Here you will find our Staff members, our Silicon Valley HealthCorps members, and our interns.
Amie Frisch - Executive Director
A 10 year resident of San Jose, she earned a BS in Environmental Studies from San Jose State University, where she was Director of the Environmental Resource Center and Co-founder of the Environmental Club. She was also part of the founding Steering Committee for the Real Food Challenge, a national campaign to unite students for just and sustainable food, where she worked to develop the Real Food Calculator. She is dedicated to working towards a more just and sustainable food system in the Silicon Valley.
Mark Anthony Medeiros - Farm Director
Born and raised in the South Valley, Mark graduated from San Jose State University with a bachelors degree in Sociology, with an emphasis on Community Change. He became politicized around the issues of urban fringe agriculture and open space preservation while in college, and participated in a number of land use debates in Santa Clara and San Benito counties, most notably the proposed Coyote Valley Specific Plan (CVSP), which was halted in March 2008. He decided to devote himself to promoting sustainable agriculture in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, and founded Veggielution along with Amie Frisch. Mark currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Prusch Farm Park Foundation. The son of Portuguese immigrants with a rich farming tradition, he sees farming as the most direct connection that people have with the environment. For Mark, learning and teaching farming is about fostering the values of sustainability and social justice in himself and others in the South Bay community.
Monica Lisa Benavides - Education Director
Being born and raised in San Jose inspired Monica to dedicate herself to working in her community on issues of food access, education, and, social/environmental justice. She graduated from San Jose State University with a BA in Child and Adolescent Development, and continued in graduate school through the Critical Research Academy to earn her MA in Education. As the Education Director, Monica is responsible for overseeing Veggielution’s school garden programs, the Youth Garden at the farm, Cooking Matters, and our summer high school program, the Dig Crew. If you have any questions about any of these programs, then please email or call Monica.
Silicon Valley Health Corps Members
Keri Waller - Youth Education Coordinator
Born and raised in Woodland, CA, she is a recent graduate of San Jose State with a BS in Nutrition. At San Jose State, she was a part of the women’s volleyball program and has many years of experience teaching and coaching at sports camps. Keri has also worked with incoming freshmen student-athletes as a peer mentor, aiding them in the transition from high school to collegiate academics and athletics. She is passionate about teaching healthy eating, sustainable farming, and food justice to our community! Keri is teaching school garden classes at 2 local elementary schools, as well as leading our Youth Program, The Dig Crew.
Nina Vuoso - Youth Education Coordinator
Born and raised in the South Bay of Los Angeles, she earned a BS in Nutritional Biochemistry in 2011 from UC Davis, where she came to appreciate good produce and bicycle riding. Nina has worked with youth as a science tutor and in the Teaching Kitchen at the Davis Food Co-op, assisting in the kid’s cooking classes. As one of the first Nutrition Educators for the student-run Willow Clinic, which serves the homeless population of Sacramento, Nina learned about non-profit management and writing nutrition curricula. She is inspired by the way students engage with their food (if only all school subjects could be edible and delicious). Nina is energized by the Veggielution community, and she is dedicated to bringing science-based food and garden education to the farm and its neighbors.
Mika Shibuya - Farm Hand
Mika Shibuya is excited and grateful for the opportunity to work on the Veggielution farm crew. Having graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied environmental studies and creative writing, she is ready to get her hands dirty putting theory into practice. Mika developed her passion for farming on two small, organic farms in New York and New Jersey, where she learned the ins and outs of vegetable cultivation, animal care, and small-scale cheese-making. She is excited to bring this passion and experience into an urban context and to be a part of an organization/community that makes a concerted effort to increase food accessibility and to engage a wide cross-section of San Jose with the land that sustains them, building lasting relationships over fresh food and hard work. As the greenhouse manager, she will spend the majority her year in the company of seedlings and soil mix, and hopes you will come join her – and maybe help give a few plants a fighting start. She has a shameless love for puns, and also enjoys cooking, biking, reading, and writing.
Lydia Martinez - Community Organizer
Born in the warm Coastal waters of Sinaloa Mexico, brought into this country as contraband, grew up in the fields of the Central Valley. Daughter of Farm Workers, Mother to a Sun, she currently finds herself back where her Father began many moons ago. Back in the fields, picking and harvesting under the warm sun, yet also merging her Expressive Arts Therapy degree to be able to provide access and resources to the Chicano Native Immigrant community of San Jose and beyond so that they too may be able to participate in local sustainable agriculture. Healthy nutritious food is a right not a privilege to be determined by social economic status or color of one's skin.
Dave Chang - Farm Hand
Dave is enthused to be working in the fields and getting his hands dirty with Veggielution. Following a degree in Biological Systems Engineering from U.C. Davis, he served as an agricultural volunteer in Mali with Peace Corps. After doing time in the cubicle as a technical writer, he set out to travel around the world but only made it as far as Mexico, due to the prevalence of street tacos. Now he's back to his original passion of making good food available to all. He feels fortunate to be involved in such a community-based enterprise with roots in sustainable farming practices and food justice. He gets excited about other people getting excited about growing food. When not at the farm, he's most likely hiking, climbing, or reading a book.
Colleen Hotchkiss - Farm Hand
After attending college in Philadelphia and receiving a B.A. in Spanish with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies in May of 2011, Colleen is excited to be back home in the Bay Area growing food and building community. Following graduation she worked at two different farms, gaining invaluable knowledge about organic food production and natural process farming. With a background in student organizing and an academic focus on marginalization and identity formation, Colleen is excited to be putting her gardening and farming knowledge to work at Veggielution in a way that directly and intentionally increases food access to low-income communities. She coordinates harvest and distribution, managing Veggielution's Farm Box CSA, facilitating harvest days, and running the farm stand.
Carolyn Nealis - Carolyn is a former software developer whose passion for healthy eating recently led her to go back to school to pursue a degree in Nutrition. She believes that everyone deserves the chance to be healthy and that vibrant health begins with fresh, wholesome food. She is excited to be a part of making these ideas a reality at Veggielution.
Morgan McKnight - Raised in Sunnyvale, CA, Morgan McKnight learned early on in life the value of a hard days work and the appreciation that comes from eating home grown produce. Having spent his childhood assisting with his family's backyard vegetable garden, Morgan has grown into a full-fledged advocate for locally grown and sustainable food sources. A recent graduate of SJSU with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, Morgan is very excited about being able to contribute to Veggielution’s overall mission of providing access to locally grown, healthy foods to our South Bay community.
Niza Del Carmen - Niza loves to read, bake and spend time outdoors in nature. About 2 years ago Niza became a vegetarian because she doesn't agree with the inhumane way that animals are being treated. Later in life, Niza discovered the many benefits of being a vegetarian and eating healthy. With her strong belief that everyone should know what they are eating and where their food comes from, Niza hopes to inspire everyone to eat healthy and organic food. Niza is proud to be part of Veggielution, and looks forward to contributing as much as she can to the mission of providing healthy food for our community.
Petros Maskal - Petros is a passionate student of Agricultural/Environmental science. Currently a student he already holds an AA in Liberal Arts & Letters. Petros has worked in the culinary arena for six years and realized the food production system needs to be revived.
Excited about Veggielution and its impact, Petros urges everyone to cultivate!
Jenna Lapiane - Jenna was born and raised in San Jose, CA. She attended Portland State University for two years where she became interested in sustainability, the food system, it's injustices, and how it affects communities as a whole. During her time at Portland State University she was involved in a club called The Food Action Collective (FAC) where they worked towards raising awareness of the food system, how food availability and access differs amongst individuals and the consequential impacts it has on people and the environment. She also hosted events on campus to demonstrate that decent and affordable food is a viable option and that it not only benefits us as individuals but it also benefits the environment to grow and buy locally and from organic resources. Jenna's time in Portland helped her to realize her passion lies. She excited to be back in San Jose and to be interning here at Veggielution and to be given the opportunity to give back and make a difference in my community.
Yesie Chang - Yesie has always been passionate about food and people. While working at a sushi restaurant as an administrator, Yesie cultivated a passion for farming and finally decided to take the full plunge into pursuing her dreams and now aspires to be a land owning farmer someday soon. She wants to be a part of healing the land and strives to be a good steward of anything and everything that comes her way. One of the greatest joys in her life is feeding her friends and family with food that she grows and believes that food is one of the best ways to bring people together. Yesie is excited to learn from and be a part of the good energy that Veggielution gifts to the community.
Matthew Travers - San Jose resident and recent agriculture enthusiast, Matthew has roots in social justice through education and cross-cultural interactions. He is studying Sociology at De Anza and is looking forward to his season with Veggielution.
Sarah McCabe - As a child, born and raised in Mountain View, one of Sarah's favorite places to go was Grant Road Farm. To observe the tall stalks of corn growing, wander the seemingly endless yellow mustard fields, and of course to raid the knee-deep-in-veggies farm stand. A few years ago, this last surviving farm in Mountain View was bought out and built up to a sprawl of cookie cutter mini-mansions. Despite this unfortunate transformation of the land, it was this change that made Sarah not only become an advocate for growing and eating real, organic food, but also to educate youth about the glorious outdoors. As a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, with degrees in Liberal Studies (Education) and American Literature, Sarah is ecstatic for a Fall filled with lots of learning dirty hands, tummy's full of organic produce, and certainly the rising up of our local San Jose community.
Martha Gabaray - Martha Gabaray feels very fortunate to be part of such an inspiring organization. Veggielution provides sustainability, food/nutrition knowledge, and access to food all in one place. Being a nutrition student at SJSU and an avid environmentalist Martha feels Veggielution is the perfect place for her to build upon her interests while contributing to the community.
Nina Bacho - Nina only ever stuck to one New Year's Resolution: to become a vegetarian, in January of 2010. This resolution opened up a whole new world for her and since then, she has become interested in farming, cooking, and has even become a vegan. Throughout high school, Nina volunteered with young children, which cemented her interest in education. She currently studies Sociology at De Anza, and hopes to transfer very, very soon. Eventually, career-wise, she'd like to work in the nonprofit world. Nina believes that everyone should have access to fresh, healthy food. She loves working in the Youth Garden, and just being an Education Intern in general.
Larry Hinh - A native of San Jose, Larry graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Art Studio. Back in summer of '09, a friend invited him out to Veggielution for some fun in the sun and free tomatoes. Impressed by the community operation and Veggielution team, Larry returned in 2013 to have his mind blown by the explosive growth of the farm. At Veggielution, one can see their food grow before their eyes, see the hands they pass through, and know the faces behind it all. Larry thinks that’s absolutely amazing and it’s something he always thinks about when shopping for grub. Larry aids the farm by helping manage our social media and generating photos, designs, and some web videos to help drive exposure of Veggielution and the awesome people that help it thrive.
Community Outreach Interns:
Cain Ramirez - Born of Santa Cruz, CA and raised on his Grandparent's walnut orchard in San Martin, CA, Cain is no stranger to organic farming. A man of many hats in the local community, from grassroots organizer to bicycle ambassador, Cain looks forward to honing his various skill sets as Veggielution's new Community Outreach Intern.