The One and Only

We're the only national organization dedicated to frontier communities – the smallest, most geographically isolated communities in the United States.

About Us

We serve as a central point of contact for referrals, information exchange, and networking among geographically separated communities. Frontier communities differ in many ways, but all of them are small and far from larger population centers. NCFC gives a voice to people and programs in frontier communities and raises awareness of frontier issues to policymakers, agencies, and the public.

Our mission is to provide national leadership and build collaboration on issues important to frontier communities.

We envision the National Center for Frontier Communities as a leader and partner in advocating for frontier communities as a vital, integral and significant component of the national fabric that is equitably reflected in policy and programs.

History

NCFC was founded in Ojo Sarco, New Mexico, in 1997 as the Frontier Education Center. The Center’s founding was a result of years of activism around the lack of access to health care and other vital human services in frontier communities. Click here for a timeline of the contemporary frontier movement.

In 2006 the Frontier Education Center changed its name to the National Center for Frontier Communities, but the goals remained the same – to provide national leadership and build collaboration on issues important to frontier communities.

In 2011, NCFC relocated its offices from Ojo Sarco to Silver City, New Mexico. NCFC’s Silver City Offices are co-located with the Center for Health Innovation (CHI), which assumed responsibility for NCFC’s administrative tasks after the move. In addition to administrative support, our affiliation with CHI has provided NCFC with an enthusiastic community partner willing to pilot new and innovative frontier programs and has created exciting new opportunities for partnerships with other national organizations.

Currently, NCFC is expanding its focus from frontier health systems to frontier wellbeing more broadly, with programs and services in areas such as frontier food systems, hunger, prevention, economic development, community wellness and improving the capacity of frontier not-for-profit organizations.

Caroline Ford | President

Caroline Ford, President (California) is an Assistant Dean Emeritus in Frontier and Rural Health-University of Nevada School of Medicine and served for 27+ years. She held the position as the longest-serving director of a State Office of Rural Health when she retired from the University in July of 2011. She has directed local Wellness/Community Health programs for the Tahoe Forest Health System and served on the nation's first National Advisory Committee on Rural Health, appointed by then Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Louis W. Sullivan. Ford has also served as President of the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health and has been active in the American Public Health Association and numerous local and state organizations since 1978. She currently supports the Tahoe Truckee Future Without Drug Dependence as the past chair and now Development Director. She has a bachelor’s degree in Community Health Education and a master’s degree in Public Health.

Deborah E. Popper

Deborah E. Popper (New Jersey) is visiting professor at Princeton University’s Environmental Institute and professor emerita of geography at the City University of New York’s College of Staten Island and Graduate Center. Professor Popper has written on transformations of the American frontier, both in its current incarnation as the American West and its earlier, more Eastern embodiment. Her article “The Great Plains: From Dust to Dust” (Planning, December 1987), written with her husband Frank Popper put forward the controversial Buffalo Commons thesis that stimulated an ongoing national debate about the future of the Great Plains region as based on ecological restoration. She has also explored how other American regions and urban areas have responded to long-term population loss. She is interested in how food systems, energy systems, and economies can work toward thriving or troubled communities Professor Popper serves on the governing board of the American Geographical Society, the country’s oldest national geographic organization, and coedits is digital publication "Focus on Geography."  She has a bachelors degree in history from Bryn Mawr College, a masters degree in library science from Rosary College, and a masters and doctorate in geography from Rutgers University.

Magdaleno Manzanárez

Magdaleno Manzanárez (New Mexico) is Vice President for External Affairs at Western New Mexico University.  During his tenure as a full time professor, Dr. Manzanárez taught a wide array of courses both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  He was co-founder of the Latin American Studies minor, the Department of Chicana/o Studies; founding member of the Honors Program, and the Academic & Research Symposium. Magdaleno served in many university committees and as Chair of the Department of Social Sciences. His most recent publications include North American Border Challenges: terrorists/drugs/trade American Indians, Indigenous Policy Journal (Summer 2017); North American Border Conflicts: Race, Politics, and Ethics (2016). CRC Press; and Borders and Immigration: the Geo-Politics of Market Place Demands and Race Relations in North America (forthcoming 2019). Lexington Books.

Frank J. Popper

Frank J. Popper (New Jersey) teaches in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, where he also participates in the Geography and American Studies Departments. He is a visiting professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Princeton University. He is the author of several books. He has served on the boards of the American Land Publishing Project, the American Planning Association, Ecocity Builders, and the Great Plains Restoration Council. His article “The Great Plains: From Dust to Dust” (Planning, December 1987), written with his wife, Deborah Popper, put forward the controversial Buffalo Commons thesis that has stimulated an ongoing national debate about the future of the Great Plains region. The Poppers have also written extensively about the American frontier. He has a masters degree in public administration and a doctorate in political science, both from Harvard University.

Jedediah Drolet

Jed Drolet (Alaska) holds a Master of City and Regional Planning degree from Rutgers University. He currently works for the Regulatory Commission of Alaska as a Utility Tariff Analyst and has previously held a variety of positions with the Alaska Energy Authority. He has worked on many energy-related projects and issues with rural Alaska communities and managed the state’s regional energy planning efforts, which involved extensive collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders at the local and regional levels throughout the state. He lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

Carol Miller

Carol Miller, MPH, (New Mexico) is currently a full time community volunteer and activist. She is the President of the Ojo Sarco (NM) Community Center. Miller was a founder of the Frontier Education Center, served as President from 1997-2001 and Executive Director of the National Center for Frontier Communities for ten years. Miller has lived in a frontier mountain village in northern New Mexico since 1976. She has held Presidential appointments in both the Reagan and Clinton Administrations, serving as a Commissioned Officer in the US Public Health Service in the 1980’s and in 1993 was a Presidential Appointee to the White House Health Care Task Force. Miller served two terms as President of the New Mexico Public Health Association, represented the Frontier Constituency Group on the board of the National Rural Health Association for six years, and served six terms as a Governing Councilor of the American Public Health Association.

Gar Elison

Distinguished Director, Gar Elison retired as the first president of the NCFC Board of Directors and as Executive Director of the Utah Medical Education Council in 2009. He has served in different capacities in health agencies for over thirty years, including as an Executive Board member of the National Academy for State Health Policy, chair of the Primary Care and Prevention Steering Committee, and as a member of the Access for the Uninsured Steering Committee. He has a bachelors degree in political science from Brigham Young University and a masters in library science with a minor in public administration from the University of Oklahoma.

Louis LaRose

Louis LaRose is an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. From 1993-2005, he served as Bison Caretaker for the Winnebago Bison Project whose mission is to restore bison to the Winnebago Indian Reservation in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization and personal health, ecological restoration and economic development. He also served five years as Chairman of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. LaRose is a past vice chairman of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the steering committee of the Native American Rights Fund and was instrumental in establishing Nebraska Indian Community College. He has been interim president of Little Priest Tribal College. LaRose volunteers as a mediator for the Nebraska Justice Center.

Carol Miller

Carol Miller is currently a full time community volunteer and activist. She is the President of the Ojo Sarco (NM) Community Center. Miller was a founder of the Frontier Education Center, served as President from 1997-2001 and Executive Director of the National Center for Frontier Communities for ten years. Miller has lived in a frontier mountain village in northern New Mexico since 1976. She has held Presidential appointments in both the Reagan and Clinton Administrations, serving as a Commissioned Officer in the US Public Health Service in the 1980’s and in 1993 was a Presidential Appointee to the White House Health Care Task Force. Miller served two terms as President of the New Mexico Public Health Association, represented the Frontier Constituency Group on the board of the National Rural Health Association for six years, and served six terms as a Governing Councilor of the American Public Health Association.

Antonio J. Manzanares

Antonio Manzanares is a self-employed rancher who lives in the beautiful mountains of the Northern New Mexico. He and his wife, Molly, are owners of Shepherd’s Lamb, the only certifiied organic lamb business in the state. He is a long-time community activist who has been involved in rural health care, sustainable community development and resource protection. Manzanares has served on a number of boards, including the Rio Arriba County Planning Board, the Board of Directors of La Clinica del Pueblo de Rio Arriba, a nationally recognized community health center, the Board of Directors of Ganados del Valle, a grassroots community cooperative, the Upper Chama Soil and Water Conservation District and the New Mexico Sheep and Wool Council. He is a recipient of the New Mexico Public Health Association President’s Award for his efforts to promote the health and economic well-being of his community. Manzanares has a bachelors degree in psychology from the University of New Mexico.

David Squire

David Squire was the Assistant Dean of Finance at the University of Utah Dental School. He previously served as Executive Director of the Utah Medical Education Council, a state agency that coordinates funding for graduate medical education, determines healthcare workforce requirements, advises state government and makes policy recommendations, and addresses other various healthcare workforce issues in preserving health professions education in Utah. David received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Brigham Young University School of Management and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from Utah State University. He had extensive experience in accounting, auditing, budgeting, and Medicaid and Medicare payment policies. David had also served as the president of the Utah chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

Bob Gough

Bob Gough was an attorney in South Dakota with graduate degrees in sociology and cultural anthropology specializing in cultural ecology. He worked with American Indian Tribes on cultural and natural resource issues for over 40 years, particularly in the Great Lakes and Great Plains regions. He served as the first director of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Utility Commission (1993-96), and as Secretary of the Intertribal Council On Utility Policy (1994).He participated in tribal WAPA negotiations for Indian reservation allocations of federal hydroelectric power in the mid-1990s and in the congressionally mandated Sec. 2606 Tribal wind and federal hydropower integration feasibility study (2009). In addition, he maintained a private law practice on indigenous rights and has conducted outreach activities to the Native Alaskan and American Indian communities on behalf of the federal Wind Powering America program.

Susan K. Wilger | Executive Director

I am passionate about the work of nonprofits and have worked in the nonprofit sector for over 30 years. My areas of expertise include organizational systems, resource development, program development and management, with a focus on issues unique to rural and frontier environments and not-for-profit organizations. I am a skilled trainer and facilitator. I have worked as a consultant locally, regionally and nationally, including work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National REACH Coalition, and others. Over the years I have served on numerous local, state and national boards and advisory committees and am currently the co-chair of the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council. I have a bachelor’s degree in education from the Univ of WI-Madison and a masters degree in public affairs from the Univ of Texas-Austin.

Benjamin Rasmussen | Program Manager

Ben Rasmussen has over a decade of experience serving to improve the health and wellness of individuals and communities starting with direct medical care as a US Navy Corpsmen from 2004-2008. Immediately following his service, he began working with the VA hospital in Minneapolis Minnesota, primarily working with rural veterans to better access much needed healthcare. During his time in Minneapolis, Rasmussen helped to start several successful local food businesses including urban farms and a cidery. His love of health and farming brought him to New Mexico where he connected with the National Center for Frontier Communities. Since 2015, he has been working as a program specialist with NCFC. He has completed a Food Hub Feasibility Study and helped author a Health Impact Assessment which studied the state of the emergency and supplemental food system in southwest New Mexico. Currently, he is overseeing the day to day operations of NCFC’s USDA Local Food Promotion Program.

Joseph Hill | Program Manager

I am a nonprofit leader, community organizer, leadership coach, and consultant with nearly 20 years of nonprofit experience. I‘m convinced life is valuable, everyone should have the opportunity to reach their potential. I'm exceptional at helping others reach their potential; I’m made for it and it brings me joy. How I do it: I make measurable differences in lives and communities applying social & behavioral sciences, philosophy, spiritual inspiration, and positive culture to everyday life; I create innovation to inspire and empower lives and communities into their most transformational moments; and I empower others to cast life-changing vision, bringing people together to build action and hope.

Kristin Lundgren | Program Assistant

Kristin’s drive for social justice led the way for her interest in food. While receiving a B.A. in Sociology with minors in Women’s Studies and Spanish, she began to heal herself through her relationship to food. Then, she started to understand that healthy food systems and access to healthy food can lead towards not only social justice, but also environmental connection and wellbeing. She believes that by encouraging, supporting, and increasing local food production we have the capacity to shift our local economy towards resilience. When not working with the Food Hub, Kristin can be found in her garden, dancing, working with the Wild Resilience Collective, and spending time with her daughter Adelaide.

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