Biography for Leslie Shaller

Leslie Schaller provides contract services on behalf of the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks. ACEnet is a community-based economic development organization located in rural Appalachia Ohio founded in 1985. The mission of ACEnet is to build the capacity of Appalachian communities to network, work together, and innovate to create a dynamic, sustainable regional economy with opportunities for all. Our organizational food sector programs are nationally renowned for developing local food systems infrastructure, farmers market networks, access to market initiatives and regional branding programs for farm and processed products.

Ms. Schaller was part of the founding staff of ACEnet’s Food Ventures program and oversaw the development of the Food Ventures Center, ACEnet 12,000 square foot kitchen incubator facility. Since 1996, our shared-use kitchen incubator, the Food Ventures Center has provided a licensed commercial kitchen, thermal processing, packaging, food service and warehouse space to over 240 food processors and area farmers. ACEnet’s Food Ventures program has pioneered non-traditional strategies to rebuild the infrastructure, market programs and distribution channels for family farmers and local food processors to thrive, at the same time meeting the growing demand from rural consumers for fresh, local foods. 

Since 1992 as ACEnet, Director of Programming, she has directed multiple training and technical assistance programs which assist entrepreneurs through customized workshops, online curriculum, industry specific workforce training and the formation of support networks of resource providers. Ms Schaller secures public and private funding through grants and fees for services to create regional brands, innovative product design, marketing strategies, business plans, and financial management systems within the targeted local food sectors. Ms. Schaller serves as Board Treasurer for the Farmers Market Coalition and serves by appointment on the Ohio Food Policy Advisory Board, the Ohio Market Connections Task Force and the Athens Food Policy Council. 

As an entrepreneur, Ms. Schaller also has extensive cooperative development expertise as the business director of a worker-owned cooperative for 25 years. Since 1985 she has served as the Business Director of the Worker-Owned Restaurant Corporation that operates Casa Nueva, Casa Cantina and Casa Manufacturing in Athens, Ohio. The cooperative has grown significantly under her financial management to currently employ 60-70 worker-owners and associates with annual sales of $2.5 million projected in 2010.