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!
Jose Cabeza - Farm Program Manager
Jose was born in Mexico City the capital of Mexico but raised in San Jose Ca . He has one brother and two sister. In 1989 his parents decided to immigrated to the U.S for us to have a better opportunity in life. He attended the Almaden Elementary School when he was 7 years old and studied up to high school . After that he started working full-time at different jobs in the construction field. In 2011 Jose had the opportunity to work at Dhelphi Agrarians Art Foundation as a landscaping foreman. For the past 7 years he worked at Dhelphi Agrarians Art Foundation with great Master Gardeners and meeting amazing people had the privileged to learn how to grow fruits and vegetables. Jose also found in himself the desire to keep learning more about the agriculture field. He believes that with, "Volunteer support we'll make a great team for our community farm veggielution".
Yazmin Hernandez Carbajal - Community Engagement Program 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!
Rosa Contreras - Volunteer Program Manager
Rosa was born and raised here in San José , CA. She graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from the University of San Francisco (USF), where she found various passions in her academics as well as co-founding Baile Folklorico de San Pancho (the Mexican Folk Dance Group of Saint Francisco). Academically, she explored both Biology and Sociology, but fell back onto her roots in Social Justice by emphasizing her studies in Human Trafficking. Ten odd jobs later, Rosa has a dream of bringing delicious healthy food to East Side San Jose, and the Community Food Hub project is the perfect way to do that. As a San José native, Rosa is passionate about serving her community and doing anything possible to ensure a bright future. Veggielution's mission and service is directly in line with her passion and she is delighted to be apart of such a rich, dynamic, and fun community!
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 - Development Communications 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.
SILICON VALLEY HEALTH CORPS
Esther Ng - Neighborhood Harvest Program Coordinator
Esther is a native to San Jose and recently moved back after completing her undergraduate degree in Human Development at UC San Diego. As a Silicon Valley HealthCorps VISTA, Esther is looking forward to contributing to the community of San Jose through education, health, and food. She first volunteered at Veggielution as an Education Intern in 2015 and returns as the Harvest Manager for the Neighborhood Harvest Program. Her role focuses on organizing fruit harvesting events as a medium for bringing people together to share and sustain our local food system.
Koko Novak - 1st Saturday Coordinator
Koko is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah and graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in Spanish in 2016. She was involved in various clubs and organizations while attending college and was most inspired by her time with the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program and as a student mentor, which sparked her interests in community building and healthy food access. Koko is excited to work in San Jose and combine those interests as a Silicon Valley HealthCorps VISTA at Veggielution. At the farm, she works with the community through 1st Saturdays and Veggielution Cocina.
Kavita Aiyar - Communication & Development Strategy
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.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
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.
Julie Cecilio- Board Chair, Sales Enablement,
Organization Change Management professional
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.
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.
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.
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!"