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We are charting pathways to a better future for food and agriculture.

By discovering and deploying innovations that create more equitable and sustainable systems, we are transforming the production, distribution, and consumption of food, feed, fiber, and fuel.

About Us

Michelle Klieger

Michelle is an agricultural economist with over 10 years of experience in the food and agriculture sector. An economist and a business strategist, she works with the global seed industry, agtech companies, conventional and non-conventional agriculture firms, community organizations, and philanthropic foundations. Taking her around the world, her work helps industry leaders manage and grow their global businesses. Michelle is a professional speaker, the author of The Demise of Free Trade, and host of a podcast. She is a professor of Economics at Bentley University and holds a Masters in Agriculture Economics from Purdue University and an MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

Fawn Scheer

Fawn is a community food systems specialist with over 20 years of professional experience spanning regional food and agriculture, rural economic and community development, Tribal food sovereignty, and climate adaptation. Her project management, technical research, fund development, strategic planning, and business consulting clients range from County food banks and Tribal governments to large corporations and private foundations. She helps people understand how systems work (or don’t work), particularly in the areas of food, agriculture, arts/culture, community, climate, and policy. She is a trained facilitator and holds a Masters of Science in International Agricultural Development from UC Davis.

Associates and Collaborators

Helianth’s team also includes research associates, subject matter experts, strategic advisors, and collaborating firms which we engage when their expertise, capacity, or resources help to amplify our work.

Cherilyn Ashmead

As a Program Coordinator for Helianth, Cherilyn applies her diverse background in cultural and natural resources, Tribal administration, socioeconomic research, and technical writing to support the demanding needs of complex projects. Her professional expertise includes Tribal sovereignty, community and landscape analysis, navigating regulatory compliance, and data management. Cherilyn has an MS from Humboldt State University in Forestry, Watershed, and Wildland Science, emphasis Socioeconomics, completing her thesis on socioeconomic resilience of former timber-mill communities.

Dezi Escarda

As Program Assistant for Helianth, Dezi combines her skills in communication, organization, data gathering and analysis, and research with her education in environmental studies to support the company’s diversity of projects. She is a proactive communicator and confident researcher with a passion for environmental justice and food sovereignty. Dezi recently completed her undergraduate degree at University of California Berkeley in Society and Environmental Studies where she gained valuable experiences in fieldwork, data analysis, proposal writing, and policy review.

Our Toolbox


Comprehensive strategies for multi-year, multi-stakeholder efforts as well as discrete, fast-paced concepts
and tools to outline pathways for ideas get implemented successfully.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder convening and alignment through structured process design, power-mapping, consensus building, and coordination to unlock new opportunities.


Ideation, network engagement, technical research and analysis, subject matter expertise, and other tools applied to identify problems, solutions, and executable strategies.


Technical research and analysis that integrates landscape, culture, supply chain, macro economy, consumer trends and values to define opportunities for change.

Some of Our Work

Tractor Sources: Julia Koblitz Unsplash
Equipping farmers to adopt conservation practices

Helianth is investigating the data needs, operating functions, value propositions, and business requirements of a multi-sided platform that will support adoption of conservation tillage and cover cropping by connecting small/mid-sized farmers in the Midwest US with farm equipment operators or equipment sharing systems. Through stakeholder engagement and iterative R&D, we are validating the market value, establishing technical feasibility, and developing a commercialization strategy.

Evaluating success factors for rural farm-to-school initiatives

Helianth has produced a case study, the first of a three-part series, that explores the challenges and successes of Humboldt County Office of Education’s Farm-to-School endeavors. The study explores how a rural and remote northern California community has become a leader in the farm-to-school realm through the support of numerous state and federal grants, the leadership of dedicated staff, and the commitment of entities across the supply chain.

Technical studies: regional supply chains, specialty meat processing, small-scale farming, and foodsystem planning

Helianth’s team has produced and contributed to several studies focused on supply chain projects. These studies have been produced for or to support USDA funding programs and regional initiatives; they have been used to guide conceptual designs, secure additional resources to support project implementation, or inform local and state policy developments.

Supporting Tribal Food Sovereignty

Helianth’s team has produced and contributed to grants, planning documents, and community development initiatives that support food sovereignty for Tribal nations and Indigenous communities. Included in this work is attention to expanding perspectives of how food is sourced, shared, consumed, and celebrated –namely, because food and medicines are an anchor for culture and community, the resources and infrastructure that support it must also include these elements. From Tribally-owned and operated food infrastructure to policy and planning efforts that increase the interconnections between food and people and place, this work helps to make Tribal communities more active in planning and realizing their desired food systems.

Connecting rural groceries and farms

Helianth is exploring ways to better connect rural groceries with the farms that, while largely rural in nature, often do not provide fresh produce to their community’s retail outlets. This is a major challenge for food security and sustainability. To further this effort, we are connecting with other practitioners in the field, developing research initiatives, and contributing to position statements that demonstrate the opportunity and value of shortening grocery supply chains to better serve both rural communities and farmers. Our goal is to help demystify what is possible by working to advance proven approaches.