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.

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.

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.

Katie Bernal

Katie Bernal joined tbe TVF staff in 2017 after completing her term as an Americorps member. Growing up, Katie raised livestock with her county's 4-H club where she developed a deep love of 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.   

Becky Yim

Chef Becky Yim came to Tucson Village Farm as the farm-to-fork culinary master. With her restaurant background and over ten years experience teaching culinary education to teens, she is the perfect combination of foodie and fun. Becky has a gift for transforming vegetables into delicious morsels that kids are begging to eat! Her love of cooking and kids is undeniable and creating healthy dishes that the kids can make at home is one of her greatest strengths. She knows that when she teaches a child to cook she is giving him/her a skill to last a lifetime. When Becky isn’t busy figuring out how to make 300 lbs of broccoli taste good to the ten year old palate, she can be found traveling, trail running or hanging out with her family.

Auxiliary Staff

Judith Keller

Judith Keller was TVF's Volunteer Coordinator for three years before heading back to Africa with her family. Judith would have quite the commute from Tanzania back to TVF so despite the distance Judith is continuing as our artist and illustrator. Judith will also be assisting with the coordinating of our 4-H Global Tanzania program which will soon be unveiled.

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 writing his next memoir, singing with the Tucson Symphony, traveling, or cooking with 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! 

Olivia Ridge

Olivia Ridge is an undergraduate at the University of Arizona pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in French. She joined Tucson Village Farm as an intern the fall of 2016. Once her internship was completed, Olivia couldn't bear to leave, and so she is now serving an AmeriCorps term at the farm. Olivia is excited to spread the power and love of farming and veggies to the Tucson community. When she isn't at the farm you can find Olivia biking or hiking all around Tucson. Her favorite vegetables are definitely peppers and onions because what a combo they make!

Amanda Lucero

Amanda Lucero is an undergraduate at the University of Arizona pursuing two Bachelor of Arts: Environmental Studies and Geography. She first worked at the Farm as a sustainability extern in the summer of 2017, but her work definitely wasn't finished. She's now back to serve through AmeriCorps, combining her love for her hometown and vegetables to educate youth and make Tucson more. Apart from farming, Amanda loves music, film, photography, and cycling around the city to find some good coffee.

Charles Young

Charles Young is an undergraduate at the University of Arizona pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Charles always liked showing people where their food comes from and how to grow it, and Tucson Village Farm is helping him spread this message. After doing an externship over the summer, Charles decided he liked the position and chose to become an Americorps for the farm. When not at the farm, Charles is either outdoors hiking or backpacking, or in his garage working on his classic truck and motorcycle.


Larissa Rodriguez

Larissa Rodriguez is a U of A graduate with a double major in Environmental Studies and Creative Writing. She started off at the farm as an intern in the Fall of 2018 and fell in love with the community at Tucson Village Farm as well as the outreach of education to young kids about healthy eating, how to grow food, and sustainability. She is now serving as an Americorps member, working mostly with the field trip program Growing Forward. Her favorite lesson to teach kids is about raising chickens, however, the lessons in the farm (Vegetable Identification and Farm Chores) are a close second. Her favorite vegetable changes with the seasons. 

Red Jessup

Red started growing food in the Midwest 8 years ago at their home in Ohio. They currently serve as an Americorps member at Tucson Village Farm, a market ambassador and lead grower for the Abundant Harvest Cooperative, and a stalwart supporter of the local food community. You can catch them living their dream of teaching kids how to grow food and eat a whole foods diet while helping with the Growing Forward program, or facilitating some of the many camps offered at TVF.

IN MEMORIAM: Jason Isles

Jason Isles was introduced to the farm at the age of 17 through a field trip at his high school, Edge. He immediately fell in love with the Farm and began volunteering every Tuesday at U-pick. Jason saw the resources and assets available to him that the farm could provide (food, education, fun, and amazing friends) and before he knew it he was hired as AmeriCorps member, which was  his dream job.  On May 14, 2019 Jason unexpectedly passed away and left all of us at the farm heartbroken. Jason dreamed of having goats and a big orchard at the farm, stay tuned...we'll be creating those in his honor in the near future.