The Don Aldrich Award
Josh Slotnick - 2010
At the beginning of his 2013 TED Talk, Josh Slotnick introduces himself as a vegetable farmer. Yet few have identified and harnessed the potential of agriculture as a community-building force in Western Montana the way he has over the last thirty years.
Josh first moved to Missoula when he was 18 to pursue a degree in Philosophy at the University of Montana and began operating an organic farm– known today as Clark Fork Organics–with his wife Kim in 1992. While pursuing a certificate in ecological horticulture at UC Santa Cruz, Josh found inspiration as an apprentice working on the student farm and garden, and continued his education studying student farms and agriculture extension at Cornell University.
Then, in response to the 1995 Farm Bill that threatened to slash funds for food stamps in Montana, Josh co-founded the nonprofit Garden City Harvest in 1996 with the mission of addressing food security. Through his leadership, passion and knowledge, he helped grow the nonprofit from having just one community farm to multiple farms and gardens across town some twenty-five years later. He also co-founded the PEAS (Program in Ecological and Agricultural Society) Farm within the Environmental Studies department at the University of Montana. The farm, managed by UM students interested in agriculture and sustainable food systems, now grows 15,000 pounds of produce annually for the Missoula Food Bank, a Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA), the Five Valleys Seed Library, and a mobile farmers market for low-income seniors.
Josh’s influence did not stop at building community through agriculture. In 2018, he expanded into local governance as he ran for the District 3 Missoula County Commissioner. His platform focused on addressing climate change, socio economic justice, citizen-based land use planning, and small-business entrepreneurship. He was endorsed by two former mayors of Missoula–the late John Engen and Daniel Kemmis–and won against an incumbent of 18 years. He currently (2023) serves as Chair of the Missoula County Commissioners.
Josh has shared his knowledge and wisdom across the country — speaking at public events and university classes and through articles, essays and a published book. Recognition of his contributions include: three separate awards from the University of Montana; the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Partnership Award, 2004; Jeanette Rankin Peace Center’s Peace Maker of the Year Award, 2006; the Don Aldrich Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Award in 2010; and the Alumni Impact Award, from the US State Department, in 2015. By planting seeds in the ground and in the minds of young farmers, Josh has proven to be more than just a vegetable farmer in Montana, but a cultivator of community, place-based food systems, and food justice.
Biography by Kalle Fox