Introducing our new Interim Program Director

Hello Friends:

We bid farewell and wish all the best to our dear friend and colleague, Anna Swanson, who has served Backyard Growers and our community for the past five years.  She will be moving up to Maine at the end of the month to start a new position with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Anna first came to Backyard Growers as a FoodCorps service member in 2013 and worked her way up to Associate Director of Community Programs, serving hundreds of Gloucester residents in our Community and Backyard Garden programs.  Thank you, Anna, for helping Backyard Growers grow!

We are excited to announce that James “J.” Harrison, former Executive Director of The Food Project, will be joining Backyard Growers as Interim Program Director.  We couldn’t be more thrilled to have such a powerhouse of an individual bringing his expertise to Backyard Growers!

Meet J. Harrison

Meet J. Harrison

Prior to becoming The Food Projects’ Executive Director in 2014, J. held multiple roles within the organization, including Farm Manager, Director of Agriculture, and North Shore Regional Director.  He has an extensive background in small-scale agriculture and has managed farms throughout the United States.  J. has served as the Massachusetts State Partner for FoodCorps, was a founding member of the Lynn Food and Fitness Alliance, and is currently on the steering committee of the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative.

J. has been involved with Backyard Growers since its inception, working with Food Project youth to build garden beds at schools, organizations, parks, and backyards across Gloucester.  He was also instrumental in forging the partnership between Backyard Growers and FoodCorps, and in helping develop our successful Salad Days School Garden Program.

In addition to picking up Anna’s duties—managing community gardens, training a new season of growers, and more—J. will help Backyard Growers hone our community and school program deliverables and strategies to achieve the greatest impact. He will also help create a permanent full-time Program Director position that will be announced this summer.

J. has been briefed on all of our city, school, and community partnerships and projects and is excited to get started. If you’d like to reach out to J. his email address is He and I are looking forward to working with all of you this spring.

P.S. Hope you can make it to our strategic plan launch party tonight (Thursday 1/24) from 5-7 PM. We’ll walk through the highlights of our plan at 6 PM. Refreshments served!

Best wishes,
Lara Lepionka
Executive Director