brand, Seven Sundays, along with his partner Hannah. As COO, Brady is working to unwind the industrialized food and agriculture supply chain to more directly with small family farms and grow the demand for regenerative small grains in the Midwest. Seven Sundays is currently distributed in more than 4,000 stores across the U.S. and became a certified B Corporation in 2019. 

Shelly Connor

Shelly is currently serving as the Assistant Director of the Wild Farm Alliance. Her work at Wild Farm Alliance includes development, communications, program, and policy work all aimed at incorporating more biodiversity conservation practices in farm operations. During her time as a grad student, she co-founded of the first Montana Farm to College Program at the University of Montana in Missoula. Shelly earned her BA degree in biology and MS degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana. 

Kate Graham

Kate is an attorney based out of Minneapolis with roots in southwestern Minnesota.  Her practice focuses on estate planning, elder law, and small business with a special focus on farm succession planning.  She received a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law and an LL.M. degree in Food and Agricultural Law from the University of Arkansas School of Law, Fayetteville.  Prior to becoming an attorney, Kate worked on organic farms in southeastern and central Minnesota.

Burke Murphy 

Burke Murphy is a specialist on regional economic competitiveness and industry clusters, aligning education, workforce and economic development with an emphasis on relevant and equitable talent development strategies. 

Burke works with school districts and higher education institutions on regional competitiveness with place based strategies, rural and urban, in the US, Mexico, Central and South America. She is dedicated to making regions more innovation driven in collaborative efforts that are inclusive, innovative & transformative and will contribute to regional competitiveness. She is currently working for Red Wing Ignite as Workforce Lead and career pathways navigator of a Youth Skills Training grant, preparing and placing Goodhue county high school students in applied learning experiences in advanced manufacturing and agribusinesses.


Kong Yang