City Schoolyard Garden Team

Jeanette Abi-Nader, Executive Director (

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 Treasure 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.

Shantell Bingham, Charlottesville Food Justice Network Advisor (

Shantell Bingham is the Outreach Coordinator for City Schoolyard Garden and facilitator 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.

Peter Davis, Garden Coordinator at Charlottesville High School (

City Schoolyard Garden is pleased to introduce our new 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, Administrative Coordinator (

Megan recently 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, Garden Educator for Teens (

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, Garden Coordinator at Johnson Elementary (

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.

Jordan Johnson, Program Coordinator (

Jordan officially came on board as Program 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.

Richard Morris, Outreach Coordinator (

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.   

Joshua Rene, Outreach Consultant (

Joshua is our new Outreach Coordinator, and he’s already diving into new projects for CSG! Joshua’s philosophy is that serving people begins with serving how they think, which he learned in his 13 years of leadership in human services. As a creative consultant, he works to bring out the best in others and their businesses, as well as point out and work towards growth opportunities. Since growth is what we do here at CSG, Joshua will fit right in. Equally comfortable in a boardroom and a classroom, with adults and with youth, Joshua will be doing vital outreach work, both by spearheading youth programs and strengthening relationships with our community partners. He is also an adjunct instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

Tianna Washington, Garden Coordinator Associate (

Tianna is a Charlottesville native, which gave her the chance watch CSG grow. She has been working with CSG since her 8th grade year, when the first blueprints of the program were being developed. CSG was her main introduction to gardening, but it stood out to her because she like the combination of working with dirt, the food that she was able to eat from the garden, and the exercise she got from the work she did. Tianna has a competitive nature and has used athletics to express it. She has been involved in sports all of her life – anything from basketball and field hockey to slackline and tchoukball (a game which uses a ball and a trampoline to get points). Life outside of sports include watching documentaries, competition reality shows, and cooking with her small cooking club “the rice gang”.  Tianna is excited to be a Garden Coordinator Associate because she enjoys the active work environment and the array of activities to do in the garden.

Sarah Wayne, Garden Coordinator at Venable Elementary (, and at Jackson-Via Elementary (

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 Garden Coordinator, she strives to nurture curiosity, build relationships, and foster a connection between children and nature through exploration, experiences, and play. 

Zyanya Otal, Garden Coordinator at Greenbrier Elementary ( & Clark Elementary (

Zyanya recently joined CSG in the fall of 2018. She holds a degree in Biology from James Madison University and is excited to share her love for science by sparking curiosity in the garden. Before returning to her hometown of Charlottesville, Zyanya held internships on organic farms (including a dairy goat farm!) and worked with Spanish-speaking students in Harrisonburg City Schools through the Read Across America program. She is excited to be a part of CSG and looks forward to bringing the Charlottesville community together, as well as empowering students through the gardens.

Andy Blunk, Garden Coordinator at Burnley-Moran Elementary (

Andy recently joined CSG in the fall 2018. He comes from several years of working in agriculture and environment education at a school garden in California and as a Peace Corps agricultural and environmental extension volunteer in Ethiopia. He received a B.S. in Environmental Science from Juniata College in Pennsylvania and studied urban agriculture at Tricycle Urban Ag in Richmond. Currently, in addition to CSG, he works with the International Rescue Committee’s Food and Agriculture program, New Roots, providing support for the farmer training and community garden program. His work is rooted in his enjoyment, and wonder, of all natural processes found outdoors in agriculture and gardening, and he enjoys getting to share that passion with students and teachers through CSG.


Meet our Board of Directors