Published: May 31, 2021 By

Donna is a MENV graduate who specialized in Sustainable Food Systems. She is currently the Chief Forager and Co-Owner of FED (Farm Eats Direct) food truck in Boulder. In this alumni spotlight article, Donna tells us about her professional background, her current role, and her advice for current and future MENV students.

What is your academic and professional background?

donna merten headshotI’m an entrepreneur, founder/CEO, award-winning architectural designer, real estate developer and food systems strategist with 20 years of expertise working with government, universities, financial institutions and private entities to generate multiple sustainability innovations. My stakeholder collaborations assisted in acquiring $6.5 million start-up operations equity for projects ranging $250,000 to $27 million. I created a nationally recognized environmental program for James Company which led to recycling over 1,000 tons of construction debris. I was awarded an RFP from the Town of Lyons in 2017 for a master-planned community “Future of Food Complex” which integrates urban agriculture practices of high-volume food production. I’ve also been a food broker and created a local food hub, the Farmstand in Boulder, which connects community and farmers. My visionary leadership and long-standing reputation have led to forty publications in sustainability, architectural design awards from Colorado Biz, National Association of Home Builders Built Green, Governor’s Award from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, City of Fort Collins Urban Design Award (first strawbale home within city limits) and fifty guest speaker events locally and nationally. In addition, I’ve received the University of Colorado Provost Sustainability Award for the creation of FED food truck. I received my Bachelors of Architecture and Bachelors of Science in Environmental Design from Ball State University and Masters of the Environment Degree in Sustainable Food Systems from University of Colorado Boulder.


Where do you work and how would you describe your role?

Currently, I’m the Chief Forager and Co-Owner of FED (Farm Eats Direct) food truck. The initial concept for the food truck evolved during my studies for my Masters in Sustainable Food Systems and while participating in CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge 2019. FED connects farmers to the community while simultaneously strengthening the local food economy by purchasing imperfect produce from farms and mitigating food waste. Currently, I run start-up operations, recipe development and work with farmers to acquire produce resources for the truck. FED is currently working on creating a template with the initial truck in order to produce a franchise model that can be replicated nationally to create an efficient local food infrastructure for more community resilience.


How did you find your current position? Could you speak about your job search process and how it went?

I did not do a job search. As an entrepreneur, I utilized my valuable educational experience as a networking tool to acquire information and access resources to create my next venture, which was FED.


Were there any hard or soft skills you felt you lacked or wished you were stronger in when you started your career after graduate school?

I do wish I would have acquired more skills in conflict management within an organization. This would be a valuable tool in daily operations in order to be both supportive for staff and a stronger leader.


What is something people may not know about you?

I have a passion for fitness and nutrition. I participate in fitness magazine competitions and have placed in the top 25 out of 1800 women nationally for Oxygen Magazine.


What advice would you give to current and/or future MENV students?

My experience in the MENV program was exceptional and I would highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to pivot into the food systems industry. I have been an entrepreneur for over 20-years and going back to school was one of the best decisions I ever could have made to expand my knowledge base and become more informed on up and coming trends to propel my latest venture. My advice to current and future students would be to keep an open mind, to fail often because failure is where the growth exists, and to utilize the university's extensive resources, including: various departments, workshops and events.