Omari Washington, Executive Director (Interim) and Program Coordinator, is an urbanist with a passion for building strong, equitable communities through inclusive local food projects. Over the past decade, he has been involved in the management of various environmental initiatives in New York City and the Hudson Valley, including MillionTreesNYC, and he has consulted with national organizations, such as National Wildlife Federation and National Urban League. Environmental education has been a core component of Omari’s work since he travelled to Alaska during college for a 40-day backpacking and canoeing trip above the Arctic Circle with the National Outdoor Leadership School. This trip provided unequivocal proof of environmental degradation of our planet and happened to coincide with the release of Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, which together created a clear imperative to help conserve our natural resources and processes. In December 2016, Omari will graduate from Pratt Institute with a Master’s degree in Sustainable Environmental Systems.
Air Nonken, Development Director, would gladly spend every minute outside. With a Master's from the The New School’s nonprofit management program and a post-graduate degree in environmental ethics from the University of Melbourne, they draw on more than twenty years of experience working in the third sector across three continents. Social and environmental justice drive their work, and they love sharing their awe of nature. In addition to avidly gardening, Air also sits on the City of Beacon's Conservation Advisory Committee, makes furniture from found wood, leads a local hiking club, and captures nature photography.
Nicole Porto, Garden Educator and Community Outreach Coordinator, was turned on to farming through her service learning experiences at small organic farms throughout the world. As she earned her graduate degree in environmental education with the Expedition Education Institute, she explored the role agricultural systems play in the degradation of the natural world and human health. She then decided she would dedicate her career to building sustainable and just food systems. She has gardened and taught with various programs, such as a school garden in Costa Rica, Farm & Wilderness Camp in Vermont, and City Parks Foundation’s Learning Gardens in New York City. Before joining Hudson Valley Seed Nicole ran a small CSA farm in the lower Hudson Valley where she had the opportunity to provide bountiful harvests for her community and hone her skills as a grower. She is passionate about gardening and education.
Serena Padilla, Garden Educator, is a passionate educator with a personal and professional commitment to environmental justice, food justice, community building, and health activism. She grew up in California and has a deep connection to the Pacific ocean and the magical redwood forest. She received a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Latin American and Latinx Studies and a minor in Education. She has worked in the non-profit sector as a garden-based nutrition educator working with youth of all ages in San Francisco, CA and in Oakland,CA; she has also managed youth programs at a food access non-profit based in Southeast Michigan where she deepened her love of teaching and learning outdoors. She strives to create inclusive, safe spaces for youth and loves exploring. She enjoys hiking, cooking, crafting, and swimming in the ocean.
Sam Adels, Garden Educator and Outreach Coordinator, fell in love with gardening after years of being asked to help out in the family garden. A love and respect for the natural world was instilled in him by frequent camping trips; his earliest memory is of a family road trip to national parks at age four. Sam studied history and the environment at Macalester College and has a masters degree in environmental education from New York University. Sam is committed to social and environmental justice and has devoted his professional life to environmental education. A former national park ranger, Sam has spent many years educating youth about ecology and the environment. Before joining Hudson Valley Seed, Sam taught ecology and gardening to NYC public school students, and also worked on a small, organic farm in Maine. Sam teaches through hands-on, experiential education, and enjoys encouraging kids to explore and connect to the world around them, in hopes of inspiring future generations of eco-literate stewards. When not in the classroom or garden, Sam can be found cooking, baking, or exploring the Hudson Valley by foot or bicycle.
Megan Hoffman,Garden Educator, originally from the Adirondack region, found her way to the Mid-Hudson Valley in February of 2012. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from SUNY Oswego, with a minor in Biocultural Anthropology. Her passion for all things “outdoors” began as a child digging up worms in her mother’s garden and playing in clover patches with her siblings. She has continued her love of gardening throughout her adult years as a hobby gardener on 15 acres near New Paltz. After working at a nature center for 6 years, a transition to garden education was a perfect way to combine her hobby, skill set and passion for food. Her commitment to creating stewards of the environment shows in her everyday interactions with children and adults alike! During her free time, she volunteers on the Board for the New York State Outdoor Education Association (NYSOEA) as VP of Programs and also enjoys making soap and traveling whenever possible!
Ava Bynum, Founder, is a passionate systems thinker and non profit executive, with experience in start-ups, development, non profit management, education, food systems, and community organizing. Prior to founding Hudson Valley Seed Ava was a farmer at Four Winds Farm and a teacher at the Garden Road School. In both of these roles she deepened her commitment to making good food and inspiring education accessible to all children. She is a graduate of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and is currently a fellow at the Good Work Institute.
Having handed Hudson Valley Seed off to the rest of the team, Ava now consults with Omnymyst and facilitates racial justice and equity trainings for individuals and organizations.