The seed of this food forest project began years ago, and the idea caught on with local community members at a Seed Swap potluck hosted by Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition in 2013. These committed neighbors began holding monthly meetings and looking for potential land for the flagship site. The coalition has been growing ever since!
All members of the Executive Committee are co-directors with focuses in different areas.
Orion Kriegman is the former Co-Director of NET New England, addressing challenges of community resilience at a regional level, where he co-founded and led Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition (JP NET), a community-driven project in Boston pioneering a “new” economy that is place-based, sustainable, and reduces race and class inequity.
Prior to this he was an Associate at Tellus Institute, where he served for many years as Coordinator of the Great Transition Initiative (GTI), an international network of scholars and activists exploring scenarios of sustainable global development. In the past, he has focused on ways to enhance meaningful community participation in the sustainable development of urban neighborhoods. Orion has coordinated the creation of the Urban Ecovillage Network, and was the Project Officer for Reflecting on Peace Practice, a practitioner’s learning network gathering lessons learned about various peace-building efforts in internal armed conflicts. He also worked for two years in Guatemala with the Organization of American States to help government and civil society implement the policies outlined in the peace accords.
Orion holds a Masters in Public Policy and Urban Planning from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Daniel Schenk is a gardener and cook who resides in Jamaica Plain where he keeps up on all things urban planning and food access-related. Having studied biology at Lawrence University, Daniel sees the connections between people and natural spaces and loves teaching the bonds we share with nature through science. As a JPNET leadership fellow, Daniel manages BFFC projects and works with the coalition to expand Boston’s food forest network all over the city. He also lends outreach support to the Egleston Farmers Market. His interests in ecology have served him in his commercial gardening work and mushroom workshops he has led in connection with NOFA.
Jes Watts comes to the BFFC with a history in both direct service and project management. Before joining BFFC, Jes worked for the federal government as an Emergency Responder during natural and human-caused disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Spill. She brings over twelve years of extensive field experience in Environmental Protection, Remediation and Restoration. Jes has also worked as a writer, environmental educator, and activist. As one of the founding members of BFFC, her areas of focus include project management, web development, and community outreach and organizing. Jes is a fellow in the Leadership and Development Program at the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition (JPNET). She is pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies/Urban Planning, and is currently enrolled in a Permaculture Design Certification Course. Jes’ passion lies in building resilient, equitable and sustainable communities; she sees the Boston Food Forest as a critical initiative on that path. Jes resides in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.
Rachele Rosi-Kessel grew up with heirloom apple and cherry orchards in her back yard, first in Vermont and later in Michigan. Besides climbing the trees and building tree forts, she learned how to harvest and preserve the fruit. Later, in short stints as a landscaper and at a vineyard, she learned how to clear brush, terrace hills, prune grapes and sell wine. Professionally, Rachele is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, but she spends the bulk of her time these days raising two children, three chickens, one bunny, three pear trees, two plum trees, eight blueberry bushes, one each of apple, apricot, cherry and currant, along with blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and a large annual garden–all on a 7000 sq. ft. lot in Roslindale. Rachel brings to the BFFC many tools, her strong back, and a love of urban agriculture. She is especially interested in outreach to those in Boston who are not blessed with land to work, who could most benefit the most from a local Food Forest.
Dan Bensonhoff is an organic farmer and educator. After graduating from school, he lived on an eco-village in Israel where he did an apprenticeship in permaculture design. Since living in Boston he has worked at several vegetable production farms and taught English at the high school level. His mission is to synthesize his passions for education and agriculture in order to revitalize our communities and simplify our demands on the natural world. He was instrumental in growing the Egleston Community Orchard and recently became Assistant Manager at the Newton Community Farm.
Othneil “Utah” Uter grew up in the tropics on a 1-acre food forest that he helped create and maintain. His current forest garden in Grove Hall, which he frequently gives tours of, boasts over 50 different species of fruit and nut trees, including staples like grapes and apples, and exotics like figs and Arctic kiwi. Utah works currently works for a non-profit organization in Roxbury. He is the co-organizer for the Greater Boston Permaculture Guild. He is also a member and avid contributor to Permies.com, the largest and most viewed permaculture website on the Internet. Utah brings his valuable vendor resources, cultivar selection knowledge, and permaculture design expertise to the BFFC.
Valerie Oorthuys is a community food systems planner, originally from Seattle. She holds a Masters in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University. Her past research and projects have focused on vacant land use in Boston, opportunities for entrepreneurship, and storytelling as a method of planning. Through the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition’s Community Leaders Fellowship, Valerie is coordinating the Boston Food Forest Coalition’s Forest Garden Raising program. A resident of Jamaica Plain, Valerie is often found tending her community garden plot.
Rashid Ashraf, NCARB, LEED AP, is a Boston based architect and urban designer. His interests lie in transforming cities into environments that embrace ecology while providing a sustainable and equitable future for its residents. Rashid has worked with numerous community groups on various sized projects from planning large scale urban areas in St. Paul, MN to individual community centers including the North American Indian Center of Boston. He currently specializes in healthcare design with a focus on creating healing environments. Rashid holds a bachelor degree in Environmental Design and a professional degree in Architecture from the University of Minnesota and a Masters in Architectural Studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a registered architect in Massachusetts and is accredited professional in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) through the U.S. Green Building Council. Rashid holds a Permaculture Design Certificate from The Resiliency Hub, Portland ME through the Boston Nature Center.
Carlos Espinoza-Toro is the Community Organizer of the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition. He provides critical support to the implementation of transition initiatives through engaging with diverse groups, building trust, and addressing the tensions between systemic thinking and on-the-ground development. Before joining the Institute for Policy Studies, Carlos worked as a Program Manager at the MIT Community Innovators Lab bringing together volunteers, community members, government officials, nonprofit directors, and academics to develop and implement neighborhood development programs to improve the lives of disadvantaged communities.
Carlos holds a Masters in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sara Garrard is the pastor at Old West Church. A transplant from Georgia, she comes from a long line of Methodist pastors. Her formal education includes an MDiv from Candler School of Theology, Emory University (2013) and a CTM from the University of Cambridge (2013). Her thesis dealt with examining the redemption of female sexuality found in the Gospel of John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus and the women at the tomb. Sara is passionate about social justice, particularly as it pertains to equality for all genders, sexualities, ethnicities and belief systems.
Special Thanks to Founding and Former Volunteers
Sadie Richards is an urban agriculture educator, soil enthusiast and beekeeper who enjoys engaging people, especially youth, in these passions. She got her start in beekeeping at Boston Nature Center under the tutelage of Jean-Claude Bourrut, with whom she co-founded the Boston Beekeepers Club, which will be overseeing the teaching apiary at Boston Nature Center as a complementary component to the food forest. In her involvement with BFFC at BNC, Sadie is particularly interested in integrating the teaching apiary into BNC and BFFC’s educational programming. Sadie has worked as an educator at Shelburne Farms, FoodCorps, The Food Project, and currently Groundwork Somerville. Through her work with the nascent Science Gardener Collaborative, Sadie has led community outreach efforts to guide safer growing in urban soils and has been involved in sampling and testing soil and compost for the city of Boston, members of the public and various community groups. She holds a Permaculture Design Certificate from the Permaculture Guild (completed in 2010 at Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota with the Oglala Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative) and has served on the board of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (Massachusetts chapter) and Classroom Hives. Sadie also holds a Master of Public Health degree (Environmental Health concentration with a focus on Global Ecology, Environmental Sustainability, and Health) from Boston University School of Public Health. She lives in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.
Allison Meierding is a graphic designer, illustrator, branding consultant, and editor with over 12 years of experience. Her work focuses on health and wellness, sustainable living, community efforts, the arts, and local businesses. Allison holds a Permaculture Design Certificate and is head organizer of the Greater Boston Permaculture Guild, for which she puts together events with guest speakers, tours, harvesting walks around Boston, and discussion groups. She brings her organizing and design skills to the BFFC, playing a fundamental role in community outreach, educational promotion, messaging, and member organization. Allison is a Community Leader Fellow with Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition. A Roxbury resident, Allison can be found fixing up her 100-year old house and working in her backyard edible food forest.
Kelly Cannon studied Alpine Ecology at the Evergreen State College, in Olympia, WA, with a minor in Outdoor Education. She taught environmental education to youth and adults in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alabama, and continues this work in Massachusetts. Learning about the environment and place-based knowledge led Kelly on a quest to discover the freshest, most accessible food in whatever area she was living. Sometimes this meant fish from the Pacific or deer and elk in the Rocky Mountains. Other times this meant okra and collard greens in the south. From these experiences, Kelly realized the importance of self-sufficiency and knowledge to find or grow, harvest and eat what we need.
Jennifer Hauf is a medicinal herb grower and writer living in Boston. She has been growing herbs (as well as vegetables, flowers, and perennials) on farms throughout the US and Western Europe since 2006. Currently she works as the herb grower at Allandale Farm. She also participates in the annual Herbstalk conference in Somerville as a grower, writer, and contributing writer. Aside from her work with herbs, Jennifer has a strong background in arboriculture gained by interning at The Arnold Arboretum and with apple grower and historian John Bunker. She is also a proud member of the Norfolk County Beekeepers Association and the Fenway Garden Society. A passionate advocate of beautifully useful landscapes, she is thrilled to be a part of the BFFC team. She can be found online at spokesandpetals.wordpress.com.
Bill Perkins owns and manages Agricultural Hall, an urban farm supply and resource center in Jamaica Plain. He organizes the annual Urban Agriculture Fair, and leads workshops in maple sugaring, pruning, mushroom growing, and more. Bill also manages the Boston ReStore, Inc., a non-profit office furniture reuse enterprise in Four Corners, Dorchester. He is also co-owner of Boston Young Naturalist Explorations (BYNE). BYNE leads nature explorations for elementary school children within the Boston Public School system, integrating kinetic/hands-on, mostly outdoor, learning across disciplines. BYNE recently completed a guide to the Boston Public Garden intended to help visitors appreciate the Public Garden and learn more about the natural world through a dozen hands-on activities. In Four Corners, Bill sits on the boards of both Four Corners Main Street and the Four Corners Action Coalition. He is currently working with both organizations, several neighborhood associations, and others to convert a City-owned urban wild into a community garden and food forest. He lives in Jamaica Plain with his wife and three children.
Jenny Jones grew up on a farm in England, has a degree in Computer Science, has been a professional archaeologist, and has worked for the last 32 years for a large Life Insurance Company in Boston and currently architects, designs, implements, and operates their US and Global network. Using permaculture and bio-nutrient crop production principles, Jenny has been cultivating publicly accessible gardens along the Southwest Corridor Park. She has worked with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Southwest Corridor Park Conservancy to pilot this urban agriculture on public land and is coordinating other volunteers in the effort. Inspired by the Transition Town movement and working with JPNET, she has led an effort to measure the resiliency of Jamaica Plain, Jenny also organizes her Jamaica Plain neighborhood with block parties, street wide yard sales, and crime watch meetings.
Dane Smith found the world of permaculture a little over a year ago when his wife Allison completed her Permaculture Design Certificate in Detroit. Recently, Dane has immersed himself in urban agriculture studies and is well read on permaculture systems, orcharding, and the food forest model. Most important to Dane is the community-building aspect of permaculture that often gets lost in the discussion of plants and trees, because he believes it is community involvement that ensures a food forest reaches its full potential. Dane has been involved in BFFC outreach during local urban agricultural and permaculture events. An experienced restoration carpenter, Dane’s expertise lies in construction and woodworking, and he will play a critical role in the labor, structural and building aspects of this project. Dane resides in Roxbury where much of his spare time is spent beekeeping, taking care of his four beloved chickens, building raised beds on the roof of his garage, and working in the small food forest in his backyard.