Track 3 – Supporting a New Generation of Farmers

Montana’s beginning farmers and ranchers face a wide array of challenges in getting started, but these challenges need fresh new solutions to have successful, sustainable businesses. This track will focus on how we can assist farmers and ranchers in gaining access to land, capital, markets, mentors, networks, and production education to be the most successful they can be!

Track Leader

Kristin Blacklerblacklerpic
Montana State University Office of Sustainability

Kristin has served as the director of MSU’s Office of Sustainability since January 2013. Prior to coming to MSU, she served as the program director at the Sustainability Solution Institute at the University of California San Diego. She managed a $2 million research grant that examined the potential for energy savings from natural ventilation retrofits. Kristin has a Bachelor’s Degree in environmental studies from the University of California Santa Barbara.

Track Keynote Speaker

Dr. Charles BoyerDr. Charles BoyerMSU photo by Kelly Gorham
Vice President of Agriculture
Montana State University

Dr. Boyer holds the dual positions of Dean of the College of Agriculture and Director of the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, in addition to serving in a vice presidential role for Montana State University. Boyer earned a Bachelor’s Degree in biology from Eastern Oregon State College and a Master’s Degree and Doctorate in genetics, both from The Pennsylvania State University. In 2006, he was named dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at California State University, Fresno. Prior to the appointment, he served as associate dean and associate director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, College of Agricultural Sciences, at Oregon State University; as professor and head of the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University; as chairman of the Intercollege Graduate Program in Genetics at The Pennsylvania State University; as professor and associate professor of plant breeding and genetics at The Pennsylvania State University; and as assistant professor of horticulture at Rutgers University.


James Haferhafer
Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences
Chief Dull Knife College

Jim draws on his production background, as well as 26 years of formal and informal teaching experience, to provide relevant subject matter and experience to his constituents on and adjacent to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Dr. Hafer has extensive international development and teaching experience working with socially disenfranchised/disadvantaged and marginalized agricultural populations in several countries, including Russia (Buryatia), Inner Mongolia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Nepal. Jim is a graduate of and current commissioner for The Food Systems Leadership Institute. The Institute is an executive leadership development program for academia, industry, and government dedicated to advancing and strengthening food systems by preparing new leaders with the skills and knowledge necessary to invent and reinvent the food systems of the future. He also serves on the USDA Secretary of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. Jim earned his Master’s Degree in Agricultural Education from Montana State University, and his Doctoral Degrees in Agricultural Education from Texas Tech University and International Agriculture and Extension Education from Texas A&M University.

Alison Harmon, PhD, RD, LNAlison Harmon, faculty, sustainable food. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.
Interim Dean, College of Education, Health, and Human Development
Montana State University

In addition to serving as interim dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Development, Alison is also a professor of nutrition and sustainable food systems in the department and a registered dietitian. She has authored several research publications on the topic of food systems curriculum development and has provided educators with guidance for incorporating sustainability into teaching. She has supervised a campus farm at Montana State University (Towne’s Harvest Garden) for 10 years, developed an undergraduate degree program in Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems (SFBS), and initiated a dietetic internship for the state of Montana with a concentration in sustainable food systems. She is currently leading the development of a new interdisciplinary degree program in Hospitality Management with an emphasis on farm to table, food enterprise, and rural hospitality.

Annie Heuscherheuscher
Program Director
Community Food and Agriculture Coalition (CFAC)

Annie manages CFAC’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher programs, including farm business planning partnerships with MSU Extension, on-farm field days, and Farm Link Montana. She also works on one-on-one financing assistance with mini-grants, 0% interest loans, and Farm Service Agency lending assistance.

Anna Jones-Crabtreecrabtree
Vilicus Training Institute
Vilicus Farms

Vilicus Farms is a first generation, organic, dryland crop farm in Northern Hill County, Montana. Anna launched Vilicus Training Institute (VTI) in 2015. Her intent is to scale the vision of bringing a new generation of land stewards to the Northern Great Plains. Anna is a Donella Meadows Leadership Fellow and a recipient of the White House Greening Government Sustainability Hero Award. She holds a PhD in civil and environmental engineering with a minor in sustainable systems from Georgia Institute of Technology. Anna served on the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Council on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. She held the Farmer Representative seat on the Board of Timeless Natural Food, a supplier of gourmet organic lentils and specialty heirloom grains.

Dylan Strikestrike
Strike Farms

Dylan owns and operates Strike Farms, a certified organic vegetable, herb and flower farm. The year 2016 is the farm’s third production season, and it provided the Bozeman community with around 90,000 pounds of deliciousness in 2015. As a new business that is growing rapidly, but without significant collateral or credit history, accessing financing to grow in the most efficient way is very difficult. Strike Farms is currently leasing all of the ground it grows on, through partnerships with individual landowners and, most recently, with help from the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. The Land Trust is working on several different financing options that meet Strike Farms’ unique needs.