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.”

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.

Gabriela-Prato School Garden Coordinator

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.

Travis Kapetan School Garden Coordinator and Hydroponics Expert

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.

Maria Jose (MJ) School Garden Coordinator and Design Specialist

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.

Brenda Rodriquez Farmer Manager

Brenda has been a resident of Las Vegas for 44 years and started in the architectural field before migrating to landscape design. She attended CSN’s Horticulture Program for Landscape Design & Construction. Afterwards, she owned and operated a successful landscape management company for 18 years. Brenda has experience in landscape sales, design, installation and management.  She also served as the irrigation specialist at the Springs Preserve for a number of years. With water being a finite, precious resource on our planet, Brenda says she “is excited to be a part of an organization that connects children and others to the Earth, teaches them to help manage our precious resources and uses water to benefit us nutritionally rather than ornamentally!

Rosalie Lavertu Farmer, Horticulturalist

Originally from South Florida, Rosalie grew up with a backyard citrus orchard which instilled in her a passion for growing food. She continued pursuing gardening as a hobby while working as a paralegal for almost fifteen years. Rosalie became interested in farming for self-sustainability after reading The Good Life, chronicling Helen and Scott Nearing’s homestead. In late 2015, Rosalie and her husband unexpectedly relocated to Las Vegas. Their house hunt was centered around one primary need: a large backyard. She spent a year converting her yard into an urban farm and adjusting to the unique challenges of gardening in the desert. Rosalie is very excited to be a part of Green Our Planet and to share her enthusiasm for gardening with future generations.

Tom Bohannon Farmer and Master Gardener

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.

Joe Zitello Farmer, Master Gardener and Hydroponics Expert

Joseph Zitello has lived in Las Vegas since he was 3 years old. He began building raised bed gardens for himself and others in the community in 2008. After graduating from UNLV in 2011, Joseph decided to further his horticultural education and became a Master Gardener in 2014. He has worked extensively with hydroponics as a farmer at a specialty herb indoor vertical farm. Joseph has homeschooled his own child and feels it is important to teach children where food comes from and to help them stay connected to their environment. At Green Our Planet, he works as a Horticulturist–Farmer and Hydroponics Expert.

Eddie Del Grosso Farmer Horticulturalist

Eddie was born in Niagara Falls, NY and was raised in Las Vegas at many of the schools where Green Our Planet has gardens. He received a bachelor’s degree in Plant Science from Cal Poly, Pomona in 2018 and has been gardening and growing his own food for over 10 years. Eddie really found his passion for plants while pursuing a degree in Geological Engineering at UNR and decided to make the switch after 3 years to horticulture.  Eddie has worked on farms and in greenhouses and has found a love for urban farming and regenerative agriculture and wants to incorporate these ideas into the schools where he works. Eddie spends much of his free time climbing in Red Rock or other areas around the valley as well as tending to his own gardens!

Yolanda Reyez Farmer Horticulturalist

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.

Diana has lived in Las Vegas for most of her life, but has spent the last nine years traveling the country falling in love with different places, cultures, ideas, and food. After graduating with a BA in Psychology, she worked with multiple AmeriCorps programs, like City Year, where she mentored 8th graders in Tulsa. But it was her passion for creating delicious, yet healthy dishes that inspired her to learn how to grow organic fruits and vegetables. After two seasons of farming in Maryland and Virginia, Diana returns to the desert to learn from and to inspire others about sustainable agriculture. She can be found reading too many books at one time, incorporating dates into most desserts, and dancing and singing in the garden.

Susie spent her formative years in Los Angeles, California. It was in the golden state’s magnificent public parks where she discovered her love for the outdoors and its inhabitants. This, paired with trips to family land in Guatemala, sparked her drive to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville; eventually earning a BS in Geology and Environmental Studies. During her tenure at the university, she volunteered at Beardsley Farm; a local garden dedicated to promoting food security and sustainable agriculture through produce donations, community outreach, and hands-on learning.Through volunteering, she found a passion for organic gardening and community outreach. She pursued this interest as an intern with the University’s Organic Crop Unit which produces a weekly supply of produce for its members. After graduating, Susie relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada where she was contracted by the Bureau of Land Management to be part of a native seed collection team working on public lands in the Mojave. She is very excited to be working with Green Our Planet, and is ready to get back to the gardens!

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.

Sierra Kuno grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2015 where she earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in Nutrition Sciences. She worked with many nutrition and community programs during her time as an undergraduate. She is now working her way to become a registered dietitian. Sierra wants to empower and inspire individuals by promoting the field of nutrition through continued education. She feels that every person has the opportunity to optimize their own health while enhancing personal confidence. She is excited to work with Green Our Planet as a nutrition educator.

Rivka Sirkin is a dietetics student at UNLV and will be graduating in May 2021. Her career goal is to become a registered dietitian so that she can help others build a healthier relationship with food. She is especially interested in working to improve the lives of those who live in a food insecure environment. In her free time, she loves to stay active by exercising and going on walks or hikes. She has a passion for cooking and baking, which got her into baking sourdough and experimenting with her sourdough starter.

 

Monica Gherig Monica Gehrig Curriculum and Professional Development Manager

Monica is an American-Canadian environmentalist. She began her career in 2011 in her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, teaching science at Sci-Port Discovery Center. Driven by an adventurous spirit, she moved to Calgary, Alberta in 2013, where she gained experience in plant production at Sunnyside Garden Centre; the organic food system at Community Natural Foods, and STEAM inquiry-based education at TELUS Spark Science Centre. Throughout her career, she has volunteered in garden and nutrition programs. Monica completed a Permaculture Design Certificate at Verge Permaculture in 2016 and a Master of Arts in Environmental Education and Communication at Royal Roads University in 2019. She is thrilled to support Green Our Planet’s mission of conserving the environment through project-based STEM education.

Chris Anderson Hydroponics Program Manager and Educator

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.

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.

David Sweeney is a highly experienced manager and consultant with more than 25 years senior leadership experience in international media, risk management and non-profits. He has lived and worked in both the United States and Great Britain, and traveled to more than 40 countries. David was born in Dublin, Ireland, where he studied journalism. He has traveled widely throughout Asia and parts of the Middle East. David first worked with Green Our Planet to develop a communications strategy for the 2019 Giant Student Farmers Market. He also volunteers and mentors with a work experience and training program at Goodwill of Greater Washington, DC, helping students attain their first job or return to the workforce. He’s a passionate soccer fan, though is currently suffering with the recent travails of Manchester United.

Suzanna lives in Hawai’i and has had a connection to the natural world since she was a child and a passionate drive to protect the planet since high school. An environmental science class opened her eyes to the impact human activity has on our planet, and, as a result of that class, she felt an obligation to do something about it including forming an organization to clean a waterway in her hometown, Honolulu, HI. In college, Suzanna studied environmental science and economics, and most recently worked for Greenpeace USA to fight plastic pollution and the climate crisis. Suzanna believes that the stronger the connection people have to nature, the more compelled they will feel to protect it. She is eager to vegetate the urban landscape one hydroponics system and one garden at a time with Green Our Planet!

A native of Las Vegas, John Chandler has a deep connection to both the natural and built environments of the American southwest. Graduating in 2018 from the University of Arizona’s Sustainable Built Environments program, John aims to bring his expertise in sustainable development to Green Our Planet! In the past John has worked with other gardening organizations in his local Tucson Arizona. Currently, he is finishing up a master’s in public administration to better apply that expertise towards other non-profits. Now John serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Green Our Planet in order to capture and analyze data to produce metrics and further research for the organization.

Samantha West Grant Writer

A native of northern Utah’s mountains, Samantha West grew up surrounded by the wonders of the Western landscape. Her goal is to conserve our natural resources and help others cultivate a connection with nature through writing. When she’s not clacking away at the keyboard, Samantha enjoys crafting, road-tripping and exploring the beauty of the American Southwest.

Jillian Edwards was born in Las Vegas, but raised in Woodbridge, Virginia. She moved back to Las Vegas in order to pursue her degree in Public Health at UNLV. She is graduating in spring 2021. Jillian has a passion for practicing healthy lifestyle choices and helping others. She has been connected with the education system through various family members who are educators and was excited to learn about Green Our Planet’s impact in her own community. Jillian started out as an intern with Green Our Planet and couldn’t be happier to learn about hydroponics and sustainable farming in the desert.

Greg Carson Videographer and Editor

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 Videographer and Editor

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.