Our People


Staff

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Celine Knudsen

Former Americorps VISTA

Celine served as our AmeriCorps VISTA with Freedom Gardens until August, 2022. She was our volunteer coordinator, grant writer, and greenhouse gnome. Celine has a B.S. in Plant Sciences with a focus in Horticulture and Plant Pathology from the University of Idaho- located in her hometown of Moscow, Idaho. She is passionate about sustainable agriculture and grew up gardening with her family.  When she isn’t working or hanging out in the greenhouse, Celine can be found eating kale at the Clark Fork market (see pictured!), hiking, skiing, or hunting for huckleberries with her hound dog


Board of Directors

Heath Carey
Chair

Heath N. Carey moved from Gettysburg, PA to Missoula in 2005 to pursue a graduate degree in Resource Conservation.  His research focused on developing, implementing, and studying the Missoula Hybrid Poplar Project, which included planting some 377 poplar trees that utilize treated municipal waste water as a source of irrigation and fertilization. This successful project was expanded to over 180 acres at present. Heath has served on the Missoula Mayor's Climate Change Advisory Board, The Missoula Fleet and Facilities Conservation and Climate Action Plan Board, The Missoula Zero Waste Group, Transition Missoula Steering Committee, and currently serves as the secretary to The Missoula Winter Public Market Board. Heath is also the owner of Nourishing Cultures, a Missoula-based fermented food business. 

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Julia Crocker
Treasurer 

Julia Crocker was born and raised in Norman, Oklahoma. She has moved around a bit, but has settled in nicely here in Montana. Julia spent the last four years teaching various science classes at Frenchtown High School. The environmental science class she helped design holds a special place in her heart. She has since changed positions and now is community programs coordinator at the Clark Fork Coalition. However, she returns to Frenchtown classes to teach inquiry based lessons on our watershed. She believes that the students serve as the integral piece connecting the greenhouse to table and hopes students will learn the role a community can play when everyone has the same goal in mind.

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Sarah Rodgers

Sarah Rodgers is a graduate student at the University of Montana studying food systems and sustainable agriculture. Originally from Connecticut, Sarah got her start in agriculture, spending weekends on her grandparent's apple orchard before working on her college farm in Northern Vermont. While earning her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Saint Michael's College, she focused her undergraduate research on food access and food security. After graduating, Sarah worked as a farm-based educator and AmeriCorps VISTA before moving to Missoula. Sarah hopes that Freedom Gardens can make a real impact in Frenchtown and become a model for other schools in Montana to have students involved in growing food! 

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Karlie Slayer
 

Karlie Slayer is a Montana native, growing up in Missoula. She moved to Seattle to attend the Art Institute, where she earned a degree in Graphic Design. After moving around in Washington and Nevada she moved back to Missoula in 2009 to be closer to her family. She has worked for a non-profit as a creative services manager and designer for the last 12 years. She enjoys spending time at home with her son and their flock of chickens, ducks and geese. They have been learning about different gardening practices and growing food and flowers on their property. She also enjoys cooking, baking and preserving all the food they can grow at home. She is grateful to be a part of such a wonderful community in Frenchtown and looks forward to helping spread the word about Freedom Gardens.


Former Board Members

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Charles (Chuck) Holman

Chuck was born and raised on a cattle ranch North of Chinook, Mt. After graduating high school, he moved to Seattle and was introduced to commercial landscaping and maintenance. Chuck owned and operated CTC Landscape Maintenance for six  years before selling the company and moving to Michigan. In Michigan, Chuck again started his own landscape maintenance company, Holman Landscape Services. In Spring 2006, Chuck started working with Crop Service International where he was introduced to Eco Agriculture and the many different forms of natural farming. Chuck learned the value of mineral balancing soils, remediating the microbiology in the soil and the importance that these microbes play in the nutrient density of our foods. In 2014, Chuck moved back to Montana and landed in Missoula; he worked with two nonprofits before beginning his third landscape maintenance and healthy soil consulting business, Earth in Hand. Chuck is one of the founders of the Montana Hemp Cooperative where he still serves on the board of directors as the Public and Media liaison.

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Hanna Tester
Former Secrtary

Hanna Tester has two young boys attending Frenchtown Elementary School and the Tester family enjoys gardening together during Montana summers in their family garden.  Not only has gardening been a great bonding experience for Hanna and her family, but the Testers have learned together the impact that growing and harvesting their own food have on their health and their boys' relationship with their food. Hanna graduated form the university of Montana in 2008 with an undergraduate degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. She has worked in the nonprofit environment for seven years, with extensive experience in housing and finding paths to acquire safe, healthy homes everyone can afford.  Throughout her tenure in the nonprofit sector, Hanna has acquired extensive experience in grant writing and grant compliance for both local funders as well as government funders. Hanna and her husband, Michael, feel incredibly lucky that their boys attend Frenchtown elementary and get such intimate, hands-on learning about sustainability and food cultivation. 

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Riley Devins
Frenchtown School Dist. Liaison 

Riley Devins works in Frenchtown School District as the Intermediate Principal/K-12 Director of Academic Services and is the school representative on the Freedom Gardens Board. He is passionate about growing local food and knowing where the food that we consume comes from. With a background in education, Riley is involved in curriculum development, fundraising and community engagement. He is working to establish student understanding of agricultural practices and science modalities that encompass local sustainability in agriculture and gardening practices that start through education in our schools and move into the local community.

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Rob Taylor
Former Chair

Though born and raised in Missoula, Mt, Rob Taylor is a horticultural wanderer by nature. He has grown thousands of tomatoes at the University of Kansas (where he earned his BFA), studied orchard techniques in New Zealand, participated in a census of Alaskan tundra plants, and grown vegetables at McMurdo Station and the South Pole Station in Antarctica as part of the National Science Foundation effort. His loves include art, old dogs, cheese-ball science fiction novels, and he definitely prefers the blissful taste of coffee served in bed as opposed to the more mundane flavor imparted when sitting at a table. He seasonally becomes obsessed with Tall Bearded Iris, heritage apple trees, and wonky tomato varieties. Rob’s involvement in Freedom Gardens stems from his hopes that horticulture becomes part of a state-wide public school curriculum.

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Isabella Aaseng

Frenchtown High School student Isabella Aaseng has grown up in the Frenchtown community and has been serving on the Freedom Gardens board since 2016, her eighth-grade year. She is currently a junior and has committed part of her schedule to a Freedom Gardens internship. In this, she implements sustainable practices in the very same classrooms where she learned. Currently, she is interested in pursuing a degree in global sustainability studies and political or social sciences, all of which are fueled by her involvement with Freedom Gardens.  

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Suzan Estep
Former Board Member

Susan brings her financial and Fund-Raising expertise to the Freedom Gardens. During Susan’s tenure as Board President of HomeWord the organization was able to fund/finance several low-income housing projects in Missoula, including Fireweed Court on Russell, The Acme in downtown Missoula and Orchard Gardens which now houses a vibrant community garden. While Susan served as President of the Board of The Montana Natural History Center, they were able to purchase their current home adjacent to Silver Park which now houses both the Center and Five Valley’s Land Trust. As a member of Play Ball Missoula’s Board of Directors, Susan was a driving force in both the fundraising and financial restructuring that led to ownership of the Baseball stadium by the City of Missoula.  Susan is Senior Partner of Willow Creek Capital Management, a local, asset management firm with $230 million under management.

Mark Estep
Former Secretary/Treasurer

Mark was raised in New York City, where he worked in restaurant management and attended the Parsons School of Design, studying historic restoration. In 1992 Mark moved to Missoula had a small business as a contractor, restoring several historic buildings in Missoula.  Since retiring in 2007, he decided to get back into the food movement.  He has worked on getting a USDA inspected mobile abattoir operating in western Montana to harvest cattle on the ranch.  He has worked with the Fredom Gardens in the design and implementation of the garden plots and serves on the Board.

Alaina Dunne
Former Curriculum Director

Alaina was raised on a Montana ranch, participating in 4-H for ten years.  With a BA in Social Work from UM, she did a practicum with the Flagship Program at Lowell Elementary School, developing after-school programs, recruiting, training and managing volunteers.  Alaina also has two years of case management experience with parents in the HeadStart Program.  She believes that her involvement with the 4-H Program from a young age keeps her grounded in the community.  

Alaina was raised on a Montana ranch, participating in 4-H for ten years.  With a BA in Social Work from UM, she did a practicum with the Flagship Program at Lowell Elementary School, developing after-school programs, recruiting, training and managing volunteers.  Alaina also has two years of case management experience with parents in the HeadStart Program.  She believes that her involvement with the 4-H Program from a young age keeps her grounded in the community.  

Dalene Normand

Freedom Gardens run on support from board members, and most importantly, staff at Frenchtown Public Schools. Our current interim-greenhouse coordinator is Dalene Normand. Dalene runs the gifted and talented programs for K-8 students. Her knowledge of farming practices, as well as her eagerness to become involved makes her crucial for the sustainable practices and educational learning moments we hope to cultivate in our students.