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.
Meghan stratton, School programs manager
As a two-term FoodCorps service member, Meghan has been involved in all aspects of Backyard Growers' school programs. After a calm month finishing her service and spending afternoons walking, swimming, and kayaking around Gloucester, Meghan became our School Programs Manager. If she's not in the office or at the Cape Ann Farmers Market, she's usually enjoying off-leash days at the beach, planning trips, or tinkering with some project or another.
anna swanson, community programs manager
Anna was Backyard Grower's first FoodCorps service member in 2013. After completing her service she moved back to her hometown of Philadelphia, where she taught farm, food, and nutrition classes on the farm and in Philadelphia schools. In May 2016, she packed her bags again and moved back up to Gloucester to start again with Backyard Growers as their Community Programs Manager. When not in the office or working with community members, Anna is usually walking her dog all over Gloucester or off exploring other New England towns.
Laura Gallagher, Youth Engagement coordinator, masslift americorps
Laura Gallagher grew up surrounded by trees, and her love of nature grew out of many sunny days spent exploring the woods behind her house. Influenced by a childhood full of plant and animal friends, Laura studied Environmental Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. After college, she left Illinois for Indiana, and later, Massachusetts where she has spent the past couple years working on nonprofit educational farms before coming to Backyard Growers. When she’s not growing vegetables, Laura enjoys cooking, knitting, and sewing vintage inspired clothing.
Gabi goszczynska, Youth education coordinator, masslift-americorps
Gabi is an avid gardener and educator who is thrilled to combine her passions through her MassLIFT position at Backyard Growers this year. She has worked on farms around the world from North Carolina and West Virginia to France and Poland. She spent the last year teaching fun, hands-on science programs in elementary schools across North Carolina through Science Fun for Everyone! In her spare time, Gabi enjoys cooking, camping and playing guitar.
victoria martins, Community engagement coordinator, masslift-americorps
Victoria has had a long and loving relationship with vegetables. After working on a farm in college, she made it her goal to devote her life to local food and the environment. Now, with BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing and several years of farming and professional organic gardening under her belt, she is excited to be serving as the MassLIFT Community Engagement Coordinator for Backyard Growers. In her spare time, she loves to sing and cook, often at the same time.
amy root, foodcorps service member
Amy grew up with a love for food that makes you feel good, and a value for sharing it with those she loved. As Amy completed her Bachelors degree in Social Work, Sociology and Sustainable Development, she discovered that food can be a powerful tool for pursuing social and environmental justice. Now Amy serves as Backyard Growers' FoodCorps Service Member working to connect kids to healthy food in schools.
BOARD of directors
Jennifer Perry, President Director of Distribution and Nutrition, The Open Door
Bethe Palmer, Treasurer Finance Consultant; board member of seARTS and Manchester Essex Conservation Trust
Lara Lepionka, Clerk Executive Director, Backyard Growers
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
Frieda Grotjhan Business owner (retired)
Heidi McGrath Teacher, O'Maley Middle School (retired)
Connor Miller Founder, Black Earth Compost
Amelia Monday Owner & Chef, Short & Main and The Market Restaurants
Nicole Bogin: Market Manager, Cape Ann Farmers’ Market
Willa Brosnihan: Student, O'Maley Innovation Middle School
Amy Clayton: Teacher, Veterans Elementary School / Backyard Growers Participant
Danielle Colby: Backyard Growers Participant / Elementary School Parent
John Cunningham: Attorney, Cunningham & Cunningham
Melissa Dimond: Executive Director, Wellspring House
Jim Dowd: Partner, Flying Car LLC
Ken Duckworth: Owner & Chef, Duckworth’s Bistrot
James Harrison: Executive Director, The Food Project
Mark Hayes: Accounting & Tax Professional
Amy Jao: Acupuncturist, Atlantic Wellness Center / Backyard Growers School Garden Team Parent
Julie LaFontaine: Executive Director, The Open Door
John Sarrouf: Director of Program Development, Public Conversations Project
Telena Imel: Principal, West Parish Elementary School
Steve Winslow: Senior Project Manager, Get Fit Gloucester, City of Gloucester
Susan Wood: Farm Kitchen Program Manager, Appleton Farms
interested in joining our board or advisory council?
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.