Our mission is to be a center for educating and inspiring people to value healthy food, land, and community by growing, supporting and sustaining our local food movement.
Perhaps, John Muir said it best, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” For us the connection between nature, people and our food is integral; all interdependent parts of the whole requiring dedicated stewardship. We work to develop programs that help people build a special relationship between the natural world and the food they eat in ways that translate to action.
Here’s what we do!
The only organization in Florida dedicated to preserving southern food culture and agricultural biodiversity through seed saving and education.
Providing food and science education through hands-on gardening activities for youth.
Connecting farmers, chefs, businesses, government and citizens to build the resources for a thriving local food community.
Melissa DeSa, Co-Founder & SeedEO
As a child, I learned to love nature and gardening from my parents who took me on weekend camping trips and to summer cottages in northern Ontario. We always took in stray animals and injured wildlife, and I remember there being a vegetable garden most summers. Not really enjoying the frigid winters in Canada where I grew up, I took a job in Florida the first chance I got. I re-located to Gainesville, FL in 2004, where I met my wonderful husband Mike. I earned a Masters Degree from the University of Florida in Interdisciplinary Ecology in 2008, and worked as a biologist at UF for about 8 years. I became interested in food systems because of their intimate and profound links to our natural world and our health as a human race. Seeds became a metaphor for everything I do, and somehow I became obsessed with them! When I’m not geeking out on seeds and seed catalogs, I tend to my home garden and chickens, take care of our family of pet rescues, and love exploring the springs, swamps and beaches! If my mom were still here, I know she would love Forage! After all, she taught me to enjoy the simple beauty of roadside “weeds” planted in window boxes, took great pleasure in wildlife, and always encouraged me to follow my dreams, no matter how unorthodox.
Anna Prizzia, Co-Founder
I grew up in the sprawl that makes up Northern Virginia and was lucky enough to spend my formative years in a happy-go-lucky suburb while spending summers visiting my family in North Carolina. Like any respectable daughter of hippie parents, I learned to love the outdoors and dreamed of being a biologist. I stuck with this dream and, after a stint as crew on a sail boat and discovering my love of all things marine, decided to major in Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. After 5 years, I said good-bye to the surf and went to graduate school at the University of Florida. With my master’s degree in wildlife ecology and conservation and certificate in tropical conservation and development in hand, I followed the path of any good procrastinator and joined Peace Corps. I served in paradise, otherwise known as Vanuatu, and worked on natural resources management. Then, with the love of my life in tow, I returned to the Gainesville, FL and started the long process of becoming a grown-up. After several jobs, I found my way back to my alma-mater working for and then leading the University of Florida’s Office of Sustainability. Currently, I am the Campus Food Systems Coordinator at the University of Florida. Of course, with food as my big passion, I keep finding ways to make more of my life about sustainability and food, staring Slow Food Gainesville many moons ago and now starting the beautiful and wild journey to build Forage with one of my best friends. When I am not burning the candle at both ends, you can find me exploring Florida parks, pretending to be a foodie with friends, volunteering with local food efforts, and hanging out with my brilliant and adorable daughter, Nora and fairy-tale love, Nick.
Leah Cohen, President
Leah is the Social Justice Coordinator for Florida Organic Growers and serves on the Management Committee of the Agricultural Justice Project. She has a Master of Science in Human Geography from the University of Florida and graduated from Linfield College with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Spanish.
Gary Heil, Vice President
Gary works at the University of Florida, Department of Environmental Health, as a biosafety officer. He received his BA and MA in Microbiology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and his PhD in microbiology at the University of Iowa. He was raised on a fourth generation small family farm valuing the many life lessons learned while trying to coax a living or even just a meal from the soil. He is a proud papa to little Leo, and is an up and coming micro-brewery entrepreneur!
Lauren Day, Treasurer
Lauren is an associate with the Florida chapter of The Conservation Fund. Prior to this role, she served as the Executive Director for Alachua Conservation Trust. During her tenure, 2300 acres of property worth nine million dollars was conserved by ACT.
Rosella is a retired reproductive gynecologist, alma mater UF, hailing from Baltimore but calling Micanopy, FL home. Rosella is the busiest retiree we know, and always amazes us at her devotion to her community and our farm. She’s been with us since the very beginning as a dedicated volunteer, and now board member. When she’s not tending to her own chickens and garden, this Master Gardeners also volunteers with the UF mobile outreach clinic that typically visits “food desert” areas. R
Long time resident of North Central Florida, Erika Nelson is the co-author and illustrator of Pickled, Fried, and Fresh which was published in 2015 by University Press of Florida. She has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in History and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida. Erika was previously a Librarian at the University of Florida and currently works at Jordan Glen School. She is presently working on a second cookbook with local celebrity chef, Bert Gill. When she’s not writing, you can find Erika digging in her yard or wading through the stacks of cookbooks and cooking magazines that seem to be forever multiplying.
Current Volunteers and Staff
Sarah Sterling, Seed Savvy Intern
Sarah is a mom of 3 and a dedicated volunteer helping us in times of need, often on a last minute notice!
Sarah Whedon, Seed Savvy Intern
Sarah helps us each week in our seed garden at the farm to school hub, and is really awesome with the students, because of her background in special education and school gardening!
Sabrina Favilla, Seed Savvy Intern
Sabrina is a busy mom and a Master Gardener, helping us with all matters of seed stuff from writing crop profiles and doing research on the various things in our collection, to helping in the gardens.
Kelly has a ton of experience with gardens, grant writing and administration. She volunteers with us at many of our events and is helping us with some of our grant writing endeavors.
Prudence Genlot, Bookkeeper
Prudence is our wonderful bookeeper and makes sure we are all straightened out and know what’s up with our financials so we can run reports and apply for grants. We couldn’t function without her.
Robbie has been with us for a long time as a volunteer, then our afterschool garden coordinator for two years and now as a volunteer again. She helps with farmy things and events.
Debbie is Anna’s mom, so you know a green thumb runs in the family. Debbie is a Master Gardener and helps us at the farm and with events.
Past Interns & Staff
Sean Springfield, Farm Manager
Sean is our 2015-2016 season farm manager and came to us by volunteering a lot. He is a plant nerd like the rest of us, geeking out on plant biology and morphology, seed saving and much more. He’s into rare and bizarre plants like nepenthes.
Travis was our farm manager for our 2014-2015 season and really kept the farm in great shape! We’re long time friends with Travis and were sad to see him go off to bigger and better things.
Sami was our communications and outreach guru in 2015-2016. She managed our social media, emails, events and so much more. We really miss her.
Megan came to us with a formidable background in nutrition and community service and a serious passion for all things local and natural that involve getting dirt under her fingernails. Megan helped out at the farm, learning a wide range of skills pertaining to running a small sustainable farm; and as well with our school garden programming. The kids love her and so do we!
Macie came to us with some great experience working with youth and educational programs, and was a great asset to our after school garden program, helping Robbie wrangle kids and nurture within them a love for land, insects, soil and good food!
Robyn helped at the farm twice a week with all farm chores, as well as with some of our after school garden programs. She is now in Bainbridge, WA at Butler Green Farms where she has taken what she learned at Forage, and continued her farm education. More young farmers in the works, yay!
Anna is working on research about youth training programs across the country to help guide us as we develop our own program here. SHe also assists with our after-school programs.
Liz worked on developing a master plan for Forage Farm; doing research, hosting brainstorming sessions with stakeholders, and helping to pull together all the many uses and ideas for the farm into a cohesive vision.
Amanda helped research and develop curriculum for our on-farm and community programs with children.
Brittney has been the farm with many hats including as a leader for a visiting youth group, Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership and Sustainability, a volunteer, and as a formal Forage intern helping us with our after school educational programs.
We could not do the work we do without all of the amazing individuals and organizations that support us. We are thankful to everyone who has contributed to making Forage a success. Here are just a few that we couldn’t live without!
Bryson Family Foundation
Lydia B. Stokes Foundation