Ashtabula Master Gardeners: In conjunction with the Ohio State Extension, Ashtabula County Master Gardeners assist residents of Ashtabula county with their home gardens. There are three Master Gardeners on the Ashtabula Local Food Team: Ann Rapose, Kathy Presciano and Meghan Davis. They bring knowledge and wisdom through local gardening experience.
Alice Vervais, Master Gardener: Farmed for many, many years on a family farm in Austinburg. Our main income was concord grapes which we sold to Welch’s.
My education is in the sciences. I have worked for a non-profit laboratory that analyzed
volunteer-collected samples to monitor the health of local streams and Cayuga Lake in western New York state. I have also worked at the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio, performing conservation work related to forest health and management. Recently, I left a job as an ecological consultant helping clients obtain Clean Water Act permits in order to pursue sustainable food production for subsistence, and hopefully in the future, for local markets. Upon moving to Ashtabula, Ohio, I joined a small, grass-roots group called the Ashtabula Local Food Council that works to promote local food by building connections between farmers and consumers, promoting local farms, educating area residents about local food, educating farmers about sustainable practices, and making local food more accessible.
Leah Wolfe is a community herbalist and health educator at Trillium Center in Conneaut, Ohio. Learn more at trilliumcenter.org. This picture is Leah personing the sugar shack!
The local food coordinator at the OSU extension, Julie takes pride in connecting local farmers with the community. Her passions include dahlia growing, her dog and promoting local food sharing.
Mardy is farmer who raises cows in Windsor, Oh. She has been involved with the Ashtabula Local Food group since the beginning and has been an advocate for farmers and community her entire life. It is difficult to catch a photo of this farmer as she is always moving too fast!
Stephanie’s skills lie in grassroots community organizing, teaching small hands-on workshops, and making things. She seeks partnerships with groups and people. She wishes to share nature’s therapeutic power with individuals struggling for meaning. She also loves teaching how to build and creatively construct! Steph came to farming after spending years in the nonprofit sector, academia, and office environments in general. Thanks to her mother, she always kept a garden. When Steph began working for vegetable farmers, she discovered it was the only activity she found completely fulfilling – healing, nourishing, and brimming with wonder. She also loves learning and teaching natural building methods, as well as use of power tools! Steph is from the Kanawha valley of West Virginia.
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John is a self-taught permaculture expert. He is an excellent teacher and workshop leader for all ages. He also provides private consultations to land owners interested in transforming their property into a permaculture paradise. John was formally trained as a horticulturist at the Ohio State University. He has worked with community gardens and faith-based institutions. He knows from experience how to grow food in anything: tiny inner-city plot, a windowsill, hidden public spaces, on acres and acres of rural land, etc. He is a master seed saver, plant-identifier, creative-thinker, and dreamer. He was born and raised in Jefferson, OH.
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Gallo, a nurse by trade, is a wanna be home gardener as they believe that food is one of the pillars of health. From the nursing perspective health is comprised of physical, mental and spiritual components – and gardening covers all three! Gallo is a lover of life, community, animals, delicious food, nature and after twenty years out of state, is inspired by the potential seen in Ashtabula County. The goal is to move health care to the home by means of “Care Farms.” Care farms are where living together, caring for each other, eating well, teaching one another, enjoying clean are and water are foundational. “In Ashtabula, we have fertile land, clean air and one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world – we are rich!” Currently, with the direction and passion of Sarah Brower, they are working on transforming their Ashtabula urban yard into a food forest.
Dierdre R Fleming
Diedre R. Fleming received her Master of Social Work in 2020 from Youngstown State University and her Master of Science in Criminology from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. Ms. Fleming is currently developing curricula for the “Connection Center”, which focuses on a holistic approach to mental health and substance use therapy by integrating mindfulness gardening and physical wellness practices. Although, a novice to the field of horticulture, permaculture, and many other “cultures” she is an advocate of being a lifelong learner and maintaining a constant state of curiosity. She also “likes Pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, she’s not really into yoga and feels she has half a brain.”
Suzanne Westlake is a lifelong resident of Ashtabula. She left long enough to get a degree in Environmental Studies from Youngstown State University and learn how to rock outdoor education with Nature’s Classroom. She’s worked at the Cleveland Zoo and an engineering firm, and now she is the District Technician for Ashtabula Soil and Water Conservation District. As a kid she decided she wanted to work at protecting water quality in Ashtabula County and she can tell you that with hard work and little luck, sometimes wishes come true.
More to come…we hope, in this series, to have more community contributors to share knowledge, insight and personal experience…maybe, YOU!