Track 4 – Resilience in Agriculture: Diversifying, Adapting and Planning for a Changing Environment

Montana producers are not only up against a changing environment, they are sometimes the subject of blame for climate change. At the same time, Montana producers are among the most innovative, connected, and resourceful when it comes to resolving challenges. This track will take a look at how to make agriculture not only more resilient, but more predictable through incorporating diversity. We will have conversations about what is being done across the state, country, and world to increase productivity, store more water, more efficiently use inputs, and make a better product, all in the face of a changing climate. In fact, some conversations will address how to take on the changing climate in your own soil. More importantly, we want to have a conversation about what Montana producers want and need to become more diverse and resilient in their businesses.

Track Leader

Maggie Zabackmaggie_zaback
Northern Plains Resource Council
Lead Organizer

Maggie joined Northern Plains in 2013. A native of Cheyenne, WY, she has a degree in biology and environmental sciences from Gonzaga University. Before coming to Northern Plains, she worked as a crew leader for the Montana Conservation Corps and was awarded Crew Leader of the Year. She was an active member of Northern Plains before coming on staff. She staffs Northern Plains’ Agriculture Task Force and two of its affiliate groups, the Carbon County Resource Council and Bear Creek Council.

Track Keynote Speaker

Zach Brownbrown
Program Manager
One Montana

Zach serves as Program Manager for One Montana’s Resilient Montana program where he works with farmers and ranchers on drought response, water-use planning, and climate science. His background includes leading a research project on immigration policy at Georgetown University, and he focused his University of Montana studies on fisheries management, water policy, and climate change. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in environmental studies. Zach also currently serves in the Montana House of Representatives, where his committee work has focused on taxation, wildlife management, and water policy.


Ron de Yongrondeyong-photo
Montana Department of Agriculture

Ron de Yong has served as the Director of the Montana Department of Agriculture since 2013. He also owns a family farm in Kalispell that produces wheat, barley, peas, lentils, and alfalfa. Ron has taught agriculture policy and economics at Cal Poly State University, has been an economist for National Farmers Union, served as a Montana State Committee Member for the USDA Farm Service Agency, and has been a State Director for Montana Farmers Union. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in agricultural science and philosophy from Montana State University and a Master’s Degree in economics from the University of Montana. He is married with three children and has seven grandchildren as well.

Shaun McGrathshaun_mcgrath
Regional Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Shaun works to protect human health and the environment in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and 27 tribal nations. His prior experience includes: deputy director in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Western Governor’s Association’s program director for water, drought, climate change, and the wildlife corridors program; and mayor of Boulder, Colorado. He established Wheelhouse Associates in Boulder, which helps governments advance clean energy and environmental goals. He was the American Solar Energy Society’s executive director; Congressman Jim Slattery’s legislative assistant; the Kansas Natural Resource Council’s executive director; and trade manager for the Kansas Department of Commerce’s European office. Shaun has a Bachelor of Arts in German and Political Science from Kansas State University and a Master’s of Public Administration from the University of Kansas.

Fabian Menalledfabian_menalled
Professor, Weed Ecology and Management
Department of Land Resources Environmental Sciences
Montana State University

Fabian’s research and extension program focuses on understanding the ecological mechanisms underpinning the sustainability of conventional and alternative cropping systems. Fabian acts, at the state and national level, as the Leader of the eOrganic Extension Community and as the Montana Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Professional Development Program (WSARE – PDP) Coordinator. Both programs are sponsored by NIFA-USDA and aim at helping farmers and agricultural professionals develop sustainable agro-ecosystems.

Susan Tallmantallman
US Department of Agriculture
Natural Resource Conservation Service

Susan, USDA-NRCS Area Agronomist in Bozeman, provides technical agronomy support to NRCS field offices across south central Montana. An agronomist and certified crop advisor (CCA) with over 15 years of experience in semi-arid dryland grain production and crop systems, she has professional experience in both private business and non-profit organizations, including directly advising farmers on sustainable practices, grain procurement and distribution, and personal farming experience.