Our Team

Taste the Local Difference is comprised of farmers, foodies, chefs, and dietitians from across the state of Michigan. Get to know our team here! 

Tricia Phelps - Chief Executive Officer

Tricia Phelps is the Chief Executive Officer at Taste the Local Difference.

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 6 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. 

In addition to her role at TLD, Tricia is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Sara Hardy Farmers Market, serves on the Executive Board of Bay Area Recycling for Charities (BARC), and is an active member of the leadership team for the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network

Kelly Wilson, RDN - Director of Community Partners

Kelly Wilson is TLD’s Director of Community Partners.  

A Registered Dietitian by training, Kelly is passionate about food’s ability to nourish, foster connection, tell stories and influence planetary and personal health. After working in institutional food service management, fitness, and private practice, Kelly turned to food systems work to address the systemic issues that keep people hungry and unwell. She studied organic farming through the MSU Student Organic Farm's Organic Farmer Training Program and started her own farm in 2016. In 2017, Kelly joined the team at TLD as the Southeast Michigan Local Food Coordinator and moved into a role as the Director of Community Partners in 2018. In her current role, Kelly builds relationships with regional and statewide organizations, connects local food businesses to TLD services and outside resources, and manages the implementation of a community health and wellness grant. Kelly enjoys meeting and learning from new people, facilitating connections across sectors, and collaborating to support local food businesses and provide consumers with tools to engage in the local food system. 

Outside of work, Kelly can be found running, cooking, spending time in the garden, or relaxing with her dog, Bear.

Emma Beauchamp - Communications Manager

Emma has a little bit of experience in many fields, Between Traverse City, MI and Ann Arbor, MI, she has worked on organic farms, in hot restaurant kitchens, overstocked retail shops, and foreign language libraries. One summer, she even worked in Juneau, Alaska, where she spent the summer on the cruise ship docks as a whale watching tour representative

As communications manager, she organizes our 3 monthly newsletters, the TLD blog, and all social media channels. Let Emma know if there is anything you would like promoted online!

Emma is a Traverse City native and a graduate of the Residential College at the University of Michigan. She holds a degree in Cognitive Science with a focus on language and cognition, with a minor in French Language and Literature. When Emma isn't in the office, she enjoys going on adventures outside and trying new recipes with the delicious produce from her CSA.

Alex Palzewicz - Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator

Alex grew up in the beautiful Upper Peninsula, raised around agriculture and community service, participating in 4-H Livestock projects and FFA public speaking competitions in her youth. She has a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from Northern Michigan University and has over 13 years of restaurant and event experience under her belt. She has worked every position from serving and bartending, to working the line and catering events. With the help of many others, she leads the MQT Local Food Fest, which allows her a platform to stress the importance of respecting and valuing those who work in the food industry.

Alex’s work is driven by her passion for food, and she is constantly striving to help create a better food system, which impact so many aspects of our lives. She believes food and our relationship to it is vital and spiritual, always stressing foods ability to help us better understand the world around us.

Alex has been the Local Food Coordinator for the Upper Peninsula for over two years, spending her time building excitement around local food systems as well as creating connections amongst buyers and sellers. She also doubles as the Market Manager for the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange, working to aggregate local food sales online to build longlisting and thoughtful local relationships.

When she’s not diving deep into local food, you can find her working part time at Barrel + Beam Brewery in Marquette or selling noodles she makes under the Michigan Cottage Food Law using UP grown flour. 

Sara Johnson - Central Upper Peninsula Local Food Marketing Rep

Sara is a Milwaukee native who lived in Chicago and Minneapolis for nearly a decade before making the move to the Upper Peninsula. She spent a handful of years working in marketing and consulting agencies focusing on media planning and digital project management.

Sara's true passion and focus has always been around food. While in Chicago, she made a career pivot and became a private chef and co-owner of an events and catering company. She has competed in the World BBQ Championships in Memphis and traveled the US with a pick-up truck and 20 foot custom built smoker.

Since moving to Marquette, Sara has volunteered at a permaculture farm, worked at a farm to table restaurant and wine bar getting to know Marquette's local food system, it's growers, producers and supporters. She currently is the Market Manager for the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market. 

While not working or volunteering, Sara absolutely LOVES the outdoors. She grew up sailing on Lake Michigan and now paddle boards on the waters of Lake Superior, goes for long hikes year round, and backcountry skijors with her dog, Gary. 

Sara is excited to work with TLD and bring together the connections she has made these past few years coupled with her vast marketing and digital savviness. She is passionate about helping local businesses that support the UP's incredibly diverse local economy and enrich the community.

Kimberly Conaghan - NW Michigan Local Food Coordinator

Kimberly grew up in metro-Detroit and lived in Florida, Colorado and downtown Detroit before moving to Traverse City nearly a decade ago. She was drawn to northern Michigan because of its healthy lifestyle, abundance of gorgeous natural habitats, and connected communities.

After working in sales and management for 15 years, she pursued more personally fulfilling work taking her leadership over to the non-profit sector. While running northern Michigan’s largest community garden for over four years, she became deeply connected to building a more resilient local community, localism, local food, and micro-farming. She is fascinated by the health, economic, environmental and sustainability impacts of eating locally.

Kimberly is a proud lifetime learner.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Communications, a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations, a Post-Baccalaureate Paralegal Certificate, and is a graduate of the Specs Howard School of Media Arts. Kimberly’s more recent education revolves around micro-scale farming and gardening. She holds various certificates related to farming’s Food Safety Modernization Act, GAP/GHP practices, COVID-19 management, and is a Master Composter.

As a former commercial credit analyst and paralegal in combination with her sales experience and knowledge of local food and farming, Kimberly is able to create effective marketing campaigns for local food businesses of all sizes on almost any budget.

When not working with TLD, you will likely find her covered in dirt with her husband and young kiddo at the Grand Traverse Area Children’s Garden (she’s also its Executive Director), or in her kitchen cooking, baking or preserving the latest local bounty.

Molly Stepanski - NE Michigan Local Food Coordinator

Molly owns and operates Presque Isle Farm with her husband Dion, their son Sawyer, and two dogs, Huck and Abe, in northeastern Michigan. In 2014, they transformed the family's hobby farm into a thriving market vegetable business and are now supplying free, local food to two school districts through Hoophouses for Health, in addition to selling their produce to NE Michigan restaurants, farmers markets, and groceries.

Following college, Molly served in Togo, West Africa, with the Peace Corps. Upon her return to the states she spent time in Montana herding sheep and eventually as the manager at the Good Food Store. Molly quickly became infatuated with supporting and building healthy communities through food choices and education. 

After several years in Montana, she received her Masters in Education and then taught high school for several years in New Orleans, often centering her curriculum around food, the food system, and its impact on her students' lives and the world at large. In 2014, Molly and her husband returned to his family farm in Posen to become the new stewards of a Centennial Farm and invigorate the thriving food network of the northeastern portion of the mitten.

Rebecca Henderson - West Michigan Farm Support

Rebecca hails from Rochester, NY and has spent the last 9 years working with farms and food in the Bay Area of California. What started out as a year in AmeriCorps working at a food bank quickly turned into an extensive career in sustainable agriculture. Yurt-living and coastal exploring are some of her past times, and learning the tools of the trade as a midwest farmer is her present. Rebecca is now settled into Grand Rapids, where she has fallen in love with the farming and food community in Western Michigan. 

Along with TLD, Rebecca works for Green Wagon Farm as the CSA, Wholesale and Marketing Manager, and dreams in connecting her community with real food that’s grown with care. Starting out at Green Wagon as a farmhand, Rebecca appreciates getting her hands dirty and loves to spread the word and good fight for our local food movement. This makes for a perfect fit for her role as the West Michigan Local Food Coordinator, and is excited to be introducing TLD to this region of our state. 

Rebecca graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Media studies. She also completed the Sustainable Food and Farming program through UMass Amherst and is now putting her studies to real life.

Payge Lindow - West Michigan Local Food Coordinator

Payge graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Biology, Health and Society and minors in Sustainable Food and Gender and Health. She spent this past summer as a farmhand for both Tantre Farm and Brines Farm near Ann Arbor, where she learned to love long days in the dirt. Her interest in local food came from research intersecting food-insecurity and increased access to nutritious food choices. Her passion for farming began during a study abroad program in Thailand, where she learned about local farming and sustainable food systems. This experience pushed her towards farming as part of creating food systems change in order to create greater access to healthy choices and benefit the environment. 

She then learned about farming from small farms in Northern Michigan during an Agroecology course at the U of M Biological Station. She is excited about growing the support for local food in her beloved home state as part of TLD, and supporting those who share the beauty of delicious, local food with the community. Outside of work, Payge spends most of her time preserving farm-fresh foods, baking, and foraging for mushrooms in the beautiful natural areas around Grand Rapids.

Lauren Barnhardt - Southwest Michigan Local Food Coordinator

Lauren Barnhardt moved to Kalamazoo in 2016 to pursue a degree in Nutrition & Dietetics at Western Michigan University, but couldn’t bring herself to leave even after she graduated. With a love for local food & shopping small, Lauren has worked closely with many of the local food businesses in Kalamazoo--ranging from kale chip companies to farm-to-table restaurants. 

She has a strong passion for food access and believes much of community enrichment & health equity can start with access to proper nutrition. Lauren also works as a nutrition educator and loves working in the Kalamazoo community, especially alongside youth. When she’s not working, you can find her hiking, eating tasty food, or hanging with her pup, Roo!


Bailey Samp - TLD Administrative Assistant

Bailey moved to Traverse City in 2007 and immediately fell in love with Northern Michigan, the perfect spot for someone that enjoys spending the Winter traveling and Summer farming! She has visited Australia, many countries in South and Central America, and is always looking for new places to explore. Traveling has allowed Bailey to volunteer for non-profits involved with food access, volunteer on sustainable farms, enjoy foods from many cultures, and learn about local agriculture in different countries. 

She is passionate about cultivating a strong community and helping ensure that all community members have access to fresh, local, healthy food. She loves working with children and educating them about local food and farms, something she didn't experience as a child. 

Bailey has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration, experience as an event planner, and owns Lakeview Hill Farm in Leelanau County with her partner John. When not at work, Bailey enjoys hiking the dunes, cooking, and preserving food. 

Claire Butler - TLD Communications Coordinator

Claire hails from Northwest Michigan in Antrim County, and loves living among the cherry and apple trees. While she is glad to be back where she grew up, Claire has also enjoyed living in cities, such as Grand Rapids and the Metro Detroit area. 

When Claire isn’t writing about local food, on a farm taking photos, or helping the customers of MI Farm Co-op, she is a culinary student at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute, with plans to graduate in December. This will be her second degree, as she already 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 teaching, bartending, events management, 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 food. 

Claire is passionate about community, and the spirit of food that brings togetherness. Claire started and currently leads a student group on campus, the GLCI Locavores, which provides learning and networking opportunities for students through events that focus on culinary leadership in her area. This has ranged from an ‘Inspiring Dinner’ series each semester, as well as tours, tastings, and talks with role models throughout our community. She is thrilled to be continuing to work with a community focused on local food on a daily basis! 

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. 

Elizabeth Pearce - TLD Operations Assistant

Elizabeth grew up with a strong sense of what eating local means from her mom, who taught her how to seek out and support local farms, stores, and food. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Michigan in Evolutionary Ecology, and she is interested in all levels of the local food system, from growing the food itself to getting it out into the world and into the hands of consumers. Elizabeth is an avid cook, and now has her own garden and loves her weekly CSA, which she uses to experiment in the kitchen with new ways to prepare seasonal foods.

Elizabeth lives in Ann Arbor with her partner Brian. Along with her work for TLD, she is a full-time public services librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library, and enjoys distance running, reading, and traveling around our beautiful state of Michigan!

Ederique Goudia - TLD Metro Detroit Content Creator

With over 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Ederique "E" Goudia is bringing that New Orleans flavor to Detroit’s West Village community as the co-owner of Gabriel Hall, a New Orleans restaurant, bar, and music venue. She also co-founded In the Business of Food, a foodservice-based consulting agency for women and POC owned or led food businesses and nonprofits. Ederique’s commitment to a more fair, sustainable, and equitable food economy in Detroit extends into her work with FoodLab Detroit and serves as a part of the Detroit Food Academy team as a classroom facilitator. She also works with other non-profits like Tour de Troit  which focuses on health and wellness through cycling. She resides on the Eastside of Detroit with her 10-year old English Mastiff named Bear.

Interested in joining the team? Check out our job opportunities page!

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