Farm School NYC’s directorial body is the Board, consisting of representatives of partner organizations, recognized experts in urban agriculture, community-based volunteers drawn from local farmers, community garden leaders, neighborhood food activists, and Farm School NYC alumni. The Board has final decision-making authority as to Farm School NYC’s budget, operations and staffing, and is diverse in age, race and socio-economics.
John M. Ameroso
John Ameroso has been working in the fields of horticulture and agricultural production since 1964. After recieving a degree in Agronomy from the University of Georgia in 1968, he volunteered with the International Voluntary Services and went on to study tropical agriculture at the University of The Philippines. He then spent 4 years in South Vietnam working with agricultural projects involved in small scale vegetable and animal production, and establish farmer’s buying and selling cooperatives. In 1976, he piloted the Urban Gardening Program with Cornell University Cooperative Extension, and through his efforts successfully set the groundwork for Extension education in urban agriculture and food production for New York City. Retired since 2010, he currently sits on the Boards of Directors of Just Food, Added-Value and Bissel Gardens, non-profits involved in urban agriculture. He also performs farm inspections for GrowNYC, sponsor of the GreenMarkets program in NYC.
Ursula Chanse is the Director of Bronx Green-Up and Community Horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. Since 2005, she has managed Bronx Green-Up, the community gardening outreach program of the New York Botanical Garden, which provides horticulture education, training and technical assistance to those interested in improving urban neighborhoods in the Bronx through greening and food growing projects. Ursula’s educational background includes a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Masters in Public Health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Having worked with community and school gardens and urban farms in the Bronx for more than 12 years, Ursula’s background also includes community organizing, education and advocacy work through the Alameda County Community Food Bank (Oakland, CA), the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights (San Francisco, CA) and the Western Shoshone Defense Project (Crescent Valley, NV).
Ursula participated in the founding of Farm School NYC and has been a Farm School NYC teacher as well as a Board member since its inception.
Lorrie Clevenger is a full time farmer and co-owner of Rise & Root Farm in Chester, NY. Nine years ago, in a 10x13 square foot garden plot at Taqwa Commuity Farm in the Bronx, Lorrie planted her very first seed. That summer she grew and harvested a bounty of heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, sweet peppers, hot peppers, collard greens and bitter melon. She’s been growing her own food ever since and in 2015 established a cooperative vegetable, cut flower, and herb farm with 5 other women.
Inspired by the planting of that first seed and the experience of self-determination that comes with knowing how to grow your own food, Lorrie has dedicated the past nine years to farming, community gardening and organizing around building socially just and sustainable food systems and local food economies. Lorrie has contributed both through her service as a volunteer and professionally to the capacity building, organizing, and program development of several community groups and nonprofits including Taqwa Community Farm, Black Urban Growers (BUGs), Just Food, and WhyHunger.
Lorrie is a founding member of Farm School NYC and has remained part of the Advisory Board since its inception in 2008, helping to develop curriculum and programming around innovative urban farming education.
Mary Oliver Culver
Mary (Molly) Oliver Culver joined the local farming and food justice movement in 2005, taking an Americorps position to help launch a CSA chapter and farmers market in the South Bronx, NYC. Following formal farming certification through the University of California-Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food systems in 2008, Molly polished her growing skills as a manager of 2 acres of land and all greenhouses at Live Earth Farm, an 80-acre certified organic mixed vegetable operation in northern California. Committed to share farming skills with her New York community, Molly returned to assist and train new growers with major New York City greening organizations, including GreenThumb, Green Guerillas, Earth Matter and Just Food. Actively involved in Farm School NYC’s planning since 2007, Molly has served as an Advisory Board member and teacher since the school’s inception in 2010. Molly developed original curriculum and teaches both Propagation and Growing Soils for Farm School NYC. Since 2011, Molly has been Farm Manager of The Youth Farm, a 1-acre educational and production farm in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where she directs adult education and co-leads the Urban Farm Training Program that she co-founded in 2011. Molly also runs Molly Oliver Flowers, a sustainable floral design company.
Ben Flanner is the Head Farmer, CEO, and co-founder of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm. He is widely considered a pioneer for his groundbreaking model, which adapts existing green roof technology to intensively cultivate vegetables, beginning with Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, a pilot project on a 6,000 square foot Brooklyn roof, which Ben co-founded in 2009. A year later, in 2010, Ben and his partners scaled up the model and, in 2010, launched Brooklyn Grange, a commercial-scale urban farming business, eventually expanding to 2.5 acres spanning two roofs. As Head Farmer, Ben directs all agricultural endeavors on the farm; as CEO, he brings his system optimization background to bear, making sure the business remains as fiscally sound as it is ecologically healthy. He has presented his work to audiences including NYU Stern Business School; Central European University; Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA); Slow Money; Barcelona’s Smart City World Expo; MAHA Agriculture Conference in Malaysia; The American Farm School in Thesaloniki, Greece; numerous Northeastern Horticultural Societies, and has been a guest expert on dozens of panels and university classes. He has taught urban agriculture courses in multiple cities in North America, and a course in the Environmental Studies department at New York University (NYU). Ben developed and co-teaches Farm School NYC’s Small Farm Planning and Design course.
Monique has spent the past 16 years working to engage individuals with purpose-driven brands, their communities and movements, resulting in people making more conscious lifestyle choices, leading healthier lives and feeling more connected to the world around them.
Monique has passionately contributed through strategic communications and program development for both start-up and established companies including Rise and Root Farm, Bushwick Campus Farm, Healthcasts, Windowfarms, and Recyclebank, where she led the marketing/content group. Prior, she also held roles at National Geographic Green Guide, Oxygen Television Media and the Walt Disney Internet Group.
Monique is also a proud pilot program graduate and board member of Farm School NYC, who dreams about every city rooftop and vacant lot growing food to nourish residents, and cooperative businesses that really meet a triple bottom line.
Ai Hirashiki's extensive agriculture experience began long before she started as a Farm School NYC student in 2011. Ai had already started and worked on numerous rural and urban farms by then. And, with close to 20 years of classroom experience in the U.S. and abroad, Ai was also a veteran teacher. At MercyCorps, an international NGO where she advanced to director of educational programs, Ai gained a global perspective on food justice issues. At Farm School, she gained an understanding of the local side. “Local is also global," she explains. “People all over the world are facing the same issues around growing clean food and having access to land.”
Ai’s involvement in Farm School gave her a new understanding of her own students’ needs, which informs her approach to all her instruction and curriculum design. She understands that the students’ knowledge is essential to the participatory and collaborative model of education that is at the heart of Farm School. Not one for pulling punches in either life or speech, she says, “Farm School is incredible. What I love most is the community. It’s so supportive.” Ai didn’t only gain a community in Farm School -- she also gained a life partner. In July 2014, she and fellow alumnus Jason flew to Hawaii for their wedding.
Since receiving her Farm School NYC Certificate in Urban Agriculture, Ai has been very busy. Besides currently teaching the Advanced Teaching class, she created and taught a gardening and food justice curriculum for young people at organizations such as Sadie Nash, the International Rescue Committee, and the Childrens Aid Society. Additionally, Ai taught a garden apprenticeship program for high school students at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and she has conducted numerous workshops at schools and conferences.
As the Director of Garden Programs for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Nancy leads community gardening, re-entry, and food security initiatives focusing on partnership and capacity building across Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania. Prior to this role she served as the Director of GreenThumb for NYC Parks, overseeing programming and technical support to over 600 community gardens and 500 school gardens throughout NYC; working with city agencies to develop new garden sites where gardening and farming opportunities may not be otherwise available.
Nancy’s experience ranges from finance and clinical research before making the leap to public health and sustainable food systems. She sits on the Board of Directors for the American Community Gardening Association, a national organization focused on preservation and creation of community gardens across the US and Canada. She is a graduate of the Coro Leadership New York program and currently serves as the co-chair for the Urban Agriculture subcommittee of the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council.
She holds a BA in Political Science from Temple University and an MA in Health Education from Columbia University. Nancy is passionate about empowering communities, ensuring equity to open space and healthy foods, and improving the quality of life for all.
Through collective strategy, relationship-building and direct action, Julie’s work bridges disciplines to strengthen New York City’s local communities by encouraging deeper communication, celebrating diversity, and contributing to social and environmental justice.
Julie has worked within NYC’s non-profit sector and community organizing networks for over 20 years, and has been a member of the Farm School NYC Advisory Board since 2009. She is the Deputy Director of Community Cultivation at Clinton Housing Development Company.
For three years Julie was Executive Director of the Bronx Land Trust, supporting community gardeners practicing urban agriculture in some of NYC’s most underserved neighborhoods. She has also worked in education, legal and social services. Julie has been engaged in land use, open space, transportation and environmental planning in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and has served in organizational leadership roles throughout the city.
Kathleen has worked in the non-profit sector for nearly 20 years, and has been putting her hands in the soil for even longer. After several seasons of rural farming and studying International Development and Agricultural Economics at the University of Vermont, Kathleen returned home to New York and started working with Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC. This position introduced Kathleen to the history, production methods and community leaders in NYC's urban agriculture movement. From there Kathleen went on to manage The City Farms Program for Just Food. During her five years in that position, Kathleen designed and implemented several key program components including Training of Trainers, Community Markets and City Chickens. Beyond her work with Just Food, Kathleen spent time in Cuba and consulted with Added Value and Heifer International, before landing in Cuenca, Ecuador. Kathleen taught English and started a family in Ecuador and then returned to NYC in the spring of 2013. Since that time, Kathleen has worked with arriving refugees and Bronx community members through her position as the New Roots Program Manager for the International Rescue Committee
Fran has been an attorney and activist for 30 years. She has led and participated in many grassroots social justice efforts in youth development and community organizing. For the last eight years she has focused on urban agriculture and insuring affordable access to health living locally in New York City. She is a graduate of Farm School NYC’s pilot class, and is currently obtaining her LLM in Food & Agriculture policy through Vermont Law School’s distance learning program. She is passionate about Farm School NYC and its capacity to educate diverse constituencies about farming and social justice, and currently co-teaches Farm School’s Advanced Advocacy course.
Arif has been working on various issues of social and environmental justice for over 15 years. He has dedicated the last 8 years to supporting grassroots community groups in their self-determined efforts to improve their neighborhoods. As Director of Programs at Citizens Committee for New York City, a non-profit established in 1975, he supports these small neighborhood groups by managing the organization’s grants programs, skills-building workshops, and project planning assistance.
He is an experienced workshop facilitator and has developed curricula for workshops focused on community organizing. Prior to Citizens Committee, Arif was an immigrants’ rights community organizer with American Friends Service Committee.
Arif also enjoys building and teaching how to build basic rain harvesting systems. Additionally, he is a member of the Malcolm X Community Garden in Corona, Queens, where he is learning how to grow food.
Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life and has been a resident of the Bronx for over 26 years. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen has worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. As a member of La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, she helped launched a City Farms Market, bringing fresh vegetables to her neighbors. Karen is a Just Food board member and Just Food Trainer, leading workshops on food growing and food justice to community gardeners all over the city. Karen is a board member and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, a group that was founded to protect and preserve community gardens. She co- founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS), an organization of volunteers committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings and has been key to Farm School NYC, whose mission is to train NYC residents in urban agriculture. In 2012 Ebony magazine voted her one of their 100 most influential African Americans in the country and last year she received the 2014 James Beard Leadership Award. Professionally, Karen had been a Physical Therapist for 37 years, balancing her professional life with community service.
Since retiring in April 2014, she is pursuing her passion for farming full-time at the Rise and Root Farm.