Our Founder, Levi Gardner

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Equal parts grower, educator, and change-agent, Levi founded Urban Roots in 2013. After spending four years developing and running a University Farm, beginning the organization was birthed from a hope addressing complex social, ecological challenges through growing together. 

Inspired by Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer Poetry, Father Greg Boyle’s message of kinship and Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects, Levi’s vision was and is rooted in reconciling our relationships to our selves, each other, and the world around us. 

Since founding the organization he has grown to be a recognized expert and advocate for community food systems, sustainability, and place-making.  Levi has undergraduate degrees in political science and economics and a Masters’ in Community Sustainability and Ecological Food and Farming Systems from Michigan State University. 

In the six years since he began, Levi’s leadership has been essential in growing the organization from an idea and some plants to a valued community asset that works with more than 4,000 people annually. 

Career Highlights & Insights

  • 2 Time TEDx speaker

  • Certified Biointensive Grower and Permaculture Designer

  • Securing over $500,000 in grant funding from organizations including Patagonia, The Wege Foundation, Amway, and the USDA Farm-to-School program

  • 2019 Environmental Leadership Program Great Lakes Class of Fellows

  • Grand Valley State University Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies

In Spring 2019, Levi transitioned to Co-Executive Director in order to focus solely on strategic directions and outreach of the organization.  While he is still present to the daily operations, his energy has shifted to writing and speaking on topics including regenerative agriculture, circular economics, and transformational sustainability.

Click here to learn more about his work.