Katie Deschene - Outreach and Communications Specialist: Katie grew up in Park Rapids, where RDO operates and farms potatoes. Conscious of the heavy agriculture use in her area, she began to wonder what really happens to all of the chemicals used in corporate farming. After researching, she realized our communities, our water, land, and air had a problem. She still resides in Park Rapids with her family, where she hopes she can make a difference for generations to come. She started working with Toxic Taters in February on 2016.
Toxic Taters is a grassroots organization. That means that we are led by the people affected and staff are really just there to support the work of the community. Everyone is welcome to take part in our monthly meetings which take place in Park Rapids, Pine Point, and Wadena. In order to vote individuals must have attended at least 2 prior meetings. (Staff are not allowed to vote.) For those unable to attend meetings there are many other ways to get involved. Just contact us and we'll find a way to work together.
The following are our core leaders:
Robert Shimek: Executive Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, has devoted his life to the protection and revitalization of the Anishanabe people, land and their life ways. Bob’s previous employment has included being a field organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network and the White Earth Land Recovery Project before becoming the Executive Director on March 1, 2014. Bob is steeped in traditional knowledge and shares it with anyone willing to listen and eager to learn. Originally from Mud Lake on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Northwestern Minnesota, Robert still makes his home there. He is the proud father of three sons and one daughter.
Amy S. Mondloch - Coordinator: Amy has been involved in community organizing in both volunteer and professional capacities for twenty-five years. Her work began as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where she became involved in the struggle against the Crandon Mine, work to democratize education, and many other efforts. From there she moved to Tennessee where she worked for Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM) and led the successful fight to protect more than 62,000 acres surrounding Fall Creek Falls State Park from strip mining. Her work eventually brought her back to Wisconsin where, among other efforts, she helped found and served as executive director for the Grassroots Leadership College which provided training in leadership development and community organizing to more than 500 people and supported more than 120 community organizing efforts in the Madison area during its nine years of operation. She became the first staff person for the Toxic Taters Coalition in August of 2014.
Norma & Don Smith: moved their family to a small farm in Otter Tail County in 1976. They bought their first sheep the next year and for 18 years sold enough lambs to make their farm payment. In 1995, 11 irrigation systems were installed in a 4 square mile area and potatoes planted all around them. The fields were sprayed every week by an airplane. They soon experienced hundreds of dead birds. Frogs disappeared and the bee population declined. Their lambs began to die. With effort, they finally got someone to respond to their calls at the MN Agriculture Dept. and were told that a million dollar potato crop was worth more than their little flock of sheep.
Carol Ashley: lived near potato fields by Park Rapids, MN for about 18 years and suffered from pesticide drift most of those years. She started working on this issue in 2004. She finally decided she had to move in spite of living within walking distance of aging parents and in spite of having a 38 year connection to that particular 15 acres of land where she gardened and ran a small businesses. She continues to live in the Park Rapids area though further from the fields.
Zachary Paige: Zachary began as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the White Earth Land Recovery Project. He continues to work with WELRP as the Program Director of the Upper Midwest Indigenous Seed Keeper Network Grant Project.
Holly Ward: Holly is a resident of the Perham area who became involved in work of Toxic Taters after experiencing a direct hit of fungicides when the field next door to her home was being sprayed in summer of 2015. She and her husband, Bruce came to Toxic Taters for help and support in reporting the incident. Holly took her anger and frustration and turned it around becoming an active volunteer and spokesperson for the group.
Fiscal Sponsor Liaison
Toxic Taters works closely with our fiscal sponsor Pesticide Action Network with support from their Minneapolis office. Our fiscal sponsor also does not have a vote in meetings.
Lex Horan: Lex supports the Toxic Taters coalition in his role as an Organizer with Pesticide Action Network North America. He joined PAN's Minneapolis staff in June 2013. His organizing experience comes from being a part of multiple social justice movements, including organizing against mass incarceration, building community power with transgender youth, and working with other white people against racism. Lex was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota.