our team

Founded as a non-profit in 2015 - our staff is a team of dedicated individuals


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 is a passionate teacher 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.

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Rachel McDowell / Creative Director


Rachel joined the Urban Roots team as a Collaborative Design intern at the beginning of the 2016 growing season and was officially brought on board as the Creative Director by the end of the season. Rachel is a full-time student at Kendall College of Art and Design majoring in Collaborative Design and minoring in Graphic Design. Her responsibilities include supporting Urban Roots in ideation, development, and production of a wide variety of brand and design elements. She has a strong desire to support sustainable farming, development community and successfully share Urban Roots' story to the world.  When she's not working she is acomplishing freelance graphic design work, making ceramics, studying biomimicry, traveling and binge watching Parks and Recreation. 

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Jenny Bongiorno / Program Director

Photo by Adam Bird

Photo by Adam Bird

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.

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Cassie Hagedorn / Development & Finance Manager

Cassie joined Urban Roots this April as our exceptional office manager and has since transitioned into her role as Development and Finance Manager. She believes that we are all creators and as makers, it's important to be around growing things like people and vegetables! When Cassie is not at Urban Roots she is active with raising her four children, four chickens and cultivating her own farm life at her house. By working at Urban Roots she is able to blend her skills in being responsible for diverse tasks and her passion in urban farming. 

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Brianne Czyzio, Community Development Intern

Brianne is a fifth year student at Aquinas College studying Community Leadership and Geography. She began her internship with Urban Roots at the end of August. Whether it is at Urban Roots, Lake Michigan, a Grand Rapids park, or her own backyard, Brianne’s favorite place to be is outside. Growing up in a small town in Eastern Michigan, she learned to love the outdoors and that is has to offer. After graduation, Brianne plans to continue working to get people of all ages excited about and connected to the world right outside their window.



Taffy Dickerson

Jose Reyna

Sara Lachmann, J.D.

David Prostko


Matt VanSweden, President

Jason Wheeler, Vice President

Michael Vanderbrug, Treasurer

Linda Prostko, Secretary

Paul Dahlberg

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.