Sierra Harvest Staff – December, 2018
Sierra Harvest Staff
Aimee Retzler, Co-Director
After 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.
Brianna Abundiz, Senior Farm Educator
Brianna 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 Miller, better known to local school children as Detective Drizzle, worked for years with the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) to develop and run an educational program teaching students about water and salmon conservation.
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 Director.
Claudio Mendoca, Sierra Garden Assistant
Born in the Great Central Valley, Cláudio’s appreciation for agriculture began at an early age helping in the family garden and traipsing through the many orchards near his home. His love of mountains lead to a host of jobs in Yosemite before moving north for an education. There, amidst the hippies and redwoods, he cultivated a passion for serving others and met his wife. Keen to start their family, the young couple moved around chasing work before finally settling down in Nevada County. In his spare time he hikes, bikes, and works on their little property.
Edy Cassell, Sierra Garden Coordinator
Originally 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
Emily Koller, Food Love Farm Director
A wandering road led Emily from earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work to serving as Director of Sierra Harvest’s Food Love Farm. Emily served in school gardens and cafeterias with FoodCorps and the Center for Healthy Communities, then worked on organic production and CSA farms. She is passionate about exploring the personal, social, cultural, and environmental impacts of our food systems. Grounded in the belief that farming is an opportunity to deeply connect with the Earth, our community, each other, and ourselves, Emily is excited to share her love of food and farming with the kids and families of Nevada County.”
Janice Bedayn, Development Associate
Janice has been an advocate for fresh, locally grown food since 1979. From co-owner of a collective vegetarian restaurant, to managing a food co-op, and finally to her own catering business, preparing and serving food has been both a vocation and an avocation. A connected but circuitous path led from food to non-profit development. Janice moved to Sierra Harvest after managing the development department at Nevada City School of the Arts and is thrilled to be involved with the local food movement once again. Janice raised her two grown children in Nevada County and she serves as president of the League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County.
Kalita Todd, Farm Insitute Education Coordinator
Kalita has been a farm educator, food and political activist and innovator of change for over 40 years. She 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 No. California celebration of organic harvest, Hoes Down Harvest Festival and the Ecological Farming Conference now in it’s 39th year. 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 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.
Lauren Scott, Procurement Specialist
As our Procurement Specialist, Lauren draws from her experience working with farmers, institutions, and non-profits to increase the market for locally grown food in Nevada County. Since 2007, she has immersed herself in local food systems as an academic, activist, retail produce buyer, and farm hand. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz in Environmental and Community Studies, Lauren studied Agroecology, natural history, and social justice. Intertwined with her myriad of employment experiences, she enjoys foraging, backcountry skiing, bicycling, 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’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, Office Manager
Lyndly grew up in Ohio where her grandparents enjoyed a rich life of farming. As a child, she remembers the joys of seasonal local foods. She moved to California in 1989 to attend college and that’s when she really began learning about organic gardening and the value of local food. 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. Lyndly enjoys spreading the message of the importance of local farms and fresh food.
Malaika Bishop, Co-Director
Malaika Bishop has been working to create sustainable and just food systems for over 20 years and has been co-directing Sierra Harvest since 2013. She began by training young change makers from around the world, and later co-founded People’s Grocery, a food justice non-profit in Oakland. When she moved back to Nevada County she worked on several farms, managed a school farm and served on the board of BriarPatch Co-op. Malaika is the mother of 2 boys and maintains a large home garden and 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.
Marisha Finkler, Farm to School Director
Marisha Finkler is passionate about helping kids lead healthy, active lives. She received her Master’s degree in Earth Systems at Stanford University. She has worked with non-profits, taught environmental field studies classes, and worked on farms and 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.
She has three children and led efforts to rebuild their school garden. 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 Nakahara has been growing flowers and raising pasture-based pork at Dinner Bell Farm, a certified Organic, Nevada County farm which she founded in 2010 with her partner, Paul Glowaski. She has worked to support farmers with UC Cooperative Extension and as a member of the EcoFarm Board of Directors. She holds a BS in Agriculture Education from UC Berkeley and completed the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden Apprenticeship in 2006. Molly’s paternal grandparents farmed lettuce and green onions in Salinas (before the internment camps of WWII) and infused her childhood with a love of soil and the joy of growing food and flowers.
Miriam Limov, Engagement Manager
Miriam, a Chicago native, moved west to explore the mountains of Yosemite and continued on to earn her Environmental Engineering degree at Humboldt State University. From teaching backpacking and physical education classes at Sierra College, leading girl’s empowerment camps 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 helped to protect the Yuba River managing volunteers, directing large-scale events, and leading successful advocacy campaigns. You can find Miriam out at the farm leading field trips, leading events alongside the incredible Sierra Harvest volunteers and sharing the work we do with the community.
Rachel Berry, Engagement Director
Rachel is passionate about promoting community health. With a master’s degree in Health Psychology, she has worked in public health, agriculture, the sustainability movement, higher education and herbalism. With over 15 year’s experience managing programs in the government and non-profit sectors, she is committed helping people live healthier lives.
Rachel’s involvement in the Nevada County local food movement started in 2009 when she moved here with her family and started working with Living Lands Agrarian Network, which later became Sierra Harvest. In her off time, Rachel enjoys gardening and wild-harvesting with her husband and daughter, and teaches community classes.
Sophie Larsen, Farm Educator
Sophie joined the Sierra Harvest team this June after a truly serendipitous meeting. A native of Santa Cruz, CA, Sophie spent the last year in Southern Oregon apprenticing on a permaculture-inspired organic farm and education center where she taught and frolicked with kids of all ages. It was here that she built a foundational knowledge of organic farming, nature-based education, wildcrafting, and sustainable living skills. She is thrilled to continue her education at the Food Love Farm where food is flourishing, community is growing, and bees are happy! As a recent transplant to Nevada County, Sophie enjoys exploring the vibrant local agricultural scene by partaking in the Farm Potluck series, attending farmers’ markets, and working at her other part-time job with Starbright Acres Family Farm.
Stephanie Stevens, Food & Farm Conference Producer
Stephanie Stevens settled in Nevada County in 2013 after falling in love with the area’s vibrant agricultural community. In 2017, she was appointed to the Penn Valley Area Municipal Advisory Council by District Four Supervisor, Hank Weston. She serves as secretary for the board of Community Legal and is apprenticing to become an attorney. She hopes to one day offer legal counsel to farmers, laborers, and disadvantaged populations. Stephanie organizes the Nevada County Food Policy Council, under the auspices of Sierra Harvest, and also manages the Nevada City Farmers Market. She owns Red Shed Farm, a farm-to-bottle hot sauce business, with her husband.
Sierra Harvest Board of Directors
Aleta Barrett is the co-owner of Starbright Acres Family Farm and along with her husband Ken, founded the farm in 2010 with the concept of growing a commercially and financially viable quantity of produce in a semi-urban community. The farm goal is to sell to the local community and to be actively involved in education around food and farming. Additionally, Starbright Acres Family Farm hosts farm potlucks, school field trips and tours. She has served as a farm partner and school liaison with Sierra Harvest since 2012. Aleta has one husband, two children, one dog, 5 cats, 6 goats, and 175 chickens. Aleta’s favorite quote from a field trip student, “I want to be a farmer when I grow up!”
Ariel Lovett, Vice President
Ariel is no stranger to Nevada County nonprofits – she has 14 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations in our community and recently earned her Masters degree in nonprofit administration. An enthusiastic gardener, mother, and BriarPatch co-op member, Ariel is a perfect fit for our organization. Ariel wanted to be part of Sierra Harvest because our mission statement is so closely aligned with her personal passion and beliefs: “I am passionate about health and believe that food access (especially local food access) provides an opportunity for the community to be healthier, and can have a profound impact nationally and even globally.”
Erin is a Registered Nurse with a focus in public health. She believes that preventative medicine starts with food and that Sierra Harvest is making changes to our local food system that can help prevent chronic medical conditions.
Erin enthusiastically leads the green team at our local hospital where her focus is to grow awareness around ways to heal our patients and the environment simultaneously. One of her recent accomplishments was spearheading the placement of a Community Supported Agriculture pickup site at the hospital. This site helps spread awareness among coworkers and patients alike of the bounty produced by Nevada County Farmers, people Erin refers to as “our local superheroes.” In her spare time, you will find her playing outdoors, on her mountain bike with her husband and two dogs.
Jennifer Singer, Secretary
Jennifer Litton Singer was born and raised in Nevada County and attended Nevada Union High School. Jennifer attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and received her BA in Communication in 1997. She then returned to Nevada County as co-founder of The Friendship Club.
Jennifer has served as Executive Director of the Friendship Club since 2004 and in that time has grown the program to serve nearly 100 girls annually, developed close community relationships, and developed a strong reputation for the organization as a leader both in terms of services provided to the community and in organization a development.
Jennifer is a graduate of the Nevada County Community Leadership Institute and has served as a board member, officer, and committee member of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership over the past ten years. She is also a wife and mother to three daughters.
Kathy Grimes, Treasurer
Kathy was born and raised in Minneapolis MN, lived in Tucson, AZ, San Diego, Redding, and now lives in Penn Valley. Her natural affinity for numbers led her to pursue her Accounting degree and CPA license. Her desire to help others less fortunate, inspired her further education and licensure as an Occupational Therapist.
She enjoys creating felted alpaca, stained glass, woodworking, mosaic, beading, and knitting. Hobbies also include singing, dance, hiking and collaborating with others for a world that values our earth and all that cohabit upon her.
Sierra Harvest’s mission aligns with her passion to be a part of the distribution, access and education around healthy foods, especially for children, our future.
Kwong is semi-retired. He is a businesses owner, entrepreneur and advisor. He went to school and operated, in San Francisco, various full-service restaurants, food production, distribution and larger event catering companies. In 1997, he moved to Grass Valley. His local involvement includes board positions and active support at BriarPatch Co-op, Yuba River Charter School, Boys To Men, Xiao Mao Culture Club (CATS), ManKind Project (MKP), Divine Spark and Sierra Roots, among others. Kwong lives simply, is passionate about healthy living, social justice, finance and community.
Marty Coleman-Hunt is a leader in land and water conservation in Northern California and nationally, with experience that spans executive management, strategic planning, advocacy and community relations. After graduate school, Marty had the extraordinary opportunity to work for Dianne Feinstein for two years on a campaign about exposure to toxics, which led to a 20-year career in Silicon Valley.
During a short sabbatical she became enchanted by the Sierra Nevada landscape, and mid-career she emigrated from the Bay Area to Nevada City. Marty became the local land trust’s executive director, a position she has held for nearly a dozen years, significantly growing the organization’s conservation footprint, resources and assets. The position allowed her to engage on broader environmental initiatives locally and regionally. She developed relationships with elected and agency leaders, NGO executives, and philanthropic donors. She has spoken in public venues and written for publications on conservation topics – in particular on how communities can protect their important and beloved natural resources, agriculture, habitat and water. She holds influential roles on conservation alliances and councils – all while remaining passionate about the Sierra Nevada watershed in which she lives.
Rob is the owner of Legacy Ranching, a place to learn, build, and share a land ethic. Since 1880 four generations of Elster’s worked to improve the soil, support family traditions, and provide pasture based protein into Nevada and neighboring Counties at the Legacy Ranching property. At Legacy Ranching, their love and respect for the land combined with their use of holistic management creates a thriving landscape.
Sandra Barrington, Board President
Sandra Barrington has over 15 years of fund development experience and is a Certified Fundraising Executive. She is currently the Associate Director for Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation. In addition to fund development experience, Sandra has a background in marketing and public relations. Sandra has a degree in English with a certificate in Literary Editing and Publishing from California State University Chico. Healthcare and healthy living is a passion. Sandra is the current Board President for Sierra Harvest and loves that the mission helps children start on their healthy lifestyle early while encouraging the community at large to value fresh local food. She is also involved in Rotary as a member of the Rotary Club of Grass Valley. Outside of work and volunteering, you can find Sandra on a hiking trail, at the park or river with her daughter, or snowboarding.
Tania’s been growing her own food since cultivating a small vegetable patch behind the faculty housing of the Ussuriisk Pedagogical Institute when she was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Russian Far East. Since planting that garden more than twenty years ago, Tania has grown food and flowers everywhere– in school gardens, in front yards and backyards, community gardens, and even sidewalk strips. It was this love of fresh, organic foods and for community building that inspired Tania to join the Live Healthy Nevada County Food and Nutrition Committee years ago, where she first had the pleasure of working with Aimee Retzler and others on the Sierra Harvest Team.
Tania has been an educator, community organizer, and executive director of local and international non-profits. She currently serves as a mediator for the Consensus Building Institute, where she works to build consensus and negotiate agreement among a broad range of people who hold diverse perspectives on water and natural resources policy, governance, and management. She holds a Master’s in education and organizational leadership and a Bachelor’s in political science and peace and conflict studies.