Our team is a group of dedicated individuals that bring our mission 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. He lives with his family in Grand Rapids, MI.
Jenny Bongiorno - Program Manager
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.
Kelsey Hakeem - Food & Farm Steward
Michigan native Kelsey 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.
Maaike Baker - Development & Events Manager
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.
Greg Mankowski - Compost Cordinator
Greg was raised in East Lansing and moved to Grand Rapids in the fall of 2014 to attend Aquinas College. He will graduate in May 2018 with a degree in Sustainable Business. For the last year, he has been composting in his backyard and making discoveries of the complex systems of micro and macro organisms interacting with one another. His noticing of a Your Compost sign this summer sparked his interest and lit a fire for a new passion. He applied to be a social media intern but at his interview he revealed his true desire to be a part of Urban Roots when he pulled out a bag of homemade compost! When he’s not tending to piles at Urban Roots, he enjoys disc golfing, listening to WYCE, and skateboarding.
Wuendy Diaz - Community Market Associate
Wuendy was born and raised in Honduras and came to America when she was 13 years old. She has always liked working with plants because her grandma used to love planting flowers and vegetables. She got connected to Urban Roots through a student youth employment program 2 years ago and has been a part of the team ever since. She loves being at Urban Roots because it is like going back to her house with her grandma! She loves that now she gets to be part of the staff because they are all like family. She loves the "family feeling" at Urban Roots and that she is doing what she loves to do - talking to people and being part of something much bigger than herself. She believes it is a way of giving back to the community.
Our Board is a group of talented, smart, passionate professionals who seek to co-create a strong, resilient, and sustainable organization.
David Prostko, Board President
Alita Kelly, Vice President
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.