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

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.

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.

Coverdall Fellow: Angell Kim

Angell Kim is a Korean-American born and raised in Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and a minor in Latin American Studies. She has had many diverse experiences such as volunteering extensively with Rotary International, working in a medical device consulting company, serving as an education volunteer for the Peace Corps in Colombia, meeting her Colombian husband in Bogotá, working for an NGO that advocates for reproductive health, and now she is currently an MPA, GIS certificate student and Coverdell Fellow at the University of Arizona. She likes to bake, cook, chat with friends, and play sand volleyball.

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 is the farm’s web, marketing, filmmaker, and graphics specialist and has worked with TVF since 2010. 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 where he met his husband Chuan. He loves to travel but has kept a homebase in Tucson since 2001. When he’s not cycling or hiding behind a camera, he’s writing his next memoir, singing bass with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Helios Ensemble, traveling the world, and playing jazz piano. He likes the purple mustard greens the best. He can be reached at davidgdesigns@gmail.com.

George Stefanakis

George Stefanakis was born in New York City, raised in Athens, Greece, and self-actualized in Tucson. After coming to the heart-breaking realization that winning Magic: The Gathering tournaments was not a sustainable career for him, George worked as a Behavioral Health Technician in a rehab center for six years. Here he developed a passion for helping people, supporting those battling substance abuse and behavioral health disorders. Later, during a very brief volunteer stint with Iskashitaa, he discovered the AmeriCorps. The idea of a committed term of service in the local community planted a seed in his mind. The seed rooted, grew, then bloomed into a year of work at Tucson Village Farm in 2011-2012, many harvests ago, along with fellow members Alex and Thom. Then, a subsequent position sprouted, as an Instructional Specialist. George has been at TVF for ten years ever since, and though his name literally means "farmer", he is a novice when it comes to agriculture. Instead, he specializes in building teams at the 4-H Ropes Course, where groups come to develop essential life skills such as leadership, communication, and self-belief. As a bonus he gets to yell at children and adults who are terrified of heights. George's favorite pastimes are to play soccer in local leagues, watch Arsenal F.C., and to climb on Mt. Lemmon as well as the local rock gyms. Most impressive of all, George makes the best Greek coffee you've ever sipped. He loves to spend quality interspecies time with his family and pets and plans on somehow using all these above skills to eventually retire to a sailboat in the Ionian Sea. 

AmeriCorps Members

Doug Wilson

Doug Wilson graduated from Middlebury College in 2019 with a degree in International Politics & Economics focused in Chinese language and culture. From Vermont, he moved to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where he worked on a 50-acre biodynamic farm, integrating practices including permaculture, rotational grazing, cover cropping, organic composting and biodynamic prep making to build soil health, grow a diversity of nutritious produce, care for an assortment of animals, and process herbal teas and remedies. Doug played 10 years of rugby throughout middle school, high school, and college, and enjoys spending time reading about history, ecology, plant intelligence, soil health, social and environmental justice, Chinese novels and legends, mythology, spirituality, culture, nutrition and cooking. He sees regenerative agriculture as essential for establishing sustainable, healthful relationships with nature, each other, our communities and ourselves. He strives to use food as a way to address the exploits and inequities in our local, national and global institutions, and is always looking for opportunities to apply and improve speaking, reading, and writing mandarin Chinese. 

Elizabeth "Becca" Groff

Hi, my name is Becca Groff. I studied Nutritional Sciences with an emphasis in Dietetics at the University of Arizona. I am interested in community nutrition which is what led me to the farm. I had been volunteering at TVF throughout my undergrad and decided I wanted to make it more official by applying for their AmeriCorps position. Some of my favorite things to do are camping, hiking, cooking, and being outdoors! 

Forrest Campbell

Forrest Campbell is a tree hugger turned cactus hugger having moved here in 2019 from Washington. He is eager to explore ways in which we can make food production and relationships with natural spaces more sustainable and equitable. While his background is in healthcare and public health, Forrest is excited to get his hands dirty and dive into integrative farming. He sees living more harmoniously with nature as the most important issue of our time. Forrest has never met a hot spring he doesn’t like and has been fortunate enough to backpack and hitchhike in Iceland. When not at the farm, you can spot Forrest hiking, listening to NPR, slacklining, gardening, reading Terry Pratchett, or making pesto!

David Rollins

David Rollins, Pacific Northwest raised, is a recent University of Oregon graduate. There he studied the intersections between anthropology, environmental sciences, and civic agriculture. During his time in Eugene, he trained at the UO Urban Farm, led trail crews with the Northwest Youth Corps along the Oregon Coast, and co-led gardening courses at the Laurel Valley Educational Farm. When not gardening, David is an avid cyclist, photographer, reader and forager of both the botanical and mycological realm.

Momo Wilms-Crowe

Momo Wilms-Crowe is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon, eager to return home to her desert roots in Tucson. She is deeply passionate about social justice and grassroots community organizing and believes food has the radical power to change the world as it connects us to our bodies, our land, and each other. She wrote her honors thesis on queer agroecology collectives in Puerto Rico and is dedicated to continue learning about the role of food and land in decolonization efforts, transformative justice, and movements for change. She currently organizes with Community Alliance for Global Justice as the co-chair of their Food Justice Project and has designed food justice curriculum for youth and adults in the Pacific Northwest. She is overjoyed to get her hands in new soil, plant seeds of hope in new ground, dance under a new sun, eat lots of fresh tortillas, and work with the amazing Tucson community that she so deeply loves!

Jordan Ruiz

Jordan Ruiz graduated from Pima Community college’s Fitness Professional Certification program in 2013. She went on to graduate from Naropa University with a degree in Visual Arts (with a focus on illustration and ceramics) and a minor in Holistic Early Childhood Education in 2016. She has also completed a 200-hr yoga certification, 850hr massage therapy license, 100hr AcroYoga teaching cert, 100hr slackline yoga certification, and 1000hr functional nutrition guide program. Jordan spends her free time drawing, walking her dogs, baking, climbing, or rearranging the furniture in her home.

Harshita "Hershey" Pant

Harshita Pant, better known as Hershey, is currently studying Natural Resources and the Environment at The University of Arizona. She is originally from India and has lived in many places throughout the world, though Tucson has taken a very special place in her heart. She wants to give back to this community by distributing fresh, organic produce to its members and helping give the youth a more rounded education.

Stryder Rodenberg

Stryder Rodenberg graduated high school in May, 2020, and because of the changed college experience due to COVID-19, decided to take a year off. He ended up choosing to spend the year with the Americorps program at TVF because he has benefitted a lot from the farm. He loved the TVF summer camps growing up, and greatly enjoyed being a part of the 4-H program last year. So, he decided this was a good opportunity to give back to the farm. Some of his favorite hobbies include tennis, cycling, and last, but certainly not least, a good game of ping-pong! He is stoked to be a part of the team this year and is looking forward to all it will bring and the great learning opportunity!

Elizaveta "Liz" Lane

Liz Lane is a Tucson native majoring in anthropology with a minor in Portuguese and education. After volunteering at TVF during her sophomore and junior year and loving what the farm offered to her and other locals, Liz wanted to join Americorps to continue investing in her deeply loved Tucson community. She also hopes that the skills gained during her term make her fit to travel and volunteer on farms in Brazil, Germany, and Portugal post-grad! Liz is a part of her college comedy improv team and enjoys cooking, reading psychology books, and is always super down for a female rap or EDM concert!

Mira Frenkel

Hi, I’m Mira Frenkel, a Tucson native, and I’m very excited to encourage the next generation of kids in Tucson to learn life skills and be engaged with the outdoors. I love to make and build things and am continually learning new skills, ranging from jewelry and woodworking to home repairs and gardening. I am especially interested in working with Tucson Village Farm as an AmeriCorps volunteer to learn more about sustainable gardening and agriculture in the Southwest. When I’m not working on my latest project you can find me exploring the backroads of Arizona in my Jeep.

AJ West

AJ West has been at the farm since the begining. He went from a camper, to Healthy Living Ambassador President, to now serve his second term of AmeriCorps with TVF this summer (2021). He's super excited to be working a summer filled with camps and teaching youth about farming, healthy living and how to have fun. He just graduated highschool at UHS in tucson and is going to NAU in the fall with a major in Environmental Sustainability. When he's not at the farm you can find him swimming, cooking, and enjoying every second of being in the outdoors. 

Fiona van Haren

My name is Fiona van Haren and I am a University of Arizona student focusing on Sociology with a touch of Gender and Women’s Studies and Pre-Health. I have spent the last five years with the farm, and could not wait to make it six, so I made the obvious choice and joined AmeriCorps. The farm has always been my happy place, and I could not fathom spending a summer without camps, working with kids, gardening, and working hard. I am a part of the Blue Chip Leadership Experience and I spend way too much time in 4-H leadership activities even though I have aged out. Outside of school, 4-H, and now AmeriCorps, I enjoy taking pictures of my pets, reading, hiking, and painting.

Benjamin Steller

Ben Steller is a more recent joinee of the farm community, having been involved for only three years. However, in that short time, he has learned what topics he is passionate about, and how to take appropriate, meaningful action to tackle them. He is very passionate about the environment, sustainable living, healthy eating, plant-based eating, and many social justice issues. In his spare time, he loves reading, hiking, camping, biking, and swimming. In the fall of 2021, he is going to be heading up to NAU to learn more about sustainability and ecology, and how we can take meaningful action to better protect our planet.

Elijah Parent

Elijah Parent is a homeschooled high school student currently taking classes at Pima Community College and transferring to the University of Arizona in Fall, 2021 to major in Game Design and Development. Participating in 4-H since 2015, he was introduced to the Tucson Village Farm through the 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors club in 2017. He enjoys teaching others about healthy living and sustainability, and rock climbing, practicing bass guitar, playing video games, and speed solving Rubik’s cubes in his free time. He is extremely excited to join the team for this summer, teach the public more about where their food comes from, and create documentation for the new FAB LAB.

Annika Shepp

Annika Shepp has worked/volunteered at TVF since it started many years back. Her mother, Natalie Shepp, introduced her to this amazing place and ever since she has been passionate about teaching others how to live a healthy lifestyle. Annika went to Farm Camp each year while growing up and then eventually became a CIT for these camps and a Healthy Living Ambassadors as well. She is currently enrolled in Tucson High School and will be a senior at the beginning of the Fall 2021 school year. She is passionate about working with children and has done so for many years. Outside of school, 4-H, and Americorps, she enjoys hiking, cooking, swimming and painting.

Elena Durazo

Elena Durazo's long-term relationship with TVF began in 2017 when she volunteered at U-Pick. It was love at first carrot-covered-in-soil bite. Since that fateful experience, she has served as a Healthy Living Ambassador, a CIT at farm summer camps, and now she is nearing her final Pokemon evolution as an AmeriCorps member this summer. She recently graduated from University High School and is headed to the University of Richmond in the fall to pursue a degree in Sociology and Political Science. When she's not at the farm or working at Trader Joe's, Elena enjoys backpacking, reading, working on her Chaco tan, coaxing her friends to go outside with her, and telling anyone who will listen to her about the slew of podcasts she subscribes to. 

Aiden Pierce

Aiden Pierce has been with Tucson village farm as a Healthy Living Ambassador for 2 years now. He is a student at Tucson High School. In his short time at the farm he has learned a lot about not only how to live a healthy lifestyle, but also leadership skills, as well as other important life skills. He is an avid cyclist, and also enjoys hiking, running, and swimming. He is also very passionate about the environment and is looking forward to doing more to combat climate change and creating a safer and more sustainable world in the future.

Ella von Guilleaume

Ella von Guilleaume has been working with the farm since she can remember, whether it was picking up her brothers from farm camp, working as a CIT and then HLA member, and now an AmeriCorps Member. She is currently choosing between a couple schools in Arizona, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Hawaii to hopefully study architecture, interior design, or something else. She spends a lot of her time doing community service through NCL or HLA and working with kids through camps and at the afterschool program at St. Michael’s. In her free time she loves to hike, record music, paint, and spend time with friends and family. 

Zayk Cronyn

Zayk Cronyn has been at the farm since he was quite small, he always has enjoyed the outdoors, and absolutely adores the farm and what it stands for. He is working on a 300 hour AmeriCorps program for TVF and can not wait to help out as much as possible. For most of his life he has traveled never being able to settle, and is quite looking forward to getting closer to Tucson as well as the farm. Some of his hobbies are spending time outside, reading, playing guitar, and having a great time.

Lydia Watts

Lydia Watts has lived in Tucson all of her life and will graduate from University High School in 2021. She started at the Tucson Village Farm as a 4-H member and is now an AmeriCorps member. She has learned the benefits and joys of working with kids and teaching about healthy living, and is excited to continue on that path in AmeriCorps this summer. She is dedicated and passionate about social justice and intersectionality and hopes to bring her unique perspective to the farm. 

Forever in our hearts: 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.