Chief Executive Officer
Niel Ritchie is CEO of Main Street Project with overall responsibility for organizational development, financial management and institutional relations. He has 30 years of experience in rural advocacy, public policy and non-profit management. He was the Director of the League of Rural Voters, a grassroots organizing and communications organization that focused on public policy issues including economic development, immigration, trade and farm policy, health care and education.
Before working with Main Street Project, Niel spent 14 years with the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy working as national organizer responsible for outreach and networking among U.S. Farm groups and non-farm partners including environment, consumer, business, labor and church groups.
Niel serves on the boards of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership and the Alliance for Aviation Across America and is a member of the steering committee of the National Rural Assembly. He is the author of numerous articles and op/eds on farm, food, trade and rural economic policy.
Chief Operations Officer
Julie Ristau is Chief Operating Officer of Main Street Project, focused on guiding and overseeing the overall operations of the organization. Her expertise crosses many fields. Previous to coming on board with Main Street, she founded Regeneration Partnership, a consulting team that provides strategy development, land restoration planning, operations management and enterprise expertise to farms and organizations. Earlier in her career, she started a breeding stock farm in southern Minnesota. Later she helped launch and was the publisher of nationally renowned Utne Reader magazine. She held an endowed chair in Agricultural Systems at the University of Minnesota, working with the Regional Partnership in Southeast Minnesota. She also served as the Co-director for On the Commons, an international network that works to revitalize community participation in and control of water, soil health and land access.
As an active community leader, Ristau co-founded, designed and led Homegrown Minneapolis, the city’s local food initiative. She co-chairs the Permaculture Research Institute Cold Climate board and is a board member of the University’s Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.
Chief Strategy Officer
Regi is the principal architect of the innovative poultry-centered regenerative agriculture model that is at the heart of Main Street Project’s work. As CSO, his focus is on the development of multi-level strategies for building regenerative food and agriculture systems that deliver social, economic and ecological benefits. He leads Main Street’s engineering and design work and currently oversees the implementation of restorative blueprints for communities in the US, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
A native Guatemalan, Regi received his agronomy degree from the Central National School of Agriculture, studied at the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala and graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis with a major in international business administration and a minor in communications.
Regi began working on economic development projects with indigenous Guatemalan communities in 1988. He served as a consultant for the United Nations Development Program’s Bureau for Latin America and as an advisor to the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. He was a founding member of the Fair Trade Federation in 1994.
Regi served as Director of the Fair Trade Program for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy from 1995 to 1998, and led the creation, strategic positioning, start-up and launch of Peace Coffee, a Minnesota-based fair-trade coffee company.
Regi currently lives in Northfield Minnesota with his wife Amy and their kids William (21), Ana Nicktae (17) and Lars Decarlo (12).
Bob Kell manages the agripreneur training and business incubator program, working with emerging immigrant farmers. He also coordinates marketing efforts for program products. Before joining Main Street Project, Bob served as director of the Welcome Center (Faribault Diversity Coalition) for ten years, developing resettlement support services with Latino, Somali and other immigrant members of the Faribault, Minnesota, community, and coordinating Coalition efforts to promote dialogue and cultural understanding. Prior to that, he was the program manager for Catholic Charities Rural Outreach with families in Minnesota’s Rice and Le Sueur counties. Bob is a committed advocate for immigrant opportunities and community collaboration.
Director of Communications
Wil Crombie specializes in Filmmaking, Design & Marketing.
His skills have taken him around the world and his capabilities have helped to further many individuals, organizations, projects and ideas. Wil has a passion for environmental and social justice. He seeks projects that benefit communities and the eco-system. Seeking that balance in his own life, Wil has been building a homestead (Organic Compound) since 2012 on his families land in southern MN, and is also a co-founder of Regeneration Farms LLC, the first independent farm operation dedicated to replicating the Main Street Project’s Poultry-Centered Regenerative Agriculture System. Wil looks forward to helping a new generation navigate itself through the digital realms and on the ground, in hopes to come out the other side happy with what we have created.
Community Outreach & Extension Education
Rocky Casillas works at our Research and Development farm, Finca Mirasol, managing our egg-layer operations. He also coordinates engagement opportunities for community members and students, recruits volunteers, and hosts public activities and events. This summer (2017) he developed a new community-outreach program called Sharing Our Roots, which aims to improve access to healthy foods among low-income households and strengthen community connectedness, particularly for the growing rural Latino community in this region. Being a Hispanic immigrant himself and having grown up in Northfield, launching this program was very important to Rocky as he is now planting the seed that will give back to his community. Before joining the team, Rocky worked as Sustainability Coordinator at Franklin Pierce University, assisting faculty in the Natural Sciences Department, hosting activities on campus, and serving as member of the university’s Sustainability Council. Issues related to food justice and environmental sustainability have always been of interest to him, and he hopes to be able to continue helping and empowering communities here, as well as in Africa in the very near future.
Is an Agronomist specialized in agricultural science and production. He is an expert in the management of crops (grains and vegetables) and in livestock management (animal production). He currently serves as Main Street Project’s Production Manager and is responsible for the proper management of all production undertaken by the organization, including chicken production (eggs and meat) and the production of crops (vegetables, grains and perennial crops). He is also responsible for collecting, processing, presenting, and reporting all production data. As a Hispanic immigrant, he believes that all people deserve fair access to food produced with high quality standards that promote food justice and good nutrition for all communities and cultures within this great country. Before joining Main Street Project, Wilber graduated as an Agronomist at the Adolfo V. Hall Civic Military Institute in Guatemala and as an Agronomist at the prestigious Pan-American Agricultural School El Zamorano in Honduras. He also worked as a generator of demand and technical assistance for two major companies; one operated nationally and the other was an international company, both within Guatemala.
Board of Directors
Jim Blaha – Board Chair
Executive Director of the Community Action Center of Northfield, Minnesota
Executive Director at University of Minnesota Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership
Founder/Executive director (ret.) of the Center for New Community
Owner/President of What Works, Inc.
Executive Fellow & Director of the Public & Leadership Masters Program, College of Applied Professional Studies; Public Policy Director of Joint Degree with University of St. Thomas School of Law