Our Story & Our Team
Who We Are
Agricultural Connections Cooperative is owned and run by the people and organizations who grow, serve, transport, and eat the delicious produce of Central Oregon.
Why A Cooperative?
A cooperative is formed and operated for the sole purpose of meeting members’ needs, with excess profit distributed to member-owners. Cooperative ownership incentivizes values and provides a framework to operate and evolve into the future. Crucially, a cooperative is not reliant on a single owner to fulfill its purpose. Our dedication to our peers and this food community is what ultimately made it clear that a cooperatively owned entity would preserve and improve distribution that is dedicated to the producers of this region; increase equity for producer members; and include the voices of the people this system aims to serve.
Ag Connect is in the process of extending member ownership to producers, wholesale buyers, workers, and others. If you have any questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cooperative Founding Board Members
Cate Havstad Casad, Casad Family Farms
Katrina Van Dis, High Desert Food & Farm Alliance
Parker Vaughan, Jackson’s Corner
Sarahlee Lawrence, Rainshadow Organics
Sydney DeLuna, Consultant
But Where Did Ag Connect Come From?
Agricultural Connections became a cooperative in April 2022, but it had already been serving the Central Oregon community for 12 years at that point. Agricultural Connections started in January of 2010 when founder Andrew Adams recognized that there was an un-met need in the community of Bend: people wanted fresh, local, organic food year-round. Once the farmers market, CSA and gardening seasons ended, it was hard to find. Andrew set out to find sources and create relationships with farmers in our greater region to satisfy this need. The program began with produce boxes, a few a la carte items and one weekly pickup location in west Bend. In fall of the same year, Andrew shifted his roots to eastern Canada and Elizabeth Weigand was hired to keep the business running.
About a half year later Elizabeth became the new owner of Ag Connect. Under her stewardship, Ag Connect's mission expanded to being the catalyst of a food system that honors the farmer, the consumer and the land equally.
Since 2011, Ag Connections has grown as a tiny and mighty team that has steadily fostered a more extensive list of farm partners, a growing restaurant client list, an online platform dedicated to commercial client order management, a robust farm-to-kitchen retail program, a warehouse/office location, seven employees, an 18ft refrigerated truck and a refrigerated Ram ProMaster.
AC has grown to be a staple Bend company that represents the integrity and authenticity of local food. We are excited to keep growing with you!
Meet the Team
ACC Team (Spring 2023): from left Jake, Marisa, Miguel, Erin, Leslie, Josh, & Alex. all photos courtesy AmandaPhotographic
Sales & Fulfillment Manager Miguel Mendoza (he/him)
Miguel is a native of Burns, Oregon. Miguel has worked professionally in restaurants since he was 15. He spent his youth on a ranch, as his grandfather herded sheep and cattle on Steens Mountain and his father still raises alfalfa, wheat, apples and other fruit in Washington state. Miguel graduated from Western Culinary Institute, a school affiliated with Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, France.
In the two decades he has spent in Bend, he has run kitchens at establishments including The Blacksmith, Broken Top Golf Club and most recently, Tetherow Resort. As his culinary expertise grew, so did his interest in, and passion for, showcasing local, seasonal and organic ingredients. He quickly began forging connections and building relationships with Central Oregon farmers, ranchers and purveyors. One of his favorite events to be part of is Central Oregon Locavore’s Faces of Farming fundraising gala, where he has been able to create multi-course menus featuring local farms.
In his spare time, Miguel can be found performing trumpet and guitar with local bands, competing in disc golf tournaments, careening down mountain bike trails and planning his next cross- country getaway while enjoying a local microbrew.
Retail Lead Leslie O'Neil (she/her)
Leslie grew up on a small orchard in the mid-Willamette Valley learning to care for apples, pears, cherries, berries, grapes, plums, and a huge veggie patch and flower garden. After graduating from the U of O with a degree in Geography, she started looking for work outdoors. For the next few years, she bounced between seasonal field work in conservation biology and natural and cultural resource management all over the country, returning home to prune the orchard every winter. From Wyoming, Idaho (twice), Virginia, Washington, California, and Oregon, she tried to connect with the community, explore new sights, and support local agriculture. She volunteered in local museums and on river cleanups, spent time tasting beer, cooking and sharing delicious food, hiking, backpacking, climbing, foraging, and meeting many wonderful human beings and even more wonderful dogs, cats, and one tortoise along the way.
Back in Oregon and living in Bend, the desire to connect with both the community and find a way to give back led her to delve more deeply into local food and organic agriculture and to look at how small changes to food systems, water use, and supply chains at home might have the most outsize impact on conservation and preservation of the wild spaces. She still hikes and climbs, frequently volunteers on stream restoration projects with Oregon Natural Desert Association, volunteers with High Desert Food and Farm Alliance at every Wednesday Farmers Market, works on numerous farms through Willing Workers on Local Farms events, and finally, started packing produce boxes full of veggies and lots of love and care for Agricultural Connections before coming to work on the team.
Customer Service & Support Lead Carina Carr-Stevenson
[bio and picture to come!]
Driver Lead Marisa Funk (she/her) and Crew Member/Driver Josh Whittaker he/him)
[bios to come!]
Photography & Social Media contractor Amanda Long was born and raised in the Mid-Willamette Valley and is 110% Oregonian! She's only recently owned an umbrella – but swears it's only used for her camera. Central Oregon is the home of her heart and she loves exploring everything Bend has to offer by snowshoe, bike, or on horseback. Amanda has embraced that she's a formalist in mild-hiding. Lines, color, contrast, texture, and space stand out to her wherever she looks. Especially when photographing commercially Amanda use these elements to create an active and dynamic scene. She is constantly working, learning, and seeking out ways to improve her composition and technical skills while engaging and cultivating a relationship with her clients.
Amanda graduated with a BFA in Photography from Oregon State and soon realized that more than photography itself she loved telling a story with her photographs. A couple small business classes later and Amanda was ready to load her gear to begin the journey as a photographer AND small business owner. It was one of the scariest and most worthwhile things she's ever done. Amanda especially enjoys working with other small businesses who eat sleep breathe their purpose, who are dreamers, who prepare food with love and care, who support other local businesses and know that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Amanda fills her "free time" with coffee dates, cooking, and helping out with friends' small businesses. She's the proud mama of 2 cats, 20 chickens, and an assortment of mostly alive houseplants. Amanda can be reached at email@example.com