Board of Directors
Through her work in law, mediation, and restorative justice, Alice has a long history of engagement with community initiatives in the SLV, serving in staff, board, and/or consultant roles with a diverse range of SLV non-profits, as well as in local Court programs. She was first able to lend her background in non-profit development and governance to the SLV Local Foods Coalition at a time when the Board was navigating the start-up of two major projects, the Rio Grande Farm Park and the Valley Roots Food Hub. She has had the honor of seeing these endeavors take root and mature, along with many other important areas of community engagement and work taken on by the Coalition over the years.
Alice loves preparing fresh simple whole foods, especially those that can be sourced locally, with the Three Sisters of corn, beans, and squash being among her favorites.
Along with the Local Foods Coalition, Alice has invested her energies in the development of other non-profit initiatives over the years, including Tu Casa, Center for Restorative Programs, and Alamosa Bicycle Coalition. She also coordinates the Alamosa location of Mennonite Voluntary Service, which has provided full-time high-energy volunteers to the Local Food Coalition and many other area non-profits for many years.
Bridging World Views
Shirley Atencio has roots in the San Luis Valley that go back several generations. The Trujillo Homestead, a National Historic Monument near the Great Sand Dunes National Park, belonged to her great-grandparents and testifies to the founding contributions of early Hispanic families to farming and ranching in the settlement of the Valley.
At present, Shirley continues to work at the university as an advocate for bridge-building across world views and as Coordinator for the Office of Civic Engagement. She has served on a number of campus and community boards and committees over the years and enjoys being involved in anything that promotes community well-being.
Shirley and her husband raised five sons and now enjoy six grandchildren. The family has operated a small local food market in south Alamosa for twenty years which depends primarily on neighborhood support.
After full-time parenting and volunteering from home while her sons were young, Shirley worked at various jobs including teaching English Language Learners for the local school district, directing the music and liturgical ministries at Sacred Heart Church, and as lay Campus Minister at Adams State University where she has emphasized interfaith cooperation and social justice programming. A most rewarding part of that work has been developing student leadership around Alternative Break Experiences which have exposed students to people and places that have widened their understanding of the world and, in many instances, been life changing.
Shirley’ interests outside of family and work include taking long road trips to almost anywhere, reading biographies, listening to podcasts on interesting and weird subjects, lunch out with a sister or good friend, politics and public policy, and of course, dogs, cats and chickens.
Besides her long and continuing studies in the “University of Life”, Shirley holds a B.A. in Spanish from Adams State College along with various and sundry certifications.
Certified Public Accountant with many years of work in the agricultural and non-profit fields in Ohio. Tim is a new resident of the San Luis Valley excited to be near his beloved son Luke Yoder and family.
Yoder is a motorcycle and outdoor enthusiast as well as a lover of fresh local foods.
Protector of the Rio
Emma lives in Alamosa and serves as the Coordinator for the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project, a local non-profit working to improve the health of the Rio Grande in the San Luis Valley.
Emma grew up on the prairies of Kansas and graduated from Bethel College (Kans.) with a BA in Biology. While at Bethel, Emma developed a strong passion for restoration ecology and sustainable agriculture, serving on the committee for the local Sand Creek Community Garden and working as a research assistant on Bethel’s Tallgrass Prairie Restoration Study.
Emma moved to the San Luis Valley in 2013 through Mennonite Volunteer Service and quickly fell in love with the landscape and vibrant community. Emma is excited to grow her involvement in the local agricultural community through serving on the LFC Board.
He cooks for hospital patients
Ben Valdez is a Valley native who graduated from Johnson and Wales in 2013 and worked along the front range and Denver in various hotels and restaurants for 6 years. During this time he held many different roles throughout the hospitality and food industry.
His passion for healthy food and family have brought him back home to contribute to the community he was raised in. Currently he works on his family’s farm helping raise grass-fed lamb and cattle as well as cooking for patients at the Conejos County Hospital.
Moving forward he would like to help educate members of the community on healthy cooking and teach about the benefits of diverse diets. He is also interested in helping farmers connect with local consumers to form bonds within our local area and is excited to serve on the LFC board.
She milks camels!
Owner of Mudita Camel Dairy; a diverse vegetable farm, fiber, and camel dairy in Conejos County.
Meghan contributes to the team and brings thoughtful new ideas to the organization.
Reilley Nystrom, Board Member
Food Tech Maven
Reilley has made a career out of food, working in a variety of roles throughout the grocery industry. Her passion for food began in college when she had the opportunity to study abroad and experienced another culture’s way of eating: slower and more connected to the land than what she was used to. Since then she’s worked in community gardens, an urban farm, packed food for CSA’s, and more. Currently she works on the technology side of food, creating software for grocery clients.
A recent transplant to the valley, Reilley lives in Alamosa with her husband and two children. Her family has roots here and she is enjoying reconnecting to this special place where her great-grandparents and grandmother was born and raised.
She holds a bachelors from Texas A&M University in Environmental Design, and a Masters of Business Administration from CU Denver.
Social Justice Warrior
Liza is the founding director of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition in rural southern Colorado. She has been a community organizer with a focus on social justice, wellness and prevention for many years.
Ms. Marron has a Master’s Degree in Community Counseling and a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish. Her skill set includes grant writing, government, visioning and strategic planning, non-profit management, finance, coalition building, economic development, education, fund raising, public speaking, and managing a budget.
Liza is an avid gardener, horsewoman and student of life.
Wilderness Guide & Humanitarian
Max grew up in Kansas City and Boulder, and has been playing in the San Luis Valley since he was a kid. With an undergraduate degree from Naropa University and dual graduate degrees from CU-Denver in Public Health and Urban/Regional Planning, he has worked on healthy community design and food system planning in Colorado, and humanitarian response in East Africa and the Middle East. Before all that, he spent years leading wilderness trips across the Rockies and abroad, and working as an EMT in a number of Denver and mountain hospitals.
He is skilled in writing, research methods, teambuilding, risk management, community organizing, bureaucracy navigation, and strategic planning.
Max is an avid cook and fermenter, and can be found hiking, skiing, climbing and mountain biking in the Cochetopa Hills.
Daliah Torrez, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator
Masa & Marketing Mija
Daliah (she/her/ella) is a Colorado native with roots spreading from Northern New Mexico to Greeley, Colorado. Born in Denver, CO and living in Alamosa. She’s passionate about her cultural foods, finding new ways to honor the ingredients, learning how to grow, harvest, and preserve them, and connecting with the people in her community who are doing the same.
She’s been in social media and online marketing for over 13 years and is passionate about sharing tips and tools for others to utilize the power of the internet to support their community efforts.
When it comes to local foods, green chile, bolita beans, blue corn, purple potatoes, free-range, farm-fresh eggs, and organic grass-fed beef & bison are some of her faves.
Manassa Finance Maven
Jerald, born and raised in the San Luis Valley, is passionate about our local treasures, including Colorado potatoes and green chile. You can find him hiking in the San Juans or supporting a local mission that’s important to him, Tu Casa Domestic Violence Outreach and Prevention.
Nature Enthusiast and Moonlight Tea Sipper
Passionate Educator and Equity Advocate
Cassandra, a proud native of Garcia, the oldest town in Colorado, has an insatiable love for her culture, which she celebrates through her culinary adventures, skillfully crafting both traditional and innovative family recipes. Her tres leches cake is legendary.🍰
When not stirring up delectable dishes, Cassandra finds solace under the moonlight, sipping tea and gazing at the night sky, a true lover of nature’s beauty, especially the awe-inspiring landscapes of the San Luis Valley.
An alumna of Adams State University, Cassandra holds a BA in Education with an emphasis in Mathematics. She’s a lifelong learner and dedicated educator, relentlessly advocating for educational improvement. For over 7 years, she dedicated herself to the Upward Bound Programs at Adams State University, nurturing the dreams and aspirations of the Valley’s youth as they embark on their postsecondary journeys.
Now, Cassandra is on a new mission with the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, where she’s determined to break barriers and build bridges in the community. As an equity champion, Cassandra is committed to facilitating dialogues and professionally-led training to drive positive change in the Valley. She’s all about amplifying community voices and recognizes the need to create a more equitable place for everyone. With her dedication, open heart, and leadership skills, Cassandra’s ready to listen, learn, and lead the way!
Rio Grande Farm Park
El Jefe de Verduras
Jesus is from Charcas, S.L.P. Mexico. He grew up in a farming family in Mexico, and he is the third of twelve: eight brothers and three sisters. Early in his life, Jesus learned the importance of healthy and locally grown foods and hard work. His father had a 2-acre garden where he grew many things, like beans, beets, squash, fava beans, cilantro, broccoli, jalapeño, chili de marrones, carrots, and cauliflower. His father began teaching Jesus and his brother about agriculture at an early age. Jesus brings a great love and knowledge of agriculture to the farm park. He is skilled in vegetable production, irrigation, soil health and caring for bees.
As the RGFP Manager, Jesus applies his extensive farming and agriculture knowledge as well as his other professional experience in business administration, community support, education, and advocacy. Jesus is very passionate about farming. He says, “Where there is a lot of water, there is a lot of life.” Jesus enjoys conversing with people, hearing their stories, teaching what he has learned along the way, and sharing experiences and risks.
The Mindful Mountaineer
|Meet Meg Mercier. Born and raised in Colorado, Meg has spent her adult life living and learning in the Pacific Northwest. Her experiences in the food service industry, political campaigning, and nonprofits (including a service term at the Farm Park in 2019-2020) have guided her path to the San Luis Valley. Seeking to synergize a love for community organizing and growing food, Meg is excited to return to the Park and help the plants and programs grow. Meg likes to spend free time walking her one-eyed dog, identifying wild plants, skiing, rock climbing, gardening, and cooking for friends.|
Swedish Ski & Hot Chocolate Lover
I rather enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, cycling and skiing. Any ski trip, in my humble opinion, must conclude with hot chocolate! As for biking, little does compare with riding in a panoramic canyon, particularly in autumn. Another pastime of mine is fishing from a boat or dock. After an excursion, I’m not one refuse a freshly caught trout, perch or pike, especially if prepared with butter, dill, salt and pepper! Last but not least, I find much pleasure in reading about any subject, though the old Greeks unreservedly compete for my attention!
As regards my long-term goals, I intend to buy land in Portugal for a tiny house and garden. Complete with a hydroponic and/or aquaponic system, smart technological solutions and rewilded areas, the demonstration site would promote the urgency of self–sufficiency, health/longevity and conservation.
Experimental methods of production would help identify local solutions.
Why are you passionate about local foods?
I may have consumed vegetables, fruits, mushrooms and meat for much of my life, but I often fail to appreciate how it all arrives on my table. Notwithstanding time well-spent at New Morning Farm, Common Ground Farm and Rio Grande Farm Park, I’m most keen to keep investigating how my various “groceries” live and die that I may fortunately live another day. Long-term, I wish to cultivate a state of gratitude. In the short term, I mean to ascribe a much greater context to each and every meal.
Athlete & Farmers Market Steward
Hi, my name is Brayan Flores and I am the Assistant Manager for The Rio Grande Farm Park. I am a full time student at Trinidad State Junior College where I also run Track.
During the summer, I will also be one of the on site Managers at the Alamosa Farmers Market. I’m also a Community Leader for the Colorado Trust. In my free time I like to travel, fish, and learn new skills.
Steward Little Free Library
Salai has been a volunteer at the Farm Park for the last 3 years, working land projects, planting seedlings and watering trees. Salai has a background in gardening, landscaping and has been serving our community through the public library. She implemented literacy projects like the “Little Free Libraries”. She is joining our team at the Rio Grande Farm Park where she will be able to apply her abilities on the land and with our community.
Rio Grande Farm Park Facilities Manager
Kristine is the fun, passionate person you’ll find keeping the Farm Park facilities in tip top shape.
Isabela Baltazar, Education Assistant
Future Teacher & OG Farm Park Kid
I am Isabela Baltazar, the Education Assistant at the Rio Grand Farm Park. I am a full-time student at Adams State University. I also run the Mercadillo en el Rio on Wednesdays.
I love to spend my time outdoors taking pictures, listening to music, and enjoying time with family and friends.
Isabela and her siblings grew up playing at the farm long before it was ever Rio Grande Farm Park. She helped her mom plant and harvest food from their family’s plot, including dragon tongue beans they stewarded from Guatemala.
Isabela is getting her education degree with hopes of becoming a teacher. She gets to exercise her teaching skills with our Rising Stewards high school program and supporting the educational programing at the Farm Park.
MoKi Food Truck & Catering
Jack of All Trades
Abe grew up in Crestone Colorado and graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Adams State University. This “Jack of All Trades” background has lead to Abe working in a variety of fields including food, art, music, theatre, permaculture, sustainability, agriculture, mass communications and video production.
Abe started working with the SLV Local Foods Coalition in 2013 as a MoKi Coordinator and has also worked for the Valley Roots Food Hub and volunteered for the Rio Grande Farm Park and Cooking Matters.
In 2016 he was hired by Conejos Clean Water as the Director of Community Gardens and Outdoor Programs and was involved in the SLV Inspire coalition to bring 1 million dollars of grant funding from Great Outdoors Colorado to the SLV for outdoor programs, pathways and places. He has worked on community projects with partners such as SLVGO, Alpine Achievers Initiative, Boys and Girls Club of the San Luis Valley, S.P.M.D.T.U, South Conejos School District, City of Alamosa, Town of Antonito, Fresh Tracks, the Children and Nature Network, Nature$s Table, Taste of Native Cuisine, Integrated Nutrition Education Program, La Puente and VEGI, and the Orient Land Trust.
In 2019 Abe was hired as the Local Foods Local Place Program Director for the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition and is working to make more community connections around the local foods movement in the San Luis Valley.
Abe lives on his 35 acre farm in Antonito, Colorado with his wife Morgan Velasquez and son Izrael Rain and continues to perform original music with his band, Sweet Radish and produce videos with his company Jack Rabbit Hollow.
Makeup Artist & Chef
Creating Art Through Food
I am someone who strives past personal indifferences to make a smile go beyond my face. My purpose is to create whether it’s art or through food. Creativity is what makes the beauty in a dark world a little brighter for me!
A Sweet Tooth Lady
I am a born and raised local with a passion for baking. Will always try to get a smile on your face, whether it be with silly jokes or with my yummy baked goods. I’m a sweet tooth in a lady!
Community Advocate & Olympic Runner
Zoila is a community leader, liaison, and our Cooking Matters Coordinator.
Raised and born in Mexico she made a name for herself as the best female athlete of the year for all sports while at Adams State University. Upon graduation in 2004, she chased the Olympic dream for the next 12 years as a marathoner, made 3 world championship teams, and became an Olympic alternate for Team USA in 2008.
In 2016, she applied for her first-ever job outside running with Cooking Matters. Nutrition was a big part of her life as an athlete and she loves teaching nutrition education both in her native language, Spanish, and in English all around the San Luis Valley.
Zoila’s free time is spent with family and helping out the community as a member of Promotores Del Valle de San Luis and Alamosa Schools as a community liaison. Recently she created the “Zoila Gómez, Si Se Puede Scholarship for DACA” to support documented and undocumented immigrants from the San Luis Valley.
“Miss Lane” (Lois), hails from Albuquerque, NM and moved to Colorado in 2014 from Santa Fe to manage the Montrose Farmers Market. Her professional experience centers around elementary education, healthy living and local food access.
As an elementary teacher with a passion for local food, she realized it was important for kids and families to return to the dinner table and learn how to make healthy meals. She is a certified Holistic Health Coach and graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in 2011.
She is passionate about helping communities to improve their health and wellness through finding connection to their local food sources and teaching families how to make healthy lifestyle choices.
In her spare time she enjoys writing, yoga, walking her dogs, gardening, cooking and traveling. She looks forward to learning more about the San Luis Valley, and becoming a part of a community that celebrates its connection to its people and the land.
Valley Roots Food Hub
Nicholas Chambers is a Colorado native who earned a degree in Anthropology from University of Montana, and has been in the valley full time for 15 years.
With a back ground and training in Permaculture, Biodynamics, and Deep Organics, he and his family, as well as a host of international interns, have been running a small CSA mixed farm and homestead in Crestone for the last 10 years.
Nicholas has also been an Adjunct Instructor with Santa Fe Community College’s Biofuels lab, and has given presentations and trainings on biomass energy around Colorado and New Mexico. His consulting firm, Living Arts Systems, offers solutions for individuals, communities, and municipalities in renewable food and energy systems.
Nicholas comes to the Valley Roots Food Hub and the SLV Coalition after 2 years with the Colorado start up SOURCE Local Foods serving Summit County, Chaffee County, and the San Luis Valley.
Nicholas is deeply passionate and excited to be a part of the evolving local food system that is happening both regionally and nationally.
Al grew up in Marietta, GA. Upon graduating from Georgia Tech in 2015 with a B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture, she took a one-way train ride on the Amtrak to Eugene, OR to seek adventure. There she did work-trade through World Wide Opportunities for Organic Farming on a small homestead for 5 months. She quickly fell in love with the healing properties of being connected to the land, good nutritious food, the town, and ended up being all consumed by the vast and supportive local food system Eugene has to offer. She worked at a small family-run cafe, volunteered with Farm to School initiatives and School Garden Project.
Wanting more, her life took a small detour and she ended up in the San Luis Valley volunteering with Alpine Achievers Initiative for 2 years, primarily helping run an after school program in Crestone as well as bringing garden education to the South Conejos School District and Boys and Girls Club of the San Luis Valley. Post-AmeriCorps, Al worked a seasonal position with the Valley Educational Gardens Initiative (VEGI), a program of La Puente before finding herself at the Valley Roots Food Hub as the Markets Manager.
Al is passionate about regenerative agriculture, reconnecting others to the food they eat, and nutrition access for all. In her free time, she loves hiking with her sidekick pup Elio, practicing yoga, sewing, reading, sharing her poems at Open Mic Nights and of course cooking in the kitchen.
Pallet Jack Cowboy
Ryan Davis grew up in Atlanta, Georgia with baseball, Boy Scouts, and punk rock. His parents grew up on farms and he was always indirectly around their horses and cattle. Ryan has been around food and restaurants since he was 16. He worked with many different chefs and restaurants, and those experiences taught him how to recognize quality foods through taste and appearance. Ryan came out West to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains first as a teenager, and then returned to Crestone in San Luis Valley for meditation retreats. He then eventually moved to Crestone to experience the various Buddhist retreat centers. Ryan is now about to graduate from a traditional Tibetan medicine program which focuses on the interrelationships between plants, food, medicine, and the elemental processes of the seasons.
Wagz, Grazing Guru
Tater, Cordyceps Cultivator
Alex Disbrow grew up in Clearwater, Florida and graduated from the University of Colorado – Boulder in 2013 with a BA in English Literature.
After graduation, Alex lived in New York and California working in the art, music, and cannabis industries. Focused on independent communities and networks, Alex worked with Know-Wave Radio, Shea Stadium BK, Pehrspace, Moran Bondaroff Gallery, The Standard Hotel, Foggy Daze Delivery and Disbrow Family Farms.
In 2017, Alex returned to Colorado. The next few years in Denver were spent in the DIY scene and working at Angelo’s CD’s and More.
Alex’s desire to develop a more direct relationship with the Colorado food network and to continue working with independent communities led him to the San Luis Valley and Valley Roots Food Hub.
In addition to his work with Valley Roots Food Hub, Alex grows cordyceps mushrooms, collects movies, and runs a record label and mail-order record club called BEERMONEYUSA.
Maria Karahalios, CSA Coordinator
I grew up in rural New Jersey and then spent most of my 20s going to school and working in South Carolina. I got to spend many of those years traveling, volunteering, and learning. I studied Political Science and Sustainability at Coastal Carolina in Conway, SC and gained clarity on what direction I wanted my life to take. I began with volunteering with AmeriCorps NCCC and then wrapped my post-graduation adventures by helping on my family’s farm and then traveling to Nepal. From here, I found myself knee-deep in the food & beverage industry for several years. I worked as a server, bartender, dishwasher, food truck manager, sous chef, and everything in between. Since 2021, I have been working in the food hub world and it has been an absolute joy to be on the inside of a system that holds the health of their communities to the highest of standards.
In my free time, you can find me on a trail with my camera in tow, walking my dog along the Rio, deep in a good book, or cooking a locally-grown meal in my kitchen.
Mike, Staffer & Driver
Mike moved to Colorado in 2011 seeking off grid living and elbow room on 40 acres in Capulin, by way of Texas and California. He spent most of his years in Texas, San Antonio and Brownsville, enjoying the outdoors hunting(wild boar), fishing and camping. He studied biology at The Ohio State University and The University of Texas at San Antonio. He’s worked in many customer service fields including food and wholeheartedly supports the sacred mission of Valley Roots and comes to us with professional driving expertise by way of UPS. When he’s not working his pleasures come from relaxing with his loved ones or filling the freezer by hunting or fishing. He also gets great pleasure from music and owns a record label, TuTu Sweet Records.
Alex Taylor, Warehouse Aggregator
Lex, Paranormal Pasta Guy
Meet Alex Taylor aka Lex! Born and raised in Colorado, Alex graduated from Alamosa High School and has worked in many of the San Luis Valley nooks and crannies. He loves chili and chocolate, especially together. Coffee, pasta and corn are his vices. He came to Valley Roots wanting to thrive in a sustainable future and found the warehouse aggregator position, initially interested in being farm park director. When we’re not feeding the people, he occasionally competes in disc golf tournaments, studies martial arts, assembles the squad for maximum shenanigans, plays video games, beatboxes and indulges in tales of the grim dark and paranormal.
Not pictured: Ethan Dodds, Kai Duby, James Miner
Community Food & Agriculture Assessment & Special Projects
Jae Sanders, CFAA Coordinator
Eco-Groovy Seed Babe
Whoever controls the food controls the people. I want to keep farming and ranching in the hands of people I know. I also think one of the most radical acts we can perform these days is growing our own food and being self sufficient. So inspiring, encouraging and enabling those around me to grow food is important to me.