Lara lepionka, founder & executive director
During the 2008 recession Lara Lepionka and her family tore out their postage stamp lawn and started an intensive urban micro-farm, feeding their family of four and creating a model for urban farming in Gloucester, MA. Having caught the gardening bug, Lara founded Backyard Growers in 2010 with a $6,000 budget, helping a handful of families in her neighborhood start their own vegetable gardens. Her ultimate goal: creating life-long gardeners inspired by the power of growing one’s own food.
She has developed Backyard Growers into a grassroots non-profit organization with an annual budget of over $250,000. Backyard Growers provides resources and support to establish vegetable gardens at homes, housing communities, non-profit organizations, and public schools, and offers accompanying programs and initiatives that promote a love of fresh, local produce. Prior to her role as Executive Director of Backyard Growers, Lara has worked for the past twenty years in the non-profit sector focusing on education, the arts and food justice issues.
aria mcelhenny, Development director
Aria McElhenny leads fundraising and development at Backyard Growers. Aria has worked in nonprofit fundraising for over 20 years, most recently as a freelance grant writer for agencies on Cape Ann and beyond. A participant in the Burnham's Field Community Garden, Aria loves being outdoors with her husband and kids and soaking up the beauty of Cape Ann.
Corinne Lippie, program director
Corinne leads in implementing Backyard Growers’ strategic plan, objectives, developing the organization’s new consulting practice, and overseeing the Community, Backyard and School Programs.
Corinne has been leading and managing programs in nonprofit organizations in the Greater Boston area for the past 15 years. In 2009, she became a project director at the North Shore United Way, where, among other things, she spearheaded an innovative new initiative on childhood obesity. It was in that role that she first got to know Backyard Growers as a funder and early supporter. In 2015 she and her husband and their two children moved abroad 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.
Lis Cahill, director of operations
Lis joined Backyard Growers after twenty-five years in operations at the Food Project. She keeps Backyard Growers’ wheels turning behind the scenes, with deep experience in HR, finance, nonprofit management and youth engagement. She holds a BS in economics from Boston University and spent 15 years working at a community savings bank before starting a bookkeeping business focused on helping small nonprofit organizations. In her spare time, she does makeup for regional theater productions, reads voraciously and likes to travel.
Courtney Allen, Communications & client manager
Courtney is responsible for PR and marketing, community outreach and client liaison at Backyard Growers.
Courtney has worked in communications for almost a decade, at both global PR agencies and as an independent consultant. Courtney started out volunteering for BYG after moving to Gloucester in 2017. She got her first taste of community gardening while living in London, UK, where she was part of a group that founded a community garden in her neighborhood. In Gloucester, she is a community gardener at Burnham’s Field, and she loves meeting and learning from fellow gardeners.
addy shreffler, education & garden coordinator
From bed buildings in April and May, to a cooking workshop in June, Addy has found as many opportunities as possible to work with Backyard Growers since moving to Massachusetts. Addy's first step towards becoming involved with community food projects was in opening a farm to table restaurant in Encinitas, California in 2016. Working directly with farmers opened her eyes to how empowering it can be to participate in your local food system. As a result, she left that position to pursue farming - first in California, and then right here on the North Shore! Addy is thrilled to have the chance to become even more involved with the Gloucester community and continue to empower people through their experiences with growing food. When she's not in the office or on a farm, Addy is usually canning produce, cooking meals for her friends and family, or napping on a paddle board in the ocean.
Emily Brown, FoodCorps Service Member
Emily studied sustainable horticulture at Essex Agricultural and Technical High School while working at the Food Project, where she first learned about FoodCorps. After her graduation in 2018 and a year of self discovery, Emily’s interest in food production on the North Shore guided her to Backyard Growers’ Urban Agriculture internship, which she started in the spring of 2019. She was ultimately motivated to apply to be a FoodCorps Service Member for the 2019-2020 service year. Emily is thrilled to be apart of Backyard Growers and is excited to serve the Gloucester community. When she’s not working, she enjoys playing guitar, and collecting things from the local woods for her nature-inspired art projects.
BOARD of directors
Jennifer Perry, President Director of Distribution and Nutrition, The Open Door
Elizabeth Redmond, Treasurer Chief Financial Officer, Pathways for Children
Suzanne R. Gosselin, DC, Clerk Harbor Health Group, PC
Betsy Brown Community Volunteer, Former Wellspring staff & board member
Sophie Courser Farm Manager, Alprilla Farm
Joel Favazza Founding Attorney, Seaside Legal Solutions; Gloucester School Committee
Heidi McGrath Teacher, O'Maley Middle School (retired)
Larry Oaks President, MHPI, Inc.
Dr. Brian Orr Brian Orr Pediatricians
Jen Zola Volunteer Outreach Specialist
interested in joining our board?
Do you have knowledge and skills you would like to contribute to Backyard Growers to help us sustain and grow our organization? Contact Lara Lepionka, Executive Director, if you are interested in learning more.