Organic Advisory & Education Council

Organic Advisory & Education Council

Who We Are

The Organic Advisory and Education Council (OAEC) is a non-profit organization made up of Montana certified organic farmers whose mission is to assess priority needs for research and education specific to Montana’s organic farming community. OAEC’s mandate is to identify and to target funds for most needed projects. In an equally important role, OAEC provides information and advice to researchers and educators on areas of critical need in the organic community.

OAEC’s Board of Directors was appointed based on recommendations from agricultural organizations and leaders. The directors are deeply experienced in the “art of farming” in their own unique ways. They represent sectors of the organic community including grain, livestock, fruit, and vegetable production, and processing. Each brings an insight and understanding of organic systems, nature, farming, food, health and people to the Council. The broad-based structure of the Board of Directors along with OAEC’s contact with the organic community enables it to assess priority needs for research and education. 


Ole Norgaard, Chair, (North Frontier Farms, Inc, Lewistown) currently leases an organic farm (650 acres) 13 miles west of Lewistown, Montana where he grows peas, barley, wheat, sanfoin seed, triticale, alfalfa and grass hay and a special black/purple Indian corn. Ole is also working on his own value-added product line with a pancake and cornbread mix. He has been involved in farming all his life and holds a Bachelor Degree in Agricultural Science and a Specialized Degree in Agricultural Economy and Management. He has served on the Montana Organic Association board as treasurer and chair and is currently the chair of the Organic Advisory and Education Council. 

Warren Lybeck, Vice-Chair, farms and ranch north of Chinook. After attending Montana State University, he returned to start a career in both farming and ranching. In 1998, he started farming organically, by converting both conventional farmland and breaking sod. His current rotation includes durum, spring and winter wheat, peas, Kamut, barley, yellow sweet clover, and flax. Warren has served on many local boards, and also currently serves as a board member of the Montana Grain Growers Association (MGGA).

Sam Schmidt, Secretary, (Montana Milling, Great Falls) is a grain merchandiser for Montana Milling, Inc., a multi-grain processor based out of Great Falls.  He has worked in the grain handling, milling, and merchandising business, for over 20 years, with more than half of those years here in Montana.  Sam was raised on a wheat farm, and cattle ranch, in central Kansas, and holds a Bachelor Degree in Grain and Milling Science from Kansas State University.  He served as the vice chair of both the Montana Organic Association and now the Organic Advisory and Education Council.


Catherine Odden, Treasurer, (Odden Organics, Inc, Dutton) grew up on a farm & ranch west of Dutton, Montana.  Mick Odden (who grew up east of Dutton) and Catherine were married and off to college, starting a family and teaching school for 15 year around the State of Montana.  In 1977 they returned to the Odden family farm were Mick became the fourth generation to farm the land. Odden Farms turned 100 years old in 2010 a fact they are very proud of.  Their family consists of 3 boys and a daughter plus 11 grandchildren.  In 2004 Mick & Catherine attended a workshop put on by the Department of Agriculture addressing organic farming. It was the start of their organic adventure. Odden Organics consists of approximately 1500 acres certified organic.  They raise HRW, HRS, lentils, peas, barley, and Kamut, plus some barley-pea hay on occasion.  Catherine is on the OAEC Board representing the State Organic Advisory Board. 


Ty O’Connor farms and ranch around 40.000 acres between Broadus and Ekalaka in southeast Montana. The crops are organic wheat, barley, lentils, sunflower, alfalfa and grass hay production for a herd of 1000 + animals. Ty and his wife Rachael are raising a family and have five kids, Mick, Tyra, Nasya, Tieman, and Cortland. Ty O’Conner went to MSU, Bozeman and holds a degree in Agricultural Operational Technology as well as played football for the Bobcats. His wife Rachael is a veterinarian and holds a veterinarian degree from Iowa State.


Wes Henthorne (B Bar Ranch, Big Timber) has managed the B Bar Ranch since 1983. He managed the transition to organic production beginning in 1989, the same year the ranch began a conservation project with Ancient White Park cattle. The success of the Ancient White Park cattle program led to the sale of the ranch’s commercial Angus herd in 2003 when the ranch committed to a grass-based organic production model that sells breeding stock nationally and beef in Montana. Wes attended Montana State in Bozeman and has a degree in Ag Production with an emphasis in Mechanized Ag.  He has served on the Montana Organic Association Board as the Secretary and Treasurer. Wes and his wife Irene have a daughter, Amanda who is studying law at UM. 


Daryl Lassila (Daryl Lassila Organic Farms, Great Falls) is the fourth generation on the family farm east of Great Falls succeeding his parents, Robert and Earlyne Lassila.  Daryl gained his farming knowledge and respect for the soil from his father.  Daryl and his wife, Linda, have been very fortunate to raise their children Trista and Brady on the family farm. Daryl worked for Western Montana Co-op for four years and ten years at what is now Mountain View Co-op in the fertilizer/chemical department.  In 1998, Daryl started transitioning to organic. Wheat, barley, lentils, peas, flax, and spelt are the main crops grown. Daryl has become an advocate for organic agriculture being elected to the Board of Directors of the Montana Organic Association in 2010 and serving as its Chairman in 2011 and 2012.  He is a Torchbearer and member of the Montana Farmers Union, twice visiting Congress members in Washington DC on agriculture issues.  Daryl is a founding board member of the Organic Advisory and Education Council.

Lise Rousseau Silva (Fat Robin Orchard & Farm, Polson) farms certified organic cherries and apples and raises wool sheep overlooking Flathead Lake. She has been a member of Montana’s organic community since her husband Albert and she bought the orchard in 2004. She served as the Montana Organic Association’s coordinator, organizing five of their conferences and managing their outreach and communications. She currently sits on the Cherry Fruit Fly Pest Management Committee, and chairs the Montana Cherry Advisory Committee. Lise was raised on a gentleman’s farm, is a former 4-Her and FFA member, and is the grand- and great-grand-daughter of North Dakota grain farmers. She is a former Communications Director for the National Audubon Society. She holds a BA in Information & Communication Studies. Lise provides organic consulting services to the orchardist community. She also creates and markets a collection of value-added fruit products from her orchard's bounty.