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 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.
Alyssa has always had a passion for the natural world and it led her to earn a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education at Antioch University in New Hampshire. She has been working with various ages of students on farms and rivers and in fields, forests and classrooms since 2010. She is a certified California Naturalist, has received training in horticultural therapy, nature connection and the Art of Mentoring while continuing to build her skill set daily, drawing inspiration from the students and teachers she works with. It brings Alyssa great joy to share the wonders of gardening and our environment with others and to help connect youth to themselves, each other and nature. (photo: Joan Cusick)
Shannon Hardwicke manages our Youth Education team. She supports 5 staff as they work with youth on farm field trips and in 10 school sites. In addition, she leads teacher training, school garden curriculum development and works on school district policy. She has a Masters in community development and a BA in Spanish. These skills along with the experiences of developing and running garden programs, working in diverse schools and supporting low income communities help her to push the growth and depth of our educational programs at Soil Born Farms. (photo: Joan Cusick)
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)
Nick works with residents, community partners and volunteers to deepen the impact of their collective work in the community. He manages Harvest Sacramento, our Edible City Initiative, and is passionate about the power of neighbors to make change. Nick has presented to the James Beard Foundation Chef’s Action Network, and has been a panelist at the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce’s State of Food, Water, and Agriculture. Similarly, he participated on the Farm to Fork Youth Engagement Committee, and was recognized as an emerging leader by the UC Global Food Initiative. Along with his position at Soil Born Farms, Nick is a dedicated husband and father, a meditation teacher and a proud graduate of St. Mary’s College of CA. Nick’s favorite part about working at Soil Born is meeting new people who are passionate about their work and who believe in their ability to make their community a better place.
Melanie graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA with a B.A. in politics and government. Most recently, she worked as a program associate at The California Endowment, managing grants related to culturally competent healthy systems and health access. Increasing access to fresh produce was on her mind since she was a high school student, when she helped to organize a health food stand in the lunch room. Melanie moved to California in 1998, and her love of cooking and eating combined with access to farmers’ markets began her interest in eating seasonally and locally. Melanie likes working at Soil Born Farms because it combines her professional abilities with her personal interests. Melanie lives in Sacramento with her husband and 2 daughters. (photo: Joan Cusick)
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 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)
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.
Nicole graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Ecology and Evolution. While in college, she learned about the importance of supporting local food systems and businesses. Nicole first heard about Soil Born Farms while searching for volunteer opportunities after moving to the area in 2012. She fell in love with the organization’s mission as well as the sense of community on the farm. After spending five years in various private sector jobs she is grateful to be working for an organization that focuses on the environment and the betterment of the community.
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 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.
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.
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.
Maggie was raised in Davis, CA where she grew up tending to backyard chickens, exploring the gardens at home and school and being in awe of the seemingly endless ag fields around her home. After earning a B.S in Anthropology from U.C. Santa Cruz, she began her journey into the world of small-scale agriculture by attending the California Farm Academy at the Center for Land Based Learning. Her experience there led her to a job in production agriculture working for Say Hay Farms in the Capay Valley which is where her love of farming blossomed. Wanting to see a different side of agriculture and be more immersed in the community for which she was growing food, Maggie came to work at Soil Born Farms in 2017 excited for the opportunity to share her skills and knowledge with volunteers, visitors and local organic veggie eaters who visit the farm. She loves being part of Soil Born Farms and helping the organization reach its goal of connecting food, health and the environment.
Alex was always interested in growing things and had dreamed of working with plants in a greenhouse for years. Her path to Greenhouse Coordinator at Soil Born Farms was long and circuitous; it started with an M.S. in Environmental Planning from UC Berkeley and continued through a career in forestry and conservation planning. A desire to spend more time outdoors working directly with plants and getting her hands dirty led to a certificate program in Horticulture and Nursery Management. Prior to her current position, she volunteered with Elderberry Farms, the CA Native Plant Society nursery, learning how to propagate native plants. In addition to working in the greenhouse, she is also Garden Teacher at Alice Birney School. Alex likes working at Soil Born because she learns a little more about farming every day and hopes to one day start her own nursery. She lives in Sacramento with her husband and two daughters.
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, 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.
Shiree has always been a nature-lover growing up in a small town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and attending college at U.C. Santa Cruz. She studied Horticulture, Organic Agriculture and Anthropology leading her to Ecological Farming, Permaculture and Education. Shiree is proud to be the Edible City Assistant with Soil Born Farms where she can pursue her passion for community outreach and empowering community members to be active in the stewardship of their local neighborhoods as well as the larger ecosystem they reside in. She works to connect community members, local food systems and the natural world.
Scott grew up in the Sacramento valley and got his start farming at Shake Ridge Ranch vineyard during summers in high school. This piqued his interest in sustainable agriculture, farming and food systems and, after graduating with a B.A. from UC Berkeley, he apprenticed and worked in various agriculture jobs from a goat dairy to vegetable production to wine grapes. During this time he also received a M.S. in community development from UC Davis, focusing primarily on sustainable agriculture, agricultural education and food justice. He is excited to help support both Soil Born’s educational mission and its goal to improve food access and equity in the Sacramento area.
While studying at U.C. Davis, Jessica recognized the role of education in creating a sustainable and healthy world. She fell in love with local farms, interning at Soil Born and apprenticing at the UCD Student Farm. One summer after college, she got the opportunity to work with environmental education programs for youth in Yosemite National Park through NatureBridge. In that moment, all things connected. Authentic, relevant education and experiences for youth is key to fostering environmental literacy and creating a sustainable planet. Her path has led her to live in Alaska, Bahrain, Nicaragua and all over the west coast facilitating outdoor programs and working in public education. She recently finished her environmental education teaching residency at IslandWood and M.Ed at the University of Washington where her focus was (and still is) authentic environmental education and creating and advocating for inclusive, equitable spaces for all.
Jenna graduated from U.C. Davis with a B.A. in English. With a passion for health, she found her way to studying herbalism and completed a clinical program taught by Kathi Keville and Christopher Hobbs. From there, she wanted to deepen her connection with plants and started volunteering at Soil Born, which led to the apprenticeship program. Jenna is thankful for the opportunity to learn about farming from people who are passionate about food, the environment, and community.
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.