Matt Barthelemy

[email protected]

Matt has been working with RTC since November 2021, focusing on FEAST! Local Foods programs, farmland access, and community farmer support. Matt's love for farmers and farming was seeded while spending as much time as he could at family friends' farm in Algona, Iowa. After moving to MN, he's spent time working in restaurants and beyond, organizing events and initiatives that build community around positive change, including a Minneapolis neighborhood festival, ping pong tournaments, voter turnout events, community show-and-tell events, efforts to advance housing justice, and last but not least, group trips to farms to connect with and support small-scale farmers.    

Elena Byrne

[email protected]

Elena joined Renewing the Countryside in 2016. Her energy is focused on FEAST! Local Foods programming, artisan grains support through the Artisan Grain Collaborative, and conservation work through Wisconsin Women in Conservation. She also has the honor of wrangling the team to pull together the rtc Rooster newsletter. She holds a doctorate in nutritional sciences from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and has been an avid gardener for years with her husband on their 8 acres just outside of Madison, WI. She is enjoying seeing the local foods movement capture the hearts of consumers everywhere.

Catie DeMets

[email protected]

Catie joined Renewing the Countryside in 2023 to support efforts around farmland access and Wisconsin Women in Conservation. Over the last decade, she’s been immersed in creating vibrant, equitable, and regenerative food systems as an environmental and food systems advocate, educator, farmer, organizer, and researcher in collaboration with organizations and communities across the US. She earned an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. Catie enjoys overambitious cooking projects, gardening, and adventuring with her family and friends by land, snow, and stream. She grew up among the farms and open lands outside of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.

Sara George

Sara George

[email protected]

Sara works with us on our Farm to School, Farm to Early Care, and Farmers Market Aggregation program areas. She also works with our Conservation Connectors and with WI Women in Conservation.  Her family owns and operates a small vegetable farm in Pepin, Wisconsin, and she is a mother of three. She has been the market manager for the Red Wing Farmers Market starting in 2019 year and is a FSMA Food Safety Trainer. She is also a former child care provider.

Melvin Giles

[email protected]

Melvin supports Renewing the Countryside’s Farm to Early Care efforts. He is also the co-coordinator of the Urban Farm & Garden Alliance (UFGA), and a veteran peace and diversity educator. Since 2010, he has facilitated the Peace Pole and Peace Message Campaign. The campaign is intended to decrease violent crime and create places, spaces, and opportunities for peaceful gatherings and racial and cultural appreciation, education and healing in the greater St. Paul area. Melvin lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and enjoys playing in the soil, growing things, and bubbles. 

Alexandria Harris

[email protected]

Alexandria has nurtured a passion for agricultural justice for the past 15 years and she believes in urban agriculture’s potential as a means towards racial equity and community wellness. Alexandria joined Renewing the Countryside’s Farm to Early Care team in 2023, focusing on the neighborhoods of Rondo, Frogtown, and the East Side, in the city of St. Paul, Minnesota. She is excited to also be contributing to additional urban gardening and food justice initiatives that Renewing The Countryside is engaged with in the Twin Cities area. She has a background in facilitation, community building, working with young people, and urban gardening. Alexandria lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and two children, and enjoys time growing things, reading, cooking food, and being with her family.

Jan Joannides

[email protected] 612.251.7304

Jan is the Executive Director and co-founder of Renewing the Countryside. For the past twenty years, she has been an advocate and organizer for rural communities and citizens working to stimulate economic growth and enhance their communities through sustainable uses of their landscapes and resources. Jan holds a master's degree in natural resources from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Zumbro Falls, Minnesota with her husband Brett, daughter Olivia, and son Axel.


Kara Komoto

[email protected]

Kara is a geographer focused on climate change and variability, environmental justice, and sustainable food cultivation–particularly in urban and peri-urban areas. She is grateful to work on activities combining these interests as a 2023 addition to Renewing the Countryside staff. She previously collaborated with RTC on farmland access through her involvement with the Twin Cities Community Agricultural Land Trust. In addition to continuing efforts toward equitable land access, she manages and analyzes data for RTC and Wisconsin Women in Conservation. Kara enjoys spending time in both northwest Wisconsin, where she grew up, and the Twin Cities. 



Hannah Lewis

[email protected]

Hannah joined RTC fulltime in September 2022 to help with grant writing, reporting and project management, having worked with RTC on various projects over the past 18 years. She is the author of Mini-Forest Revolution, which describes a rewilding approach that schools, neighborhoods, and other community groups around the world are using to build local resilience ecologically and socially. Hannah has a MS in Sustainable Agriculture and Sociology from Iowa State University, and has participated in local/regional food system building in the Midwest for more than two decades.


Maeve Mallozzi-Kelly

[email protected]

Maeve joined the RTC team in February of 2023 to support the Farmers' Market Aggregation and Local Agritourism efforts. Originally from Indiana, Maeve completed her M.A. in Sustainable Development in Vermont, was an Peace Corps Agriculture Extension volunteer in Paraguay, and worked with the Minnesota Farmers' Market Association as their Farmers Market Economic Opportunity VISTA. She is passionate about the impact sustainable and local agriculture has on climate justice, rural economic growth, and public health and is excited to support local food systems through her work with RTC.


Brett Olson

[email protected] 507.993.6931

Brett is a co-founder of Renewing the Countryside and works as a Farmland Access Navigator, food business advisor, and on community and local foods system development. With a background as an art director and designer, Brett serves as RTC's Creative Director. As one of the founders, Brett has been involved in much of the development, planning and organizing of Renewing the Countryside since its beginning. Brett and his family live on a historic dairy farm and stone stagecoach stop in Zumbro Falls, Minnesota.

Jody Padgham

[email protected]

Jody joined RTC staff in January 2021 to help with grant writing and related work. In summer 2022 she took over the organization's financial management. She was the financial manager at Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) for 16 years, and worked 3+ years on education projects for organic grain farmers for the University of WI. She has also been the editor/project manager of several books, including Fearless Farm Finances. Jody has owned a 60-acre grass based farm in north central Wisconsin since 2001, where she raises most of her own food, recently retired from raising organic broilers and sheep, and shares her land with 3 neighboring farmers. 



Ramona Robinson-O'Brien

[email protected]

Ramona is the Program Associate assisting with the coordination of Renewing the Countryside’s farm-to-childcare and farm-to-school programming. She has experience teaching, researching, and writing on the topics of public health, nutrition, and food system sustainability. She holds a doctoral degree in nutrition with a minor in sustainable agriculture and recently completed master gardener training. She currently lives in Hudson, Wisconsin and enjoys time with family and friends, being outdoors, and gardening with her son Jackson and daughter Lily.

Bonnie Warndahl

[email protected]

Bonnie joined RTC staff in the fall of 2022, assisting with event planning, and organizing farmland access initiatives. She serves as a Farmland Access Navigator, directly supporting beginning farmers in their quest for land tenure. Bonnie lives in Colfax, Wisconsin, near Menomonie/Eau Claire where she owns and operates Winnowburrow Farm & Florals—a small cut flower farm and agritourism business in the beautiful rolling hills of the Red Cedar River Valley.




Lisa Kivirist

A national advocate for women in sustainable agriculture, Lisa Kivirist is the author of the award-winning book, Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers. She leads the Soil Sisters initiative at Renewing the Countryside.  Lisa is the co-author of multiple books on sustainability, food and entrepreneurship with her husband, John Ivanko, including Homemade for Sale, Farmstead Chef, Ecopreneuring and Rural Renaissance. For over twenty years, she and her family have run Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B in Wisconsin, completely powered by renewable energy.

Marlene Petersen

A Hoosier by birth, Marlene moved to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota Law School and stayed for the gorgeous summers. The need to share the incredible stories of people she met in and outside of the courtroom lured her to publishing in 2008. In 2015, she joined Renewing the Countryside as a media specialist and now serves as Editor of Local FEAST! magazine and a community outreach ambassador, introducing local eaters to local makers through various RTC projects.