Our Team

Courtney Leeds
Co-founder, Director and Board Member

After several years of city living in San Francisco, where she attended the University of San Francisco, Courtney felt the pull to reconnect with nature and began farming. She spent a summer WWOOFing in Southwest Oregon before returning to San Francisco ready to dive into its ever-changing urban ag scene. She apprenticed with Little City Gardens while they navigated land procurement in a densely populated city. She lived in Peru for several months studying their farm systems, both urban and rural. She became certified in Urban Permaculture Design. Finally, she found her way to Portland after searching for a formal urban farm apprenticeship. At Zenger farm in Portland, she learned the techniques of organic farming, nonprofit farm operations and experiential farm and garden education. With these tools, Courtney founded Schoolyard Farms in 2012. Courtney is motivated to build a just and healthy food-system. She believes that Schoolyard Farms lays the foundation for children to understand where their food comes from and how to grow it, and through awareness and engagement they will be more likely to fight for a system that nourishes them.

Brooke Hieserich
Education Director

Brooke Hieserich grew up in San Diego, CA believing everybody’s Dad had a dog named Jack and lived on a farm. Her Minnesotan farmer grandparents retired in Southern California and Brooke’s earliest memory of learning and gardening is of following her Grandmother through the tomato patch picking the red fruits, not the green ones, to make sauce or can or eat right out of hand. Brooke was a camper, counselor, staff person, and program director at Camp Stevens where she was first able to build a personal connection to nature, learning, and community that remains a passion to this day. Brooke completed a BA in French and American Literature and later an Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, UC Santa Cruz. Her experience in San Francisco interning at Garden for the Environment, teaching cooking, gardening, and poetry with various urban afterschool programs, and leading the Project OLE! school garden program at San Francisco Community School inspired Brooke to adventure north to pursue a Masters degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education at Portland State University. Brooke believes there isn’t a pedagogy, discipline or learner out there a farm-and-garden-based experience couldn’t benefit and is humbled by the living soil engaging the community where our Food System and Education System intersect. Brooke couldn’t be more thrilled to practice the cultivation of education and the education of cultivation at Schoolyard Farms with you.

Board of Directors

Terry Gibson, MBA
Professor, Marylhurst University; Board President

Terry John Gibson is an Oregon Registered Landscape Architect with over thirty years in the landscape industry. He has lived in Jennings Lodge, a suburb of Portland, Oregon for over twenty years, previously living in San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles, California, and Grand Junction, Colorado. Since 1997, he has been serving as a citizen advisory committee member for surface water quality management and is currently vice president of the board of directors for the Oak Lodge Sanitary District. He is also a member of the North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council, represents Jennings Lodge on the fifteen-member MAP-IT community visioning implementation team, and serves as a Nature Guide and conservation Steward for Tryon Creek State Natural Area, Oregon’s only state park that is imbedded in an urban area. Terry has a B.S. of Landscape Architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and an MBA of Sustainable Business from Marylhurst University, concentrating on Organic and Natural Resources. Terry also works internationally at Harmony Station, a conservation project located in the Petén department of Guatemala.

Stacey Sobell, M.S.
Farm to School Manager, Ecotrust; Board Secretary

Stacey is the Farm to School Manager at Ecotrust, a non-profit based in Portland, Oregon, that works at the intersection of social, economic, and environmental change. She received her Masters of Public Health from Portland State University. Ecotrust has acted as the Lead Agency for the 8-state western region of the National Farm to School Network since 2007 and was instrumental in advocacy efforts that recently secured >$1M in funding for Farm to School from the Oregon Legislature. Most recently, Stacey has been co-leading the National Farm to School Network’s efforts to coordinate a national Farm to Preschool initiative, leading a statewide Farm to Preschool Coalition in Oregon, and exploring ways to connect low-income and minority producers and consumers in the food system. Stacey is intrigued by the concept of a hybrid non-profit/for profit, self-sustaining school farm model that can simultaneously educate children (and school staff!) about where their food comes from and why that matters, while also supplying food to the cafeteria and the community. Stacey brings a wealth of Farm to School experience, expertise, connections, and networks to her role on the SYF Board, along with > 5 years of experience with program and project development, management, and evaluation.

Spencer Masterson
Community Resource Developer, Oregon Food Bank; Board Treasurer

Spencer is dedicated to building more robust and resilient community food systems. In this effort, Spencer has completed a county-wide Community Food Assessment and follow-up Addendum, organized two community food groups in rural communities, facilitated the establishment of a community orchard on public housing property, and has hosted numerous food literacy and anti-hunger events. He has presented on the topics of rural community organizing, community food systems, community food assessments and Willamette Valley regional agricultural at numerous professional conferences, before the state legislature, and at countless community meetings. Spencer is the author of reports on the topics of community food systems, rural grocery stores in Oregon, a guide to coordinating grassroots Community Food Assessments, a good agricultural practices audit program in Chile, and a co-author of a human rights report in Thailand. Spencer is thrilled and honored to be part of the SYF board, and is excited to be involved with an effort to ensure that more public property is utilized to grow food, and that the next generation is provided the opportunity to establish healthy eating habits early on and to discover the joys of growing food!

Justin Davidson
Co-founder, Schoolyard Farms

Justin’s path to co-founding Schoolyard Farms started when he gave up graphic design. He traded endless hours in front of the computer to take an Americorps position improving the banks of a river in Vancouver Washington. He loved working with a small crew and being outdoors all day while bettering the environment. This led him to Sauvie Island Organics where he lived and farmed for eight months on Sauvie Island in Portland OR and his passion for farming blossomed. After Sauvie Island, Justin used his farming knowledge to lead field trips for Zenger Farm and later became an apprentice at the farm, where he met Courtney Leeds. Courtney and Justin discovered Candy Lane Elementary in early 2012 and began farming 3/4 of an acre of the elementary’s schoolyard and Schoolyard Farms was born.

Amy DeSimone
Food Service Coordinator, Oregon City School District

With a dream of preserving crop diversity through public education, Amy headed to Portland to train at Oregon Culinary Institute and see the magic of the Willamette Valley. Since completing the program at OCI, she has been working with Oregon City school district to improve their summer food service program by purchasing local produce and preparing scratch meals. When school is in session, she prepares seasonal-from scratch meals for Head Start children and provides vegetable education in the classroom. You can also find her hosting monthly cooking demonstrations at the Oregon City farmers market. Since her introduction to Schoolyard Farms and their beautiful produce, Amy has hoped to help foster their growth. She feels the presence of a diverse working farm in a school setting is invaluable and is excited for the future development of Schoolyard Farms in Oregon City and beyond.

Cathy Kellon, M.S.
Water and Watersheds Program Director, Ecotrust

Cathy is the Water and Watersheds Program Director at Ecotrust, a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire fresh thinking that creates economic opportunity, social equity and environmental wellbeing. She currently oversee the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative, a multi-million dollar effort to restore high priority river basins in the Pacific Northwest and have over fifteen years of experience in salmon, water, and habitat conservation, from California to Alaska. She earned my Master’s in Geography and a minor in Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies from Oregon State University (Go Beavs!).

Cathy is the proud parent of two silly kids and a former Master Gardener. She’s motivated by “practical, purposeful, and positive” engagement and loves opportunities to do work that benefits individuals and ecosystems. She is excited to serve on the founding board for Schoolyard Farms. All kids deserve to have ready access to healthy, fresh food and she thinks that school gardens are an important strategy for helping realize that vision.

Advisory Members

Dan Sundseth