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."

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.

Samuel Johnson
Vice Chair

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.




Christopher Abbott 

Christopher Abbott co-founded Sprowt Labs in 2015 to build markets for regenerative agriculture and digitize grain processing. Sprowt Labs manufactures pilot malting equipment, distributes the perennial grain Kernza®, and revives heritage varieties of small grains. He grew up in Northfield, MN, recently moved back to the Cannon Valley after a decade away, and is thrilled to be back home building community and living close to family once again.

Jean Andreasen

Jean Andreasen is a life-long resident of Minnesota. Jean is an urban forager, fly angler, mandolinist, cheese rustler, and cerevisaphile. She currently works for USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. Previously she worked as a consultant for the Dairy Business Innovation Center in Madison WI, and as the General Manager of PastureLand, a cooperative of grass-based organic dairy producers in southeastern Minnesota. She has also served as the Midwest Marketing Coordinator for Food Alliance, in Portland OR and as the Director of Member Services and Outreach for Mississippi Market Natural Foods Cooperative in Saint Paul. She graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter MN.

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. 

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. 

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.

Helen Schnoes

Helen has a passion for community engagement and advancing community and economic development through building healthy, sustainable local/regional food systems. As Regional Marketing Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture she supports Farm to School across Minnesota as well as other ag and food business marketing efforts. Before returning to Minnesota in 2019, Helen worked in Lawrence, Kansas, as county staff liaison the local Food Policy Council, led the creation of the county’s award-winning Food System Plan, and supported a variety of community initiatives. Helen helped found Sitka Salmon Shares (a community supported fishery business), and worked with both Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota and Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. She earned her Master’s of Regional Planning at Cornell University.