May 21-23, 2024

We’ll have a slate of local, regional, and national meat supply chain business owners and partners, experts, and scholars sharing expertise, experience, and posing challenging questions.

Speakers and Panelists

Food and Agriculture Development Center Network (FADC)

Montana Department of Agriculture

The Montana Food & Ag Development Center (FADC) Network exists to help Montanans innovate and grow businesses that produce and commercialize food, agricultural and renewable energy products, and processes. The FADCs support local businesses to create wealth and jobs for our communities, farms, and ranches while expanding Montana’s value-added agriculture industry. The  Centers – 11 located throughout Montana – operate as a network serving community-based businesses, agricultural producers, and food entrepreneurs. Through an FADC, businesses are able to access statewide connections, national resources, and business support tailored to their needs. TA services are offered at no charge.

Thomas Andres


Tom Andres- A two time national award winning teacher with 32 years of teaching experience operated the only state inspected meat processing lab found in a high school in the nation. The 100 acre, Missoula County Agriculture Education Center runs a hands-on ag program where students participate in food production from “conception to consumption.” We raise cattle, sheep, chickens, forage crops and our school is the largest pork producer in Missoula county.

Lad Barney

Business & Cooperative Programs Director Montana - USDA Rural Development

Lad Barney currently serves as the Montana Business & Cooperative Programs Director for USDA Rural Development. Prior, he served as Area Director for RD Missoula & Kalispell offices since August 2008. Lad has also worked as the Director of the Small Business Development Center at the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce for five years. In late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, Lad was Operations Manager and Lead Sales Consultant for two technology solution providers – one in Kalispell, MT and one in Vancouver, WA, in addition to starting a technology-based Montana business immediately after degrees from the University of Montana. Go Griz!

Sam Blomquist

Food & Ag Development Center Director - Prospera

Sam has spent the past fifteen years working in the food and agriculture sector in the Gallatin Valley and throughout Montana. She has been involved in a diversity of projects from launching successful food and agriculture businesses; providing technical assistance training to value-added food enterprises; working to expand local food procurement in institutions; and numerous collaborative efforts aimed at growing a robust community food system. She holds a B.S. from University of Montana in Resource Conservation and a M.S. from MSU in Sustainable Food Systems, is a Registered Dietitian and an Accredited Small Business Consultant.

Jane Ann Boles

Meat Scientist - Montana State University

Dr. Boles is an Associate Professor at Montana State University in the Animal and Range Sciences Department. She has worked with meat processors in four countries and has conducted research into further processing as well as fresh meat. Her current research focuses mostly on the effects of rearing practices on meat tenderness and the molecular changes associated with changes in muscle and fat deposition. She also leads the Montana HACCP training team and functions as the processing authority for Montana.

Ken Braaten

Owner/Manager - Farm to Market Pork & Beef

Ken Braaten is the co-owner and operator of Farm to Market Pork & Beef in Kalispell, a local farm, butcher shop and retail store. Farm to Market provides the community with a convenient source for high quality locally raised pork and beef products. The business was founded by Ken’s dad (Duane) in 1976 and Ken grew up learning the ins and outs of the business from a young age. He has a degree in Business from Montana State University and spent 7 years as production manager for CHS Inc. in Great Falls before coming back to the family business.

Todd Churchill

Consulting CFO - CliftonLarsonAllen and co-founder - Blue Nest Beef

Todd provides strategic CFO services to food and agbusinesses, specializing in all parts of the beef supply chain, from seedstock to putting beef on the plate. He founded Thousand Hills Cattle Company in 2003, which was listed on the Inc. 5000 list in 2011-2013. He pioneered distribution of premium U.S. grassfed beef directly to over 1500 retail and foodservice locations. Todd focuses on designing accounting systems for his farm and ranch clients that deliver Enterprise-level P&Ls, and is co-founder of Blue Nest Beef. He and his wife and 6 kids raise cattle and horses in Cannon Falls,MN.

Danielle Davis

sales and community engagement lead, Wickens Ranch

For many years Danielle has worked in different pasture-based livestock sectors and sustainable food & ag industries. She’s happy to say she’s learned most of what she knows by talking to ranchers and farmers. In Montana, She’s working closely with Eric Wickens to develop the Wickens Ranch Beef business, and she’s helping Dillon Kouf of DoubleK ranch grow his cured meat business. She’s also the director at One Montana, a local nonprofit working to connect rural and urban Montana.

Brian Engle

Owner - Pioneer Meats

Brian Engle’s journey in the meat industry began with humble roots. Starting from a young age, he honed his craft alongside family, transitioning from wild game to domestic butchery. In 1993 he established his first meat cutting business, which thrived until 1997. After pursuing further education in Animal Sciences at Montana State University, Brian returned to his passion after gaining diverse experience. With his wife Kary, they founded Pioneer Meats in Big Timber, Montana, transforming a wrecked semi into a USDA-inspected facility. Their commitment to quality extends to their children, Bailey and Tanner, both thriving in agricultural fields.

Charley Graham

Chef / Owner- Little Star Diner

Little Star Diner is a collaboration with my wife, Lauren Reich, who grows all the vegetables that we use on the menu during the summer months. We focus on Montana ingredients, working backwards from an exceptionally tasty product to build an interesting menu that best represents our time and place. We are in our seventh year of operation and were recently nominated as a semifinalist by the James Beard Foundation for best chef in the mountain region.

Sara Hernandez

Project Manager - USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

Sara Hernandez has been with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for 22 years, serving American Agriculture in a variety of roles. Currently, Sara provides project management for the recently launched Remote Grading Pilot for Beef, through which AMS is exploring a novel new approach to providing official Meat Grading Service to decentralized meat packing operations, particularly smaller establishments located in remote areas. Sara is also the Program Coordinator for USDA’s Meat and Poultry Processing Technical Assistance Program, which provides processors access to valuable technical assistance and resources to help with their expansion and diversification projects.

Maggie and Josh Johnson

Owner - Montana Branded Inc.

Montana Branded Inc is a retail beef business located near Westby, MT. It is owned and operated by Josh and Maggie Johnson. We specialize in raising single sourced beef from birth to processing and offer individual cuts of retail beef that are all USDA inspected. Our beef is grass fed/grain finished right here in Montana on our family ranch. We are the 4th generation to own and operate our ranch and take great pride in producing a premium quality product.

McCullough Kelly-Willis

Founder, Chief Operator - Chicago Meat Collective

McCullough Kelly-Willis is a whole animal butcher, educator, and advocate for strong local food systems. She runs the Chicago Meat Collective, a small business offering hands-on butchery education for all skill levels, with a particular focus on providing resources to empower consumers with a better understanding of how to get their hands on meat that is good for them, the planet, the animal. McCullough has led butchery workshops for the Lee Initiative, for Process Expo, for Impact Culinary Training at the Hatchery, for the Chicago Public School System, for Tyson’s sales team, and more.

Mihail Kennedy

B Bar Ranch

Mihail is the production and fulfillment manager at B Bar Ranch, raising regenerative grass fed/finished organic beef. He has built their slaughter waste operation from the ground up and applies his background in ecology and restaurants to help change agriculture and food systems for the better.

Meagan & Pete Lannan

Owner - Barney Creek Livestock

Meagan and Pete own Barney Creek Livestock, a regenerative adaptive grazing operation in the Greater Yellowstone. Barney Creek manages cattle through planned moves across the landscape to build soil and energize ecosystems. The quality and superb flavor of Barney Creek’s grass finished beef is a direct result of their adaptive management.

Matt LeRoux

Extension Associate - Cornell University

Matt has over 20 years’ experience serving farms through Cornell Cooperative Extension, non-profits, and consulting. Specializing in market strategy, Matt works with a diverse mix of produce and livestock farmers and food businesses. Career highlights include creating MeatSuite.com, the Marketing Channel Assessment Tool, and the Cornell Meat Price Calculator.

Alicia Love

Bureau Chief- Department of Livestock Meat, Milk, and Egg Inspection Bureau

Alicia Love is the Meat, Milk, and Egg Inspection Bureau Chief at the Montana Department of Livestock. She holds a Master of Public Health from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Biological Sciences from Arizona State University. She is a Registered Sanitarian in the states of Montana and Arizona. Her work history includes regulatory experience in retail and manufacturing settings with an emphasis in food safety and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point.

Cole Mannix

President and Cofounder - Old Salt Co-op

Cole is part of an extended family that has ranched together near Helmville, MT since 1882. After degrees in biology and philosophy at Carroll in Helena and later a masters in theology at Boston College, he discovered a renewed passion for ranching, food systems and ecological economics. From ‘12-’16 he worked for a startup beef cooperative founded by dozens of US ranches to market grass fed domestic beef at scale. This failed. Then he tried and failed to acquire a jerky plant. From ’17-’18 he worked first as Northern Rockies Program manager for Western Landowners Alliance, then as Associate Director

Jennifer Martin

Associate Professor & Extension Specialist- Colorado State University

Dr. Martin is an Associate Professor & Meat Extension Specialist in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University. In 2022, she was named a Presidential Leadership Fellow and now leads various strategic initiatives at CSU. She received her M.S. (2010) and Ph.D. (2014) from Texas Tech University. At CSU, her research focuses on meat safety and quality, emphasizing applied solutions and collaborations with meat and livestock industry members. She serves as Coordinator for the Pet Food Alliance, an industry organization seeding solutions for the pet food and rendering industries, and as the Strategic Director for the Upskilling Initiative.

Tracy Mcintyre

Montana Council of Cooperatives/Montana Cooperative DevelopmentCenter

McIntyre, a proud graduate of MSU Bozeman grew up on a family farm in Eureka, Montana and joined Montana Cooperative Development Center in 2009 as a Cooperative Development Specialist. In 2019, McIntyre became the Executive Director of MCDC and the Administrator for the Montana Council of Cooperatives.

McIntyre is currently working on several initiatives related to housing, childcare, value-added agriculture, community investment, and worker-owned conversions. McIntyre is a board member of the National Cooperative Business Alliance Board of Directors and remains engaged in several regional and statewide organizations. During her leisure time, McIntyre can be found exploring rural Montana.

Denise Perry, PhD

Owner-Single Shot Consulting, LLC

Denise Perry has dedicated over 20 years to ensuring humane handling, food safety, and regulatory compliance within the meat industry. Before Single Shot Consulting, Denise spent the previous ten years managing operations or leading and training personnel on humane handling & food safety programs within a mid-sized niche processor. With unique expertise in Bison, USDA regulations & relations, HACCP plan development, 3rd party food safety audits, humane handling, and overall operations, she currently helps businesses navigate the complex world of meat processing. A master’s and PhD in Meat Science fuels her passion for animal welfare, humane handling, and food safety.

Chris Roper

Regional Director of Technical Assistance - FlowerHill Institute

Chris Roper is a Regional Director of technical assistance for the FlowerHill Institute and has spent over 25 years developing and managing development projects in various capacities. Projects have ranged in size from $1,000,000 to over $500,000,000. The COVID 19 pandemic brought out many challenges in agriculture, food security, and project development.
USDA has committed over $1 Billion dollars in expanding meat and poultry processing capacity.
USDA’s Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity – Technical Assistance (MPPTA) Program ensures that participants in USDA’s Meat and Poultry Supply Chain programs and initiatives have access to robust technical assistance (TA) to support their

Kara Smith

Cofounder- Colorado Craft Beef

Kara Smith is the co-founder of Colorado Craft Beef alongside her husband, Jeff. As a fifth-generation rancher based in Northeastern Colorado, she leverages her master’s degree in ruminant nutrition and 10 years of corporate sales and business development experience to innovate within the cattle industry. Kara is dedicated to creating and capturing value across the entire supply chain, driving the quality and value of beef from ranch to table. Her work supports the entire chain, fueling growth and sustainability while striving to pass her ranching legacy to her daughters. Kara’s commitment to excellence is serving as an industry beacon.

Jay Stagg

MT Farm to School Coordinator - MSU Team Nutrition

Jay Stagg is the Co-Director and MT Farm to School Coordinator at MT Team Nutrition at Montana State University. Jay was previously the Whitefish Food Service Director for 15 years and has a passion for local foods and helping other schools get started in farm to school activities. His experience at the state level includes serving as a MT Farm to School Leadership Team member, MT School Nutrition Peer Mentor, and MT Farm to School Institute Coach.

Rebecca Thistlethwaite

Director- Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network

Rebecca stepped into the Director role at NMPAN in 2019 after three years as the Program Manager. She has a master’s degree in International Agricultural Development from the University of California – Davis and was formerly co-owner of TLC Ranch, a mid-scale organic pastured poultry and livestock enterprise in California. She is author of two books on farming- Farms With a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business (2012) and The New Livestock Farmer: The Business of Raising and Selling Ethical Meat (2015) and provides business and marketing consulting for sustainable farms and food businesses.

Hailey Vine

Food & Agriculture Development Officer - Montana Department of Agriculture

Hailey Vine has been in the Montana food and agriculture development space for 3 years. She began supporting food entrepreneurs and producers in their business endeavors while acting as the Food & Ag Development Center (FADC) Director for eastern Montana. During that time, she became well versed in the meat industry, agritourism opportunities, and business planning strategies to assist operations in growing. Her desire to continue supporting Montana agriculture led her to the Montana Department of Agriculture where she now oversees the state’s FADC Network activities and other local food resiliency projects.

Eric Wickens

Partner - Wickens Ranch LLC

Eric and his wife Emma along with their 5 children live on the family ranch 20 miles southwest of Winifred, MT. They raise cattle, horses, hay, various crops, chickens, and the occasional pig or two. Eric is the 4th generation to manage the ranch that has been in the family since it was homesteaded in 1911. He attended TCU where he received a ranch management certificate, and Montana State University earning a bachelor of range science degree in 2007. We started a direct to consumer beef business in 2020 along with brothers Matt and Jason and their families.

Todd Churchill, CLA and Churchill Reserve Beef

Ethan Yourd, Bozeman Community Food CoOp

Jay Stagg, Montan Farm to School

Kara Landolfi, MSU Culinary Services

Matt Pierson, Producer Partnership

Spencer Williams, West Paw

Consulting Stations

HACCP and MT Inspection Questions

Montana Dept. of Livestock and MSU

Business Planning and Grant Coaching

Montana FADC Network and other partners

Pricing Tools

Cornell and Colorado State Universities

Operations and Workforce

Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network

Indigenous Processing Resources

Intertribal Agriculture Council

Also visit with other sponsors and support organizations

Thank you to our Founding Sponsors

National and Western SARE

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsors

Thank you to our Supporting Sponsors

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