Vera is a mom, gardener, and farm-based educator who comes from a family of teachers. She became the FBEN Coordinator in 2013, and saw the Network's potential to connect peers through shared values of experiential learning, joy, equity and inclusion, and a humble desire to grow. Vera believes farms are the best places for relationship building, learning through doing, and connecting with oneself and the ecological communities that support us, and that everyone has the right to these opportunities. Vera's job brings her across Vermont for agritourism collaborations, and throughout the Shelburne Farms campus to eradicate invasive species, harvest crops, teach camp, welcome visitors to the farm, and plan professional learning workshops that nourish the whole person, all alongside a wonderful Shelburne Farms team.
The newest member to the team, Kali joins the Farm-Based Education Network after two years of FoodCorps service in the Springfield Public Schools district. Here at FBEN, she utilizes social media to uplift the voices of our members' work and experiences. She actively strives to create a social media presence that accurately reflects the diversity of programs and heritages within the field of farm-based education. When she is not admiring and promoting the work of our members, she can be found experimenting in her home kitchen, volunteering at community gardens in Western Massachusetts, and engaging in her daily meditation practices.
Kali holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College. Her main areas of study were African-American studies, Cultural and Education Studies, and Sustainable Community Development. Her Senior thesis was entitled “Let's Build a Garden: Integrative Food and Garden Enrichment Education in Springfield Public Schools.” Her thesis explored the food system within her home city of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the potential garden-based education holds in creating more equitable and just food systems.
Want to learn more? Check out our social media pages (Instagram and Facebook) to stay up to date with current work and offerings from the Farm-Based Education Network and our members. If you are interested in having your organization’s work promoted, reach out to Kali through email or through our social media platforms to collaborate.
Network Advisor | Pronouns: she/her
Melisa Oliva is a former student of the ABCs of Farm-Based Education at Shelburne Farms. She brings her training to life through her role as the marketing, customer service, and wellness manager of Ananda Gardens in Montpelier, VT. She is an Integrative Health Coach, a consultant, an educator, and a chef. She combines these experiences to share with people the importance of farms as sources of lively food and healthy behaviors for a better life. She is a creative force always looking for innovative ways to connect communities with farms and the stewardship of the land. In her role of a FBEN advisor she has the goal of highlighting the importance of adult education on the wellness aspects related to farms such as mindful living, healthy eating, and reconnection to nature.
Network Advisor | Pronouns: he/him
Scott was a 6th grade teacher in Blowing Rock, NC for 11 years, which is where he learned to teach outside and use gardens as contexts for learning. As a teacher educator at Elon University, he is the coordinator of the environmental education minor and teaches courses on environmental education, garden-based learning, and nature awareness. In 2016, he created the forest classroom at Loy Farm so that his students could become fully immersed in the philosophy and practices of forest school. He also has service-learning partnerships with local elementary schools where he and his students help to co-facilitate after school garden clubs. Scott is passionate about everyday environmental education, or the ways that any teacher can integrate environmental issues into their curriculum or use nature and the community as a context for learning on a daily basis. He also researches the ways that prospective and practicing teachers use social media like Twitter and Instagram for professional development and networking.
Network Advisor | Pronouns: she/her
Tafadzwa (Taffy) Gwitira is a farmer, and chef of Zimbabwean and Tanzanian origins. She is also a Community Building Strategist whose work on transportation advocacy, place-making and social justice education locally and globally has informed FBEN's work since 2019. She was a farmer with Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, and is a senior fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program. The oldest of six girls, she speaks five languages and her favorite people are her nieces. She loves all things family, food and farm-related. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founding Director | Pronouns: she/her
In 2006, Brooke co-founded the Farm-Based Education Network (FBEN) and was the Founding Executive Director for seven years before transitioning to her current fundraising and communications role with Shelburne Farms. In 2004, Brooke wrote a thesis, A Return to the Farm: Educational Theory and Program Development in Alternative Learning Environments, as part of her graduate school work focusing on educational program development. Before perusing her graduate degree, Brooke worked at ABC News in New York City as an Associate Producer in the breaking news and documentary divisions. Brooke’s volunteer roles include her work as a member of the Trustees Agriculture Committee, the Concord Food Collaborative, and the Fenn School's Board of Visitors. Brooke graduated from Skidmore College in 1994 with a B.A. in English. Brooke lives in Concord, MA with her husband Patrick and their two boys. Contact Brooke.
Special Gifts Manager | Pronouns: she/her
Sue has been part of the Shelburne Farms development team since 1998. She is responsible for special giving, planned gifts and legacy support at Shelburne Farms. In her role she supports the Farm-Based Education Network's development work. Sue lives in Shelburne with her husband Dave Jonah, and their two children, Will and Kim. Prior to working at the Farm, Sue was membership coordinator at the Vermont Land Trust. She is passionate about education, land conversation and environmental sustainability in Vermont and around the globe. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professional and serves on the board of All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne. Sue enjoys gardening, cooking, writing and travel. Sue graduated from the University of Vermont with a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Education in 1982. Contact Sue.