Staff and Contributors

                       Sierra Harvest Staff – 2017
            Photo by Elizabeth Lane Photography

Photographs below courtesy of Georgette Aronow and Elizabeth Lane Photography.

Aimee Retzler, Co-Director

Aimee RetzlerAfter spending sixteen years with GAP Inc. in San Francisco, Aimee’s family moved to the Sierra Foothills in 2007.  She has immersed herself in the community through volunteering for schools, nonprofits, and teaching Nia. Her passion for making sure kids get the best food they possibly can is what fueled her to begin the farm-to-school program in Nevada County.  She has been involved in guiding the activities of Sierra Harvest since October 2008, building the organization from a grassroots community coalition to a respected nonprofit.  Her husband and three young children love all things outdoors and enjoy being part of the local food movement.


Amanda Thibodeau, Communications Contributor

Amanda ThibodeauAmanda has been involved with Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School programming since 2011. A graduate of the 2010 Living Lands Agrarian Network’s internship program, Amanda Thibodeau used her passion, connections, and experience to start a demonstration farm site devoted to education called the Food Love Project.

By combining her farm experience, a strong community support network, and background in health education, Amanda is sharing her contagious enthusiasm about local, seasonal, whole foods and being connected with the growing cycle of this area. In addition to these skills, she has experience teaching a variety of ages, and creating hands-on lessons showcasing what’s happening at the farm at any given time.

Brianna Abundiz, Senior Farm Educator

Brianna Abundiz - photo by Georgette 2016Brianna made the big move from Silicon Valley to Grass Valley in 2012 in hopes for a healthier lifestyle for her family of seven.  From the first day of school, she saw how Sierra Harvest’s programs touched the lives of her children. It was a natural fit for her to apply for the Farm Educator internship program in 2015, and in 2016 she is back as one of our primary farm educators at the Food Love Project.  In addition to her work as a farm educator, Brianna is the Sierra Harvest liaison for Scotten Elementary School in Grass Valley where she brings 500 students fresh fruits and veggies through the Harvest of the Month Program. She is a celebrity now among the school kids! Brianna’s goal is to learn, teach and inspire herself, her family and her community to live a happy healthy lifestyle and have food security.

Carlyle Miller, Operations Manager

Carlyle MillerCarlyle Miller, better known to local school children as Detective Drizzle or “the Salmon Lady,” worked for years with the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) to develop and run an educational program teaching over 234,000 students about water and salmon conservation.  This interactive program built on the knowledge Carlyle gained while earning a graduate certificate in Environmental Education from Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota.

After leaving SYRCL in 2006 to start her own family, Carlyle became more passionate about healthy, local food options, especially in our schools.  She gained experience as a bookkeeper for Mountain Bounty Farm and The Woolman Semester, and is combining it with her excessive love of data and databases to become Sierra Harvest’s Operations Manager. Carlyle was a recipient of the William C. Kenney Foundation’s Leadership Grant award for her work on SYRCL’s environmental education programs.

Edy Cassell, Sierra Garden Coordinator

Edy Cassell - photo by Georgette 2016Originally from Vermont, Edy moved to California in 1991 to pursue an education and career in ecological horticulture. She received her training at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems, and from there moved on to complete a multiple subject teaching credential. She then alternated between teaching and farming, until she found a job running a K-6 garden based science program in Santa Cruz. From there she moved to Hidden Villa Ranch to become their Horticulture Director, and some years later landed in Nevada County. Sprinkle in lots of additional time over the years spent working on local farms, landscaping, selling at farmer’s markets, working for garden related businesses, and she pretty much has all the aspects of farming and gardening covered.

Since moving to the Nevada City area almost 15 years ago, Edy has worked as the Volunteer Director at KVMR community radio, where she can still be found 2 days per week. She thinks volunteers are the most amazing people on the planet, and it is the folks who give their time who have inspired her to keep working for the good of the community.  Edy is excited to be a part of the Sierra Harvest crew!

Elizabeth Lane, Garden Educator

Elizabeth LaneElizabeth, a Grass Valley native, is dedicated to mastering the art of ecological food cultivation, and teaching the next generation how to live well. A lover of biodynamics and Waldorf education, Elizabeth’s mission is to provide young people with opportunities to discover the best versions of themselves on the farm, in the garden, or in the kitchen. Elizabeth has a BA in Philosophy, and has studied ecological food cultivation in Central and North America. She has worked as a human rights non-profit fundraiser, a cook, a freelance photographer, and is currently teaching garden and nutrition-based education in Nevada County schools through a partnership between FoodCorps and Sierra Harvest. After over a decade of living in the Bay Area and abroad, she is excited to share her enthusiasm for local, seasonal, fresh whole foods with members of her hometown community.

Erika Kosina, Communications Contributor

Erika KosinaErika’s work for Sierra Harvest is the culmination of a lifelong passion for food, education, and building community.  She has volunteered with several different food and gardening nonprofits in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, serving as a board member, marketing consultant, event producer, volunteer coordinator, and educational farm tour guide. Erika worked professionally as a web consultant and project manager for 15 years before starting her own business as a freelance writer and communications consultant and moving to Nevada City in 2010. She enjoys growing, cooking, and eating all kinds of food with her two young children.


Kalita Todd, Farm Insitute Education Coordinator

Kalita is a new to the Sierra Harvest team, but not new to the organic/sustainable food and farming movement. She has been a farmer, farm educator, food and political activist and innovator of change for over 40 years. She began her farming career in the Sacramento Valley, then moved to a farm in Nevada County in 1977, where she began Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, with her then husband Amigo Bob Cantisano. She is a founding member of the Ecological Farming Association serving as board member, president, planning committee and staff for the Eco Farm Conference now in it’s 39th year. She also helped to begin the annual Northern California celebration of organic harvest, the Hoes Down Harvest Festival.

Kalita began one of the first school gardens in Nevada County at Nevada City Elementary, where she ran a Life Lab Garden in Schools educational program. She has a long history of educating new farmers, having had several young people graduate from her on farm apprenticeships and go on to careers in farming. Asked what her favorite crop to grow is, she always responds “new farmers”. In her role as Farm Institute Educational Coordinator she works to match apprentices with mentor farmers and has created an educational program that will introduce the Farm Crew apprentices to many important aspects of farming taught on local farms by Nevada County Farmers.

Lauren Scott, Procurement Specialist

Lauren Scott is a new addition to both the Sierra Harvest team and the Sierra Foothills. For the past four years, she has lived and worked in and around Truckee as an outdoor guide for youth, a massage therapist, and an adventure enthusiast. Prior to mountain life, Lauren immersed herself in local food systems as an academic, activist, retail produce specialist, farm hand, and farmer’s marketeer – from driving a box truck of heirloom tomatoes to presenting research at the 2011 Eco Farm Conference. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz in Environmental and Community Studies, Lauren has an academic background in agroecology, natural history, and social justice. 

In her new role as procurement specialist, she will draw from her experience working with the White Earth Land Recovery Project on the White Earth Ojibwe Reservation in Minnesota as a Farm-to-School and Indigenous Seed Library coordinator. She returned to California to participate in the UC extension Agropreneurship program and then hit the road to travel around New Zealand for a year on her bicycle. Intertwined with her myriad of employment experiences, Lauren enjoys foraging, bicycling, rock climbing, live music, and exploring with her dog, Jackson. Her present adventure includes transforming six acres in Nevada City into an off-grid homestead.

Leo Chapman, Farm Institute Land Match Manager

Leo moved to Nevada City from Sacramento with his wife and daughter in 1986.  His idea was to start a family farm and restaurant.  After 4 years he decided that the timing wasn’t right and went into general contracting.  In the year 2000, the timing was right to give farming another try. Volunteering with BriarPatch in the produce department gave Leo a look at organic vegetables. He decided we could grow better food locally.   He worked for Mountain Bounty farm as an orchard manager for 4 years, and then he worked for Riverhill Farm as a farm hand for several seasons. 

Leo’s passion for farming grew and in 2006 he started farming Blue Bird Farm. He wanted his grandchildren to know where their food came from.  Farming changed Leo’s life connecting him with seasonally delicious food.  The farming life style change quickly aligned Leo with his belief system.  In 2007 he co- founded Living Lands Agrarian Network, and educational non-profit to train the next generation of farmers.  The next 7 years he helped create 9 farm sites within the Nevada City area. He worked with local organizers and farmers to establish the Nevada City Farmers Market.   He started the farm to school visits and school to farm visits with the local elementary schools. He created a formal internship program for Living Lands, and ran a successful journeyman program with 3 participants.  In 2013 when Living Lands merged with Live Healthy Nevada County, to become Sierra Harvest, Leo established and ran the Sierra Gardens program, building backyard gardens in the community. Becoming 2017 Volunteer of The Year for Sierra Harvest was a highlight for Leo.  He has made giving back to the community a big part of his life. Currently he is running the Land Match program for Sierra Harvest matching land owners with farmers wanting to farm.

Lyndly Martin, Operations Assistant

Lyndly Martin - Feb. 2016 photo by Georgette AronowLyndly grew up in Ohio where her grandparents enjoyed a rich life of farming and seasonal foods.  As a child, she remembers the joys of seasonal foods – nectarines, watermelon, corn and brussel sprouts were among her favorites.   While her family later turned to “convenience” foods during busy times, she was thrilled when she moved to Hawaii and discovered whole new world of local food, and adopted mangoes and guavas as her new favorites.  As an adult, she attended UC Santa Cruz, and that’s when she really began connecting with her food and learning about organic gardening.

In 1994, Lyndly moved to Nevada County with her husband and started putting all of her studying of home gardening in to practice.  She has maintained a home garden ever since. Today she enjoys being in nature with her husband and 3 children, taking walks and socializing with friends. Her recent favorite foods are: soups! Lyndly is excited to be a member of the Sierra Harvest team, spreading the message of the importance of fresh local food.

Maggie McProud, Food Love Director/Educator

Maggie McProud - photo by Georgette 2016After 10 years of working in organic agriculture and garden/nutrition education, Maggie is deeply passionate about  local food, food education, food justice and community building.  Through hands-on experience, Maggie teaches students of all ages how growing and preparing our own food is an important and rewarding act that can also bring joy, beauty and wellbeing into their lives.  She hopes to inspire others to reconnect with themselves/each other, to the places they live and to the natural systems that afford us life.

Maggie brings this passion to Sierra Harvest, where she is delighted to promote the health and wellbeing of children through garden/nutrition education and adventure-based learning at the Food Love Project.  Maggie believes a vibrant educational garden is the perfect setting to encourage curiousty, where every individual brings a valuable contribution, where diverse learning opportunities abound and fun is a primary function of the design.  For her, creating a dynamic program to engage our youth is an essential and often delicious way to transform learning into a refreshing celebration of life.  In addition to fostering connection and inspiring others, Maggie hopes to encourage others in self-care/healing, observation, wonder, creativity and gratitude by modeling respect and enthusiasm for life in and outside of the gardens gate.

Marisha Finkler, Farm to School Director

Marisha Finkler is passionate about helping kids lead healthy, active lives.  She loves being outside and working with diverse groups of people.  She received her Master’s degree in Earth Systems Environmental Science and Minor in Latin American Studies at Stanford University.  She has worked with several non-profits, taught environmental field studies classes to high school and college students, and worked on farms and at a community garden.  As a Fulbright scholar, she studied indigenous agroforestry in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  She worked on organic farms in Watsonville and Salinas before returning to her native Nevada County to raise her family.

As Watershed Coordinator at Friends of Deer Creek, she convinced volunteers that it’s fun to go out in record storms to sample for mercury contamination.   She volunteered with Leo Chapman at Bluebird farm, part of Living Lands Agrarian network, which later became part of Sierra Harvest. 

She has enjoyed gardening, volunteering and adventuring with her three young children.  She led efforts to rebuild a school garden, and volunteered extensively at her children’s school.  As a gardener, cook and mother, she enjoys the creative challenge of finding ways for kids to learn to love seasonal produce.

Molly Nakahara, Farm Institute Director

Molly is an educator, ecological agriculture advocate, and lover of all things just and beautiful. A ninth generation Californian, she has a strong connection to the Golden State. Molly’s original Californian ancestors were the Peraltas, a Mexican Spanish ranchero family that raised cattle on the green hills of the East Bay Area from El Cerrito to San Leandro. In the 1930s and 40s, Molly’s paternal great-grandparents immigrated from Japan to farm green onions and lettuce in the Salinas Valley.   Forced from their farms by the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II, the Nakahara Family moved to Berkeley and built an agricultural oasis in their urban backyard. After 30 years in the East Bay Area spent as a happy kid, an eager student studying agriculture at UC Berkeley and at UC Santa Cruz, and a youth educator with Project EAT, Molly fulfilled a dream of living amongst the trees and relocated to Grass Valley. Along with her partner she created Dinner Bell Farm, a small family farm committed to ecological sustainability and high animal welfare. Molly currently is a member of the Board of Directors for the Ecological Farming Association.  She is thrilled to be a part of the work Sierra Harvest is doing to support and grow the farmers of Nevada County!

Malaika Bishop, Co-Director

Malaika BishopMalaika Bishop has been working to create sustainable and just food systems for over 20 years. She joined Sierra Harvest in 2012 and has been co-directing since 2013. After college, she worked for and directed an organization dedicated to connecting, inspiring and collaborating with young change makers from around the world. Locally, she ran Izzy Martin’s first campaign for county supervisor. In 2001 she co-founded People’s Grocery, an organization working to find creative solutions to the food needs in West Oakland by building a local food system and a local economy. When she moved back to Nevada County she worked on several farms, as the Farm Educator at the Woolman Semester School and served on the board of BriarPatch Co-op for 5 years.  Malaika is the mother of 2 boys and maintains a large home garden orchard. Malaika is a recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, and she was chosen by Utne Reader, San Francisco Magazine and Organic Style Magazine as a young  visionary and environmental leader.

Miriam Limov, Engagement Manager

MiriamMiriam, a Chicago native, moved west to explore the mountains of Yosemite and then continued on to earn her Environmental Engineering degree at Humboldt State University where she met her husband of 34 years.  They moved to Nevada County in 1987 where they have lived and raised their two daughters on their 4-acre land they call Rainbow’s End. From teaching backpacking and physical education classes at Sierra College, Nordic skiing to adults and children, and leading camps and school backpack trips and more, Miriam has been educating about healthy living for decades.

Miriam also educated, inspired and connected the people of Nevada County for 24 years at the South Yuba River Citizens League as a volunteer and then the River People Manager, where she diligently and fiercely helped to protect the Yuba River and the watershed managing volunteers, directing large-scale events, leading successful advocacy campaigns, creating new programs and more.

Volunteer with Miriam and you are assured of a warm greeting, a smile and a plate of freshly baked pumpkin cookies.

Nicole Keene, Fund Development Associate

Nicole moved to Nevada City from San Francisco with her husband and toddlers in 2003. After twelve years in Sales and Marketing in the clinical lab industry, she looked forward to her new role as a stay at home mom.  Nicole and her husband decided to homeschool their children and did so until they graduated from 8th grade.  With time on her hands she decided to pursue her love of healthy food, her dedication to her community and the local food movement by volunteering for Sierra Harvest. Nicole volunteered everywhere she could for Sierra Harvest.  Her favorite volunteer position is the one she shares with her daughter, hosting the Sierra Harvest farm potlucks at the wonderful local farms in our county.  Guess what?!  She did get a job with Sierra Harvest and now enjoys being a part of their School Food Group and will soon be joining their Sustainable Funding Team.  She loves waking up in the morning knowing that she is helping to make a difference in the lives, health and bellies of the people in our community.   

Rachel Berry, Engagement Director

Rachel Rachel is passionate about promoting community health through strategies that protect and enhance the environment.  She holds a masters degree in Health Psychology, and has worked in the areas of public health, agriculture, the sustainability movement, education and herbalism.  She has over 10 years experience managing programs in the government and non-profit sectors that promote human and environmental health.

Rachel’s involvement in the local food movement started in 2009 when she moved to Nevada County and started working with the grass-roots farming and educational non-profit, Living Lands Agrarian Network.  After she helped expand the organization’s outreach and annual budget, she became the director and worked closely with the team of “founding farmers” to help beginners launch careers in farming.  In 2014, she joined the board of Sierra Harvest, and now works as Engagement Manager.  She enjoys growing and wild-harvesting local food with her husband and daughter, and teaches community classes on wildcrafting and herbalism.

Contributors and Advisors

Farm to School Liaisons

Aleta Barrett
Alicia Frost
Brianna Abundiz
Carreen Savoie
Dre Maher
Erika Kosina
Jaimi Giguere
Jodi Porter
Joy Drew
Julie Bair
Katie Hatten
Lee Hentschel
Lori Long
Michele McDaniel
Poppi West
Raelynn Noel
Sarah Griffin-Boubacar
Sarah Seward
Shana Nussbaum
Shauna Schultz
Tracie VanBemmel
Violet Groom

Land Providers

Deb and Leo Chapman
Mary and Brian Ekiss
Diane and Dale Jacobson
Sally and Dave Peterson
Wendy and Corbett Riley
Alan Seim
Sierra Friends Center
Kriseda and Stephen Smith
Nina and Mike Snegg