Meet Our Board Members: Kristen Rabourdin and Neal Halvorson-Taylor!

Posted by on Oct 20, 2016 | Comments Off on Meet Our Board Members: Kristen Rabourdin and Neal Halvorson-Taylor!

Meet Our Board Members: Kristen Rabourdin and Neal Halvorson-Taylor!

Meet two of our amazing board members, Kristen Rabourdin and Neal Halvorson-Taylor! Kristen currently serves as the Mid-Atlantic Region Field Marketing Team Leader at Whole Foods Market Charlottesville and is passionate about creating a sustainable, innovative food system. She is also a member of the Charlottesville Food Justice Network, and wants to see all children in the country experience and be inspired by gardens and healthy eating! Kristen has been an advocate for CSG for years, supporting the Veggie Cook-Off and Fall Harvest Festival year after year. Neal is the former director of the Urban Agriculture Project (now called the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville) and now serves as the Senior Advisor for Sustainability at Morven Farm at the University of Virginia which manages the wonderful Morven Kitchen Garden. Neal is also an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor who currently serves as the vicar of Grace Church, Red Hill, an ecumenical community in the Episcopal tradition. Neal has been inspired by gardens and produce since childhood, and wants to create a wider food system that provides healthy produce for everyone in the community. Read their interviews below!

Tell us about an early experience with gardens and nature.

Kristen: While I would love to say I grew up loving gardening and nature, the truth is I grew up on processed and packaged convenience foods. As a single parent who commuted to Manhattan for work, my mother had little time to cook. My Grandmother would take me to the ‘chicken lady’ for fresh eggs, but that was the extent of my connection with where my food came from. As an adult, I truly appreciate the slow food movement and embracing the mindfulness of food.

Neal: When I visited my grandparents’ farm in the Red River Valley of Eastern North Dakota, I remember driving on gravel roads surrounded by acres upon acres of golden wheat and barley. But what struck me most was a garden. My great uncle Rudy, a quiet bachelor, musician, and World War II veteran who, by some accounts, never was the same after the war, lived on the farm and grew an amazing garden in the rich soil. I would lose myself in the rows of sweet corn stalks and raspberry bushes. Rudy would be watering or weeding. And he’d dig a carrot out of the soil and wipe the dirt off of it on his work pants and hand it to me with a chuckle.

How did you get involved in CSG?

Kristen: As part of the Whole Foods Market team, we connected with City Schoolyard Garden at the beginning of its growth. After years of supporting the organization as a member of the business community, I knew I wanted to have a deeper connection with CSG as an individual. CSG makes such an incredible impact on the students in the Charlottesville City Schools. Before CSG, many students had not experienced gardening in any form. Now, they are learning in the garden, tasting from the garden, and coming together as a community around the garden.

Neal: I have known Jeanette since Hurricane Katrina displaced her from New Orleans. I admire her commitment to food sovereignty. When she became the CSG director, I was excited about the organization’s potential to be a significant player in strengthening the local food system. When Katie Reid Shevlin (fellow board member) asked me to consider being on the board, it seemed like a very good fit.


*pictured: Kristen Rabourdin (on left) with fellow board member Cate Whittington

What’s your favorite part of being involved in CSG?

Kristen: Knowing that at some point — whether it’s instantly or 20 years from now — students engaging in hands-on learning  around the garden will realize just how lucky they are. Because we live so close to beautiful outdoor spaces like the Blue Ridge Mountains, orchards, and vineyards, we take for granted that the students have exposure to those same things. In reality, those experiences do not exist for many of our students outside of school. However, when a child can spend time in the dirt, tend to what’s planted and watch something grow, something magical happens. They become part of the fabric of our existence. They see the beauty of nature. They realize their impact on the world around us. Perhaps they recognize that if they can make something grow, they can do anything.

Neal: My favorite part of being involved in CSG is getting an up close look at the amazing work they do with children and the potential to be a part of the changing foodscape.

What are your dreams for CSG in the future?

Kristen: That the CSG model can be implemented in every city throughout the United States . Imagine a whole country of children inspired with the confidence and knowledge to change their world for the better. That, plus a whole bunch of children not reluctant to eat their vegetables!

Neal: My dreams for CSG are tied to the wider local food system, its health and resilience, and its mission to provide locally grown produce to the whole community.

neal-katie*pictured: Neal, on left, with fellow board member Katie Reid Shevlin

If you were a fruit or vegetable, what kind would you be and why?

Kristen: I’d have to say a potato! While it may not seem exciting, potatoes are a staple to a meal. Food trends come and go, but potatoes are the ol’ reliable. They can be crispy and add a little crunch to life, and they can be mashed and warm, full of comfort.

Neal: I would be a carrot growing under the ground, hidden and protected. And then, when colorful, useful, crunchy, and sweet, I’d be ready to eat.

Thanks, Kristen and Neal! We are so fortunate for your commitment to City Schoolyard Garden.