Board of Directors & Staff

Gaining Ground is managed by an active Board of Directors whose members represent diverse backgrounds in the arts, business, law, education, human services, public relations, and community activism.


Board of Directors

Polly Vanasse, President
Karen Perkins, Vice President
Amy Capofreddi, Treasurer
Jen Flint, Secretary

Christa Collins
Sigmund Correa
Shilpi Tanden Desai
Laurie Engdahl
Sam Hiersteiner
Lauren McKown
Sue Mildrum
Ashley Perssico
Yvette Philip
Joe Rigali, Emeritus
Lucy Rosborough, Emeritus
Kristen Van Damm
Gary Vilchick
Lisanne Wheeler


Staff

We are fortunate to have talented farm and office staff to manage our day-to-day operations. Currently, we have five year-round employees including a farm manager, assistant farm manager, executive director, communications manager, and program manager. For the 2022 growing season we also have three assistant growers, two field crew members, and a groundskeeper.


Rae Axner
Assistant Grower

Rae is excited to return to Gaining Ground for a second season and to continue learning about using regenerative farming methods for high-yield food production. Rae has returned to full-time field work after several years in program management, spent with the amazing youth of Groundwork Somerville and The Food Project in Lynn. Rae has also grown food at Waltham Fields Community Farm, and in her own and her father’s home gardens. A lifelong resident of Somerville, she has a bachelor’s of arts degree in community health and American studies from Tufts University. Rae is passionate about youth power, food and climate justice, and building solidarity to care for each other and the land. She enjoys biking, swimming, laughing, and eating, especially chocolate and anything with too much garlic.


Kari Bender
Assistant Grower

Kari is thrilled to be returning to the Gaining Ground team this year for her fourth season farming. She loves working in the soil and with plants in all their forms. Kari is a sewer and a crafter and is currently learning more about native plants and their personalities. At Gaining Ground this year, she hopes to learn how to more ethically care for the soil and environment. She’s looking forward to being a part of the crew and meeting volunteers.


Chrissie Edgeworth
Assistant Grower

Chrissie is excited to return to Gaining Ground for a second season. With roots in Chicago, previous jobs have taken her through various wilderness areas in New Hampshire, Montana, and Idaho building hiking trails. She was lucky to call Yellowstone National Park her classroom while leading high school science education courses. The Peace Corps provided her the opportunity to work and learn alongside inspiring farmers and agropreneurs in Guinea, West Africa. And these past two years have been full of delicious food and farming in Illinois and Massachusetts. Chrissie enjoys learning about the intersections of food, ecology, community, justice, and creativity. When she isn’t on the farm, she’s crafting and running her jewelry business Ramblejoy Jewelry Co., hiking, writing, or enjoying the company of friends.


Erin Espinosa
Assistant Farm Manager

Erin is grateful for a career that connects her and others to the gifts of working with the land and sharing nutritious foods. Her eight-year career as a vegetable and flower farmer is complemented by her interest in food justice, farm land access, and farmworker rights. Now, Erin is excited to grow food and community at Gaining Ground. Off of the farm, Erin enjoys hiking, salsa dancing, and eating really good food. On her day off, Erin teaches horticulture classes at a local prison and fundraises with The New Garden Society.


Allison Goodwin
Program Manager 

Allison joined Gaining Ground in 2017. A farm field trip in third grade sparked her lifelong passion for sustainable agriculture, connecting to the land, and increasing equitable access to fresh, healthy food. She currently coordinates our recipient partnerships and produce distribution, manages volunteer scheduling, and handles our office operations. Allison worked previously at Chelsea Green Publishing, at several environmental non-profit organizations, and on organic farms in the U.S. and abroad. She enjoys gardening, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two young daughters.


Jennifer Johnson
Executive Director

Jennifer is passionate about equitable access to healthy food and the healing power of nature. She’s found her dream job at Gaining Ground and loves working with Gaining Ground’s staff, board, volunteers, and partners to grow food and grow community. She earned a degree in communications from Boston University and completed the in-residence Business for Impact program at Georgetown University. Jennifer began her career in marketing communications before pivoting to non-profit development and management. Outside of work you’ll most likely find her making soup, sharing her love of Dolly Parton, or sitting around a campfire with friends and family. She lives with her family in Concord and enjoys reading, running, hiking, gardening, and kayaking.


Anna Kelchlin
Farm Manager

Anna believes in connecting people to the land through growing food. She is honored to be a part of the process of healing land and community with a reciprocal and regenerative mindset. She spent seven seasons farming at Waltham Fields Community Farm and is now entering her fourth season at Gaining Ground. She holds a masters degree in education with a focus on multicultural community education. Anna is a heart transplant recipient, a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, and enjoys speaking Spanish and traveling to places near the sea. She is pumped to plant more cover crops, spread mulch piles, and discover diverse life forms above and below the soil!


Sarah Lichtman
Field Crew Member

An electrical engineer with a passion for sustainable agriculture, Sarah is excited to be spending a season working outdoors, learning, and giving back at Gaining Ground. She has been an enthusiastic volunteer at Waltham Fields Community Farm 2016 to 2019 and at Gaining Ground in 2021. Off the farm, she enjoys reading an unconscionable number of books, hiking, knitting, and weaving.


Ava Lublin
Field Crew Member

Ava began volunteering at Gaining Ground in April of 2017 and has fallen in love with farming ever since. This is her second season on the farm crew, and she is grateful to return to the vibrant, joyful community here. Ava is currently a sophomore at the University of Vermont, studying political ecology and agroecology, which she has found a passion for through working at Gaining Ground. She is eager to learn more about how we can build more sustainable, reciprocative relationships with the land that sustains us to promote health and justice for both people and the environment. In her free time, Ava loves to dance, hike, read, write, and spend time with her dog and two cats.


Geoff Nelson
Groundskeeper

Geoff has a long interest in farming and helping those experiencing food insecurity. He works at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln and volunteers at the Acton Food Pantry. He earned a degree in visual communications (photography and graphics) and worked for a small publication firm before shifting his focus to outdoor education. After working at an outdoor education center in Virginia, he worked as an exhibit designer and property manager at Discovery Museum in Acton. He lives in Maynard with his wife and son. When not working, you can find him cooking, taking photos, reading, hiking, surfing, biking, and gardening.


Christine Savage
Communications Manager

Christine joined the Gaining Ground team in 2021. After working in book publishing for several years, she changed gears and has been involved with hunger relief, access to the outdoors, and food issues ever since. She has worked at the Somerville Community Growing Center, Food For Free in Cambridge, and interned at the Higher Ground Rooftop Farm at Boston Medical Center. At Gaining Ground, Christine coordinates the farm’s communications efforts through our website, social media, publicity, newsletters, and events. Outside of work, Christine likes to garden, camp in the Green Mountains, and listen to (still so much) Emmylou Harris.