Our team is a group of dedicated individuals that bring our mission to life.
Levi Gardner - Founder & Co-Executive Director
A West Michigan native, Levi has an M.S. in Community Sustainability and Ecological Food and Farming systems from Michigan State University and is a certified Permaculture Designer and Biointensive Grower. He has served as the Chair of the City of Grand Rapids Committee on Urban Agriculture and an adjunct professor of Environmental Studies and Sustainability at Grand Valley State University. Beginning in May 2019, Levi’s role at Urban Roots shifted to Co-Executive Director to support the staff and board in moving the organization into its next phase. Beyond his professional work, Levi is a musician, a yoga practitioner, and a lover of being outdoors. He lives with his family in Grand Rapids, MI.
Leslie Yarhouse - CO-Executive Director
As Co-Executive Director at Urban Roots, Leslie attends to the operations side of the organization. She is committed to local community and to areas where sustainability and social equity intersect. She is co-chair of the Eastown Community Association Greenspace Committee and in 2015 participated in fieldwork, research, and design for West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum’s waste audit project. She comes to Urban Roots with previous experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds having worked as a publications manager at the Grand Rapids-based Acton Institute and in marketing for a full service architectural firm. Leslie holds a degree in Collaborative Design from Kendall College of Art and Design. She is a wife and the proud parent of two adult daughters.
Maaike Baker - Community Engagement 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 volunteering at cat shelters, drinking beer in her hammock, or listening to true crime podcasts.
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.
Sydney Schulz - garden Education Coordinator
While beginning her pursuit of sustainability, Sydney became involved in land management work, environmental policy, and eventually urban agriculture. She spent many years as an environmental educator and ecological steward and pursued conservation work across the country. She has worked with tribes to restore native lands, national parks to preserve wilderness areas, and conservation groups to educate around environmental issues. After an adventurous hiatus, Sydney is excited to jump back into urban agriculture in her native home of Grand Rapids, Michigan. When she isn't growing food or leading outdoor expeditions, she spends her time exploring nature, teaching snowboarding, and honing her survival skills
Jeff Pingel - Farm Manager
Jeff comes to Urban Roots with a degree in Environmental Studies and Sustainability from Northern Michigan University. He has a passion for the environment and promoting community-driven sustainability efforts. Growing up in northern Illinois, Jeff tended his family's vegetable garden. He went on to having a personal garden then to helping a neighbor with their native plant garden, gaining knowledge from garden to garden, he now tends the Urban Roots farm. When he isn't on the farm he enjoys being submerged in nature, hiking, seeing live music, disc golfing, and snowboarding.
Erin Williams - Community Market Associate
Itinerant by nature, Erin has hopped around from place to place throughout her life. She comes to West Michigan through schooling at Grand Valley State University, having earned a B.A. in Photography in 2016. Through work in restaurant management, Erin discovered a passion for food and a plant-based lifestyle. Erin came to Urban Roots in June of 2018 as Culinary Intern, getting to cook yummy meals made out of lots of plants for anyone who would try it. Erin officially joined the Urban Roots team as Community Market Associate for the September 6th grand re-opening, and is really excited for you to check out the sweet new digs. Stop in and say hello!
Nelly Jones - YOURCompost pedaller
Nelly has been involved in the Grand Rapids community since 2013, having moved here after graduating from GVSU. She has biked as her sole form of transportation since. She spends most of her free time finding ways to create in herself ( and the community she lives in ) physical and emotional balance and harmony - constantly engaging in unique collaborations between like-minded individuals and organizations. Nelly aspires to travel and connect with humans, blending mindfulness and play with all she does. Pedaling compost for Urban Roots has been a seamless transition, since she is an avid commuting cyclist and Shop Manager at The Spoke Folks nonprofit co-op.
Gabby clark - seasonal urban farmer
A West Michigan native, Gabby has her B.S. in Natural Resource Management from Grand Valley State University. She first volunteered with Urban Roots in 2015, which helped spark her interest in urban farming, sustainability and our natural resources. Beyond Gabby's work life, she loves backpacking, composting, hanging out with her house plants, and doing anything outdoors.
ashton long - urban agriculture and education intern
Having grown up in the middle of nowhere Northern Michigan, Ashton has a deep appreciation for the Earth and what can come out of it when cared for properly. After living in Detroit for a year and working on a small family owned and operated farm in Armada, her overall appreciation has bloomed into a deep love and respect for plant based foods and where they come from. Since moving back to Grand Rapids in late July 2018, her mission has been to become intertwined with Michigan Farm culture to help support local farms, educate, and become even more eco and environmentally conscious. Ashton is super excited to become a part of a scene she loves so much and can’t wait to get her hands back in the dirt.
Peyton Steensma - urban agriculture and education intern
Another native to Grand Rapids, Peyton is grateful and eager to dig in at Urban Roots. She fell in love with farming while WWOOFing in Port Angeles, WA and has been committed to the ways in which ethical food growth, distribution, and consumption can transform communities. After her 2019 graduation from Hope College with a B.A in Sociology and Peace Studies/Social Justice, Peyton hopes to invest her time in organizations that care deeply about the holistic wellness of humans and the earth in which they abide. When she isn't on the farm, she is spending time on her mountain bike, studying new recipes to cook for her loved ones, or brushing up on her dad jokes.
Nina Gropp - urban agriculture and education intern
Nina is a student at Grand Valley State University, where she studies Biology with a focus in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her passions are environmental protection and sustainability. She leads a plant-based lifestyle and is an avid outdoor enthusiast. She has spent a majority of her summers in her Grandpa's garden, and is excited to spend the summer of 2019 on the Urban Roots farm!
Our Board is a group of talented and passionate professionals who seek to co-create a resilient and sustainable organization.
Wendy Hammond - Board President
Mandy Joslyn - Board Vice-President
Lisa Armstrong - Secretary
Levi Gardner - Founder
David Prostko - Emeritus Board Member
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 Committee Application.