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.
Zoë Markwalter, Administrative Manager, has called the Lower Hudson Valley home for over ten years. Her diverse background in project management and communication coupled with passion for social justice, local food systems, and community makes Hudson Valley Seed a great place to hang her hat. A vocational and non-traditional learner earning her first undergrad degree at the age of 32, Zoë understands first hand the value of Hudson Valley Seed’s holistic and integrated approach to education. When not in the office, Zoë strives for the ever-elusive life balance - salvaging random supplies for home projects, digging in the garden, photographing theatre and dance, preserving the harvest, dancing, and turning her compost.
Nicole Porto, Garden Educator & Garden Manager, 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.
Jen Morris, Garden Educator, first became interested in environmental stewardship as a child thanks to her experiences in the garden, in the forests, and in school with the help of supportive educators. With a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and cultural anthropology from the University of Michigan, Jen has dedicated her professional career to food justice and youth empowerment through experiential, play-based education. Before joining Hudson Valley Seed, Jen was an educator and program coordinator at one of New York City’s first rooftop farms and also at the New York Botanical Garden. Now, in her work with HVS in Kingston, Jen is excited to help cultivate a passion for learning, healthy-eating, and environmental stewardship in Hudson Valley kids during “Garden Time”. When she’s not in the garden, Jen loves to go hiking and camping with her dog or stay home to cook and craft with friends.
Email Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
Kathryn Brignac, After-School Educator, recently made the Hudson Valley her home along with her partner and their Pit Bull, Petunia, after years of enjoying visits with family in the area. She has a Bachelor's of Science in Conservation Biology from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, where she spent time working with environmental education groups, gleaning produce from local farms, and delighting in the natural environment. Returning to her hometown of New Orleans after school, she began gardening on her porch and joined the local food cooperative, where she enthusiastically worked at getting healthy food into people's homes and helping people of all ages learn to love their veggies. Growing up on the Gulf Coast, she has a passion for cooking and the outdoors and spends her time off hiking, birding, and trying out new recipes. Kathryn is looking forward to spending the Summer helping out in the gardens and assisting with education programming for the Fall.
Lucas Gordon, Development Intern, is a rising senior completing an environmental studies degree at Vassar College. He developed a passion for the outdoors hiking and kayaking in the mountains and seas surrounding his small, coastal hometown in Washington state. Though he is still very passionate about the Pacific Northwest, he has learned to call the Hudson Valley his home and loves to spend his free time exploring all the unique and beautiful places this region is known for. Lucas strongly believes that every child deserves to develop an authentic relationship with their natural environment. He is so looking forward to assisting Hudson Valley Seed in creating experiences for students that foster that kind of deep connection. He contributes to the organization's fundraising and communications work.
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.