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

Penny Austen
Christa Collins
Laurie Engdahl
Lauren McKown
Sue Mildrum
Ashley Perssico
Joe Rigali, Emeritus
Lucy Rosborough, Emeritus
Guillermo Ruiz-Rico
Kristen Van Damm
Gary Vilchick
Lisanne Wheeler




We are fortunate to have talented farm and office staff to manage our day-to-day operations. Currently, we have four year-round employees including a farm manager, executive director, communications manager, and program manager. For the 2021 growing season we also have a farm education manager, greenhouse manager, two assistant growers and two field crew members.

Rae Axner
Assistant Grower

Rae is excited to return 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 foods with too much garlic. She is excited to learn more about no-till and regenerative agriculture this season at Gaining Ground.

Chrissie Edgeworth
Assistant Grower 

With roots in Chicago, this is Chrissie’s first season at Gaining Ground. Previous jobs took her through various New Hampshire State Parks and Montana and Idaho Wilderness Areas as a Conservation Corps trail crew member. She was lucky enough to call Yellowstone National Park her classroom while leading high school science education courses. Joining the Peace Corps provided her the opportunity to work and learn alongside inspiring farmers and agropreneurs in Guinea, West Africa. She spent the 2020 season on a farm close to home and family. Chrissie loves learning about the intersections of food and farming, conservation and ecology, education and community-building, justice and equity, and arts and creativity. When she isn’t on the farm, she’s crafting and running a small jewelry business, hiking, cooking, writing, or enjoying the company of friends.

Erin Espinosa
Farm Education Manager

Erin is grateful for a career that connects herself and others to the gifts of land and nutritious foods. Her seven year career as a vegetable and flower farmer, mostly at Upswing Farm, was complemented by activism in food justice and racial equity. Now, Erin is excited to grow food and community at Gaining Ground. Off of the farm, Erin enjoys hiking, salsa dancing, and all things 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. Ever since a farm field trip in third grade, she has been passionate about 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 sustainable farms in the U.S. and abroad. She enjoys gardening, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two young daughters.

Avery Indermauer
Field Crew Member

Avery is a recent graduate of Duke University with a major in Environmental Science, minor in Cultural Anthropology, and a certificate in Sustainability Engagement. Through her internships at Sustainable Duke and the Duke Student Wellness Center, she cemented her passion for connecting wellness and sustainability, specifically through food and farming. In these roles, she loved hosting student engagement events about mental health, environmental wellness, and sustainable food as well as helping manage several of Duke’s garden spaces. Her interests also took her to Limahuli National Tropical Botanical Garden and Preserve in Kauai, HI where she served as a summer field intern. When she’s not in the field, you can find her baking, cooking, doing yoga, hiking, dancing, or tucked in a coffee shop with a good book.

Jennifer Johnson
Executive Director

Jennifer joined Gaining Ground as Executive Director in March 2020 — four days before the pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt. Under her leadership, Gaining Ground added new hunger-relief partners in communities particularly hard-hit by the pandemic and grew a record-breaking amount of food. Jennifer is passionate about equitable access to healthy food and the healing power of nature. She earned a degree in Communications from Boston University and completed the in-residence Business for Impact program at Georgetown University. She lives with her family in Concord, MA, and enjoys reading, running, hiking, gardening, and kayaking. She loves working with the Gaining Ground staff, Board, volunteers, and donors to grow food and community.

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 regenerative mindset. She spent seven seasons farming at Waltham Fields Community Farm and is now beginning her third season at Gaining Ground. She is fluent in Spanish, is a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, and strives to empower others to live fully and feel peace.

Ava Lublin
Field Crew Member

Ava began volunteering at Gaining Ground in April of 2017 and has fallen in love with farming ever since. She was leader of the Gaining Ground High School Farm Team for two years and she is thrilled to be back working on the farm, this time as a field crew member. She is incredibly grateful to be a part of such a vibrant and compassionate community, and is eager to learn more about the power and potential of Gaining Ground’s mission. In her free time, Ava enjoys dancing, hiking, boxing, reading, and screenwriting.

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.

Kim Schmidt
Greenhouse Manager

This is Kim’s fourth season at Gaining Ground, sharing her expertise about food and farming with our staff and volunteers. A native of the midwest, Kim has farmed in various capacities across the country for the past ten years, including work at Urbavore Farm (Kansas City), Denver Urban Gardens, and running her own small market garden in her hometown of Wichita, Kansas. In addition to field work, she manages the greenhouse and oversees our flower fields and production. Kim is grateful to have found a place that fulfills her desire to both farm sustainably and support her community. When not in the fields, Kim can be found camping and hiking, playing with fiber art and ceramics, or nuzzling her sweet cat, Norris.