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. For speaking inquiries, e-mail email@example.com.
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 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.
Sydney Schulz - 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 Steward
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.
Leslie Yarhouse - Executive Assistant
Leslie is a recent graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design's Collaborative Design program. Having co-chaired the Eastown Community Association Greenspace Committee and having participated in West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum's waste audit project, she is invested in local community and particularly committed to the areas where sustainability and social equity intersect. She is a wife and the proud parent of two adult daughters. Leslie looks forward to connecting with you!
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 resilient and sustainable organization.
David Prostko, Board Chair
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.