Staff

City Schoolyard Garden Team

Jeanette Abi-Nader, Executive Director (jeanette@cityschoolyardgarden.org)

Jeanette Abi-Nader worked for a dozen years with the national food justice non-profit, the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC). CFSC co-founded the National Farm to School Network and was instrumental in the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. As CFSC’s Evaluation and Training and Capacity Building Director, Jeanette utilized multiple learning strategies to support the work of hundreds of organizations and funders. She authored publications on strategic evaluation design including Whole Measures for Community Food Systems, Community Food Project Indicators of Success, and Growing Communities Curriculum.  Jeanette is the former Board Treasurer for the American Community Gardening Association, Vice President of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Board of Directors, and a founding member of the Growing Food and Justice for All initiative (GFJI). GFJI is a national network focused on dismantling racism in the food system. Jeanette is an experienced farmer, having launched the first community supported agriculture project in the state of Louisiana and as Director of Farms for Frontier Natural Products Co-op. She has a Masters of Science in Sustainable Systems/Agroecology and is a certified permaculture designer and instructor.

Yolonda Adams, Youth Engagement & Garden Coordinator (yolonda@cityschoolyardgarden.org)

Born and raised in Charlottesville, Yolonda is a former student of the City School system. She is committed to empowering youth to thrive and excel. As a Youth Engagement and Garden Coordinator for City Schoolyard Garden, Yolonda is always eager to work with students and teachers to encourage them to explore and embrace our garden spaces. She is attentive to providing optimal learning experiences for students while also engaging them in nature. Dually employed as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for the Thomas Jefferson Health District, she is adamant about connecting with families in the community. This synergy provides her with a solid foundation built around helping low-income families to develop a better understanding surrounding healthy food choices.

Shantell Bingham, Charlottesville Food Justice Network Program Director (shantell@cityschoolyardgarden.org)

 

Shantell Bingham is the Program Director of the Charlottesville Food Justice Network. She is a graduate from the University of Virginia’s Master in Public Health program and has a bachelor’s degree in Global Public Health. While completing her studies, Shantell built strong relationships with various communities in Charlottesville. For two years she served as a Program Director of Madison House’s Bridging the Gap, a program which mentors refugee youth. While directing this program she mentored a group of kids from Tanzania and coached a girl’s U12 outreach soccer team of immigrant and refugee kids for SOCA. Shantell received the Dalai Lama Fellowship, which awarded her funds to co-found the organization called Growing for Change, an urban garden initiative which co-designs personal gardens for citizens living in public housing and low-income areas. As a Dalai Lama Fellow, Shantell received training in ethical leadership, collaborating across differences, designing ethical systems, and mindfulness. In addition, Shantell has conducted research on community development with the University of Cape Town in South Africa where she utilized participatory methods to co-design a new community center.

Aleen Carey, Outreach & Resource Program Director

Aleen was born in Chicago, raised in Lancaster, PA, and moved to Charlottesville with her family while in high school. She then became a high school Spanish teacher and shared her love of the language and culture with hundreds of students over a decade. When she left the classroom, Aleen joined the CSG board as a way to stay involved in education. After serving on the board for six years, she joined the staff in January 2020. Aleen caught the philanthropy bug while completing CNE’s Board Academy program and has spent the last 5 years honing her skills for relationship building, storytelling, and fundraising. Although she is not the most experienced gardener in this group, she is always eager and enthusiastic to learn about all things agriculture as well as the intersection of Charlottesville history and food access.

 

 

Bimal Chhetri, CFJN Community Advocate

Bimal came to the US from Bhutan as a refugee, and began serving as an interpreter representing farmers in the New Roots Program with the International Rescue Committee. He joined the team as a community advocate fighting to make Charlottesville a food secure city.

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Davis, Youth Engagement & Garden Coordinator at Charlottesville High School (chs@cityschoolyardgarden.org)


City Schoolyard Garden is pleased to introduce our Youth Engagement and Garden Coordinator at Charlottesville High School. Peter and his family settled in Charlottesville in 2009 to reclaim their Virginian roots after living in Los Angeles and Charlotte, NC for several years.  He discovered a love of gardening while tending two small tomato plants in a patio garden at their apartment in Los Angeles.  Over the years, he started several small gardens at rental properties where they lived until they decided to buy a little more land in Stony Point in 2014 to take on a bigger garden, fruit trees, and chickens.  In 2012, along with a small group of teachers and students, he began the garden at Charlottesville High School where he has taught since moving to town.  He now teaches a Garden to Market class at CHS and is most happy when he either has a shovel, hammer, or chainsaw in his hand!  Peter hopes to expand on the foundation that the high school students have gained through CSG in their elementary and middle school experiences, giving students hands-on experiences and empowering them to grow their own food.

Megan Donovan, Organizational & Systems Manager (grow@cityschoolyardgarden.org

Megan joined CSG in an administrative capacity after serving as our bookkeeper for three years. She holds undergraduate degrees from Miami University of Ohio, and has a Master’s in Health Advocacy from Sarah Lawrence College. Prior to her move to Charlottesville in 2014, Megan worked in health care settings as an advocate for un- or under-insured patients. Her deep connection with the earth stems from a childhood rich in outdoor experiences, whether it was picking mayhaws on her grandpa’s 1 acre hobby farm, bird watching with her mom, digging potatoes with her dad, or exploring creeks with her brothers. Her commitment to wellness has also led Megan to a variety of contemplative practices, including yoga, which she teaches weekly at NOW Yoga in Charlottesville.

 

Shannon Gaffey, Youth Leadership & Garden Educator (shannon@cityschoolyardgarden.org)


Shannon joined City Schoolyard Garden in June 2018 and brings over 6 years of experience working in environmental and experiential education roles. A life-long gardener, she has worked and volunteered in small market gardens in Virginia, West Virginia, New Mexico and Vermont. She holds a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Vermont, where she also earned a certificate in Permaculture Design. After graduating, she ran environmental programming for the DREAM Program’s Vermont chapter, then moved to West Virginia to run wilderness and community-based programming for students across the eastern sea board, serving as a Resident Instructor and Course Director with The Mountain Institute. A Charlottesville native, Shannon moved back home in 2015 to work as a horticulturalist in the gardens of Monticello, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to blend her passions of gardening and education as the Garden Educator for Teens.

Rick Harden, Youth Engagement & Garden Coordinator at Johnson Elementary (johnson@cityschoolyardgarden.org)


By trade, Rick Harden is a craftsman and artist with over 15 years of experience working with reclaimed and archival quality material. He specializes in wood frames, shadow boxes, birdhouses, and other custom home goods. Rick’s interest in and commitment to gardening was fostered by both his extended family and his own children. Coming from a family with a long history of farming in south Georgia, the importance and joy of being able to serve your community through the sustainable cultivation of the land was instilled in him at a young age. After moving to Charlottesville, Rick connected with gardening in a much more personal way, through his own children’s enthusiasm. Rick is excited about the value in a schoolyard garden for the community, and glad to be a part of CSG.

Rebecca Jacob, CFJN Community Advocate

Rebecca is an immigrant from South Sudan. She arrived in 2004 and has worked at the University of Virginia since then. Rebecca is an integral member of the community garden on Greenstone & Fifth, which is part of the IRC New Roots Program. She joined the team as a community advocate fighting to make Charlottesville a food secure city. Rebecca has a daughter in Charlottesville City Schools who enjoys the CSG programming as well!

 

 

 

 

Michael James, Operations Manager, Urban Agriculture Collective (michael@cityschoolyardgarden.org)

Michael is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas. His love for agriculture was instilled early, having grown up with a large backyard garden, but it was working at Heifer International’s Ranch that peaked his interest. Heifer Ranch is located in Perryville Arkansas. While there, Michael worked in a large market garden that supplied CSA baskets to over 300 members. He was also able to practice animal husbandry with a variety of animals including chickens, sheep, cows and goats. His time there got Michael excited and motivated to improve the food system in America. Recently, as a Tricycle Fellow, Michael finished a USDA certified Urban Agriculture program in Richmond. He is proud to have completed this fellowship and learned a great deal about some of the particular obstacles cities face in regard to accessible, healthy food. This was an incredibly informative and enriching program for Michael. Michael also holds a degree in English and has worked as an ESL teacher for three years.

Jordan Johnson, Garden Team Manager & Health Advocate (jordan@cityschoolyardgarden.org)

Jordan officially came on board as the Garden Team Manager and Health Advocate Coordinator in May 2017. He was born and raised in Rochester, NY and moved to Charlottesville in April 2017. Jordan has always been involved with planting and growing. Even on their tiny city lot growing up, his mother found a way to grow pumpkins, sunflowers, roses, and herbs. Jordan earned his masters degree in Public Administration from SUNY The College at Brockport, where the majority of his work focused on engaging the community and schools, emphasizing garden-based learning. Before leaving upstate New York, Jordan led a project to create a garden program at a day rehabilitation program for individuals with developmental disabilities. He is excited to be a part of the City Schoolyard Garden team and engage Charlottesville’s youth.

 

Rosa Key, CFJN Community Advocate

Rosa Key is a lifelong resident of Central Virginia, and is well known in her community. Her strength and familiarity are welcome assets as she serves as Treasurer on the UACC Board, harvests vegetables, and helps distribute the produce at market day. Rosa lives in the 10th and Page neighborhood in a house painted lime green that is a perfect extension of her outgoing and fearless nature. We are thrilled that Rosa is one of our community advocates who are fighting to make Charlottesville a food secure city.

 

 

 

Gabby Levet, Charlottesville Food Justice Network Associate (gabby@cityschoolyardgarden.org)

Gabby is thrilled to join the team as the Associate for the Charlottesville Food Justice Network! She is a current Masters of Public Health student at George Washington University and a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, where she studied Global Sustainability, Politics and Urban Planning. Her main goal in life is to foster sustainable, equitable food systems. During her time at UVA, Gabby’s interest in food systems began, conducting research with the Cville City farmers market. Upon graduation, Gabby served as a Farmers Market Manager for a few markets in Richmond, VA for a season. Afterwards, Gabby moved to Washington DC to work on public health campaigns, organizing and training students across VA to be advocates for healthy school policies. While in DC, Gabby had the chance to partake in an entrepreneurship training program, learning to combine social change and entrepreneurial strategies under the lens of food justice. Most recently, she returned to Charlottesville to dig deep into this community that matters so much to her and looks forward to contributing to a sustainable, equitable food system here in Charlottesville!

Mackenzie Morgan, Youth Engagement & Garden Coordinator at Burnley-Moran Elementary (burnleymoran@cityschoolyardgarden.org) and Greenbrier Elementary (greenbrier@cityschoolyardgarden.org)

Mackenzie started with CSG in August of 2019 after graduating from Ap
palachian State University in the small mountain town of Boone, North Carolina. She received a Bachelors of Science in Anthropology with a focus on Nature, Culture, Sustainability Studies. During her time in Boone, Mackenzie was a college organizer for workers rights with United Students Against Sweatshops and an activist around climate justice with the Appalachian Climate Collaborative. She is passionate about the intersectionality of struggles for justice and has continuously come back to the importance of food equity and access and its relation to other social issues. Mackenzie works to make the school garden a place where Charlottesville youth feel empowered, excited, and safe to grow, explore, and learn through hands on garden based experiences.

Richard Morris, UACC Farm & Foodroots Program Director (richard@cityschoolyardgarden.org)


Richard joined City Schoolyard Garden in June of 2018. He grew up in the desert valley of Phoenix, Arizona and began an apprenticeship in the family garden sometime between learning to walk and ride a bike. He earned a degree in graphic design from Arizona State University and went on to become an instructor of design at the National Education Center. For over two decades, Richard has worked across the healthcare, education, aerospace, and financial industries as a graphic and software designer/developer and team manager. In that time, he has always maintained a garden of one sort or another. In 2005, he completed a Summer internship on the Flack Family Farm in Vermont. More recently, he comes to CSG from a ten-year stint at Polyface Farm. He has done volunteer work with local Charlottesville food equity organizations and is the author of “A Life Unburdened: Getting Over Weight and Getting On With My Life”. Currently, Richard lives on a few green acres with his family where he practices small-scale food production on a home foodstead.   

Leon Nunez, Garden Associate (garden@cityschoolyardgarden.org)

Leon Nunez is the Garden Associate for CSG. As a Charlottesville native, Leon attended the city schools and found themselves in the Buford garden while attending middle school quite often. Leon became one of the first students to participate in the Garden Aid program the school had to offer and while at Buford, Leon developed a deeper appreciation for the environment and put their heart into maintaining the garden space while being a team player for their peers. Although they moved to the county during their high school career to attend Monticello High School, Leon has been loyal to the organization and became a youth intern for 2 (3?) years participating in various projects with other interns until officially taking the Garden Associate position. Although new to the title, they are very much familiar with how the organization works and excited to help support the organization and staff however they can. Leon is currently attending PVCC while taking an interest in biology and often likes to share a random fact or idea unprompted.

Sarah Wayne, Youth Engagement & Garden Coordinator at Clark Elementary, Venable Elementary , and at Jackson-Via Elementary (sarah@cityschoolyardgarden.org)


Sarah is a lover of all things related to food.  She received her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Food Science with a minor in Plant Biology from the University of Vermont.  During her time in Vermont, Sarah worked on various farms in the area to learn more about the local food community and farming practices.  Sarah has experience working as a Farm-to-School Coordinator in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where she worked to connect schools and farms through food and education.  As a Youth Engagement & Garden Coordinator, she strives to nurture curiosity, build relationships, and foster a connection between children and nature through exploration, experiences, and play. 

Tamara Wright, Community Advocate Lead, CFJNfellow@cityschoolyardgarden.org

Tami has lived in Charlottesville for most of her life. She is a resident of Friendship Court, where she lives with her four children. She has been involved in food justice for nearly a decade, first on the UACC Advisory Council. She now serves on the UACC Board and is a strong and crucial voice in the community conversation around food justice. As the Community Advocate Lead, Tami is a leader in the Food Justice Network’s outreach and mission.

 

Meet our Board of Directors