About Us: The Team
Jeremiah Ellis, Executive Director
Jeremiah Ellis joined the Gardening Matters team after years of working in public and non-profit administration. That work toward eliminating disparities in our community lead him toward food justice as an element of the social justice continuum. Upon completing Americorps service with senior citizens in Florida and theological studies in San Antonio, Jeremiah returned to his native Minnesota, where his family has lived for generations. He and his wife garden & compost at their St. Paul home. In his spare time Jeremiah takes on leadership roles with the St. Paul Area Council of Churches, the Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) Board and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.
Nadja joined the leadership team at Gardening Matters in June, 2010 after six years of working in civic engagement in higher education. Originally from Michigan, Nadja has a Masters of Social Work and Masters of Public Policy from the University of Minnesota. A resident of St. Paul, Nadja has pursued her interest in community gardens and urban agriculture, leading her to be a homestead grower, starting a community garden in her neighborhood, and serving on the The Saint Paul
Ramsey County Food and Nutrition Commission, where she co-chairs the urban agriculture task
Her earliest memory of gardening is with her grandparents, gardening on their small urban lot in Flint, MI. Her grandparents were farmers in the Ukraine before immigrating to the U.S. after WWII, when they had to choose between farming and living in the city. Finding more financial security in working for General Motors, they moved to the city, but continued to garden in earnest, supplying the family with much of their fresh produce during the growing season and preserved food throughout the year.
Her work in social justice began with her engagement with the Prison Creative Arts Project at the University of Michigan, where she taught creative writing and theater in juvenile justice facilities and adult prisons. In her spare time, she can be found watching college (Michigan) football, chasing her three dogs around and restoring an old house.
Mallory Morken, Local Food Resource Hubs Coordinator, GreenCorps Member
Mallory joined Gardening Matters in September 2011 as a MN GreenCorps member for 2011-2012 and had such a great time she decided to stay on for another year for 2012-2013! She has a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, where she studied Chicano Studies, Spanish, and Social Justice. Her work at Gardening Matters focuses on the Local Food Resource Hubs- doing her part in coordinating, connecting, and growing the local food movement in Minneapolis/St. Paul neighborhoods. She has a special passion in anti-racism and food justice education. In her free time Mallory can be found dueling the gophers and woodchucks that live in her backyard, as well as playing with her worms.
Nate Schrecengost, Compostadores Project Coordinator
Nate studied at Iowa State University where his main focus was on Natural Resource Conservation. He spent many years restoring prairies and installing native landscapes in Iowa, Texas, and Minnesota. While doing this, his passion for all things sustainable began to grow. After moving back to Minnesota in 2008 with his wife, he got involved in urban farming and reclaiming the use of vacant lots. He owned and operated Pig’s Eye Urban Farm in Saint Paul turning vacant in to vibrant gardens. In the fall of 2011 he merged his farm with two other urban farms to form a joint effort called Stone’s Throw Urban Farm. He is very happy to be on board with Garden Matters and is excited to help bring compost to the masses in the Twin Cities.
Margaret Shields, Education and Outreach Coordinator
Margaret is a graduate of Hamline University in St. Paul where she studied Spanish and Latin American Studies and minored in Economics. She is influenced in her work by extensive study and travel in Latin America, where she interned at a local foods and fair trade market in Ecuador, witnessed the impoverished banana growing regions of Central America, and volunteered on a permaculture and seed-saving project in Guatemala. Compelled by these experiences upon returning to the US, she sought local connections to her passion for global food issues and eventually ended up working with community gardens. Besides her passion for growing, cooking and eating good food, she enjoys reading, the performing arts, and most recently, preparing for the birth of her first child.
Kirsten Saylor, Co-Founder of Gardening Matters
In 2004-2005, Kirsten worked with community gardeners to develop the Twin Cities Community Garden Sustainability Plan. In the summer of 2005, McKnight funded the implementation of the plan’s core recommendation, establishing a network of community gardens. This was GardenWorks, which was later spunoff to be an independent organization and renamed to Gardening Matters in 2008. Kirsten stepped down from being Executive Director in October 2012 to spend more time with her young family and focus on programming for the organization. Kirsten has a background in community food security, farming and food systems, sustainable agriculture and received her masters in Applied Anthropology from Oregon State University in 2003.