We are farmers, foodies, chefs, and dietitians from across the state of Michigan dedicated to growing a robust, resilient and fair food system.
Chief Executive Officer
She is a driven leader and manager with nearly a decade of experience in local food systems. Tricia is deeply involved in the agricultural community in Traverse City where she currently lives, and throughout the entire state of Michigan.
In her 8 years with TLD, Tricia has developed a 5-county program into a widely recognized, statewide local food brand and consumer education marketing campaign. Taste the Local Difference and its staff are experts in local food systems, creating brand loyalty and engaging content, as well as increasing sales and developing new market connections.
Tricia excels in business development, networking, creative direction, writing, problem solving and team management. This skill set gives her the perfect foundation to support TLD’s growing farm and food business community statewide, and represent Michigan’s local food system on a national scale.
Christina fell in love with local food while attending University of Michigan, which led to her becoming assistant manager at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. From there, she managed two additional farmers markets, worked on organic farms and in restaurants, food trucks, a bakery and value-added retail.
She also spent time organizing school fundraisers selling healthy, locally sourced food, writing content for a local food distributor and managing social media for a small food business.
Just prior to starting with TLD, Christina spent four years working in SEO and Content Marketing with a digital marketing agency. She couldn’t be more excited to bring all the knowledge she gained over those years back to Michigan’s local food system.
When Christina isn’t working, you can find her in her garden, boiling maple syrup, baking up a storm and soaking in the incredible landscapes near her home in Leelanau County.
Jackie grew up eating fresh produce straight out of the ground and off the trees of her grandparents’ hobby orchard and farm in southeast Michigan. After graduating from Michigan State University’s Eli Broad School of Business, Jackie’s travels led her to a 15-year stay in Lake Tahoe, California. Her professional time in Tahoe was spent selling real estate and growing real estate offices in the North Lake Tahoe region.
Upon her return to Michigan, Jackie landed up north, where she had spent so much time while growing up. Advocating for and promoting access to fresh, healthy food across Michigan while supporting local economic growth is what drew Jackie to TLD. In her current role, Jackie manages our growing team of account managers dedicated to serving our farms, farmers markets, and local food business partners in 8 regions across Michigan.
At the end of the day, you can find Jackie canoeing, running, biking, hiking, skiing… in some way enjoying the northern Michigan outdoors.
Grace cannot remember a time where she was not at least a little bit obsessed with food and cooking. She grew up cooking alongside her mother on a daily basis, and developed a love for creating new recipes and learning about food.
When she attended the College of Wooster in Wooster, OH, and pursued a degree in Sociology, her interest in food expanded as she began to understand the complexities of food systems. This led Grace to combine her love of cooking with her passion for equitable and sustainable access to food. After graduating, she worked for a variety of food justice organizations as an urban farm lead, kitchen line cook, culinary instructor, and most recently the manager of a food justice program at the University of Detroit Mercy. Witnessing the dynamic local food economy across Michigan in these roles is what drove Grace to her role with TLD, where she is excited to serve as the Operations Manager.
In her free time, you can find Grace trying out new Detroit restaurants with her partner Giancarlo, exploring Michigan’s trails and lakes, developing her latest version of vegan risotto, singing in a local chorus, or catching the latest sci-fi show.
Director of Community Partners
Haley grew up in southwest Michigan where her family has farmed for generations, and has always found joy in gathering around a home cooked meal. Her desire to learn more about diversified agriculture moved her to the Big Island of Hawaii where she lived and worked on a small organic farm, and served with FoodCorps.
Haley’s passion for farm to school led her to help advance the 10 Cents a Meal program statewide. She has experience working across sectors, including serving as Governor Whitmer’s Community Affairs Liaison for the northern lower region.
In her current role, Haley builds relationships with businesses, non-profits, government agencies and other strategic partners across the state and oversees numerous grant projects that connect consumers to healthy, local food.
Haley received her Master of Social Work degree from Michigan State University with a concentration in Organization & Community Leadership, and deeply believes that food justice IS social justice. She currently resides in Traverse City. In her free time you can find her wandering through the woods of northern Michigan with her two dogs, tending to her garden, trying new recipes and dabbling in a number of creative pursuits.
Media & Brand Manager
Emily grew up on the westside of Michigan where she took bike rides at dusk to Big Red, ran down Lake Michigan’s steep sandy dunes, and picked twenty pies worth of blueberries with her family each summer.
A love for nature, food, the earth and its people, has remained a constant thread throughout her time as a Michigan State University student, a Rocky Mountain trail guide, barn dweller at an educational farm in Texas, and a grower of school lunches with students in Virginia. When Emily and her husband decided to relocate north, she connected with the folks at TLD and resonated with their commitment to community building, food system diversity, and education. She is thrilled to be a part of a team that strives for authenticity in relationships and business.
Emily lives in Metro Detroit working for TLD part time supporting partners with technical assistance and spends the rest of her day freelance illustrating and caring for her daughter, Frances.
From Our Partners
Content Strategy Specialist
Claire hails from Northwest Michigan in Antrim County, and loves living among the cherry and apple trees.
Claire has recently graduated from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute, with an Associate’s degree in Culinary Sales and Marketing. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature and Hospitality and Tourism Management from Grand Valley State University. Claire has a varied professional past in education, bartending, events, and even with auctions and estate liquidation and an internship selling tickets at Walt Disney World, and is excited to find a professional ‘home’ in local food.
Claire is passionate about community, and the spirit of food that brings togetherness. When not at work, Claire enjoys big cooking projects (especially farm-to-fire cooking), adding to her collection of cookbooks and vintage clothes, and singing loudly off-key to Margo Price and Dolly Parton.
Local Food Retail Specialist
Paul has always been on the hunt for delicious snacks. He grew up in Metro Detroit, shopping at the farmers market and helping his mother weed, rake, and eat from her many garden beds. He always preferred to spend his time outside running around the neighborhood with friends and eventually falling in love with the sprawling forests and the Great Lakes while attending and working at summer camp.
After graduating from Northern Michigan University with a degree in secondary education, he taught for a few years but eventually found himself back at camp leading outdoor education programs. He transitioned to retail management where he began to understand his passion for connecting with people over shared experience in the natural world. After 2 years in Oregon, Paul and his partner returned to Michigan. He finally followed his stomach which led him to Taste the Local Difference.
Since beginning with TLD in December 2020, Paul has been focusing on building and strengthening connections in Detroit (where he lives) and the surrounding area. He is especially committed to working with the strong urban farming community to improve Detroiters’ access to fresh locally grown produce. Paul also coordinates with the Fair Food Network to strengthen local produce sourcing with Double Up Food Bucks participant retailers.
When he isn’t learning and weaving his way through the Detroit food ecosystem, you can find Paul cooking, baking, eating, riding his bike, camping, or waving to your dog.
Northeast Michigan Local Food Coordinator
From an early age, Sam has appreciated the culture and environment that comes along with life in Northeast Michigan. Sam graduated from Alpena Community College with a degree in Liberal Arts. Sam worked at The Fresh Palate, a local focused restaurant and TLD partner, where she developed her passion for healthy, local foods and realized the importance of our local food systems.
Sam is an accomplished Yoga instructor, and former Director of Operations at Performance Locker in Alpena, where Sam discovered her love for building the community in which she lives. This led Sam to TLD and her role as Account Manager which also supports the Fair Food Network in their Double Up Food Bucks program.
In her spare time, you’ll find Sam with her husband Aaron, their son Marshall, and their two dogs Rex and Rufus. They spend as much time outdoors as possible and eat as many veggies as they can. Sam is passionate about her local community, her family, and the impact she has on the people around her.
Marketing & Design Specialist
As a Michigan local, Casey has always loved the Great Lakes State, from her rural hometown village on the outskirts of Ann Arbor to vacationing in the tip of the Mitten!
Graduating from Eastern Michigan University, Casey holds her degree in Business Marketing and Graphic Design. Throughout her professional career, her aspiration has always been to make a positive impact on the Michigan community. Her role at TLD has allowed her to pursue that ambition by leveraging her skills to help local Michigan food businesses thrive!
Casey was also drawn to our company for her personal interests. She believes that having a good relationship with healthy, in-season food is essential to our health and well-being. She also loves to shop local!
While Casey isn’t working, you can find her spending time with her friends and family, or training her two parrots, Bean and Puck. Being a creative spirit at heart, her hobbies include playing guitar, singing, drawing, crafting, gardening, and woodworking. She loves spending time outdoors and fills her summer days with rock climbing, kayaking, and mountain biking on the many trails that Michigan offers.
Southwest Michigan Local Food Coordinator
Neil grew up in Valparaiso, in the duneland area of Northwest Indiana, along the South Shore of Lake Michigan. Gaining experience in restaurants and hotels through high school and college, he finished with a Bachelor’s Degree in Food and Hospitality Management from Ball State University with additional studies in Philosophy, Sustainability, and Environmental Ethics. Once graduated, he did what any respectable young professional might do in a recession…sell headstones. That’s right, Neil traveled throughout Indiana and Southwest Michigan working in just about every cemetery there ever was.
It wasn’t long before an opportunity opened in his hometown to work at the local brewery. From there, Neil spent ten years in the brewing industry, traveling from edge to edge of Indiana (also known as Michigan’s boot). In those ten years he built connections and relationships working wholesale beer accounts, liquor stores, grocery chain management, and locally sourced pubs and restaurants.
In the middle of the pandemic, he found the love of his life, became “smitten with the mitten” and moved to Marshall, MI where he resides to this day with his partner Becca. This Hoosier turned Michigander can often be found writing his next book, fooling around in the garden, experimenting with his weekly CSA produce, or planning his next hiking trip somewhere in the pleasant peninsula.
Southeast Michigan Local Food Coordinator
Karey’s love for food began obsessively watching Food Network classics. She grew up in Metro Detroit then pursued a degree in communications and environmental science from Hope College. Desiring to stay by Lake Michigan’s beautiful beaches and her friends for her last summer, she landed a job at an urban farm in Holland and was instantly hooked. She learned that there was no better feeling than working with your hands to provide someone else something special… and edible!
Her dream was to combine her love for farming and her education in communications to help farmers expand their reach and revenue. When she found Taste the Local Difference, that dreamy career she imagined out of college was a reality.
Her days are often spent alongside her husband, Jake, and dog, Honeybee. When relaxing, she’s still consuming the next food docuseries or reading this year’s “The Best American Food Writing” collection, spending time with her family, and cooking through her fridge and pantry filled with local produce.
Digital Engagement Specialist
From a young age you could find Tara baking and cooking alongside her grandma in the kitchen. She spent her younger years watching her grandma prepare meals using ingredients from the garden.
Her passion for food and travel took her west to Colorado to work at a farm-to-table guest ranch. While at the ranch she worked in the hoop house and learned about Colorado’s growing season. Eventually, her travels lead her back to Michigan. While living in Traverse City she became fascinated by the local food scene while working and attending the Sara Hardy Farmers Market. During her time there started her food blog, where she focuses on food and cocktail recipe development.
She’s always loved how food is the primary focal point at gatherings and how it brings people together. Her passion for food and helping people has led her to her role at TLD. Her main focus is on creating social media strategies for both TLD and our partners.
Even in her downtime, you can find Tara in the kitchen experimenting with different flavor profiles and whipping up new recipes. Aside from cooking she also loves taking photos, spending time with friends and family, experimenting with videography, watercolor, creating with different art mediums, and watching scary movies. She also loves being outside, hiking, running, camping, and spending time at the Great Lakes.