Sierra Harvest Staff – Fall 2021
Sierra Harvest Staff
Brianna Abundiz, Farm to School Coordinator and Lead Garden 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 became one of our primary farm educators at the Food Love Project. She is now the Farm to School Coordinator and Lead Garden Educator with school gardens at Bell Hill Academy, Lyman Gilmore, Scotten, and Union Hill. She is a celebrity 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.
Sarah Arndt, Senior Farm Educator
Sarah is passionate about the power of food to build intersectional social and environmental justice movements and healthy, rooted communities. Her previous work is at the nexus of food, youth, and education, including community outreach and development, teaching and facilitation, and program management. Most recently, she helped launch Conscious Kitchen’s largest healthy school meals program and collaborated with Friends of the Earth to research and write a report for scaling organic food in California schools. In her unpaid work, she puts her energy and activism into supporting food and land-based movements for racial and economic justice. Sarah’s excited to join the Sierra Harvest team, learn and grow alongside the plants at Food Love Farm, and grow, cook, eat, and share good food!
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.
Rachel Berry, Associate 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 20 years of experience managing programs in the government and non-profit sectors, she is committed to 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 herbalism for self-care.
Malaika Bishop, Stewardship Associate
Malaika Bishop has been working to create sustainable and just food systems for over 20 years and co-directed Sierra Harvest from 2013-2021. She now works part-time as our stewardship associate doing fundraising and special projects while also starting a new farming venture and maintaining a large home garden and orchard with her 2 boys and husband. Malaika began her career 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 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.
Cassie Burzinski, Farm Educator
Cassie’s connection to nature developed at an early age where she spent much of her childhood playing barefoot in the Santa Cruz mountains. She was later introduced to raising animals and growing plants for food in the foothills of Placer and Nevada Counties. After finding the answers to a health issue through nutrition, Cassie focused her passion for the interconnectedness of plants and the human body into a bachelor’s degree in nutrition at The University of Natural Medicine in Portland Oregon. There her understanding of food as medicine and as a means for social, economic, and political justice broadened. While here she also took on an internship with Sierra Harvest assisting in building Sierra Gardens and researching sustainable practices for community food access. After graduation, Cassie joined the Sierra Harvest team! She now uses her love of plants and nutrition to benefit her community, working as a Farm Educator at The Food Love Farm and as a Farm-to-School Liaison for the Nevada City School of the Arts.
Edy Cassell, Community Programs Manager
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.
Leo Chapman, Land Match Coordinator
Leo Chapman has been growing some of his own food for most of his life. His family always had a garden. He moved to Nevada City with his wife Debora and daughter Rebecca, in 1986. His vision was to grow all their family’s food, open a restaurant, and cook food for a living. That didn’t happen. Nevada County was just beginning to support the local food movement. Leo passed his contractor’s license test and began a 20-year career as a builder. Specializing in Nevada City remodels.
In 2000 Leo came back to his true passion, farming, going on to co-found Living Lands Agrarian Network, with his friend Tim Van Wagner. When Live Healthy Nevada County merged with Living Lands Agrarian Network, it became Sierra Harvest. Leo established and ran the Sierra Gardens program, for several years. He currently helps match farmers to land in the community. Most days you can find him growing food for his family and community, at Chapman Family Farm, Harmony Valley, Nevada City.
Frances di Cristina, Farm to School Director
Frances is passionate about connecting kids to good food and the knowledge of where it comes from. She previously worked in development, communication, and program management for food banks in Yolo County and upstate New York. This experience introduced her to the interconnected issues of food access, health, and local food systems. She found her work to rebuild these connections rewarding both professionally and personally. While she had enjoyed baking and cooking since she was young, joining a CSA in each new community connected her to the seasonality of the local farmers and expanded her familiarity with a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. She and her family moved to Nevada County in 2012 and were delighted to discover the thriving local food movement. Her three children love attending the farmers market, watching cooking shows, and helping mom in the kitchen.
Crystal Dossman, Staff Director
Crystal began working with and supporting our local children’s nonprofit organizations in high school. She continued her support into her hospitality career, by cultivating relationships and implementing fundraising opportunities. While in Dallas, she partnered her hotel food program with a local shelter, to provide them with daily hot meals. Soon after returning to Nevada City, Crystal discovered Sierra Harvest and immediately felt at home. Food Love Farm, U-Pick It, became a weekly routine for her and her daughter. She is excited to bring her hospitality experience and passion to the Sierra Harvest Team.
Dylan Drummond, Sierra Gardens Assistant
Dylan is a student of life and is passionate about nurturing the organisms that sustain it. He has an intense interest in the regenerative agriculture movement and practices gardening, container planting, and every so often checks on his bees. He is a fully certified plant addict that spends all of his free time propagating nursery stock consisting of perennial flowers and food. When he doesn’t have his hands in soil he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, rafting, and spending time with friends and family. He values the aspects of relationships that connect all of us with the force of life that sustains us.
Dana Frasz, Associate Director
Dana Frasz has dedicated her life to cultivating a more just, sustainable, and less wasteful world with a passion toward food conservation and access.
In 2012 Dana founded Food Shift – an organization at the intersection of community health, education, and the environment where she served as the Executive Director for eight years. While at Food Shift she catalyzed the redistribution of over 500 tons of food to communities in need; and developed partnerships and collaborations with schools, companies, governments, and service organizations to reduce wasted food, create jobs, and increase access to nutrition. She led The Food Shift Kitchen social enterprise which generated revenue through vegetarian catering and provided job training and employment to individuals overcoming incarceration, homelessness, domestic violence, and addiction. Dana loves music, gardening, and outdoor adventures. She is excited to explore, learn, and connect in this new role and place.
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.
Miriam Limov, Farm Institute Associate
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.
Carlyle Miller, Operations Director
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 in financial management at 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.
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.
Lindsey Pratt, Farm to School Coordinator
Hailing from Massachusetts, with some time spent deep in the heart of Texas, Lindsey has been involved in the food and farming world since 2009. After milking cows and goats, raising chickens, studying and implementing permaculture systems design, edible and native landscaping, working on organic farms in Texas, servin’ up food at farm-to-table restaurants and catering, and aiding in developing a farmer’s cooperative in agrarian Central Texas, Lindsey arrived in Nevada County in 2017 and happily found herself amidst the thriving farming community here. Lindsey is drawn to the realm of food and farming as it offers the perfect intersectional space to examine and work on the many ails and shortcomings in our culture and society, be it labor politics, economics, equity & justice, as well as stewarding the land and our planet in a healthful way.
Aimee Retzler, Executive Director
Aimee, co-founded Sierra Harvest after she had lunch with her kindergartner at school and noticed how much food was going to waste leaving kids hungry. She was curious as to why a community that is surrounded by an abundance of agriculture, wasn’t feeding kids nutrient-dense, locally grown foods that were delivered in an educational way. Her passion for making sure kids get the best food possible is what fueled her to begin the farm-to-school program in Nevada County. She has guided the activities of Sierra Harvest since October 2008, building the organization from a grassroots community coalition to a viable nonprofit. One of her non-food passions is teaching Nia so consider yourself informed if she pulls out her first-degree black belt and starts dancing anywhere and everywhere.
Sierra Harvest Farm to School Liaisons
Front row L to R: Mielle Cowan, Anna Mudd, Lauren Valentino, Shauna Schultz, Frances di Cristina, Brianna Abundiz, Alicia Frost
Back Row L to R: Michelle McDaniel, Jaimi Giguere, Sophie Larsen, Uta Reimnitz, Lori Long, Joy Drew
Laura Barhydt, Secretary
Laura Barhydt and her family raise beef cattle and pumpkins in Nevada County. Laura was appointed to the Nevada County Ag Advisory in 2015 where she represents the beef cattle industry. She also serves as treasurer for Placer Nevada Cattlewomen and serves on several committees for the Nevada County Farm Bureau.
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 is, “I want to be a farmer when I grow up!”
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 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 an 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.
Kwong Chew, Vice President
Kwong is semi-retired. He is a business 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.
Andrea Echegary, Treasurer
Andrea is the Chief Financial Officer and Finance Manager at BriarPatch Food Co-op. She loves her work, supporting the sustainable food movement, the cooperative business model, and the local community, and she is grateful to be working with others who are passionate about changing the world. Andrea brings 30+ years of executive financial management experience in varying industries and in organizations ranging from small non-profits to large publicly traded corporations. During each phase of her career, she has worked with and on boards of directors. She earned her Accounting degree from San Diego State University, spent six years at the international accounting firm Deloitte, and is a certified public accountant. In her spare time, Andrea enjoys cooking and adventuring with her husband.
Jeannine is an independent media producer, best known as Co-Creator and Executive Producer of Biz Kid$, an Emmy Award-winning TV series for PBS. She has produced and directed many of Sierra Harvest’s fundraising videos. Jeannine grew up in the Niagara fruit belt area of southern Ontario, one of three regions in Canada that grow tender fruits. Her parents always tended a large vegetable garden and orchard, and her father, who was a chef, passed on the appreciation for making healthy meals from scratch. Jeannine brings over 20 years of project management experience in the fields of media production, marketing, and communications, and looks forward to helping Sierra Harvest broaden its impact.
Roger Ingram received BS and MS degrees from Texas A&M University. He served as UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Livestock and Natural Resources/County Director for Placer and Nevada Counties from 1986-2017. Roger developed many programs addressing local agricultural issues. These included implementing a grass-fed beef program for producers, low-stress stockmanship, grazing management, farm business planning, beginning farming, and local USDA inspected meat processing.
He secured grant funding from Placer County First 5 grants that developed a community-supported agriculture program that provided boxes of local produce to low-income families in afterschool programs from 2010-2016. Roger is currently retired and raises commercial sheep with the help of three border collies.
Steve McFarlane is an attorney in private practice, focusing on business and probate law. He grew up in the Midwest, moved to the Bay Area after law school, but in 2013 chose to make his home in Nevada County. Steve loves good food, even better drinks, and believes that our community deserves a vibrant and sustainable agriculture system that everyone can enjoy. With school-aged children, Steve is particularly interested in Sierra Harvest’s educational and Farm to School programs. He has volunteered with many local nonprofits and has worked to provide pro bono legal services to our community. Steve loves to travel, cook, entertain, and explore the outdoors with his family.
Tiana Rockwell, President
Tiana is a functional nutritional therapy practitioner with a private practice in Nevada County. She believes that a nutrient-rich, whole food diet can help people find optimal health and thrive! She moved to Nevada County in 2007 and started a private dental practice with her husband, Sean Rockwell. Through her many years in the dental field, she was able to see firsthand how poor nutrition can affect the body. The mouth is the gateway to the whole system and it is not uncommon to see disease start in the mouth before other areas of the body. She loves the work that Sierra Harvest is doing to help make local, organic, nutrient-rich foods accessible to everyone.
When Tiana is not working with her clients, she is avidly training for long course triathlon. She loves that the climate in Nevada county lets her train, and grow her own food year-round! She lives in Grass Valley with her husband and two dogs and has a goal of one day living completely off her own land for an entire year.