Steering Committee

The Maine Food Strategy Steering Committee provides leadership, programmatic, and fiscal oversight for the initiative. They were chosen through an open nomination process and approved by current committee members. There is no mandate on who can be on the committee, but members are typically those who have strong ties to different sectors in Maine’s food system, with an emphasis on having a range of representation.

Holly Aker

Holly is employed as a Local Forager for Whole Foods Market in Portland, ME where she works to build relationships with local producers, farms, distributors, and community organizations serving the food systems throughout the state. She is the President of the Maine Cheese Guild, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, and founder of Local Goods Gathered, an online retail site dedicated to promoting Maine cheese through a monthly subscription series. As a Maine retailer and restauranteur (Broken Arrow Restaurant), she brings a wealth of experience from all sectors of the industry and has partnered with suppliers over the years to support best practices for retail, food safety, wholesale, marketing and communications strategies. Prior to moving to Maine in 2015, Holly and her husband owned and operated restaurants in the Chicago area. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Chicago with a degree in Political Science.

Erin Carter

Erin Percival Carter is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Maine Business School. In her research, she uses behavioral experiments to better understand how people make judgments and decisions about authenticity, morality, and their own well-being. She is particularly interested in how these factors affect purchases of more or less sustainable products. When she is not doing academic work, she operates a small-scale livestock operation with her husband Cody (supervised by toddler Thea) focused on preserving and improving multiple heritage breeds of livestock. As a result, she's full of anecdotes ranging from shipping two nearly 30 pound geese to Maine from Oregon via USPS, teaching classes with styptic powder stains on her hands, or the tragedy of mistiming cashmere harvest. 

Kristina Kalolo

Kristina is passionate about working at the intersections of social change, sustainable food systems, and collective healing. She currently serves as the Markets Manager for the Somali Bantu Community Association, Outreach & Research Administrator for the Cumberland County Food Security Council, and is on the Leadership Team of Food Fuels Learning. Previously, she engaged with her love for local food as the Production Manager and Head Chocolatier for Ambrosia of Nantucket, where she grew and wild-harvested botanicals to create artisanal products. Kristina has also interacted with food systems through her roles as a fishmonger, rural and urban farmer, cafeteria worker, and farm to table caterer. She received her B.A. in Anthropology, Sociology, and International Studies from Elmira College and her M.A. in International Development and Social Change from Clark University. 

Christopher Paquette

Getting in early on the water gardening boom of the 1990s, Chris has built hundreds of water features, from small fountains, to water gardens, to natural swimming pools. He has done it all with the goal of mimicking nature to keep them healthy and clean. Chris has taught many classes on water gardening and erosion management. He loves to enhance habitat and bring moving water to the public, and has won many awards at the Portland Flower Show over the years. Chris has participated in the York County Extension Board and Master Gardener program board for a number of years, volunteering time and resources for food related causes. Being an avid beekeeper, environmentalist, and small farmer, he is constantly looking for ways to increase local food, efficiently and responsibly. He loves music, playing guitar, and enjoying family and friends. The company he and his wife built, and the family farm, is situated on a southeastern slope in southern Maine.

Harriet Van Vleck

Harriet Van Vleck returned to MidCoast Maine after teaching ecology in Oregon, supporting biogeochemical research at Arizona State University, and conducting her Ph.D. and post-doctoral research at the University of Minnesota. Harriet’s research focused on the impacts of agricultural management on soil nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas emissions, and her post-doctoral work with the University of Minnesota and The Nature Conservancy focused on the potential economic, ecological, and social impacts of restoring a wide range of grass-based land uses in western Minnesota, part of a statewide prairie conservation plan. Harriet is Coordinator for the Merrymeeting Food Council, on the Lead Team of the Maine Network of Community Food Councils, is actively involved with the Bowdoinham Community Development Initiative, and on the board of the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation. She lives in Bowdoinham with her family. 

Jeff Auger

Jeff Auger began working in aquaculture in 2002 as an employee with Cape Cod Oyster Company in Barnstable, Mass. He continued to work in the industry while attending college and law school, serving as a legal intern for the Conservation Law Foundation and graduating from Pace Law School in 2012. After several years working as a river manager for Mook Sea Farms, Jeff joined Atlantic Aqua Farms LTD where he currently serves as Director of Business Growth and Acquisitions. He also serves as the Maine representative for the East Coast Growers Shellfish Association.

Omar Hassan

Omar Hassan was born in Somalia and raised in Kenya and serves as the Cooperative Marketing and Development Assistant with the Cooperative Food Systems Program at the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI). Omar speaks Maay Maay, Af Maha, and English and in addition to his role at the CDI, provides translation and interpretation support to Somali farmers throughout New England. He also works with farmers and community members to develop democratic businesses, assisting them in developing cooperatives, and supporting them as they access local markets. In Maine, Omar works closely with New Roots Cooperative Farm, an operation owned by Somali Bantu farmers in Lewiston, Maine, the first New American-owned cooperative farm in Maine. He is currently enrolled at the University of Southern Maine where he is pursuing a degree in Social and Behavioral Science with a minor in Sustainable Food Systems. He lives with his wife and two children, Isra and Fithi in Lewiston, Maine.