board of directors




Rachel Friesen

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. 


Ariel Kagan

Interim Chair

Ariel Kagan is a resource economist with expertise in state and federal agriculture policy and currently serves as the director of agriculture strategy at Environmental Initiative, a Minneapolis based non-profit. Previously, she worked with the MDA Emerging Farmers initiative, a program designed to support historically underrepresented farmers by improving state policy and programs. Ariel holds a master’s degree from the University of British Columbia and a bachelor’s from Mount Holyoke College. 






Kate Mudge

Kate Mudge lives on a hobby farm in rural west central Minnesota. She has nearly 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, having worked in hunger relief, animal welfare, and community engagement.  She currently works as the Business Development Officer at West Central Initiative, where she supports rural business startups and expansion and manages special projects focusing on regional food systems and agriculture. You can also find her behind the scenes of the Care Farming Network, a national organization working to advance the therapeutic use of farming practices.

Bethany Paul

Bethany Paul lives in Saint Paul, MN and brings a strong background of nonprofit fundraising to the RTC board. She currently works as Events Manager for Como Friends, the non the non-profit fundraising partner for Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. She brings extensive experience in non-profit board management, major gift solicitation, grant writing and prospecting, corporate sponsorships and donor stewardship to the board.

Shahnaz Shahidan

After having a career spanning 25 years in the Tech industry, Shahnaz decided to break free of the confined spaces of her indoor office and explore the outdoors. Instantly Shahnaz knew where she belonged: in the Countryside! Moving to Green county in Wisconsin helped her get connected with the Soil Sisters, and subsequently to RTC. Shahnaz hopes to stay active working in her urban garden, collaboratively build community orchard/garden in order to reduce food insecurity, and enrich people’s lives in small but thoughtful ways. A surviving child of war (between East and West Pakistan in 1971), a student in the United States who later became a naturalized citizen by choice, who refuses to give up on her adopted homeland despite the current political climate in America. Shahnaz’s past non-profit work includes serving on the board of Princeton Education Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey, Championing Math and Science education in public schools. Running chess club of middle schoolers that taught the children how to think ahead, perform under pressure, and graceful sportsmanship regardless of the outcome of the game.

Helen Schnoes

Helen Schnoes is a professional planner focused on community engagement, sustainability, and advancing community and economic development. She is passionate about building stronger local/regional food systems and more resilient landscapes. Currently she works for the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, leading outreach and engagement efforts to effectively design and implement high-impact capital projects that improve the landscape and enhance communities. Prior to joining MCWD she worked for a decade to transform the food system in non-profit, start-up, and public sectors, including co-founding Sitka Salmon Shares and leading Farm to School efforts at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.