Backyard Growers announces new headquarters and grows its leadership team

We’re excited to announce that on July 1 we relocated our headquarters to 3 Duncan Street in downtown Gloucester. The new space (known locally as the former Alchemy and Happy Belly restaurants) will host Backyard Growers’ gardening workshops, community events, and day-to-day operations. Stop by to say hello and check it out! 

And, our team is growing, too! We’re thrilled to announce Lisbeth Cahill’s appointment as Director of Operations at Backyard Growers. Lis is joining the team after a robust career in banking, operations and human resources, including 25 years at The Food Project. A Gloucester resident, she’s an experienced non-profit manager with a background in farming and youth engagement. Lis will be taking our operations to the next level, helping us become even more effective and impactful in our community. 

This exciting season of change is, of course, bittersweet, as we say goodbye to Meghan Stratton, Associate Director of School Programs. Meg has been a lynchpin of Backyard Growers for the last five years, starting out with us as a FoodCorps service member. She has had a huge impact on our work in Gloucester’s public schools and beyond, leading our farm to school programming locally and pioneering our consulting approach that has made it possible for us to roll out our school garden program model to schools across Massachusetts. We’re wishing Meg the very best on her next adventure, and we know that our Gloucester community is right there with us when we say we know she’ll make a huge impact wherever she goes.

As previously announced, Corinne Lippie started as our new Program Director in May. This is a new position at Backyard Growers that combines both our school and community programs as well as our growing consulting practice. 

We also want to extend a huge thanks to Abby Johnstone, our 2018-2019 FoodCorps service member who served in the Gloucester Public Schools with Backyard Growers for the past school year. We are going to miss Abby’s creativity, enthusiasm, and sunny disposition, and know she will go on to do great things! 

Finally, we would like to welcome our new 2019-2020 FoodCorps service member, Emily Brown, who will be leading the charge in our farm to school programming in the year to come. Emily joined us this spring as our Urban Agriculture intern, and we’re so pleased that she is staying on with us as a service member. Emily studied sustainable horticulture at Essex Agricultural and Technical High School while working at The Food Project. She’s looking forward to serving Gloucester as a 2019-2020 FoodCorps service member with the Backyard Growers team. Welcome, Emily!

Stop by 3 Duncan Street to meet Lis, Corinne and Emily, and check out our new space! We’ll be announcing a fun Open House event in the days to come, but in the meantime, you can reach us at community@backyardgrowers.org or 978-281-0480 with any questions.

Introducing Backyard Growers' new Program Director!

Dear Friends:

As we transition from a rainy spring to a promising growing season, we bid a warm farewell and thank you to our Interim Program Director, J. Harrison. J. stepped in at our busiest time of year to launch our spring initiatives, streamline our program deliverables, and shape the new full-time Program Director position.

It was such a gift to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with J., who is a dear friend and a long-time supporter of Backyard Growers. Going forward J. will continue to work with us as a consultant, working on a range of projects to help us continue to build healthy, connected and environmentally sustainable communities.

After a rigorous candidate search, we are thrilled to announce Corinne Lippie as our new Program Director. Corinne has been leading and managing nonprofit organizations in the Greater Boston area for the past 15 years. Her professional experience bridges work in academia, philanthropy, non-profit, and business.

Corinne began her career as a Program Officer at Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at the Kennedy School of Government. In 2009, she became a Project Director at the North Shore United Way, where, among other things, she spearheaded a new initiative to combat childhood obesity. It was in that role that she was first introduced to Backyard Growers.

In 2015, Corinne and her husband and two children moved to Rome, Italy, where she developed a deep appreciation for cross-cultural learning and insight into the relationship between children and their access to healthy food in a European context. She and her family returned to their home in Beverly in the summer of 2018. Eager to re-engage with her local community, Corinne joined the Backyard Growers Board of Directors in winter 2019. We quickly realized that her expertise was a perfect fit for the new Program Director role and asked her to join our job candidate pool.

The need to create the new Program Director position and to restructure our staffing model emerged out of our 2018 strategic planning process. We’re excited about our new path as outlined in our 3-year strategic plan, which we launched in winter 2019. In her role, Corinne will lead in implementing our strategic plan objectives, developing our new consulting practice, and overseeing our Community, Backyard and School programs.

She’s excited to get to work with the Backyard Growers team and to connect with our many community partners. If you would like to reach out to Corinne, you can reach her at corinne@backyardgrowers.org. She’s looking forward to working with all of you!

Best,

Lara Lepionka

Executive Director

lara@backyardgrowers.org

Become a Veggie Warrior! 🌱💪🥕

Every year, over 2,000 kids in Gloucester Public Schools plant, harvest and taste all different kinds of veggies grown right in their school gardens. They learn how their food goes from a single seed in a packet to part of a delicious (healthy!) meal on their plate. It’s a journey of discovery that changes the way kids see the world and how they think about their food - including whether or not they like veggies!

For a few cents a day, you can support all of this and more.

We want to garden and eat veggies with kids for years to come.

But, we can’t do it without your help.

We’re inviting you to support school gardens by becoming a VEGGIE WARRIOR!

Here’s the best part: it only takes $5 a month!

Our goal is to recruit 100 new Veggie Warriors this spring.

Are you with us? Let’s do this!

Join us at the Second Annual Gloucester Grow Fest!

We’re thrilled to share that the Gloucester Grow Fest will be returning to Burnham’s Field in downtown Gloucester on Sunday, June 9, 12pm - 3pm!

The Gloucester Grow Fest is a free community event hosted by Backyard Growers. The Grow Fest features hands-on, family-friendly activities to raise awareness about healthy eating, green living, and personal wellness, while celebrating the arrival of warm weather and the beginning of the growing season on Cape Ann! Activities for the whole family include yoga, art projects, games, gardening and cooking demos, and garden tours.

Check out these scenes from last year’s awesome event!

This year, you can expect…

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Watch this space for more updates on the day’s action-packed schedule and all the activities you can join in for FREE!

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Thanks to our sponsors…

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Mentors help beginner gardeners blossom at Backyard Growers

Backyard Growers has been helping Gloucester residents learn to grow their own food since 2010. We have installed hundreds of raised bed vegetable gardens around the city for families, individuals and older adults both in private backyards and community gardens.

Elizabeth Redmond began volunteering as a mentor to beginner gardeners at Backyard Growers in the summer of 2018. As an employee at Pathways for Children in downtown Gloucester, she became familiar with Backyard Growers through the garden they run on-site to provide fresh salad ingredients for children involved in programs at Pathways. With a great personal love of gardening and the outdoors, Elizabeth was attracted to Backyard Growers’ goal of empowering other people to garden and grow their own food.

Part of the joy of gardening is helping neighbors reconnect and building a stronger, healthier community. When Elizabeth signed up to be a mentor, she was matched with a diverse group of people with a range of skill sets, approaches and needs. They all challenged Elizabeth to develop new ways to communicate and teach a love of gardening.

One of Elizabeth’s mentees had worked at a botanical garden, but she had never grown vegetables. Another mentee had never gardened in his life. Elizabeth’s third mentee is going to be a Backyard Growers volunteer this coming season. All three had beautiful, productive vegetable gardens.

But, Redmond says, perfection in the garden isn’t the goal.

“You lend your confidence as an experienced gardener, but the great thing about gardening is that you don’t have to be perfect,” says Elizabeth. “You just need to be comfortable, with a can-do attitude. Gardening is more forgiving than you might think.”

We are currently recruiting for new mentors who can share their love of perfectly imperfect gardening with beginners. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a mentor or exploring other volunteer opportunities with Backyard Growers, visit www.backyardgrowers.org/take-action or attend the Volunteer Info Session, which takes place on Saturday, February 23, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Backyard Growers’ offices at 271 Main Street. You can RSVP to the Volunteer Information Session here.

Volunteers sharing their muscle power in the garden!

Volunteers sharing their muscle power in the garden!

Tune in to GloucesterCast: Lara Lepionka on our 3-year vision

[Backyard Growers’] purpose is rock solid, but you’re also very mindful of the financial aspects of it. As a businessman, I feel more confident being able to give, knowing where this money is going because there’s a real impact and a real ability to see it into the future. That’s fantastic.
— Joey Ciaramitaro, Good Morning Gloucester

Our Founder and Executive Director Lara Lepionka is featured on the latest episode of GloucesterCast, chatting about our three-year vision for building healthier, more connected and environmentally sustainable communities in Gloucester and beyond from the 4:50 mark.

The vision includes:

  • Launching a new community garden in Gloucester that also acts as a learning urban farm

  • Introducing a Farm to School experience to eighth graders in Gloucester Public Schools

  • Cultivating healthy, inspiring, creative school food environments

  • Sharing BYG’s successful community garden model with other cities and towns in Massachusetts and beyond

  • Empowering school districts across the state to launch their own successful Farm to School programs

Photo credit: Kim Smith, www.goodmorninggloucester.org

Photo credit: Kim Smith, www.goodmorninggloucester.org