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. 

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.

Helen Schnoes

Vice Chair

Helen Schnoes is passionate about sustainability and advancing community and economic development. She has worked over a decade to build stronger local/regional food systems and more resilient landscapes. Currently she works for Minnesota Management and Budget, supporting policymakers and state program administrators to make decisions that produce better outcomes for Minnesotans. Past work includes co-founding a sustainable seafood company and leading Farm to School efforts at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Helen holds a Masters in Regional Planning from Cornell University and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Creative Writing from Knox College. Her sand volleyball team is the Rusty Patches, named after Minnesota's state bee.





Ariel Kagan

Ariel is a resource economist who has worked across sectors to support farmers, climate resilience, and policy development. She currently leads the climate and working lands program at the Minnesota Farmers Union. Previously, she worked at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture where she supported the commissioner’s office in the establishment of the Emerging Farmers office and working group, as well as agency work on new market development and regional food systems. She and her husband are currently restoring an 1850's farmstead in Scandia, MN. In her free time Ariel enjoys maple syruping, horseback riding, and hunting for antiques all over greater Minnesota. 


Madeline Hyde

Maddie is a food systems specialist at Prairie Island Indian Community. She is a passionate sustainable agriculture and food justice advocate with 7+ years professional experience in fundraising, communications, program management, and community engagement. She focuses her attention on fostering resilient, community-based food systems.

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.