The city of Missoula will host a unique event this weekend as folks from the Garden City and all across the state come together for the AERO Expo and Annual Meeting, a yearly opportunity to learn from and connect with experts in the fields of sustainable agriculture, clean energy, resilient communities and self-reliance.

Both an educational gathering and a celebration of local successes, each year a community in Montana hosts the Expo and offers hands-on workshops for skill-building, informative panels and presentations, a keynote address, local tours, food, and fun. And this year Missoula is the lucky host city – so don’t miss this fantastic event!

The head of the planning committee for 2018 is Missoula local Jeff Pernell, a community-minded entrepreneur who owns Hero Coffee Works as well as Galactic Farms. Pernell sees Missoula as the right place at the right time for this year’s gathering of sustainability enthusiasts – a town poised to be a positive model for change.

Missoula’s nickname is the Garden City and this year’s theme is ‘Seeds of Sustainability in the Garden City.’ The Expo is a chance to connect with different organizations and businesses and hear a lot of great presenters and experts talk about how they’re making a difference here with the hope that that seed is planted and when folks take it home it blooms there as well.

A well-known leader in Montana’s sustainability and local resilience movements, AERO has offered resources, events, information, and networking to Montanans for over 40 years, with a focus on creating local leadership through education, information and advocacy around the key issues of renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.

Held at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, the Expo’s dining and keynote speakers will take place in the Home Arts Building, with the majority of the workshops occurring in big tents in the carnival lot. We’re excited to announce that this year’s keynote speaker and honored guest is Dr. Miguel Altieri, an internationally renowned professor of agroecology, author, and advisor on food system issues.

The Expo is open and welcoming to the public, and is the only opportunity of its kind offering a statewide gathering for members and nonmembers to share skills, ideas, and resources. Expo organizers aim to draw over 250 participants from towns both small and large across the state, and welcomes anyone who shares a commitment to making Montana a more resilient, sustainable place to live.

Jennifer Battles, AERO’s executive director, notes: “AERO was born from a group of Montanans that refused to accept the status quo, and would not be discouraged by barriers. Expo is an annual event that uniquely exemplifies the resilience, the determination, and the creativity of folks that call this state home. We learn from each other, share food with one another in community, trade stories with each other, and take action together. For over 40 years, these efforts have helped change the face of agriculture and energy use in Montana. Come find out how you can be a part of the next 40 years.”

As one means of modeling sustainable practices, the Expo serves locally sourced, organic food for all its meals. Friday night, attendees gather for a potluck of homemade food; Sunday morning’s meal will be provided by popular local breakfast spot Ninja Mike’s, which is dedicated to using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.

The remaining meals will be prepared by well-known Missoula caterer Silk Road, which sources from the Western Montana Growers Co-op, a coalition of growers in the Flathead, Jocko, Mission, and Bitterroot Valleys, whose goal is to provide the region with fresh, quality products from local farms. As if that weren’t tantalizing enough, after dinner Saturday night we’ll celebrate together with music and fun supplied by Missoula’s favorite square dance band, The Beet Tops.

Additionally, the Expo will feature an electronic recycling collection opportunity open to all, not just attendees, through Oreo’s Refining. Pernell notes: “Bring your computer towers, tablets, cell phones, & cords that go with them. Not all e-waste, like monitors, can be recycled so please contact Oreo's Refining if you're curious about what you can recycle with them. Friday and Saturday morning drop off is open to the public, and is free. Drop stuff off even if you’re not coming! You should register, of course, and attend our meeting, but if you just want to drop off e-waste, this is a good time to do that.”

Additional details about Expo, including schedule and registration link can be found at

Bottom line: AERO is on a mission to empower local leaders–of all ages–with vital resources to take back to their own communities, and you’re invited.

Corrie Williamson is a Helena-based writer and AERO member.

Upcoming Sustainability Events:

October 26-28. AERO Expo: Seeds of Sustainability in the Garden City-- Alternative Energy Resource Organization’s annual meeting and expo – featuring keynote speaker Miguel Altieri in Missoula.

October 31. Community conversation on Health and Home-- how well designed & located housing can promote health. Bring your lunch. Homeword's Home Ownership Center, 1535 Liberty Lane, Suite 114. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. RSVP by Oct 26 to

November 1. Climate Smart Missoula’s Monthly Meetup: Sustainable Economic Development. 5 – 7 p.m. in the Community Room at Imagine Nation Brewing.

November 6. VOTE if you haven’t already.