Garden Site Coordinators
Garden Site Coordinators serve as liaisons, educators, and support staff to enhance participating community members’ ability to establish, tend, and reap their garden spoils. These students also provide on-site informal educational support to community team members on a consistent basis informed by participant interests and best practices of other successful programs. These best practices relate to the specific age/cultural contexts of a given garden site team.
Rachel Brice, ES PhD Student
Rachel is originally from the Midwest, and spent ten years living in Austin, TX. She relocated to New England to attend AUNE in 2017 as an environmental studies master’s student, and is now pursuing her doctoral degree here. She has a wide variety of educational experiences: from informal nature-science education, to high school classroom English, to full-time teaching at a nature-based, democratic elementary school. Her current research interests include food sovereignty and justice.
Gracie is originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has lived and worked all over the west and east coast. She is attending Antioch as an Environmental Education Masters student. As a kid she followed behind her mother in the garden picking all the strawberries she was told not to, and still doesn’t really have a lot of restraint around fresh fruits. In addition to her budding gardening skills and work as an educator, she is also an accomplished artist. She hopes to bring color through the garden whether it is through rainbow carrots or painted signage.
Sara Lobdell is a lover of the outdoors, language learning, and dipping baked goods into hot beverages. She is passionate about relationship building and listening to the stories of others. Sara is an environmental educator currently working as an Education Intern at The Caterpillar Lab and Co-Coordinator for Community Garden Connections. She has a Master of Science in Environmental Studies/Environmental Education from Antioch University New England and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology & Music from Franklin & Marshall College.
Alex Lacy, Environmental Education
Alex grew up in Salem, Massachusetts where homegrown food was few and far between. Eager to learn more about plants and planting them she has taken part in naturalist activities such as edible plant ID, joined WWOOF Italia for a couple of planting seasons, and worked on a mid-size organic vegetable farm in Massachusetts for one harvest season. Alex is excited to be a part of the CGC team and to participate in year round gardening duties, including on-campus composting, to see the agricultural cycle come full circle.
Kristen grew up in New Jersey where she learned to love spending time outdoors and gardening at her local arboretum. Kristen has worked on community farms in Vermont and New York, co-led community events and trips centered around the outdoors and gardening, and designed and planted edible, perennial landscapes. Now based in Keene, NH, Kristen is excited to be working as part of the CGC team and expanding her engagement with and understanding of local food systems in New England and the communities they feed.
Past CGC Coordinators
Karen Alsen, MS Candidate, Environmental Studies
Karen grew up on the south shore of Long Island, NY, and has spent the last few years living in Brooklyn. Karen is passionate about environmental justice and has worked extensively in low-income NYC neighborhoods, gardening and educating along the Bronx River. In 2010, Karen travelled to South America with a project called Encouraging Arts, a series of art, music and empowerment workshops. Karen is interested in community building at the intersections of food security, environmental conservation and art. She is currently on a path to receiving an MS in Environmental Education from Antioch University and is thrilled to be part of the CGC family.
Jess Barnes, Environmental Education
Jess is a local of the Monadnock Region and Cheshire County! She grew up here in the town of Walpole, but has travelled much of the East Coast and a European country or two. Jess came to Antioch as a senior from Franklin Pierce University (FPU), studying environmental studies and science in undergrad. At FPU she was especially interested in sustainable communities, environmental justice, and place-based education. Jess’ explorations then lead her to environmental education now. Her passions lie in connecting people to each other and the natural world, and fostering positive relationships. So far her food justice and community garden experiences have been mostly academic. Jess is excited to be a part of CGC and dive into growing beautiful and healthy food, sharing that with others, and making a difference while pursuing those passions!
Kristine Burke, Science Teacher Certification
Kristine grew up playing in farm fields and forests of Indiana but has spent the last six years in Chicago. She volunteered for a CSA in the heart of the city, worked for two public health organizations, and spent a few summers surveying threatened and endangered bat species in the Midwest! Science education has always been Kristine’s muse, she is currently working towards receiving an MS in Environmental Studies with a concentration in the Science Teacher Certification program. She comes to Antioch with a nurturing passion, to improve children’s health and self-efficacy by connecting science classrooms with community-based food systems. With CGC, Kristine is thrilled to help grow the happiness and health of Keene through gardening.
Olivia Chitayat, Sustainable Development and Climate Change
Marisa was born and raised on the south shore of Long Island, New York. She received her BAOlivia Chitayat originally hails from Long Island but has spent time all along the eastern coast of the US. She studied Chemistry and Environmental Studies at Georgetown University where she also became actively involved in student coalition organizing on issues such as climate change and an LGBTQ resource center. After finishing undergrad in 2010 she spent time at Occupy Wall Street where she ultimately got connected to farm projects in upstate NY, then later in Tennessee at The Farm (an intentional community). She has focused her studies at AUNE on bioremediation, the use of bacteria, fungi and plants to clean up pollution. She hopes to use this technique to create more green space for/with communities.
Marisa Conte, Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability
Marisa was born and raised on the south shore of Long Island, New York. She received her BA in Environmental Humanities from Stony Brook University. A big part of Marisa’s life revolves around traveling and the ocean. Prior to AUNE, Marisa lived and worked on a farm on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. This is where her love for farming and producing sustainable food was created. At AUNE, Marisa is working towards a MS in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability, and is overly excited to be a part of Community Garden Connections.
Ben Curroto, Environmental Education
Ben Currotto is a Baltimore native who grew up camping in the woods of central Maryland. He studied English at Skidmore College, where he explored the intersections of poetry and and environmental thought. His summers were spent at a nature-based summer camp, facilitating wonderment in nature with children and leading biking, farming and camping trips with teens. He moved back to Baltimore following graduation to grow as an outdoor educator and participate in the local arts and music community. He worked for two years as an educator, farmer and beekeeper at an urban farm working to address food access disparities in the city. He comes to AUNE to explore place-based youth education and resilient agriculture systems.
Nathan Cross, Environmental Education
Nathan hails from Minnesota, but he has spent the last decade bouncing around the country and the world, looking for any and all opportunities to work and play outdoors. After spending most of that time as a field biologist, Nathan turned his attention to environmental education in 2016 by becoming a naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, MN. During that time, he worked at the organic farm on site and developed a strong interest in sustainable farming practices, food systems, and farm-based education. His path towards AUNE and Keene Community Garden Connections continued in 2018 when he spent a year at Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment in Freeport, ME developing and delivering community programs centered around food, farming, and environmental stewardship. Nathan is delighted to be spending the upcoming growing season sharing the joy of growing, cooking, and eating food with the Keene community!
Tori Dahl, Environmental Education
Tori Dahl hails from Minnesota where, from an early age, she fell in love with playing in dirt and getting her hands muddy. She attended California Lutheran University (CLU) in Thousand Oaks, CA where she majored in Biology and English with a minor in Environmental Studies. After graduation in 2014, Tori spent a year in the Episcopal Service Corps serving the city of St. Louis, MO and working at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and EarthDance Organic Farm School, both located in Ferguson, MO. in Saint Louis, MO. Among other things, Tori’s responsibilities at EarthDance included coordinating a six month apprenticeship program for 33 apprentices, affectionately known as (future) “farmies.” She is proud to have coined the term “farmily” for the EarthDance crew. EarthDance is where Tori’s interest in community-based sustainable agriculture and agricultural education transformed into an understanding of the ways agriculture combines all of her passions: community, food, sustainability/environment, justice, and deep love and compassion for all.
Maria Dellapina, Environmental Education
Maria is a native of Columbus, Ohio who has a passion for people, food and nature. Growing up gardening with her parents and grandparents, Maria sees growing food as a process that not only brings people together but fosters a sense of community and oneness with the natural world. She graduated with an undergraduate degree in Biology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she studied the impact of pesticides on amphibian development. While holding a deep love of science, Maria’s work at Miami University and position as a naturalist intern for Ohio Nature Education, motivated her to pursue a career in environmental education. Maria’s passion for people, food and nature has resulted in her desire to work in community-based environmental education where she hopes to focus on issues related to food justice in urban settings. Outside of access to healthy, local food, Maria is also passionate about healthy eating and cooking – two elements she wishes to incorporate into her practice as an educator. Outside of gardening and cooking, Maria enjoys painting, pottery, listening to and watching opera, reading, and birding.
Marie DiBenedetto, Environmental Education
Marie hails from Allentown, Pennsylvania. She went to Pace University in New York City, majoring in Environmental Studies and History. Since graduating in 2008, she has been fortunate to have many incredible experiences to share her passion for educating and growing food with children. Marie worked as an outdoor educator for middle school students in both New England and Colorado, gardened with elementary school students in California, worked at farm camps and led two trail crews with the Student Conservation Association. She is pumped to be an active part of the Keene community and is ready to get her hands dirty growing healthy, delicious food with folks around town.
Cynthia Espinosa, Environmental Education
Prior to enrolling in AUNE to study environmental education, Cynthia worked in an agricultural nonprofit in Holyoke, Massachusetts, as the farm program manager, where she discovered her passion for educating the community about food justice movements, gardening, and Latino connections to food. She designed her BA in Sustainable Food Management at University of Massachusetts Amherst and was highly involved in the empowerment of women in higher education through Greek life. She enjoys learning about the food systems and traditions of other cultures through cooking. She is very excited to become active in the Keene community by assisting in growing food and building community through CGC.
Marie Fargo, Environmental Education
Marie grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she spent her summers helping her mom in the garden and benefited from using the garden’s delicious produce as snack trading gold in elementary school. She attended the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with a major in Environmental Education and Interpretation and a minor in Spanish. After graduating in 2013, she moved to Minnesota to intern as an environmental educator at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth. What was meant to be a nine-month sojourn into the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” turned into a three-year adventure! Marie spent a year at Hartley Nature Center, then entered the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center naturalist training program in Finland, MN near the shore of Lake Superior. After a year there, she moved to Faribault, MN (south of the Twin Cities) and worked as an environmental educator through May 2016. Then she returned to Wolf Ridge for summer camp as a Director of Programming. At last she left the Midwest and moved here to New Hampshire to join the Environmental Studies program with a concentration in Environmental Education. She is also a Master’s International candidate and plans to leave for Peace Corps sometime next summer. After years of moving about and not having space for a garden, Marie is looking forward to getting her hands back in the soil and helping the Keene community grow healthy, local food.
Caylin Gans, Environmental Education
Caylin was born and raised in Kona, Hawaii, which is agriculturally best known for its coffee farms (ever heard of Kona Coffee?!). Besides playing in her friend’s coffee fields as a child, she also enjoyed helping her dad in the garden with planting, harvesting, and eating home grown produce. She actually preferred the eating part more then, but things have changed now and Caylin is passionate about growing food as well as community-based environmental education. She recently moved to Keene after living in England for 4 years where she worked in a variety of settings delivering outdoor education programs to children, teens, and adults. Caylin’s very excited to be a part of the Community Garden Connections team and is looking forward to getting to know the Keene community better and learning more about gardening!
Jess Gerrior, Doctoral Candidate
Jess is a Doctoral Candidate whose dissertation research focuses on community food system efforts involving higher education institutions in the Monadnock Region. Jess’s experience with CGC is in large part what started her raising vegetables, herbs, flowers, and chickens at home. She has a Master’s concentration in Environmental Education, professional background in sustainability education and leadership, and experience with all kinds of learners from preschoolers through adults. Primary academic interests include food access, food sovereignty, food systems leadership, and food culture. Two of her favorite things about community gardening are supporting healthy environments where people get their hands dirty and learn to love the earth and inspiring community members to nurture their skills and passions and foster a healthy future.
Andrew Graham, Environmental Education
Andrew attended a Waldorf school from preschool through 12th grade, and had many wonderful opportunities. One of those opportunities was a foreign exchange to France during half of his junior year, after hosting a French student during his sophomore year. After high school he took a gap year and worked at an outdoor education center before backpacking around Europe with his girlfriend. For the following three summers he worked at a Quaker camp in northern Virginia. That experience solidified his choice to be part of the Religious Society of Friends. His family moved to Vermont in 2004, and his father died of cancer that same year. He started college at the University of Vermont, and graduated in 2008 with a BS in Community & International Development. The following two years he spent in AmeriCorps service: one year in the National Civilian Community Corps based out of Denver and one year with AmeriCorps VISTA based in Burlington, Vermont, respectively. He spent another year in Burlington before moving to Portland, Oregon, in 2011. He lived at an urban farm co-op there for almost three years, prior to moving to Keene to come to Antioch University, where he is pursuing an MS in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Education.
Andrew Herrick, Science Teacher Certification
Originally from northern Vermont, Andrew received his BS while studying Plant and Soil Science at UVM and went on to manage a diverse vegetable farm for four years in Post Mills, VT. Besides farming, Andrew enjoys coaching soccer, teaching, learning, skiing, exploring, and promoting respect and kindness for all. As a new member of the Keene community, he is excited to share his passion for food and increase community resilience through equal access to healthy and local food.
Michael Hightower, Environmental Education
Prior to enrolling at Antioch University to study Environmental Education, Michael Hightower taught 8th grade U.S. History in Austin, TX, after graduating with a degree in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin (Hook ’em!). Beyond being a devoted classroom teacher, Michael served as academic team leader, service learning committee chair, grade-level curriculum coordinator, and helped start a school garden. Above all else, Michael is an educator with an unflagging commitment to student and community empowerment, through place-based sustainability education. Michael’s work as a CGC co-coordinator has ignited a newfound, but impassioned dedication to fighting for food justice, increasing access to the local food system, and building self-efficacy in the garden, in the kitchen, in life. Michael is currently working as an intern for the Cheshire County Conservation District designing, implementing, and evaluation community-based cooking education.
Peter Jenkins, Science Teacher Certification
Peter grew up in northern Vermont on a homestead with extensive vegetable gardens where they grew most of our produce for the year and stored crops through the winter in a rootcellar. Peter received his BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in 2009. Since graduating he has taught at outdoor education centers around New England and led wilderness expeditions for teens in the White Mountains. With CGC, Peter is eager to return to his gardening roots and share in the joy of bringing fresh veggies to the table.
Lea grew up in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts where she gained gardening experience playing video games such as Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing among others. During her time at Antioch University she has discovered an interest in real life community gardening as a way to strengthen communities and create access to fresh and healthy produce. Her first gardening season was as the C&S garden educator, and felt it only natural to continue gardening work with CGC. Lea is beyond excited to learn more about community gardening and growing as a part of the CGC team!
Julie Loosigian, Conservation Biology
Julie grew up running around her family’s farm in northern Massachusetts. She received her BA in English from the University of New Hampshire, and after working in the development office of a grassroots nonprofit and recognizing a desk-job wasn’t for her, she worked at a number of outdoor education centers along the east coast. Realizing how much she loved working with people outdoors, she eventually found her way to Antioch where she is working toward an environmental studies degree. Julie is excited to be a part of CGC, learning how to grow healthy and delicious food alongside local folks.
Landere Naisbitt, Environmental Education
Landere grew up on the rocky coast of Maine although she is originally from the mountains of Idaho. She has experience working on small coastal farms, gardening with children at summer camp, and working with her local Co-op. She has experience as a botanical artist, medicinal salve concoctor, and herbarium developer. Basically, she is in love with plants of all kinds and on many levels. After attempting, as a child, to dig up her family’s front lawn to “grow a garden,” Landere was invited to apprentice on her cousin’s farm and there learned how to do it properly! She is excited to get her hands dirty once again, meet the Keene community, gain skills in outreach and collaboration, and become a full participant in the food justice movement.
Janessa Palmer, Environmental Education
Janessa grew up between the northwoods and great plains of Minnesota. From the wide swaths of agricultural land to the CSAs dotting the rocky north country, her experience of home is always where the food is grown. At CGC Janessa hopes to continue these connections while growing her gardening, sustainable agriculture, permaculture, community organizing, and place-based education skills.
Allan Pearce, MS Candidate, Environmental Studies
Allan Pearce is attending Antioch University to further his education in Environmental Studies concentrating in Sustainable Development and Climate Change. Allan also hails from Michigan and received his B.S.E. from the University of Michigan in Materials Science and Engineering. After a stint as an engineer, Allan has been working and traveling all over the West Coast and Rocky Mountain states. Allan has worked for many organizations with interests ranging from farmer’s markets to solar power development to National Park use. In his free time, Allan loves to be outdoors hiking, biking, skiing, and also eating. He is looking forward to sharing a passion for local food and the connections that gardens establish.
Sara Powell, Environmental Education
Hailing originally from the Catskill Mountains of New York State, Sara received her BS in Environmental Science from the University of Vermont (UVM) in 2007. After UVM she went on to be an apprentice with the Education Staff at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont where her passion for all things farm-food related really took shape. Her professional experiences include: production vegetable farming, residential outdoor education, studying native bees and ants, and cooking professionally. She is an avid home gardener, and is really excited for the opportunity to help others grow their own food through Community Garden Connections, and she can’t think of a better way to become part of the Keene community. At Antioch she will be working towards an MS in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Education, with a focus on community gardening/food systems.
Emma Rohleder, Environmental Education
I grew up in Calgary, Alberta and have lived in many places since then including France, Tennessee and California, before finding myself in New England. My mother has always been an avid gardener and I’ve long looked up to her ambition and skill with creating new visions out of plain grass lawns. I studied Ecology and French for my undergrad degree and have taught environmental education and wilderness adventure skills since then. I am looking forward to exploring the smaller-scale wilderness of tomato jungles and kale forests with CGC.
Abby has roots in the midwest, hailing from Michigan near the Ann Arbor area. After stumbling across Antioch University NE in an online search, she made her way to New Hampshire in the Fall of 2019 to pursue her Master’s degree in Conservation Biology. Choosing Antioch for its applied and hands on approach to learning, Abby loves getting out in the field and getting her hands dirty, and the CGC was the perfect place to dig in the dirt as well as learn a new skill. After starting with the CGC in Spring 2020, she has grown exponentially as a gardener and is excited to continue developing her skills as well as grow food for the community.
Caity Stuart, MS Candidate, Environmental Studies
Caity Stuart is a graduate student at Antioch University in the Environmental Studies department concentrating in Environmental Education. Graduating with a BA in History and a cognate (self-designed minor) in Environmental Justice from Anderson University in Indiana, Caity comes to Antioch with a passion to make healthy and sustainable food more accessible to all people. Before coming to Keene, Caity created a new environmental program at her former university, played Park Ranger for the National Park Service in Virginia, and most recently designed environmental education curriculum for religious groups. If not studying, you can find Caity at the local farmer’s markets, exploring New England’s historic gems, eating delicious food, or sampling maple syrup. And of course learning more how to create food security in her community.
Jennifer Trapani, Environmental Education
Jennifer is a local of upstate New York where she spent her formative years captivated by science. She attended the University at Buffalo where she developed her passion through their Biological Sciences program. She took a semester off from pursuing her degree to participate in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Fellowship at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. After her undergraduate experiences, Jennifer spent the next two years as a Docent at the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park. Through her educational interactions with the public, her desire to pursue a Master’s degree for environmental education became clear. Cooking and Italian food traditions are an integral part of Jennifer’s life. She is excited to share her passion for cooking fresh food with local community members. Additionally, she is excited to foster a stronger sense of community through hands-on educational workshops centered on addressing food insecurity.
Anna Turkle, Environmental Education
Anna Turkle grew up in Massachusetts, but since then has lived in many parts of the country including, Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, and New Mexico. Her passion for gardening stems from spending summers growing backyard vegetables with her dad, and in her grandmother’s garden as a kid. One of her favorite tasks was helping her grandmother harvest herbs they would use for cooking and making herbal teas. Since then, she has continued learning and making herbal remedies, and more recently has been experimenting with growing/harvesting medicinal plants. Anna is excited to be a part of the CGC team, and to share the joy of plants, gardening and good food with the community.
Sarah Welch, Environmental Education
Sarah is putting down roots in western Massachusetts, where she lives with her partner and a big fuzzy cat. As a child, Sarah loved steeping leaves and flower petals in buckets to make pretend potions; today, she’s doing the same thing in her kitchen as a home herbalist making teas and tinctures with local plants. Her interest in edible and medicinal gardening crystallized during the time she spent in the landscape design world. She hopes to expand her practice into the community and teach about plants, ecology, and all there is to wonder at in the world. In addition to her excitement about food and herbal medicine, Sarah is contributing her artistic and graphic design skills to CGC this semester.
Libby McCann, Core Faculty & Environmental Education Director, Antioch University New England
Jean Kayira, Core Faculty & Environmental Education, Antioch University New England