MEET OUR TEAM
Catherine Aisbitt - Operations Manager
Catherine is originally from the west of Ireland and arrived in San Jose in 2016. Before coming here Catherine worked in the restaurant industry and as a project manager for Airbnb in their EU Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Having grown up farming and being outdoors, Catherine is excited to be back in the farming world, and is especially excited to work in the vibrant East San Jose community. Catherine firmly believes that food is central to community building and looks forward to helping Veggielution reach new heights!
Jazmin Barba - Special Events Coordinator
Jazmin is a life-long resident of the Washington-Gardner community in San José. She joined Veggielution as the Special Events Coordinator in November 2018. Jazmin brings her retail experience and commitment to sustainability to the team. She is currently working on her B.S. in Computer Software Engineering from Arizona State University. Jazmin aims to use her degree to serve underrepresented communities, like the East Side and Emma Prusch community.
Luis Hernandez - Farm Manager
Luis is originally from Lake Chapala, Mexico and came to San José 40 years ago in 1979. He lives in East San Jose. Luis has had “plenty” of jobs including working in facilities, shipping, and janitorial. He worked for 20 years as a groundskeeping and then a maintenance technician for an apartment complex. He was a Community Gardener at the Mayfair Community Gardens for 12 years and then for 3 years at Emma Prusch Farm Park. He first came to Veggielution through our Eastside Grown program before he became our Farm Manager. If Luis is not at the Farm, he is off on his boat deep sea fishing.
Yazmin Hernandez Carbajal - Community Engagement Manager
Yazmin was born in Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua Mexico to a shoe maker and an accountant. Her and her family moved to San Jose CA when she was 12. Yazmin has a beautiful 8 year old boy named Yahir Hernandez who loves school and cooking. She started working at the age of 15 and have had many roles and jobs until I was able to finish college and get certified as a phlebotomist/CMA and even though she loved her career Yazmin fell more in love with Veggielution. This place has given Yazmin and her whole family community and environmental awareness, as well as given her various opportunities to grow. She is thrilled to keep growing. Yazmin's favorite things to do are to cook, raising her son and spending time with her friends. Yazmin aspires to make a difference not only in her community but why not change the world!
In the SF Bay Area twenty three years, Rosa Maria has enjoyed discovering and learning about the natural and urban communities in the area. She cherishes the diversity of people and cultures present, and particularly their food. Originally from Guatemala City has made home in San Jose. Holds a BS in Biology and Ms. In Soil Fertility. Her work opportunities in CA have been in Agriculture, and Environmental Education. As Education and Youth Garden Coordinator she aims to bring together members of our community to share their knowledge, to cultivate and grow food with our youth, and to instill in them respect for the land and all that it sustains.
Growing up in Santa Clara County Mark experienced the transformation of The Valley of Heart’s
Delight into Silicon Valley. Drawn to a career in the tech industry, Mark has enjoyed working and living in California, England, and Holland. His more recent interests, however, lie in strengthening the connection between community and land. Mark has a post-graduate certificate in Food Policy from City, University of London. He is at home outdoors from the Pacific coast to the Nevada desert and enjoys hiking, tennis, live music, and public art exhibits/installations.
Cayce Hill - Executive Director
Cayce is originally from Austin, TX, but arrived in San Jose in 2008 by way of Morelia, New York City, and Tokyo. Before moving to San Jose she worked with the Japan Organic Agriculture Association, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the Children's Hospital at Montefiore. Cayce holds an MPA from NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, with a focus on Health Care Policy and Program Evaluation. As a culinary gardener and garden educator, Cayce has worked with The Absinthe Group, Sons & Daughters Restaurant, and the Delphi Agrarian Arts Foundation. She believes that good food, local community, and social networks - the old-fashioned kind with real people - are what make us all healthy and strong.
Emily Schwing - Marketing & Impact Manager
A native of the Jersey Shore, Emily Schwing came to the Bay Area by way of the University of South Alabama where she earned a B.S. in Meteorology (2011). Emily earned her M.A. in Communication Studies at San José State University (2014) with a focus on Environmental Communication. Emily joined Veggielution in 2014 as the Outreach Coordinator as a member of the Silicon Valley Health Corps. In 2015, she became Veggielution’s fulltime Program Manager. In her current role as Development Communications Manager, Emily coordinates Veggielution’s overall communication strategy across a variety of media platforms. She is responsible for implementing the farm’s education and community engagement programs including Veggielution Cocina, a community cooking class series. A longtime surfer, Emily is now an avid backpacker. When she’s not on the farm, she can be found in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Lee is originally from Porterville, California. He first came to Veggielution through our Eastside Grown Leadership program in 2016. Lee was first drawn to Veggielution with an interest in learning how he could start growing his own produce and to become more connected to the community. Lee is currently studying horticultural in school and is excited to connect the theories he’s learning with real hands-on experiences on the farm. He hopes to one day mange and own his own orchard.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Kavita Aiyar - Non-profit Consultant
Kavita is a seasoned Silicon Valley marketing professional with extensive high-tech industry experience and a proven track record driving innovative marketing programs that produce compelling business results. She is now focused on applying her skills to the non-profit sphere. Kavita has a deep and abiding passion for the written word, as well as for healthy eating and growing her own vegetables. At Veggielution, she is working on evolving the organization's communication and development strategy with a focus on online presence, compelling content, donor and volunteer retention, and creative fundraising.
Sal Alvarez - Vice Chair, Executive Analyst,City of San José Office of Economic Development
Sal Alvarez works on the Downtown Management Team at OED, focusing on urban strategy through place-making, public space and storefront activation. Sal manages city-wide Banner, Storefronts Activation Grant Assistance and Wayfinding Programs and partnership with Santa Clara University's Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative. Sal is an experienced collaborator, connector and problem-solver applying his skills for the City of San Jose’s community and economic development needs since 2002. He joined the Office of Economic Development’s Downtown Management Team in 2014. For nearly eight years he worked for the San Jose Redevelopment Agency’s award-winning Strong Neighborhoods Initiative implementing community plans, priority projects and programs that engaged nearly every city department. He is a four-time Pride of San Jose honoree for his work on the Gateway East Sanitary Sewer Project, Foreclosure Task Force, Homelessness Response Team, and Community Spaces Activation Team. From 2011 to 2013 he served in the City Manager’s Office, focused on cardroom regulations and emergency services. Prior to his work with the City of San Jose he was the District Coordinator for California State Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist overseeing all issue areas in the heart of Silicon Valley. Sal received his B.A. in Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 1995. He earned his Master of Public Administration degree from National University in 2011. Sal is married to his amazing wife, Stacy, who are busy raising three girls of their own! A San Jose native, he grew up on a little ranch in the Evergreen foothills where he now lives in the house his grandparents built in 1971 next door to his mom. Sal gives back to his community as a board member of the Youth Connections Foundation and Veggielution Community Farm. He gives back to his alma mater by serving on the UC Santa Cruz Dean of Social Sciences Board of Councilors.
Beth Broderson - Chief Customer Officer, Sitecore
Beth took one step onto the Veggielution farm in the fall of 2015, and was immediately enchanted with the magic of a community farm in the heart of San Jose. Beth has a passion for building and sustaining communities, and a love for food and farming. It was a perfect fit – love at first farm sight! A native Bostonian, Beth came to the Bay Area in 1999. A proud mom of a wonderful and talented daughter, Beth’s Bay Area immersion in community and Board service began at the Palo Alto Children’s Theater. There, Beth was a volunteering mom, a Board member, and then Board Chair for two years – learning so much about effective advocacy for children’s programs, the value of community, and creating capacity for inclusion. Beth moved to San Jose’s Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood in 2006, and discovered that neighborhood communities abound in San Jose with an openness and generosity that is unique to San Jose. At Veggielution, Beth chairs the Board’s Fundraising Commiittee with a special focus on bridging corporate communities and the East Side. In addition to Veggielution Board service, Beth volunteers on the farm, and contributes to Veggielution’s community mission. In other facets of Beth ‘s volunteer life, Beth has served on the Board of the Global Women’s Leadership Network, initially as a Board Member, and then as Vice Chair. Beth is also a graduate of the Global Women’s Leadership Network’s leadership development program called Women Leaders for the World. Professionally, Beth is Vice President, Customer Success at Oracle, where she leads a customer success team dedicated to ensuring that Oracle’s Tech Cloud customers are successful with their use and adoption of Oracle Cloud technologies. When Beth isn’t at Veggielution, she’s outside on a hiking trail or trying to improve her tennis game. Back aVeggielution: roots down, grow strong!
Julie Cecilio- Chair, Senior Director Sales Enablement, VMWare
As 20-year San Jose resident, and high tech worker, Julie is an active member of her
community via her neighborhood, children’s school and her workplace. Most often
Julie’s endeavors focus on health, athletics, leadership, activism and local organic food.
She has been a restorer of historic homes and public spaces, and a rescuer of dogs.
Julie likes to use her organization skills to create to connect and energize others, creating a cumulative positive impact. At VMware, Julie leads a global sales enablement team that helps organizations reach revue targets through strategic planning,
training/instructional design and content management. Julie is a member of the San Jose Women’s Club and a founding member of the San Jose chapter of Solidarity Sundays. She lives downtown with her husband Carlino and their three children and a
large Labrador named Tucker.
Chris Esparza - Principal,Giant Creative Services
Raised in San Jose, now lives in San Jose’s Naglee Park neighborhood with his wife Pilar Agüero-Esparza and their child Olivia. Chris started working in the entertainment industry in 1985 and opened his own venue The Ajax Lounge in 1991, a renowned jazz bar, café, and performing arts space in the nocturnal history of San Jose. He then started Smart Design in 1995, a design company specializing in graphic and furniture design, in a 14,000 sq. ft. warehouse on Martha Street. Smart Design converting the remaining space into San Jose’s first artist/small business incubator. Following these endeavors, Chris opened up an international café and bar, Fuel 44 in late 1997. Chris then ventured on his own with what seemed like a natural progression - Giant Creative Services, a marketing, event design and performing arts resource agency, with such clients as San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, Villa Montalvo, and the renowned Stanford Jazz Festival, Giant was off to a great start. In 1999 he co-founded the volunteer civic entrepreneur group Circa 2000. Returning to small business, Chris opened Naglee Park Garage in 2005, a neighborhood bistro in the downtown/SJSU area and in 2011 took on the School of Arts & Culture at the The Mexican Heritage Plaza for public and private events. Chris has taken all that he has learned and has been on the vanguard of the placemaking movement in San Jose and the surrounding Bay Area. Currently produces Kraftbrew Beer Festival, La Ultima Parada/Day of the Dead Festival and Winter Wonderland Carnival and in 2016/17 assists with Mayfaria Celebration and Viva Calle in East San Jose.
Ryan Fontanilla - Retail Manager, Starbucks
Passionate about community and food, Ryan joined the Veggielution Board of Directors in 2017. As a professional in retail and the food service industry, Ryan has spent the last 18 years developing his expertise in growing teams and supporting staff; streamlining business operations; marketing new products and ensuring strong profits. His career has been defined by various roles at Timberland, Ralph Lauren and Starbucks. For the last 7 years, he has led a team of 22 staff as a Starbucks Store Manager in San Jose. Ryan has an Associates Degree in Biology from Evergreen Valley College.
Since the age of 5, Ryan has lived in east San Jose and is now raising a young family in the same community. He deeply understands the connection between sustainable environmental practices, food, and community building, and is proud to serve on a board that is generating change in the community he calls home.
Imelda Gonzalez - Treasurer, Director of Human Resources-Carneigie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Imelda Gonzalez grew-up in Soledad, California, located in the Salinas Valley. Her parents are immigrants from Mexico and were farmworkers prior to their retirement. Imelda participated in school-based agricultural programs as a child. She moved to Bay Area to attend Stanford University and has lived in Downtown San Jose for close to ten years. She is currently the Director of Human Resources at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and she has over fifteen years of experience in human resources and talent development. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, cooking, exploring restaurants and markets, finding new music, art collecting, reading, and spending time with her nephews.
Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network
Kristin has a BA from UCSC in Language Studies & Political Ecology and a MA from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Social Change & Development. She has also attended the Rockwood Advanced Leadership Training. Kristin has worked at the Peace Corps, Agroforestry Extension Officer, Kenya; EPA Headquarters, Communications Specialist, Office of Solid Waste; World Resources Institute, Committee for Sustainable Agriculture, Program Associate; Pesticide Action Network, various roles over 20 years including Int'l Program Coordinator, Campaigns Director, Program Director and most recently Executive Director.For years, she has been working on policies that promote sustainable, just food systems at the state, national and international level. She is so excited to be part of an organization that is doing this work at the community level. Having grown up on a ranch, she found Prusch Park early in our tenure in San Jose (now 23 years). Kristin took her kids to the barn and revelled in the open space. She was so excited when Veggielution was established on this amazing plot of land. Kristin enjoyed many volunteer Saturdays as a family in the early years. She said, "It was wonderful to come back after several years and see all the amazing improvements and progress!"