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).
Sue Gordy comes to Main Street Project with more than 20 years of experience in the corporate environment culminating in Florida with GTECH where she functioned as a high-level manager. Over the years her responsibilities have included managing various departments, project management, operational process development and database tracking – resulting in the creation of productive and efficient work environments across multiple functional areas. In every work situation she encounters, Sue significantly increases productivity, customer satisfaction and employee morale. Sue is key to the success of the Main Street team; leveraging her experience and knowledge by directing internal communications and creating data management systems.
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.
Joseph originally worked in pork production in the Lake City area. He later went on to obtain his B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from Winona State University. Following this he went on to work for the Hawaiian Agriculture Research Center, where he was involved with investigating sex determination in papaya.
After Joseph moved back to Minnesota, his daughter was born. Discussion with his wife then led to moving to Guanajuato, Mexico where he lived for seven years. During this time he completed his Masters in Protection of vegetable and horticultural crops. He also enjoyed time traveling throughout Mexico along with immersing himself in the Mexican culture. Returning once again to Minnesota to be closer to his family and to allow his daughter to experience her other culture, he settled in Northﬁeld. He is currently the Farm Manager for Main Street Project and manages the poultry production operations.
Chief Financial Officer
Nancy Gaschott, trained as an attorney (University of Minnesota Law School ’85), has served the non-profit sector in a variety of capacities for over three decades. Since 2009, when she was named a CFO of the Year by the Minneapolis – St. Paul Business Journal, she has worked as an independent consultant. In this capacity she supports nonprofit organizations and their senior leaders in the areas of financial management, interim leadership, strategic planning, staff structure analysis, senior staff hiring including executive director, federal grants, financial audits, board and staff role clarification, administrative systems, and management of special projects.
Writer, Organizer and Analyst
Zoe Benston is a writer, organizer, and analyst who’s worked over the last decade to promote food justice, sustainability, volunteerism, and creative and ethical management processes within multiple non-profits, including the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, The Minnesota Fringe Festival, and Clean Water Action. She was the content organizer for the Food Justice section of The Common Table’s 2015 Local Food Exhibit at the 2015 State Fair and volunteers with OpenArms MN, The YWCA’s Racial Justice Program and Simpson Housing Services. Zoe holds an MA in English from Claremont University and an MA in Sustainable Development and Policy from U of IL Springfield, where she developed her passion for food issues. In addition to writing for Main Street Project, Zoe blogs about the ridiculous barriers to eating ethically.
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.