Sustainable Landscaping Advisory Board
Kathleen Huffman, Sustainable Landscaping Designer
A graduate of the BCG Land Caretakers program, Kathleen’s passion for gardening began many years earlier on her parent’s farm in Oklahoma. Her family raised organic fruits and vegetables and she developed a love of the land and a passion for plants. Kathleen hopes to use her background to help others learn about urban food gardening. She also helps spread the word about using water more wisely, installing laundry-to-landscape systems and retaining rain water by the use of bioswales. Kathleen is a sustainable landscaping designer and a certified laundry-to-landscape greywater installer. Kathleen brings her expertise and her enthusiasm to her clients.
Jessica Samra, Sustainable Landscaping Enthusiast
Jessica’s relationship with nature and gardening began with her childhood in Louisiana. She references her Papa often when discussing how Cajuns rely on themselves, each other and the land for food. “You could be poor but eat like a king!” By the time she reached college age, she was aware of how environmental degradation and poor stewardship practices put this way of living, this connection to the land, at risk.
A resident of Fairfield for about 20 years, Jessica attended a talk given by Kathleen Huffman of The RePurposed Okie and “found her people.” Since then she has been a volunteer in the Sustainable Backyard/Landscaping program. The model of neighborhood gardens as community glue and delicious, healthy, self-sufficient food sources resonates with her Cajun core. For her, the work of digging swales and hauling mulch has brought the Zen Koan to life: “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
In addition to a degree in mathematics from Wesleyan College, Jessica has studied physics and philosophy at SJSU and psychology at Solano Community College. She is currently learning soil science at SCC, where she is a member of the Horticulture Club.
Andre Zinkevich, Water management expert
Andy is semi-retired from a diverse career in the water business, both hands-on and in management in water, wastewater and reuse, planning, engineering, finance, operations, construction and manufacturing projects and groups. He worked with Natural Systems Utilities, American Water, and Layne Well and Pump. Andy has served as a project manager, senior managing engineer, manager of a regional office, VP, CFO, SVP and EVP. Andy’s educational background includes bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering with specializations in environmental engineering and water resources. He obtained continuing education in business management and finance. He is a licensed professional engineer in California and Hawaii, and held the “A” contractor’s license in California. He is a member of ASCE and WEF. Andy has made numerous presentations, authored several technical papers, and has offered expert testimony in court and to governmental boards. He presently serves as treasurer of his HOA, is active in the Benicia Yacht Club and is a Commissioner on the Benicia Community Sustainability Commission.
Benicia Community Gardens
Jack Kolk, Benicia Community Gardens Avant Garden Coordinator
Jack recently moved back to the Bay Area from Atlanta, Georgia, where he and his wife, Maggie, were avid gardeners and helped cofound Lanier Community Gardens. He grew up in Southern California, so he always has at least heirloom tomatoes growing, a basil vegetable garden and a compost pile, water permitting. With a love of plants, mushrooms and healthy food, volunteering to support Benicia Community Gardens and its vision of community was a natural fit. He works mostly online by day in information security and regulatory compliance, so playing in the dirt at Avant Garden is welcome relaxation! A graduate of UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources with a multidisciplinary focus on environmental microbiology, Jack has worked on biological control of mosquitos and is a former Chairman of the Mycological Society of San Francisco Toxicology Committee, an avid mushroom forager, and sometimes cultivator.
Maggie Ingalls, Benicia Community Gardens Community Orchard Coordinator
Maggie Ingalls has been a gardener for more than 30 years, first in Southern California, then the Chicago suburbs, and for the last 9 years, in Benicia. She grows vegetables, fruit trees, flowering perennials and California natives. She is a passionate advocate for supporting local ecosystems by growing native plants. She volunteers at the Solano Land Trust and the Regional Parks Botanic Garden, where she is a docent.
Lisa Núñez-Hancock, founder of UR what U Eat
Lisa Núñez-Hancock, a self described “natural food chef,” is a culinary arts instructor and food activist. After graduation from UC Berkley, she traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Americas, later working in broadcasting and as a print journalist.
After leaving the corporate world of broadcasting, Lisa has worked for over 12 years as a healthy cooking teacher in diverse culinary programs from La Plaza de Culture y Artes museum in downtown Los Angeles, to plant-based culinary workshops at the Napa Library, to a successful cooking series, in partnership with Sustainable Solano, at the JFK Library in Vallejo, a program now in its third year.
Always stressing good nutrition, farm-to-table and Slow Food philosophies, and the work of Michael Pollan, Lisa has taught her UR what U eat classes to children, teens, adults and families in English and Spanish. Her hands-on and demo workshops stress the garden-to-fork concept, sustainability, cooking with natural, organic foods, basic concepts of plant-forward eating, and artisanal food traditions from different cultures. She is currently working on a “garden to table” book with friend and master gardener Rick Perrillo.
The photo shows Lisa hanging out with the famous French Laundry chickens.
Veronica Bearce, Veronica’s Veggies Catering
Retired educator for 24 years…mother…grandmother…cancer survivor on a mission to bring vegan comfort food to those in need, the elderly, those with physical maladies, or even those who are too busy to cook.
Community Local Food Advisory Board
Born and raised in Vallejo and throughout the Bay Area, Dayna is a mother of two boys and a MSW graduate from UC Berkeley (GO BEARS!). She has been working with youth for the past 8 years at schools, in a group home, within juvenile hall, and now with children and families as well. She attended undergrad at Arizona State University and when she returned home, she was disappointed to see the lack of progression in the city of Vallejo. Through an effort to improve Vallejo’s food scarcity and lack of access to affordable, quality food, Dayna teamed up with Krechona Westbrook and Sustainable Solano with the intent to increase grassroot efforts by teaching gardening, cooking and composting to youth in the community. Dayna is a firm believer in fairness, equity, equality and the concept of TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More. African Americans are disproportionately affected by the American systems (i.e. education, health, criminal justice). Dayna believes we can help ourselves through education and collaborative community efforts by incorporating food sustainability not only to heal ourselves but to heal our families. She enjoys being creative, reading books, watching TV, exploring the world and teaching her children new things so they can continue to keep the positivity going in this world.
Elizabeth is a Public Health Advocate/Consultant who has partnered with various nonprofits, community organizations, community clinics/health centers, public health departments, school districts and individuals in the arena of health equity: chronic disease prevention/early detection and HEALE (Healthy Eating Active Living Environment). She is passionate about making a difference by creating healthy change for our communities and environment, especially for our children and future generations.
Elizabeth also has a corporate wellness background, having partnered with countless executives, empowering their workforces to adopt healthier lifestyle choices. While she has received awards for her work in the corporate arena, one of her chronic disease prevention projects, which impacted over 10,000 lives at a major northern California health system, received a nationally recognized Excellence Award.
Elizabeth has been part of Sustainable Solano’s Community Conversation series, where she has spoken on Water Equity, Access and Safety. She holds a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
Solano Local Food System Alliance
The Solano Local Food System Alliance includes a wide variety of stakeholders committed to fulfilling the mission of creating an environmentally sustainable, economically viable, socially just and equitable local food system in Solano County. Learn about the work the Alliance is doing here.
Constance M. Beutel, EdD, Memory Keeper
With a 50 year professional career that spanned Active Service in the USAF (highly decorated Vietnam Veteran), Telecommunications and Higher Education, Constance was strongly influenced by a great love and responsibility to the Earth as modeled by her parents, education and her hero, R. Buckminster Fuller. Constance helped to bring higher education to thousands of employees on corporate premises throughout the State of California, served as the Associate Dean at Golden Gate University’s School of Technology, was a Hewlett Scholar at Menlo College and completed her Academic career as a founding Faculty member in Union Institute & University’s Doctorate in Education emphasizing Social Justice. She initiated and held Benicia Emergency Response Team (BERT) training for several years, is a licensed amateur Ham radio operator, and was a founding member and Chair of the City of Benicia’s Community Sustainability Commission. She is a passionate videographer with over 300 videos on her Youtube.com/cmbeutel channel. Constance is committed to the advancement of women and the preservation of our planet.
Nam is a writer, developmental editor, polydidact, and mother of two. She has a Masters in Public Health from Touro University and is interested in environmental health and food systems. Passing by Avant Garden one evening coming from the Farmer’s Market with the kids in the wagon and her garden enthusiast husband beside her, she came upon Sustainable Solano soliciting applications for their permaculture demonstration project. Intrigued, they applied and have met many lovely people and learned so much about gardening and more. When the word came out that the organization needed some writing help, she was delighted to volunteer. Her favorite garden book is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Julie Batsel, Communications, Artist-in-Residence
Julie Batsel began her artistic interests when she had an epiphany as an 8 year old: she was aiming to draw one thing and it wasn’t manifesting the way she had planned. At first she felt frustrated and wanted to throw a hissy fit. Then she actually saw what the drawing was becoming. Though it was not what she had originally intended, it looked like something equally interesting, perhaps even more beautiful. She went with it and has been enjoying the journey with art in various ways ever since: painting murals for the California Conservation Corps; illustrating calendars and bandanas for Mountain Camp II; tearing paper to create colorful bulletin boards in the Berkeley public schools. Her latest artistic passions involve working with the living landscape and with the hardscapes that wend their way through it… in other words, in designing and shaping her garden, her paths, and outdoor spaces. This, she must do the SLOW way. Nothing has been more rewarding.
CSA Program Volunteers
Veronica Bearce, CSA Program
Veronica, “V” to most anyone who knows her, is a self-professed foodie and tends to stick to cooking a plant-based menu. She has been affiliated with Sustainable Solano for five years now. Veronica is involved with the Benicia Old Town Theater Group and enjoys her time in the garden. Her grandson, Chance, often accompanies her to the garden to harvest and water.
Sheila Clyatt, CSA Program
This is a photo of Sheila pruning the apple tree at Mary Farmar Elementary School. Sheila runs a program at Mary Farmar teaching students how to grow food and pollinator beds with the help of the Master Gardener Program and community volunteers. As a Master Gardener, she also teaches sustainable food growth at Benicia High School, Liberty High School and Kaiser. She loves eating wholesome organic food and has a plot at Avant Garden. Teaching people how to grow food and support pollinators brings her joy.
Susan Neuhaus, CSA Program
Susan Neuhaus, who is a nurse by training, spent over 30 years in healthcare management and leadership, primarily with Kaiser. Her roles included nursing administration, working to advance healthcare policy, and serving as a Continuing Care Leader with oversight for four medical centers. A key to Susan’s success is her passion for learning and change. Despite her workplace demands, she found time to walk two marathons — in Chicago and Hawaii — and complete innumerable half-marathons. Since her retirement, Susan has maintained a busy schedule. Her volunteer service includes commitments to Sustainable Solano, Benicia Public Library, League of Women Voters and AAUW, and she is the Carquinez Village board president. She also finds time to provide tax preparation assistance and Medicare counseling. Susan and her husband, Mark, moved to Benicia in 2012.
Sustainable Solano Volunteers
Sustainable Solano is a true community-based organization and enjoys continuous support from our community members. As a grassroots organization, Sustainable Solano has relied on the generous spirit and initiative of people of Solano County for more than a decade. Volunteers support our programs, tend to the Community Share Plot and deliver donation harvest, install demonstration permaculture food forests, teach local school children how to grow food, and support the business functions of our organization.
Interested in being part of our vounteer team? Fill out our Volunteer Interest Survey to get started.