SGSO Governance Board

Our board members are active contributors to the leadership and success of the SGSO network, providing high-level strategy and diving into initiatives and projects. 

Learn more about this amazing team!

Abby Randall

Oklahoma city, Ok

Abby Randall is a visionary leader in the green schools movement with a passion for deeply embedding sustainability and climate justice education into every facet of our school systems. A former secondary science teacher, Abby has more than 15 years of experience facilitating and designing educational programs for a wide variety of K-12 science courses and alternative education programs from Cambridge Public Schools and the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project in Massachusetts to Austin Independent School District and the University of Texas Online High School. Abby holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Trinity College in Hartford, CT and an M.S. in Agriculture, Food, and Environment from Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. In 2018 Abby was selected as an ee360 Fellow for the North American Association for Environmental Educators and she is currently the Principal Investigator for the Building a Green Texas Project, funded through a NOAA Environmental Literacy Grant.

Ashley Rouse

Captain Planet Foundation
Atlanta, GA

Ashley Rouse has been a local food advocate and farm to school leader for a little over 15 years. Prior to joining Captain Planet Foundation, she was the Out of School Time sector director for HealthMPowers, where she created a “farm to after-school” program in partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta.  She has been a partner to Captain Planet Foundation since 2010 with the launch of the school garden program in Cobb County. She taught 7th grade life science and engineering, and founded a rooftop garden with students at Maynard Jackson High School that quickly grew into a garden to cafeteria pilot. She was recently selected to be a 2022 Vital Village Community Food Systems Fellow. She enjoys practicing yoga and meditation in her spare time.

Daniel Barrera Ortega

Washington, DC

Daniel is an educator based in Washington, DC. After graduating from the University of Florida, he realized how even with a degree in Plant Genetics, he still did not know how to grow a simple herb garden! Since then, he’s grown alongside students by learning through food and gardens while serving in FoodCorps and being a Spanish classroom teacher at an elementary school. He believes children have the power to break cycles of inequity and gardens are a medium to empower their health AND academic achievement! When not teaching, he can be found swing dancing, baking, or performing improv at some local theater.

Em Shipman

Kids Gardening
Burlington, VT

Em Shipman is the executive director of KidsGardening where she leads their work to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn through the garden. For as long as Em can remember she has been committed to growing community. She believes that joyful, resilient communities prioritize children and the planet. She is a passionate advocate for both and believes that garden-based learning and hands-on, place-based education are powerful tools for growing a better world.
Em has 18 years of nonprofit leadership experience working in education and sustainability. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Anthropology from Hobart and William Smith College and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Marlboro College Graduate School.
Em lives and gardens in Vermont with her two young boys where they grow berries, veggies, fruit, flowers, and lots of happy memories. She also volunteers on several local boards and committees.

John Fisher

Life Lab
Santa Cruz, CA

Through his work at Life Lab, John Fisher has taught tens of thousands of students and trained thousands of educators to bring learning to life in a garden. Over the past two decades John has been a national leader of the garden-based learning movement John has been involved with the SGSO Network since day 1, helping to formulate the idea of a peer to peer network for school garden professionals and support organizations in 20212 at the National Farm to School Conference in Burlington, VT. Since then, he has helped build the cornerstones of the SGSO Network, including the forum, the Leadership Institute (hosted by Life Lab), and now the Growing School Gardens Summit, as well as countless webinars and virtual gatherings. John loves to bodysurf, swim, go camping with his family in the CA mountains and hang with his dog Woogie. I grow an asian pear and fuyu persimmon tree and love to eat them too.

Lara Thompson

Big Green
Boulder, CO

Laura Thompson currently serves as the Assistant Director of Strategic Alliances at Big Green. She has worked across diverse issue areas to build partnerships and empower communities with the resources and tools they need to create change.

Laura has been involved in the SGSO Network since 2019 and loves being a part of a community of people passionate about connecting young people to growing food and facilitating outdoor learning and exploration.

Laura holds an MA in International Education and a BA in Political Science and English. Outside of work, she enjoys going on adventures in the great outdoors, practicing yoga, and preparing delicious food. This year, she grew a gooseberry bush in a pot that produced fruit and is affectionately named Gerry. 

Lyndsey Waugh

Sprouts Healthy Communities
Phoenix, AZ

Lyndsey is passionate about “purpose” and has dedicated her professional career to helping nonprofit organizations build organizational capacity. As the Executive Director of the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, Lyndsey supports a network of hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the country dedicated to advancing children’s nutrition education and increasing access to fresh, nutritious foods for all. Since the Foundation’s inception in 2015, over $15 million in grants have been awarded to more than 450 organizations, including major investments to help partners scale and strengthen their operations. Dedicated professionally and personally to the nonprofit sector, she also volunteers with Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and as a living donor mentor with The Living Donor Network, helping those considering living kidney donation.

Maxine Garcia-Reilly

Green Our Planet
San Diego, CA & Las Vegas, NV

Maxine Garcia-Reilly is a daughter of immigrants and the first in her family to be born in the USA. Born and raised in San Diego, Ca, she is a passionate advocate promoting diversity and inclusion because as a first-generation Latina, she truly understands how much representation matters.

She has extensive experience as an entrepreneur, as well as leading operations and supply chain teams for e-commerce companies and start-ups.

Passionate about holistic health, nutrition, and the outdoors, working at Green Our Planet allows her to blend her professional experience with her personal commitment to wellness, conservation, and social advocacy.

Understanding that “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are,” she is committed to GoP’s initiatives of educating our team of administrators, teachers, and students, so we can collectively create positive change for the planet.

When not working, Maxine enjoys reading, training for her next 1/2 marathon, spending time with her husband and dogs, and traveling the world.

Nathan Larson

Restorative Places
Madison, WI

Nathan has a longstanding commitment to collaborating with partners and colleagues representing various organizations and sectors on initiatives, coalitions, and networks focused on nature- and garden-based education, social justice, climate action, regenerative food systems, and health and well-being in nature. He currently serves as director of the Cultivate Health Initiative–a joint public health project of the nonprofit Rooted and the UW-Madison Environmental Design Lab–to grow and sustain the school garden network and movement in Wisconsin. He is also a lecturer in the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture at UW-Madison, a SGSO Network co-founder, and author of Teaching in Nature’s Classroom. Nathan loves growing and eating sun-warmed strawberries in the garden. 

Sam Ullery

Office of the State Superintendent of Education
Washington, DC

Sam Ullery serves as the School Garden Specialist at the State Superintendent of Education in the Division of Healthy and Wellness in Washington, DC. He has ten years of classroom teaching experience and has dedicated the past ten years overseeing the DC School Gardens Program which supports over 100 school gardens. He received my Master in Education from Teachers College and a bachelor’s of science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a Certified Master Gardener, Certified Master Composter, and an avid gardener. His favorite veggies to grow are tomatillos and cilantro. When he’s not working you’ll find him on his bicycle or wearing a bee veil.

Sarah Cramer

Stetson University
DeLand, FL

Sarah Cramer is an assistant professor of sustainable food systems at Stetson University in DeLand, FL. She holds a PhD in agricultural education and a master of public health degree, both from the University of Missouri. Before returning to school to complete her doctorate, Sarah spent three years as a garden educator at the Southern Boone Learning Garden, a model school garden program in Ashland, MO. She is still a garden teacher at heart, and takes her college students outside to get their hands dirty every chance she gets! Sarah is also the Director of Food Studies for Stetson’s higher education in prison program, and helped develop and continues to help oversee the use of an educational garden at Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach, FL.


Sarah has more hobbies than she can count! When she’s not teaching or researching, she loves kayaking or camping in one of Florida’s state parks (and, during the winter, bragging about the weather to her family back in Missouri), and experimenting with all types of food preservation. Though she has been in Florida since 2018, she remains mystified by the growing seasons and awed by the existence of manatees and dolphins.   

Stephanie Porto

Whole Kids Foundation
Austin, TX

Stephanie currently serves as Programs & Operations Manager for Whole Kids Foundation managing the Garden and Bee Grant Programs and day-to-day operations of the foundation’s other grant programming, overseeing grant data, and providing support foundation reporting and other business management needs.

Stephanie is a Registered Dietitian and holds an MS in Pediatric Nutrition from Saint Louis University where she first experienced working with kids in gardens. She loves being a part of the Whole Kids team because it allows her to merge her background with her skills and interests to support school garden work. Stephanie is excited to get involved with the SGSO Network as part of the Governance Board and looks forward to working with the group to further support the Network’s growth and the school garden movement!

Before joining Whole Kids Foundation in 2018, Stephanie worked in academic research setting on a study of a family-based program for children with overweight and obesity and their families. She is originally from St. Louis but lives in Austin, TX and in her free time likes to practice yoga, read, and spend time with her fiancé and two cats and dog.

Tiffany Torres

Florida Agriculture in the Classroom
Tallahassee, FL

Tiffany Torres is the State School Garden Specialist with Florida Agriculture in the Classroom. Tiffany is passionate about co-creating socially equitable and environmentally resilient communities in her home state and beyond. She brings over a decade of experience in food systems and farm to school practices, having formerly collaborated with FoodCorps, University of Florida IFAS Extension, and as Fellow with the National Farm to School Network where she helped support their Call to Action for racially just food systems. She is excited to help grow the School Garden Support Organization Network in their next stage of development!

Tiffany holds a BS in Human Geography from Florida State University, where she helped establish an educational urban farm. She is pursuing a Masters with University of Vermont in Leadership for Sustainability, exploring the intersection of movements, network development, and systems change. Tiffany resides in the Florida panhandle, where she is involved in local mutual aid efforts like the Really Really Free Market. She enjoys connecting with land and broader community through organizing concerts, rock climbing, mushroom foraging, kayaking, and gardening alongside her cat Athena.

Tristana Pirkl

SGSO Network
Austin, TX

Tristana has been an official staff member of the SGSO Network since February 2021, but 1st got involved with the Network after attending a conference gathering at the 2014 National Farm to School Conference. She attended the Leadership Institutes since they started in 2016 as a representative of Whole Kids Foundation (sponsor of the Institute), served on the Advisory committee since 2017, and was the administrator for the webinars and virtual gatherings for a period of time. She could not feel more honored to be the Director for the Network, helping to shepherd it through a new period of growth! Before joining the Network, Tristana was at Whole Kids Foundation for 9 years, where she led their Edible Education programs, including their Garden Grant program, Bee Grant program, and Young Entrepreneurs program. 

Tristana has a BA in Human Biology with a concentration in Women & Children’s Global Public Health from Stanford University. She loves to practice yoga, share delicious meals with loved ones, travel, and hang with her cat. She also facilitates an interpersonal meditation practice called Circling multiple times a week.  Her favorite vegetable, even though she finds it so challenging to grow in Texas, is eggplant. 

Whitney Cohen

Life Lab
Santa Cruz, CA

Whitney Cohen is a teacher, trainer, and author with tremendous commitment to, and expertise in, inquiry- and place-based education; school gardens; supporting language learning in the outdoors; and the intersection between environmental education and public schools. She is the Education Director of Life Lab and a lecturer at UC Santa Cruz. Whitney loves growing sugar snap peas in her garden.