Staff

Meet Our Team

Shawn Harrison

Founder & Co-Director

Shawn is the founder and co-director of Soil Born Farms, a non-profit urban farming and education center located in Sacramento, CA. Through its urban farm, programs and partnerships, Soil Born Farms works to create a more sustainable and equitable food system for the Sacramento region. Shawn’s work in organic agriculture and local food systems development began in 1993 as an organic farming apprentice. In 1997, he completed the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture and holds an M.S. degree in International Agriculture Development from U.C. Davis. Shawn founded Soil Born Farms in 2000 and has been recognized for his leadership in the local food system with several awards including the 2009 recipient of Valley Vision’s Regional Environmental Legacy Award and the UC Davis Alumni Award of Distinction in 2011.

Janet Zeller

Founder & Co-Director

Janet has been an activist and educator promoting local family farms, sustainable agriculture, organic food, healthy living and socially conscious business practices for over 30 years. Janet was the director of operations for the Good Earth, opening and managing restaurants in Northern California and Oregon. She was the marketing manager for the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op for 22 years. Janet earned a degree in Communications Studies at CSUS with a focus on interpersonal and intercultural communication. She is a trained mediator and facilitator. Janet is committed to connecting the people who grow food with the people who eat it and creating a local food system where everyone has access to fresh, healthy, organically grown food.

Shannon HardwickeShannon Hardwicke

Youth Education Manager

Shannon manages our Youth Education Program, facilitating teacher training, curriculum development for school gardens and staff development. She has worked on school gardens for 10 years now using her experience in community development with a passion to develop, equip and sustain successful school garden programs. In addition, Shannon provides oversight to the youth education programs including 10 school gardens, daily farm field trips, summer camps, teen empowerment, internships, youth cooking experiences and regional school garden program development. (photo: Joan Cusick)

Michelle SikoraMichelle Sikora

Cooking & Nutrition Coordinator

Michelle was born and raised in Sacramento. She graduated from CSUS in 2012 with a degree in Food and Nutrition and a minor in Child Development. While attending college she also earned a certificate from CSUS in Family Life Education. Michelle was introduced to Soil Born Farms when selected for an internship related to her field of study and fell in love with the goals of improving healthy food access to all and making a difference within her community. Through a separate internship with the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, she has seen firsthand how important organizations like Soil Born Farms can be. Michelle has always had a passion for cooking and nutrition and has found a place where she can focus her education and interests simultaneously. (photo: Joan Cusick)

Rebecca LeRebecca Le

Promotion & Operations Coordinator

Rebecca Le grew up in Sacramento, California and received a degree in Social Science from Sacramento City College. Rebecca was excited to join Soil Born Farms because her passion has always been to help others. Although she is new to the non-profit world, she appreciates the hard work, kindness and willingness to change the world that are shown by the staff, volunteers and supporters of Soil Born Farms. “And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.” -Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing.

Callie UrnerCallie Urner

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Callie grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills and it wasn’t until she moved away that she realized how incredibly special and valuable a place “the country” is. She earned her B.S. in Business & Accounting from Sacramento State in 2008, as well as her California Certified Public Accountants license shortly thereafter. She will soon be completing a certification program in Human Resources Management. Prior to coming to Soil Born Farm, Callie pursued her discovered passion for agriculture and large animals by interning with a local shepherd as well as completing an internship at Toluma Farms, a goat dairy on the Northern California coast. Callie feels blessed to be working at a place like Soil Born Farms which holds the land, education and people in high regard. (photo: Joan Cusick)

TylerTyler Stowers

Farm Manager

Tyler’s interests in agriculture started in the kitchens of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse restaurant where he worked while attending college. Awestruck and intrigued by the flavor and quality of the produce he was eating, he looked to the fields from whence they came to learn more. There he found eccentric plant whisperer Bob Cannard and his farmer training program, Green String Institute. In an attempt to learn how to grow incredible food like Bob’s, Tyler enrolled at Green String in the spring of 2011. There he had his ‘eureka’ moment discovering food’s connection to seemingly everything in the cosmos and his farm journey began. Since then, Tyler has apprenticed and worked at farms in Northern California and Southern Oregon before returning home to the Sacramento area to pursue his own farm dreams. Tyler started working for Soil Born in the early spring of 2016.

Terese Hollander Esperas

Project Manager

In addition to her position at Soil Born Farms, Terese is co-owner of A Healthy Kitchen, a business offering catering, culinary instruction and private chef services for the past 18 years. She specializes in vibrant healthy food, prepared with seasonal, local and organic ingredients. As a busy mother of two and a vegetable-loving Vizsla, she is always in the kitchen cooking up something. She has been a supporter of Soil Born Farms and a culinary adviser to the project since its beginning, as well as serving on the Board of Directors for a year before coming on board as a staff member.

AdrianaAdriana Jones

Adult Education Coordinator

Adriana has a long history of working with non-profits and natural foods cooperatives. She studied sociology and health science in college and has a particular interest in public health. Working with Soil Born Farms integrates all of her interests in health and social and environmental justice. Her passion is creating sustainable communities with an emphasis on local access to organically-grown food. She enjoys coordinating the adult education classes and feel deeply committed to Soil Born Farm’s mission.

Jenn Macleod

Youth Educator

Jenn grew up in rural Arkansas where family gardens, hunting and preserving are common. However, it wasn’t until college that she realized how important those traditions and how we conduct them are. While earning her B.S. in Sociology and Anthropology at Arkansas Tech University, she gained an academic understanding of food culture and systems and their impact on the environment. She knew she wanted to be on the front lines of the modern conversation about our food so she moved to the California Central Valley in 2014. For three years, she was involved in small-scale food businesses, farmers’ markets and production farms in a variety of occupations. Jenn then learned about Soil Born Farms, began volunteering in school gardens and joined the Youth Education team full-time in 2017. On a normal day she can be found huddled around a kale plant with a group of third-graders or observing critters in the compost with a Girl Scout Troop. She often remarks on how lucky she is to work with amazing people who care so deeply about the future of our local and global community.

GaoGao Ly Yang

Youth Educator

Gao Ly attended U.C. Davis and received a degree in Anthropology in 2015. While attending Davis she experienced the Kids in the Garden Program which sparked new interests. During the 2015–16 school year she interned at Pacific Elementary School for Soil Born Farms. After completing a year of substitute teaching, she was hired at Soil Born as a Youth Education Assistant in February 2017. Her daily motivation and drive comes from the love of students and a desire to provide extraordinary learning spaces while mentoring the leaders of our future.

Lacey Carlson

Youth Educator

Lacey grew up in the Sacramento area. She majored in Environmental Studies and Education at U.C. Santa Cruz. Throughout college, she had the opportunity to intern and work with Life Lab where she led farm- and garden-based field trips, volunteered in school gardens and helped write new science programs that were aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. She spent the last quarter of her senior year traveling around California chasing spring during Natural History Field Quarter where she learned to identify plants, watch birds and practice field ecology. After graduating, she moved to Davis, CA, and was hired at Soil Born Farms as a Youth Educator in November 2018. She values being a part of an organization where she can pursue her love of getting her hands dirty, munching on fresh fruits and veggies and teaching children about the earth.

Emily Andress

Youth Educator

Emily, a Sacramento native, realized the strong connection she had with the locavore movement and farm-to-table foods after she moved out of state for her freshman year of college. It wasn’t until she left the Sacramento Valley that she truly understood the physical, mental, and spiritual value of whole food nutrition and this led her back to the area to complete a B.S in Community Health Education from CSUS. She has a particular interest in public health and the relation between health inequities and food accessibility. She began interning for Soil Born Farms in early 2019 and fell in love with the organization for their ingenuity. She loves spending her time off outdoors, mushroom and wild food foraging, in the kitchen making slow food and traveling around the world discovering her roots.

Emily Hain

Youth Educator

Emily has always valued the environment and enjoyed being out in nature, whether camping with her family, mushroom hunting or visiting her school’s farm. She volunteered for a year after high school as a naturalist at an outdoor school in the Sierra Nevada foothills where she nurtured a passion for education and working with young students. She earned her bachelor’s degree from U.C. Davis with a double major in Agricultural and Environmental Education and Spanish. She is excited to be working with the Youth Education Team.

VanessaVanessa Forwood

Community Education Coordinator

Vanessa spent her elementary school years in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Placer County exploring and playing make-believe with her brother and friends. As a teenager, she lived in various group homes throughout Ventura County. This experience taught her how to advocate for her needs and the needs of others, the importance of youth empowerment and the healing nature of community. As a young adult, she worked at one corporation for over 9 years but found the work unsatisfying. She returned to school and earned a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at University of California, Davis. While working on her degree, she interned as a farmhand for over a year at Pacific Star Gardens, a family-owned and run farm in Woodland. During this internship she discovered the healing power of getting her hands dirty, smelling the soil, working hard and observing life cycles. She found farm work to be the ultimate way to connect with people and to build community. When she discovered that the Growing Together program at Soil Boil Farms worked at Title I schools in South Sacramento, she contacted us to become an intern. The internship led to a position on the Youth Education team where she shares her passion for farms and gardens with students every day.

Kellan MacKay

Farm Business Coordinator and Staff Herbalist

Kellan came to California seeking a farm apprenticeship and apprenticed at Soil Born Farms in 2009. In her first season of full time farming, she learned to cook for a team and established a community committed to good food—both of which were equally instrumental in cementing her career path as farmer and Renaissance woman. She has studied herbalism for nine years under the tutelage of Candis Cantin, the California School of Herbal Studies, as well as at the Sonoma County Herb Exchange. Kellan managed a wholesale nursery in Sonoma, and then moved to a farm where she grew flowers and helped start the Sonoma Flower Mart. She is excited to be back at Soil Born Farms, sharing her love for connecting plants and people.

Laurel Smith

Admin Coordinator

Laurel, a native of the Sacramento area, graduated from Sonoma State University in 2016 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Planning. While attending school she became very passionate about issues regarding sustainability and social justice. She was first introduced to sustainable urban agriculture while interning at Petaluma Bounty, a non-profit community farm in Sonoma County. She found it both rewarding and enjoyable working for a small organization that not only improves the environment, but also brings together a community. Following college, she returned to her home in the Sacramento Valley and worked for a year as an AmeriCorps CivicSpark Climate Fellow. During her service year she became familiar with Soil Born Farms by volunteering with their flagship program, Harvest Sacramento. She appreciates the opportunity to be able to contribute to the success of such an engaging organization that gives back to the community.

Kara Ly

Accounting Assistant

Kara has spent most of her life in the Sacramento area and is currently studying to earn her B.S. in Business with a concentration in Accounting and Finance at California State University, Sacramento. She first fell in love with working with nonprofit organizations as a freshman in high school when she volunteered for a program called Strive for Strength. There, she was able to experience how an interactive and supportive organization can better the lives of those in a community as well as inspire others to learn more about the environment around them. She is grateful to be working at a place like Soil Born Farms, an organization that embodies those same attributes.

Lisette Aguilar

Administrative Assistant

Lisette was born and raised in the suburbs of the Sacramento Valley. Her interests in agriculture and sustainability led her to adapt skills of growing her own produce straight from her garden. Thus, declaring her minor in environmental horticulture for her college studies as she is planning to transfer to a 4-year university. Her passions not only led her to work-trade and volunteer at Soil Born Farms, but she also shows her creativity through designing all handwritten signs for our Farmstand. She enjoys the message that Soil Born Farms contributes to the local community of supporting local food systems through sharing farm fresh organic produce.

Bryce Wilson

Farmer Apprentice

Bryce, a native of Rancho Cordova, served in the US Army for 5 years as a communications specialist. He saw two tours of combat during his time with the Army. After the Army, he tried his hand in several fields of study that were interesting to him at the time but never settled on anything specific. Bryce has always had a special connection with the natural world. His love for the outdoors was nurtured at a young age by his family, who were avid campers and fishers. He always knew his life would lead to working outdoors. In 2018, Bryce had finally had enough of working in offices, warehouses, and shops, and decided to take a leap of faith and applied for an apprenticeship program through the California Center for Land-Based Learning. He was accepted to the program in early 2019 and was offered a position at Soil Born Farms as an apprentice farm manager. He is very excited and eager to be working at Soil Born and hopes that he can bring some fresh ideas and perspectives to Soil Born as well as the agricultural industry.

Bobby Ragan

Farmer Apprentice

Bobby grew up in Stockton, CA and upon graduating from high school, spent the next seven years of his life in the United States Navy as a corpsman in the medical field. While living on the island of Okinawa, Japan he developed an understanding of self-awareness as well as living in the present. Also, during his time in the military he developed a sense of appreciation for helping others. After his discharge from the military he began a journey searching for a new career path in which that same appreciation could be experienced. After completion of an A.A. with an emphasis in psychology he decided to expand his experiences and enroll in a gardening course with his daughter at a local gardening store in Stockton. He found he had an immense interest in plant biology, paired with new found awareness identifying the importance of becoming a positive steward in regards to the local ecology. That single experience sparked a completely new interest in agriculture while simultaneously obtaining the desired motivation to begin farming. Prior to that experience his interpretation of agriculture was very limited, that lack of experience sparked a desire to become more knowledgeable which helped pave a path towards becoming a member of the Soil Born Farms team. He joined the California Farm Academy apprenticeship program in March 2019.

Gary Hare

Groundskeeper

Gary, originally from Selma, Alabama, grew up in Rancho Cordova with the American River Parkway as his playground. He has always had a special connection with the land and wildlife along the American River and has been happy to see Soil Born Farms become a valued part of that landscape. He wears many hats: an artist, general contractor, amateur birder, woodworker, fisherman, husband, and father to an amazing daughter. He is an associate of hammerdirt, an organization focused collecting data on litter in California waterways. As a volunteer at Soil Born, Gary has enjoyed greeting and getting to personally know many of the visitors to the farm and loves that he can continue to do that as well as offer his talents and skills to the farm as a staff member.