Ben Kessler is an artist, four-season gardener, teacher, storyteller, birder, and naturalist. He cut his eyeteeth leading an all-ages community garden education program in Yonkers, NY (now Groundwork Hudson Valley), while an undergrad at Sarah Lawrence College. Ben has been designing gardens and teaching permaculture since his Permaculture Design Certification with the Cascadia Permaculture Institute in 2008. After an eventful sojourn in the West, which included time as an English professor at the University of New Mexico, an apprenticeship to a master orchard-keeper in the Sierra Nevada, a course of study in traditional land-care, language and ecology with the Maidu tribe, and a year tracking eagles for the Navajo Nation, Ben has returned to sink a taproot in the Piedmont of the Blue Ridge. He shares his time with Edible Landscaping, the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network, and the Living Earth School, educating people about perennial crops, primitive skills, bird language, and woodland lore.
Sarah Frazer grew up at the foothills of the Blue Ridge, picking strawberries from her father’s garden and wild raspberries from the roadside. She developed her interest in food sovereignty and solidarity economy studying alongside grassroots groups in Latin America, where women in remote communities in Guatemala, Honduras, and Brazil taught her the importance of agroecology and the powerful role of cooperatives in local economic development. Since then, she has worked with a sustainable development studies program in Costa Rica, a youth-led advocacy network based in Washington, D.C., as well as on farms in Albemarle County. She received her Permaculture Design Certification from the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network in 2011 and believes that both growing more of our own food and working together to build resilience are key ingredients to our community’s future.
Soizic Ziegler has perpetually sought to learn ever more about foraging, gardening, small-scale farming, and cooking, and how those different elements come together to connect people into a healthier, more resilient culture and community. When our hearth- spaces are interwoven with our gardens, and our gardens with the fields and forests, that deeper connection to the grander pattern of life is upheld more strongly and felt more deeply. Hence, she has delved into landscape design, which she has developed her skills for through her Permaculture Design Certificate in 2009 through the Blue Ridge Permaculture Institute, an Advanced Forest Gardening Design course with Eric Toensmeier at the Woodbine Ecology Center, her Certificate in Rainwater Harvesting Earthworks Design through the Watershed Management Group in Tucson, AZ, and working with various farms, projects, and landscape designers from Virginia to Colorado, and back again. Prior to joining C’ville Foodscapes she most recently managed an educational vegetable and permaculture farm in Richmond, VA, and is currently working on developing her home acreage into a forageable space and ecstatic plant community.
Kelly Morikawa can be found with dirty knees sharing the awe, wonder, and beauty of plants with others. Her humble mission of repopulating the earth with more plants and food begins with designing more ecologically diverse gardenscapes. That, along with a consciousness of resources, she believes is what leads to true abundance and harmony. She has over twenty years experience in all things horticulture: landscaping, arboristry, food-growing, and design. She has been a Virginia Certified Horticulturist with the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association since 2005 and a Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture since 2007. Her other notable achievements include running a multi-crew landscape business since 1997, raising an amazing daughter since 1999, finding ways to apply her education in art to business and daily life, lots of foraging and cooking, continually learning, and witnessing the delight and accomplishment that fills people’s faces as they enjoy eating a piece of fruit they grew themselves. Her passion is connecting people with nature.