Learner Limbach- General Manager
In 2013 Learner recognized that it was time for Orcas Island to fulfill its long-standing dream of having its very own food co-op. Having lived on Orcas Island since 2001, and with a background in various forms of community organizing, Learner was able to quickly pull together a steering committee of talented community members, who ultimately formed the founding Board of Directors responsible for opening the doors of the Orcas Food Co-op on June 1, 2014. Through a year of weekly meetings Learner served as the Project Manager and eventually the General Manager, leading the Co-op to a successful launch just one year after the first steering committee meeting on May 26, 2013. During the co-op's formation Learner oversaw development of all aspects of the co-op as well as carrying out a successful Membership Drive and Member Loan Campaign to raise the necessary capital without the co-op incurring any bank debt.
Learner's primary focus is transforming the food system and creating a socially just economy based around the cooperative principles and values. His background includes farming, landscaping/gardening, agriculture and food system advocacy, and a variety of community organizing and non-profit work.From 2006-2013 Learner managed a small off-grid homestead where people came to learn land-based skills including raising dairy goats, growing vegetables and herbs, seed-saving, wild-crafting, utilizing renewable energy, and much more.
In 2010 Learner and a group of islanders launched Food Masters, a program he directed until 2013 as part of an effort to increase sustainable food production as well as food security on Orcas Island. From 2011-2013 he was also the director of F.E.A.S.T. (Farm Education and Sustainability for Teens), a summer-long program in collaboration with the Funhouse and Orcas Island High School that taught about farming and sustainability while giving teens an opportunity to get high school credit for their participation. Many of these same classes are now offered through the Co-op, something Learner and the Co-op hope to build on in the future.
Learner currently serves as the Chair of the Agricultural Resources Committee (ARC) of San Juan County, a committee established in 2005 for the purpose of protecting and restoring the agricultural resources of San Juan County. Learner has been on the planning committee for the San Juan Islands Agricultural Summit each year since its inception in 2012, helping to bring together farmers, food producers and advocates for a weekend of inspiration and idea and knowledge sharing. Learner also serves on numerous other committees including being politically active within the Democratic Party, which in 2016 led him to serving as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and as one of five Washington State representatives on the DNC Platform Committee, where his contributions led to new agricultural language being adopted into the Democratic Party Platform.
Boards and Committees/Community Involvement:
- Orcas Food Coop co-founder and General Manager (2013-present)
- San Juan County Agricultural Resources Committee (2013-present)
- Northwest Agriculture Business Center board member (2016-present)
- San Juan County Food Hub development project team member (2015-present)
- Island Stewards board member, vice president (2015-present)
- Orcas Island Seed Library co-founder (2013)
- San Juan Islands Agricultural Summit planning team (2012-present)
- Farm Education and Sustainability for Teens (FEAST) Director (2011-2013)
- Food Masters Founder and Director (2010-2013)
- Initiative 2012-4 GMO Free SJC co-sponsor (2012)
Madden Surbaugh- Assistant General Manager & Deli Manager
Madden Surbaugh has always had a passion for food. He began cooking in the family kitchen before he could even reach the stove, and by the time he hit his teens knew he wanted to pursue a career in the culinary world. Growing up in Olympia WA gave Madden the opportunity to work in great establishments like San Francisco Street Bakery, Wagner’s Bakery and The Thai Kitchen as well as being a part of community oriented food movements like the building and opening of the Olympia Farmers Market.
In 1997 Madden relocated to Burlington Vermont to attend Culinary School. Upon graduation Madden traveled the East Coast working for great Chefs in New York, Bermuda, Key West, Johns Island and Nantucket. Madden returned to school in 2001 to earn his BA in Restaurant and Hotel Management. Loving the unique communities islands offer but missing the Northwest Madden returned to his home state in 2003 moving to San Juan Island to workat The Duck Soup Inn. The Chef/Owner of The Duck Soup Inn, Gretchen Allison, introduced Madden to many San Juan County Agricultural producers and the art of dealing directly with farmers.
In 2005 Madden opened his own restaurant, Steps Wine Bar & Café, in downtown Friday Harbor. Working closely with local producers and eschewing the usual commodity food sources Steps demonstrated that the product raised and produced in San Juan County was of world class quality and that a restaurant could successfully buy local. In 2008 Madden was voted one of the Northwest’s Best Chefs, appeared on multiple television programs including Rachel Rays Vacations and Good Morning Tri Cities and had recipes published in Bon Appetit magazine. In 2009Madden won the Award of Unique Distinction from Wine Enthusiast Magazine for his beverage program at Steps.
In the spring of 2005 Madden was one of the founding members of the San Juan County Agricultural Resources Committee (ARC) and spearheaded the local branding program previously Island Certified Local and now known as Island Grown (IG). In 2006 Madden was elected to the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. While on the board he worked on the Buy Local campaign and the Downtown Merchant group. In 2007 Madden was a founding member of the San Juan Island Agricultural Guild, a non profit created to “foster a vibrant, resilient and sustainable local agriculture and food system in San Juan County, Washington” who’s first project was the purchase and build out of Brickworks, now the year round home of the San Juan Island Farmers Market. Although Madden stepped down from his various boards in 2011 he has once again joined the Ag Guild Board of Directors.
In 2010 Madden closed Steps Wine Bar & Café and moved to Orcas Island. He opened The Quilted Pig Restaurant in the Mansion at Rosario Resort where he established relationships with the Agricultural producers on Orcas Island. Although The Quilted Pig only lasted one season it broadened Maddens network of San Juan County farmers. After closing the restaurant Madden served as the Catering Chef for The Outlook Inn until he joined the Co-op management team.
Madden began working as an advisor with the Orcas Food Co-op boardin the early fall of 2013. He officially joined the Management team in February of 2014. Madden directly oversees the Deli, Meat & Seafood and Beer & Wine sections of the store as well as preforming the duties of the Assistant Manager. When not at work he is often see strolling the streets with his wife Megan, their daughter Frankie and dog Zoe. Although he plans to someday return to the restaurant side of the food industry the ability to have such a meaningful and substantial impact on his local community, the challenge of doing something new, and the pride he has in what the Co-op is and will become keeps him fully engaged.
- San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild- Board Member
- Kaleidoscope- Treasurer
- San Juan Islands Food Hub Project
- 2017 San Juan Islands Agricultural Summit Planning Committee
- Leadership San Juans- 12th Cohort
- Island Grown Committee
Regina Zwilling- Office Manger
Regina is a believer in the power of good food and community to keep us strong and healthy. Regina has a diverse background in finance, nutrition, yoga and massage, teaching, and small-business ownership. Regina is equally at home keeping the books in line as teaching a class about the joys and benefits of fermenting! Shefirst discovered the benefits of local organic food and the importance of eating healthy fats (like butter!) more than 15 years ago, after reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This set her on the path to learning and teaching about making healthy food choices and how the food we eat impacts our health, overall vitality, well-being and happiness, as well as the health of the planet. She loves working at the Co-op so she can share her knowledge and passion for local organic food with her community while helping our local economy grow and thrive.
- Orcas Island Public Library- Board Member
- 2017 San Juan Islands Agricultural Summit Planning Committee
Rhys Hansen- Produce & Marketing Manager
Rhys has worked with local agriculture and food systems in a variety of capacities since 2010 including an organic farm, organic butcher shop and as a personal chef for those with unusual dietary restrictions. In 2012 he began volunteering at Tacoma Food Co-op, before shortly assuming control of the produce department. He used his connections with the local farming community to bring local produce into the department for the first time, and cultivate relationships with several beginning farmers.
In 2014 Rhys moved to Orcas Island to join Orcas Food Co-op as the Produce Manager. Currently he serves as the Produce and Marketing Manager, supervising the local buying program, editing the monthly Co-op newsletter The Dirt, managing the website, and overseeing community contributions and outreach. When not at work, Rhys is most often reading or swimming in the lake. He is an avid skier and volunteers every year with the Mountaineers organization at Stevens’ Pass.
- Orcas Island Youth Conservation Corp- Board Member
- Orcas Food Coop- Board Member
- 2015-2017 San Juan Islands Agricultural Summit Planning Committee
- Out in Front Leadership Program- 8th Cohort
- The Mountaineers- Steven's Lodge Volunteer Staff Member
- Wild Abundance- Co-founder, Communication & Program Support
- Kwiaht Center for Historical Ecology of the Salish Sea- Board Member