Our team is a group of dedicated individuals that bring our vision to life.
Levi Gardner / Founder & Executive Director
A West Michigan native, Levi has an M.S. in Community Sustainability and Ecological Food and Farming systems, experience in biointensive and organic growing, and is a certified Permaculture Designer. He loves teaching and gives frequent workshops and lectures on food systems, agroecology, and the pedagogy of place. He has designed and implemented multiple courses on food systems and agriculture, and works with local educators, community partners, and consumers to elevate the dialogue around education and place-making. Levi is a always up for a cup of coffee to talk, and he ardently believes that the world desperately needs more celebration, beauty, and dancing. He lives with his family in Grand Rapids, MI.
Kelsey Hakeem / Farm Operations Director
Michigan native Kelsey Hakeem feels most comfortable with her hands in the soil. She began farming as a volunteer at Riley Family Farm in 2006. Kelsey fell in love with growing food and completed the Organic Farming Certificate Program at Michigan State University in 2008. Since then she has worked on a variety of local growing projects around GR. After becoming a mother to two boys, she returned to school, and completed a B.F.A. in Sculpture and Functional Art at Kendall College of Art and Design. Kelsey now spends her days growing food, making art and mothering.
Jenny Bongiorno / Program Director
A Grand Rapids native, Jenny loves creating meaningful experiences for all people interacting with Urban Roots. She graduated from GVSU in 2006 with degrees in Public Relations and Spanish. After a year working as a project manager in Chicago she decided that having a "real job" wasn't for her and has been working in organic agriculture and community education ever since. From managing an off-the-grid permaculture and design education center in the jungle of Costa Rica to starting a year round, 3rd-12th grade youth education farm program in the rolling hills of rural New Hampshire, Jenny has been a steward of the land and creating programs for people to learn about food in a way that is fun and accessible.
Elizabeth Bush, Collaborative Design Intern
Elizabeth is a student at Kendall College of Art and Design and studies Collaborative Design with a minor in Industrial Design. She’s excited to be with the Urban Roots team to help further develop their design and branding. In her free time, Elizabeth likes to grow veggies at home, travel, and spend time with family and friends. One goal she has is to pet every dog she comes across!
Hannah Mico, Mobile Classroom Intern
Hannah was born and raised in Metro Detroit, and moved to West Michigan in 2013 to attend GVSU. She completed her degree in Natural Resource Management in 2016, and after a life-changing study abroad experience in South Africa/Mozambique began working in the non-profit sector. She splits her time between Urban Roots, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. She also works as a freelance photographer throughout Michigan. Hannah enjoys eating pizza, watching wildlife documentaries, and camping (mainly for the vegan s'mores). She believes deeply in living a holistic and unbounded life, and loves the new home she's found in the Grand Rapids community.
Maaike Baker, Mobile Classroom Intern
Native of Grand Rapids, Maaike is happy to be back in Michigan after five years on the East Coast. She studied journalism on Boston's North Shore before moving to Washington DC to work in veggiescaping and nutrition advocacy. She started at Urban Roots as a regular volunteer in August 2016 and was brought onto the team the following February. When she's not at Urban Roots, she's slinging vegan pizzas or drinking beer in her hammock.
Delaney Ryde, Office Administrative Intern
Delaney recently graduated from Hope College with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Leadership and is currently the office intern for Urban Roots. She is passionate about getting kids and families excited about fresh foods and is excited to learn more about how a non-profit runs behind the scenes.
Dominic Bongornio, Farm Intern
Growing up near the city of Chicago, Dominic always felt a disconnect with Mother Nature. He used college as a way to attend a university that had a little greener space than where he grew up. Grand Valley State University drew him in with its scenery, but mostly the ravines, on which the university is built, sealed the deal. He has been attending Grand Valley for 3 years, and is moving on to his 4th and final year. Throughout his college experience, he has always enjoyed venturing into the ravines on his own, going off the beaten path. When he was a sophomore, he met the founder of Urban Roots, Levi Gardner. As a professor, he encouraged Dominic to continue following his path and his outlook on life. Since then, he has spent a lot of time at Urban Roots volunteering. He loves being outside, so Urban Roots feels like home. In addition to being outdoors, Dominic is incredibly close with his family. He says, "They are everything and I simply wouldn’t be the man I am today without them."
Stacey Brander, Community Market Intern
After reading about and researching agroecology, food injustice, and how food can affect ones quality of life, Stacey got connected with and joined the Urban Roots team as the health and wellness intern. With a degree in Community Development and Health Sciences from Central Michigan University she has been searching for an opportunity to build relationships and engage the community through sharing meals made with real food. In her free time she loves cooking, sports, and going on outdoor adventures with her husband. As an advocate for using real food as medicine, she is enthusiastic about connecting the Madison Square Neighborhood to the Community Market and continuing to Grow - Eat - Learn with Urban Roots!
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
David Prostko, Board President
Alita Kelly, Vice President
Michael Vanderbrug, Treasurer
Board meetings and committee meetings are held at regularly determined times. If you are interested in participating in a committee for Urban Roots, please fill out a volunteer application on our volunteer page here.