Ciara Byrne is a documentary filmmaker and social impact entrepreneur. In 2013 Ciara and Kim MacQuarrie founded Green Our Planet and together with their team they helped create one of the largest and most comprehensive school garden and hydroponics programs in the United States. Currently, Green Our Planet is operating in 10 states and impacting over 140,000 students. In 2019 Ciara was selected from 5,000 applications along with 19 other nonprofit leaders to be a 2019 Obama Fellow. The Obama Foundation is supporting Ciara and the team at Green Our Planet to scale their program across the United States and beyond. In 2001, Ciara set up and ran a film production company, Lion Television, with offices in LA and New York. During that time, she managed over 60 employees and produced hundreds of films a year for PBS, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, PBS, BBC, Fox, and E! Ciara uses her background in television to include educational films as a core part of the Green Our Planet offerings to schools.
Kim MacQuarrie is a writer and a four-time Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and entrepreneur. In 2013 Kim co-founded Green Our Planet with Ciara Byrne and together with their team they helped create one of the largest and most comprehensive school garden and hydroponics programs in the United States. Kim uses his background in television to include educational films as a core part of the Green Our Planet offerings to schools. He has an undergraduate degree in biology, a master’s in anthropology and lived in Peru for five years. During part of that time, he lived with a recently-contacted Amazonian tribe, the Yora. A native of Las Vegas who has lived, studied-abroad, and worked around the world, Kim’s most recent book is “Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries.”
Wendy Cashin spent most of her early years growing up in the desert of Tucson, Arizona. She graduated as a University of Arizona Wildcat with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. Her dream was to get a job and move to sunny California and the beach. She moved to California, a small town, El Centro, close to the Mexican border and not quite the beach! The next few years was working in several distinct industries, manufacturing, gaming and hospitality, and engineering, in an accounting capacity. Wendy joined Green Our Planet as a financial business supporter of several CCSD school gardens in 2014. She additionally transitioned to the GOP Board of Directors and just recently joined this fabulous team as a full-time employee. She has lived in Arizona, California, Chicago, but can not get enough of the mountains and desert and landed in Las Vegas in 1990. She has three adult children who were born and raised in Las Vegas and are products of the Clark County School District. She could not be prouder of their accomplishments, thus far, and looks forward to what they will do in the future. Wendy enjoys physical activity – weightlifting, tennis, running half-marathons and dancing, that keeps her young at heart. She is a huge Vegas Golden Knights Fan and has traveled to Asia, Europe, Central and South America, Canada and most recently Ghana, Africa. She is so proud to call Green Our Planet her new home.
Liz was born and raised in beautiful northern New Hampshire. She holds a Bachelor’s in Social Work and is passionate about equal access to quality food and education. Liz’s varied career includes starting and running an organic farm, managing an Amazon warehouse, and serving as operations manager for a fastener warehouse. She and her children currently call South Carolina their home. Liz spends her non-working hours pretending she can dance, enjoying state parks in the Carolinas, improv quilting, and playing in her collection of plants. She is happiest when her hands are in the dirt.
Christy (Christine) Carlson is an adventurous soul with a passion for sustainability, apiculture, and the great outdoors. With a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, she has years of experience in teaching (in-person, virtual, and hybrid) 2nd and 3rd grade in both Las Vegas, NV and Plainfield, IN. Christy has meshed her passion for teaching and sustainability as the Senior Manager of School Garden Programming at Green Our Planet. Christy is deeply committed to fostering a love for sustainability and gardening in students across the globe through project-based STEM education.
Christy lives on a hobby farm in Bloomington, Indiana with her husband and daughter. When not spending time beekeeping and maintaining their hobby farm, her family enjoys outdoor rock climbing, windsurfing, waterskiing, and mountain biking. Christy and her family look forward to growing their apiary, orchard, and vegetable garden into a sustainable, Midwest sanctuary.
Gabriela was born and raised in Venezuela. She earned an associate degree in advertising. Gabriela believes that art is a language for people to express their thoughts and emotions. She has always enjoyed being surrounded by children and was a preschool teacher for 18 years. She is passionate about letting children explore and discover the world through their eyes and hands on learning. Gabriela believes that educating young children about their planet will make the difference in future generations. The most meaningful part of her life is her family, and they are her inspiration to continue on this extraordinary path.
Born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, MJ moved to Las Vegas in 2015. She received a BS in Landscape Architecture from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and joined the Green Our Planet’s School Garden Coordinator and Landscape Design teams. Throughout her undergraduate degree, she became increasingly interested in community engagement and public spaces. By creating new design solutions and incorporating environmental benefits that include wildlife habitat, sustainability, and urban gardening, she looks forward to enriching the Las Vegas community and surroundings one garden at a time. MJ enjoys traveling and sightseeing cities with her family and friends and practicing new languages.
Travis Kapetan grew up in McGill, Nevada and graduated from Colorado State University in 2017 with a B.S. in Horticulture/Horticultural Food Crops. Alongside his interests in science, education and improving efficiencies and yields in agricultural systems, Travis has experience in certified-organic crop production and large-scale hydroponic production. In his spare time, Travis enjoys skateboarding, exploring the outdoors and going to concerts and stand-up comedy shows with his girlfriend, friends and family.
Liliana was born and raised in Los Angeles County, CA. She attended California State University, Fullerton where she received a bachelor’s in history and a teaching credential. In 2018, she worked as the programs assistant at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum where she enjoyed teaching children local history, putting special events together, and working with volunteers. Liliana believes that teaching all students to become critical thinkers will help create a better future. She enjoys traveling and watching musicals.
Katie Zimmerman, originally from Madison, WI, is a graduate of Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in ballet and an Outside Field in business. Katie spent seven years as an Artist with Nevada Ballet Theater where she performed alongside NBT and also in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. Throughout her dancing career, Katie enjoyed teaching both ballet and math in her spare time. Long passionate about nutrition, Katie has become increasingly interested in the space where the health of people and health of the planet meet. Katie is thrilled to be joining Green Our Planet and begin working at the intersection of sustainability, nutrition and education. In her free time, Katie enjoys anything that gets her outside. She loves to hike and bike and is becoming an avid camper!
Kristy grew up on a horse and cattle ranch that was also a hay- and grain-producing farm in the Fall River Valley in the Shasta Cascade region of Northern California. It was here where Kristy found a deep appreciation for the outdoors. Kristy studied agriculture and horticulture in college and earned a degree in communications. She has worked in horticulture and engineering divisions for 15 years in Las Vegas and enjoys outdoor recreation, hiking with her dog, playing golf and spending time with family and friends. Kristy looks forward to contributing to the future of STEM education through outdoor gardens and aspires to instill a sense of responsibility and respect for the environment with children for the preservation and enjoyment of future generations.
Tom Bohannon is an avid horticulturalist, pursuing interests in the fields of permaculture and xericulture. Tom has been involved with the greater horticultural community in Las Vegas since 2014. Having grown up in the Las Vegas area, Tom has always felt at home surrounded by the beauty and serenity found within the desert. But a desire to explore other climates, community outreach, and a passion for work in a horticultural setting eventually drew him to Pittsburgh, PA in the mid 2000s, where he joined Landslide Community Farm, a not-for-profit focused on community empowerment through gardening, crop production, and food distribution. Tom uses his knowledge with Green Our Planet by growing a love of plants within our community and bringing those skills to students across the valley.
Angelo is from Yakima’ Washington. Growing up in the Yakima Valley he was immersed in Agriculture and the Outdoors. From the smell of Hops, Cherry blossoms and the beautiful glow of the heaters keeping the Apples warm at night, there was always something growing. As Angelo himself grew, he entered High School where he took FFA (Future Farmers Of America) and where he learned a lot more in depth of the Agriculture and Farming that surrounded him. After High School not having a direction on what he wanted to pursue, he moved off to see what the world had to offer. Landing in Las Vegas where he met is wife, they set off to Baja, Mexico’s wine country (Valle De Guadalupe). They lived on a 80 acre Ranch and built a successful B&B, where they also grew and sold their produce in the Valley. Now back in Vegas he has the opportunity with Green Our Planet to continue working in something he loves and for a great cause.
Yolanda grew up on a farm in Ensenada Baja, Mexico, and with a parent in the exotic flowers business in Los Angeles, she was naturally drawn to plants, gardening, sustainability and an outdoor lifestyle. She started skateboarding and surfing at a young age and became a competitive surfer for all of her teens and twenties.
Yolanda became passionate about the environment and sustainability when she was very young. Yolanda has a technical degree in Environmental Lab and a BA in Tourism Business and Marketing. She opened a surf school in a hotel in Baja, and a boutique hotel on her family farm, where she also began to grow and sell her own vegetables. Yolanda has continued this passion of plants, growing and a sustainable lifestyle here in Las Vegas and has an urban farm in her backyard.
Originally from Michigan, Michelle grew up around nature and family gardens that filled her with curiosity. In 2006 she relocated with her parents to Las Vegas, NV. At the age of 19 is when a passion for horticulture sparked inside Michelle. Since that spark, she has worked in many retail garden centers evolving and growing her knowledge. Michelle’s goal in life is to keep expanding her knowledge of horticulture while spreading her passion to others. When she is not playing in the dirt, you can find Michelle with her dogs (doodles) and spending quality time with her husband and three children.
Stephanie is originally from Pennsylvania and holds a BA from the University of Vermont. She spent 10 years in Europe running a vegan cooking school teaching students from all over the world that plant based food can be delicious as well as nutritious. Her culinary journeys have led her to explore the globe and she trained in Morocco, Thailand, Italy, Greece, Spain, India, Ireland, Israel and beyond. When she lived in New Zealand she volunteered with at-risk youth and this experience was her first taste of exposing youth to the wonders of cooking with freshly harvested food. Stephanie saw first hand the positive impact that a garden program could have on the eating habits, attendance in school, and improved grades of the students. Now as a farmer with Green Our Planet she is excited to continue teaching children about the wonders of fresh foods. In her free time she enjoys traveling, restorative yin yoga, cooking spicy food and walking her rescue dog, Bruno Mars.
Ashley grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where her connection with nature sprouted at a young age. Her love for the environment blossomed after watching documentaries on environmental injustices, which led to her getting a B.S degree in Environmental Science, specializing in environmental law. Her passion is rooted in urban sustainability and sharing with others the positive impact we can have in our everyday environment. She hopes to one day start her own farm program for inner city youth in support of healthy communities. When Ashley is not in the garden, she enjoys reading suspense books, singing, and meditating in nature.
Hailing from the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Liz has been immersed in wetland ecology since she was a toddler wading around tidal creeks with her dad. About ten years ago she left home to get married, moving to North Carolina and then Southwest Florida with her husband’s career. In 2019 she earned a BA in Environmental Science from FGCU, where she spent her senior year researching phytoplankton succession in the Caloosahatchee River. It was at FGCU that Liz began to study botany and food forest permaculture, gaining a huge appreciation for the architecture and mechanisms of plants. In Florida she also enjoyed spending her time volunteering at a horse rescue. This year, her family moved to Las Vegas, where Liz has been getting used to the desert and having a great time adding new observations to her iNaturalist account. When she isn’t busy looking for a reason to bake a cake, Liz can often be found hiking or watching football with her husband and daughter.
Chris Anderson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Community Health in 1989, and a bachelor’s in Elementary Education in 2001. After teaching for 18 years (5 in CCSD) Chris joined the Green Our Planet team to help bring the vast educational possibilities of gardening to more teachers and students in Las Vegas and beyond. She hopes to support and empower more educators to integrate gardening into their classrooms to connect more students with the natural world and with their food. Chris enjoys sports, the outdoors, travel and the entertainment of the Fabulous Las Vegas Strip, where she enjoys the lights, the excitement and the plants.
Jacob is a Filipino-American who has lived in Las Vegas since his family moved from California when he was 3 years old. Jacob has grown up around Northern Las Vegas where he developed a strong connection to the outdoors and the local desert which was always just a short walk away. Even in his home, nature was never far as he has spent most of his life caring for an ever-growing garden of plants and an ever-expanding family of tortoises. His family has had a strong influence on his interests, often going on camping trips and hikes, collecting information and learning about the natural world, and valuing the application and practicality of the sciences. In the spring of 2022, Jacob was drawn by his interests to intern at Green Our Planet where his value of and fascination with their work has only grown. That same season, he graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) with a bachelor’s degree in Public Health and then fully joined the Green Our Planet team soon after.
Jennie was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. With a small city backyard to spend countless hours gardening and exploring the natural world, she lived her childhood engrossed in all the wonders that the outdoors provide. Her love of nature and animals led her to a long career in animal welfare. After receiving a degree in Writing and Communications, Jennie looked for a new career path that would continue to provide an outlet for her love of nature, which led her to joining Green Our Planet. She is passionate about environmental justice, sustainability, and equal access to quality food. Jennie spends her free time hiking with her dog and tending to her city garden plot and her home full of houseplants.
Suzie was born and raised near Minneapolis, MN but spent her summers on a lake in northern MN where she fell in love with nature. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a BS in Mathematics, Suzie moved to Las Vegas in 2001 and taught geometry and algebra at a local high school. Suzie lives with her husband, two daughters, two yellow labs and 21-year-old tortoise, Sammy. She ran the school garden at her kids’ elementary school and is passionate about the environment, nutrition and teaching children to explore and to be curious.
Michael was born and raised in Las Vegas. He spent the last 15 years as a land surveyor making maps and working on infrastructure projects in the valley and Southern California. His interest in sustainable food production began after witnessing firsthand the reality of modern agriculture practices and their impact on our environment and our health. Michael has since spent time working at local indoor vertical farm startups focusing on growing locally grown hydroponic produce for his community. Michael enjoys growing salad for his family and neighbors in his own hydroponic kitchen garden. He also enjoys going on adventures with his wife and two kids and tumbling cool rocks they find.
Jeanne Marie Toscano started her career with a bachelor’s in dietetics from the University of Wyoming. She worked in the nutrition field enjoying a myriad of experiences including running college food systems, senior living meal services, public school nutrition programs, weight management and consulting. Jeanne moved to Las Vegas in 1993 as a nutritionist and manager for the Nevada WIC Program for Sunrise Hospital. After almost 20 years in the WIC program, she noticed that children did not know where their food came from. Following this interest, she became a Master Gardener, Nevada Naturalist, Master Food Preserver and certified as an Herbalist. Jeanne loves working with local schools to help foster healthy eating through gardening.
Lisa Cheplak is the Chef and Nutrition Program Manager and Nutrition Chef Educator for Green Our Planet, as well as a Certified Health and Nutrition Coach. Lisa received her certification at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has had a long-time passion for health and wellness. She loves working with students and families to inspire them to create healthy meals using garden-grown produce, help them make simple and healthy lifestyle changes and encourage health-promoting ways that produce real and lasting results improving energy, balance, health and happiness. As a mother, she has learned that there is no better way to teach healthy eating habits than hands-on learning in the garden and kitchen. Originally from Ohio, Lisa has been a resident of Las Vegas for 28 years. Over the past several years, she has taught nutrition and corporate wellness workshops to various companies throughout the city and hundreds of nutrition and cooking classes to students and adults.
Jessica was born and raised in Las Vegas, but her family is originally from El Salvador. Before coming to Green Our Planet, Jessica worked in the accounting department for a nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip and as a program assistant for a nonprofit that provided books to children. In recent years, she has developed a passion for sustainability which during the 2016-2017 school year brought her to volunteer at Green Our Planet. Now as a full member of the team, Jessica helps bring awareness to younger generations so that they can both gain a passion for the environment and also learn that growing your own food is not only exciting but can help preserve our Earth. Jessica loves exploring the world, hiking and anything to do with the ocean.
Andrea grew up in Los Angeles, CA but moved to Las Vegas, NV about a year ago and has not looked back! She moved with her fiancé and two black labs shortly after graduating. She graduated from CSUN in 2021 with a B.S. in Business Management. Andrea knew from a very young age that she wanted to make a difference in the world and now her career allows her to do just that. When she is not working to better the planet, you can find her either reading a book or hiking with her fiancé and pups.
Kevin Leadingham is an accomplished non-fiction producer, editor, and camera operator from Los Angeles, CA by way of Chicago, IL. His over 50+ TV and documentary film credits include projects made for Discovery Channel, A & E, ESPN, ABC, HGTV, Animal Planet and PBS to name a few. His passion for entertaining, educating, and inspiring others through video is what drew him to join the Green Our Planet family. He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife Amie and his super pugs, Buddy and Xena.
Greg is an award-winning producer, videographer, and editor from Los Angeles, CA. His career is expansive; Greg has produced over 300 bonus features for DVD and Blu-ray discs and interviewed a variety of talent, from directors, to A-list stars, as well as production professionals. Greg is passionate about visual storytelling and enjoys filming the teachers, students, chefs, and urban gardeners and translating their passion and love for what they do to film. When he’s not busy filming and editing, Greg enjoys playing guitar and bass, and has played with a variety of bands in both the LA and Las Vegas music scene. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife and his two Boston Terriers.
Marcus Villagran is a Cambodian-Mexican American videographer and documentarian from Las Vegas, NV, with 3 years of experience shooting daily news and documentaries. These days, he shoots content for non-profit organizations he believes in like Green Our Planet! His ultimate goal? To bring light to meaningful stories in an honest and engaging way. And to learn and grow as much as possible to achieve that goal.
Ana migrated to the desert in 2014 from Dracula’s home country Transylvania, Romania, and she is not afraid of garlic. She was raised to respect mother nature and to learn from it, taught at a young age to identify plants and trees by their leaves, texture, smell and in the summer vacations, she turned her grandparent’s garden into a playground using the plants, rocks and soil for cooking classes and fashion shows.