Meet Team Apple Seeds!Team Apple Seeds is comprised of a dedicated staff that develops and runs the educational programs on the Teaching Farm and in the schools.
Mary Thompson, Co-Executive DirectorA traveler. An architect. A mover and shaker. Yep, Mary’s interests and studies have taken her across the country and abroad, but she couldn’t resist the temptation to return to her roots here in Arkansas. Once she landed in Fayetteville it didn’t take her long to fall in love with Apple Seeds. She’s got a vision for this grassroots organization and sees so much potential in the Teaching Farm and its programs being used to improve the health and well-being of our community’s young students. Mary loves making healthy food that tastes good. She loves her kids (heck…all kids!) and she wants the best for them—a love of outdoors, a love of life, a love of good food, and good farm air. That’s why she loves calling Apple Seeds her home.
Kyra Ramsey, Co-Executive DirectorKyra’s introduction to Apple Seeds came soon after moving with her family to Fayetteville after spending more than a decade in Chicago. Quickly captivated with Apple Seeds’ mission, she joined the Board of Directors and helped to give it a bigger voice in the community. Her claim to fame? Dressing up as the Carrot Fairy during Fayetteville’s Lighting of the Square Parade. Yes, that was her! But kidding aside, she loves Apple Seeds and never tires seeing students out in the garden…digging, learning, and connecting!In her spare time you can find Kyra chasing after her two kids, being chased by her dog, running the trails, and trying to beat her Scrabble computer opponent.
Cale Nicholson, Farm ManagerCale grew up on a farm where raising vegetables, feeding calves, and exploring creeks with your dog Pee Wee was just what you did. He has completed organic gardening internships around the country, culminating in a year managing the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, AR. Cale also created the Teaching Garden at the Oxford Boys and Girls Club in conjunction with his graduate work through the Center for the Study of Southern Culture in Oxford, MS. After working on the Glynwood Institute farm in upstate New York, he returned to his home state with the goal of helping children have healthier lifestyles through gardening with the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute’s Childhood Obesity Program’s Delta Garden Study and Arkansas GardenCorps programs. Cale holds a BA in English from the University of Central Arkansas and a MA in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. That’s right, folks. Liberal Arts educated and farm trained!
Destiny Schlinker, Program ManagerDestiny describes her love of local food as "as strong as my southern accent." As a student at the University of Central Arkansas, various Anthropology and Honors courses sparked her interest in food systems. Her thesis, "Service Learning: A Mixture of Soil and Seminar," challenges schools to utilize local resources and engage students. At Apple Seeds, Destiny brings a wealth of experience in school garden education--having recently completed two years as a FoodCorps service member at Harp Elementary in Springdale. As our Program Manager, Destiny oversees all of our educational programs--whether they're on the Teaching Farm or in the school gardens. Destiny is always looking for new ways to educate our young students and loves working hand-in-hand with teachers as they establish and use their school gardens in sustainable and creative ways. When she isn't digging in the dirt, she's playing with her dog Cricket, canning lots of goodies, and dancing to 90s music! (not typically all at the same time)
Brett Williams, Farm to Table Program ManagerHailing from the East Coast, Brett started out studying political science and business, then took a wonderful detour as a Special Initiatives Coordinator for AmeriCorps VISTA at Boston Cares. She then made the trek to Arkansas to serve as our AmeriCorps VISTA Farm Lab Coordinator and started the farm field trip for 2nd and 4th graders from the ground up! Following that she jumped into the garden as a GardenCorps Service Member. Now Brett heads up our Farm to Table program. She brings to bear her experience and passion for nutrition, her love of all things healthy, and her natural way with kids as she engages them in our one-of-a-kind farm to table cooking class. When she isn’t on the farm, she’s experimenting with smoothie recipes, studying up on nutrition, puzzling word puzzles all while listening to her favorite Fleetwood Mac tunes.
Jackson Wells, Farm Assistant, Arkansas GardenCorpsA recent intern at Dripping Springs in Huntsville, Jackson arrived at Apple Seeds with loads of gardening experience and a desire to share his love of gardening with students. As an intern he definitely got his hands dirty—from transplanting, to setting up irrigation systems and greenhouse sowings. You name it, Jackson did it…and all with a smile! Jackson started out as our school garden coordinator, supporting our local school gardens, and is now our Farm Assistant at the Apple Seeds Teaching Farm. And when he's not digging in the soil you can find him doing chores at Summer Kitchen Family Farm, camping, and pickin' on his banjo.
Jillian Browder, Farm Lab Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTAJillian joined Apple Seeds as the Farm Lab Coordinator upon the completion of her Masters from the University of Edinburgh. After spending quite some time in academia, she was ready to get her hands dirty helping out her community and tackling all those lessons you can’t quite learn from a book. Audrey Hepburn once said, “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” and Jillian happens to believe Apple Seeds does this two-fold, by not only planting gardens but investing those gardens in the youth of Northwest Arkansas. Missing home from her time abroad, when she’s not at work on the farm you can bet she’s getting lost on some back-road or finding a nice big secluded rock to put her butt on.
Sarah Heizenroth, Farm to Table Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTASarah comes to us with a passion for promoting healthy and sustainable communities. She spent the last year serving as an AmeriCorps Case Manager in Austin, TX where she supported individuals experiencing homelessness on their path to self-sufficiency. Sarah’s zeal for gardening developed through her involvement in various community garden projects around Austin. Seeing the value that these gardens had on community identity, health, and stewardship, she established a community garden at her service site and maintained it with the help of clients and residents from the community. As the Farm to Table Coordinator, Sarah is excited to use her experience to empower students with the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources to inspire healthy living through gardening.
Sean Coder, School Garden Market Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTASean is grateful and happy to be working with the Apple Seeds team to further a mission of inspiring healthy living in Northwest Arkansas. Coming to the team with a range of experience in for profit and non-profit farming, hands on food, nutrition & cooking education, and community organizing, he feels right at home and in good company. Sean's passion for healthy living is best described as a web connecting his commitment to social justice, compassion, fun, and good health. His work as the School Garden Market Coordinator includes hands on cooking and nutrition education, showing students that healthy food really can taste good and be fun to prepare, and empowering these very same students to make healthy living an integral part of their lives.
**Our thanks go to Travis Kersh at TravisKersh.info for taking these beautiful photos on the Apple Seeds Teaching Farm at Gulley Park.**