Who’s Your Farmer?

Meet the staff of the Tucson Village Farm…

Elizabeth "Liz" Sparks

Elizabeth Sparks

Elizabeth “Liz” Sparks has a Masters in Education and a Bachelors in Environmental Science. She is the 4-H Youth Development Assistant Agent of the Farm, which means she gets to hone her multitasking abilities talking on the phone while writing grants, fielding questions from co-workers. She currently runs the 4-H High Ropes Course and High Adventure Program, which she insists is the only way to get her off the phone. Liz has been taking kids on leadership and wilderness adventures with 4-H for over 15 years to exotic places like Alaska, Russia, and Mexico. In her free time…what free time? She is the mother of 2 boys and loves mountain biking and rock climbing. You can email her at esparks@cals.arizona.edu

Leza Carter

Leza Carter

Founder and Program Coordinator of TVF, Leza Carter has spent most of her professional years in the education field. It was her experience working in school gardens that led her to follow her dream of starting up an urban farm where kids could be out in nature and see for themselves that vegetables have a life before the produce aisle of the grocery store. She delights in seeing the look on children’s faces when they pull a big, orange carrot out of the ground or taste a fresh, red tomato right off the vine. When she is not at the farm, she is, well, at the farm with her supportive husband and two young, budding farmer children. You can email her at: tucsonvillagefarm@gmail.com

Natalie Shepp

Natalie Shepp

Natalie Shepp started volunteering at the groundbreaking in January, 2010. She is now a Program Coordinator for the 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors and the 4-H Food Smart Families programs (both sister programs of the Tucson Village Farm). She graduated from the UA College of Agriculture with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science in 1998. She worked in local government for 7 years, co-founded the Solar Rock Music Festival and created a community garden in her neighborhood. During her free time she likes to travel with her family, hike, work out at the boxing gym, do yoga and of course garden and cook! You can email her at nshepp@cals.arizona.edu.

Alex Atkin

Alex Atkin Alex Atkin has lived in Tucson, AZ for 20 years and has spent her last 6 at Tucson Village Farm.  She began at the farm as a volunteer, served 2 AmeriCorps terms, and was hired as Farm Manager in 2014.  Alex studied Fine Art at the University of Arizona and earned her degree in 2008.  She now considers farming the finest art of all!  You can see her at the farm searching for bugs, teaching kids how to plant a seed, harvesting for market, and working with the 100’s of volunteers that help the farm thrive and grow!  She also enjoys hiking and biking and her favorite vegetable changes with the seasons.  To contact Alex, you can email her at atkin@email.arizona.edu.

Judith Keller

TVF Volunteer Coordinator Judith Keller was born and raised in Logan, Utah, but has spent much of her adult life in the West African Sahel, first as an Environmental Educator in the Peace Corps and then as a teacher in international schools. Judith’s interest in agriculture germinated during her childhood with a large family garden, and has grown with experiences that include small-scale farming in Africa and working on organic farms in southern France. When not farming, Judith pursues her other passions, art, bicycling, hiking, experimental cooking, and spending time with her three boys and husband. Her favorite veggie is eggplant that she makes into baba ghanoush. If you’re interested in volunteering on the Farm, Judith is the one to email: at volunteertvf@gmail.com.

Thom Plasse

Thom Plasse

Thom Plasse traded the rocky soil of Rhode Island for the caliche and clay of Tucson in March of 2011. Tucson won his heart during a stint with the Southwest Conservation Corps in the winter of the preceding year. After biking from Providence to San Francisco, touring the West in a car, and getting a fungus removed from his lungs he decided to return. Two AmeriCorps terms at TVF and one more bicycle trip later, he was hired on as Camp Coordinator and tasked with creating four fabulous weeks of seed-to-table programming for Tucson’s youth. He wears many other hats around TVF including chicken wrangler, amateur plumber, aspirational carpenter, pun specialist, and chief mycological liaison. Outside of the farm he can often be found with his nose in a book or a cup of espresso. Arugula and brussels sprouts are among his favorite vegetables, but please don’t make him choose.

Veronica Simon

Veronica Simon

Veronica Simon has lived in Tucson most of her life. She began volunteering at Tucson Village Farm through the University of Arizona in the Fall of 2013 and shortly after signed on as an AmeriCorps volunteer. She received her BS in Literacy Learning and Leadership from the University of Arizona in 2013 and loves the educational component of Tucson Village Farm. When not at the farm, Veronica loves spending time with her family cooking and exploring Tucson. Her new-found favorite vegetables are Brussels and flower sprouts.

Drew Stanley

Drew Stanley joined TVF in 2013 as an Americorps volunteer serving two terms. Afterwards he joined the main TVF team and can be seen building things, cutting wood, and raising chickens. As a Tucson native he grew up with outdoor activities ranging from high ropes courses to caving, running and hiking. When he’s not outdoors he enjoys playing guitar and singing his heart out. He went to Prescott College and has a Bachelors in Adventure Education. The Farm is a life-giving place and has provided opportunities and opened doors to accommodate his outdoor lifestyle. He is now running a 4-H Tech Wizards grant program that mentors youth through STEM based curriculum.

Parker Filer

Parker Filer grew up playing and working (Mostly playing. Also eating.) in the backyard gardens of his parents and grandparents in western Pennsylvania. Fond memories of harvesting green beans, tasting homegrown watermelon, canning tomatoes, beets and applesauce, and pickling cucumbers are what motivates his work with TVF's agriculture and nutrition program "Growing Forward." Parker began studying Agribusiness Technology at Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ, and some years later ended up with a Bachelor of Science in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Hawaii and a Masters in International Agriculture and Rural Development form Cornell University. In addition to completing Peace Corps service in Honduras, Parker has worked with state government providing outreach and employment services to migrant and seasonal farm workers and has worked with farmers markets in Austin, TX, and right here in Tucson. 

Auxiliary Staff

David Gilmore

David Gilmore

David Gilmore is the farm’s web, marketing, and graphics specialist. David has a background in computer graphics, television, and pubilc radio where he was the 2004 recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in journalism. He is originally from California but has lived in New York, San Francisco, Germany, Hawaii, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he met his husband Chuan. He loves to travel but has kept a homebase in Tucson since 2001 and prides himself on his desert natives garden, water harvesting, and photo voltaic solar system. He has been “car-free” (and easy) since 2007. He is also the graphic designer, photographer and filmmaker for StopWaste in Oakland, California, whose goal is to protect the San Francisco Bay with sustainable landscaping and reduction of the waste streams. When he’s not cycling or hiding behind a camera, he’s playing piano, singing with the Tucson Symphony, traveling in Asia and Europe and cooking local, organic food in his solar oven. He likes the purple mustard greens the best! He can be reached at davidgdesigns@gmail.com.

AmeriCorps Members

Kayla Purigraski

Kayla Purigraski is an undergraduate at the University of Arizona pursuing a Bachelor of the Arts in Environmental Studies with a minor in Sustainable Plants Systems. After completing a Sustainability Externship with Tucson Village Farm, Kayla chose to follow her passion by continuing her service at the farm as an AmeriCorps member. Kayla’s devotion to growing and teaching the importance of healthy, delicious, and sustainable food is deeply rooted in her spirit. Her ancestry includes Dutch farmers and Italian chefs who have made lasting impacts on her perception and values concerning food. When Kayla isn’t harvesting veggies or fixing irrigation leaks, she can be found wandering the beautiful scenery of Tucson, hiking and camping. Her current favorite vegetable is eggplant because of its unique color, goofy shape, and delectable flavor in lasagnas! 

Callie Pople

Callie Pople has just joined our AmeriCorp team as a senior at the University of Arizona studying Environmental Studies. Born and raised in west Texas, Callie loves working around the farm and spending time outdoors. She is passionate about conservation and community outreach, traveling around the world to volunteer and assist with research projects and sustainability efforts. A child at heart, she loves encouraging kids to play outside and raising their awareness on environmental issues. Callie has done previous local and international work in environmental education and is super excited to continue her outreach at TVF. 

Katie Brown

Katie Brown recently joined TVF as an Americorps member and she is excited about the opportunity to combine her experiences in agriculture and education. Growing up, Katie raised livestock with her county's 4-H club where she developed a love for farming. When she graduated from Grove City College she began her first Americorps experience as a Teach for America science teacher in rural South Carolina. After teaching middle school science for several years she moved to Arizona where she discovered TVF. She immediately identified it as her "dream job" and joined the team. When she's not on the farm, she can be found hiking, woodworking, baking, or visiting her family's cattle ranch in Pennsylvania. Katie's favorite vegetable is asparagus.