Grow Dat Fellows
Founder & Executive Director
T. 504 377 8395
Johanna Gilligan has worked in the field of food education since 2003. She began her career at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where she taught inquiry-based plant science to students in Title 1 schools. In 2006 she moved back to New Orleans and worked as the Educational Programs Manager with the New Orleans Food and Farm Network while simultaneously launching her own business, Clean Plate Projects, LLC. As a consultant, she has worked with many organizations, most notably with Rethink–a non-profit whose mission is to develop civic engagement among youth by bringing their voice to school reform. Her school food reform work with Rethink students generated national attention for its innovative approach and hard-hitting successes, eventually being profiled on the HBO documentary series, “Weight of the Nation.” Johanna founded Grow Dat Youth Farm in collaboration with Tulane University and many additional partners and individuals in 2011. Johanna was a 2012 Urban Innovation Challenge Fellow at Tulane University, and has also been a finalist for Echoing Green and the Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Society Fellowship. In 2012 she was a nominee for City Business Woman of the Year and a recipient of City Park’s Presidential Awards.
T. 504 228 7982
A native of New York’s Hudson Valley, Mike grew up with a single growing season and a pair of ice skates. Mike is a fundraiser, marketer, and most importantly, an anti-poverty and food justice advocate. At Grow Dat, he works to build a community of participants and investors in a vision for youth leadership development grounded in the meaningful work of growing food. Prior to his present role, Mike worked as the Communications and Public Affairs Director for a regional food bank, as a project manager for an urban agriculture and youth education program, and as a political organizer on a national environmental justice campaign. He holds a Master’s degree in Geography from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College.
T. 504 616 1777
Leo Gorman earned his BA in Anthropology and Latin American Studies from Tulane University in 2000. He worked for three years in Mexico and Colombia with Witness for Peace, working with partners to educate U.S. citizens about the impacts of free trade policy on civil society and the environment. He earned his MA in History at the University of New Orleans in 2009 and has co-authored several published articles and book chapters on indigenous rights, popular education and immigration. Leo taught social studies at Warren Easton High School and ran market gardens near Xavier University in New Orleans. He has interned multiple seasons on three organic vegetable farms and is thrilled to be part of a project that merges his passions for experiential education, social justice and sustainable agriculture.
T. 504 307 1200
Glenn Caston is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. He studied mathematics at Tulane University and secondary education at Our Lady of Holy Cross College. Glenn's desire is to provide space that promotes equitable learning experiences to the young people of New Orleans. His professional roots are in the public education sector where he served as a teacher, instructional coach, data coordinator, and curriculum specialist. Working as a high school math teacher, Glenn noticed a lack of advanced opportunities for the students he served. As a result, Glenn teamed up with members of the Cowen Institute in an effort to provide advanced placement courses for the students of Algiers. Glenn has also served in the capacity of a learning team leader at Greater New Orleans Teach For America, where he provided professional development opportunities for first-year corp members. He continues his work at Grow Dat Youth Farm in the capacity of program manager.
Assistant Farm Manager
T. 504 598 2743
Sarah Howard comes to Grow Dat with a background in community organizing and community health education. She learned about food justice issues in New Orleans while working on a campaign to re-open the historic Circle Food Store in the city’s 7th Ward. While helping to start a community garden in the neighborhood, she also rediscovered a love for growing food. Sarah gained additional skills in sustainable agricultural production through apprenticing with local urban farmer Macon Fry and at the Full Sun Farm in Big Sandy Mush, North Carolina. Sarah holds a BA in Studies of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and African American Studies from Harvard University. She is a student of herbal medicine and is a certified Louisiana Master Naturalist.
Assistant Farm Manager
T. 504 913 8261
Jocine Velasco has been growing sustainably in New Orleans for five years. She graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Literature and decided to venture off in Montana to do conservation work shortly after. While in college and throughout her adult life, she has always volunteered at different farms and gardens because she is a firm believer that growers working side by side have the capacity for making tangible change. She is currently a founding member and organizer of a growers' alliance here in the metro area.
T. 601 260 0509
Jabari Brown is an avid outdoorsman interested in the relationship between people, the land, and other living beings. Growing up in rural Mississippi, he believes that nature, if listened to, can be our greatest teacher. Upon graduating from Jackson State University, he sought work that would unite his passions: enjoying nature and sharing his life's experiences with others. Shortly thereafter, he was selected as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Grow Dat via the Center for Public Service at Tulane University. He is a founding staff member and is an integral voice in shaping the culture of the organization. His life's motto is, "What good am I if I can't teach others what I have learned?" As Hive Coordinator, Jabari trains others in Grow Dat's models of youth leadership development and creating successful multicultural teams.
Operations & Communications Coordinator
T. 225 614 8454
Jamie Broussard grew up in Pride, Louisiana, where she developed a lifelong passion for food and gardening with roots in her family's South Louisiana food traditions. Moving to New Orleans in 2006, Jamie developed a commitment to community work in the city while involved in post-Katrina volunteer and activist projects as a student leader in the Loyola University Community Action Program. Combining her passions for food and community, Jamie has since served as a founding board member for the New Orleans Fruit Tree Project, designed and managed an elementary school garden program, and worked at a local green space preservation and community gardening non-profit prior to her present role at Grow Dat. Jamie holds a BA in Sociology from Loyola University New Orleans.
Culinary Programs & Events Coordinator
T. 917 846 7418
Clara Lyle is a native New Yorker with experience in kitchens, in classrooms, and on farms. She came to New Orleans in 2013 to teach first grade, and in her classroom, she saw firsthand the food and nutrition barriers affecting her students' success. Ready to dive into food systems, Clara spent a year working as a line cook at Cochon Restaurant while also volunteering as an Ag Apprentice at Grow Dat. In early 2015, she took off across the country with roving-restaurant Outstanding in the Field, where as the social media manager, photographer, and expeditor, she met dozens of farmers and chefs across the country. She returned home in 2016 and is thrilled to be working with Grow Dat at the intersection of her passions for local, sustainable agriculture, food justice, and education. Clara graduated from Cornell University in 2012 with a degree in Religious History and Global Health. She is an avid bicyclist and fan of groovy tunes.
T. 850 240 3048
Kevin Connell is a teacher, farmer, and musician from Valparaiso, Florida. Starting out in education as a paraprofessional, he has taught bilingual social studies to new immigrants, ESL in Indonesia and Tanzania, special education science in New York, and adult education in New Orleans. As a novice urban farmer trying to grow vegetables with teenagers in Battery Park, Kevin discovered the power of farming as a tool for social justice education. He is happy to be back among live oaks and pelicans and to be teaching outdoors, helping the young folks of Grow Dat to question our food system and envision more just and sustainable alternatives. He holds a master’s degree from Teachers College and is a certified special education and social studies teacher.
T. 504 408 7007
Yasmin Davis is a native New Orleanian, a graduate of Warren Easton High School, and a junior at Tulane University. She is currently pursuing a BA in Sociology and minor in Public Health. She is also a Posse Foundation scholarship recipient and freshman Resident Advisor at Tulane. Yasmin started at Grow Dat as a crew member and worked her way up to the Crew Leader position. She is the first alumni to become a staff person at Grow Dat. Yasmin developed her passion for community service and helping people through attending Trinity Christian Community center. She discovered her love of food and nutrition from working at Grow Dat, which inspired her to study public health in college. Yasmin wants to use the lessons she learned at Grow Dat to further help her cultivate an academic career dedicated to helping and educating others about the importance of community development. Yasmin plans to attend graduate school for public health after finishing her undergraduate degree at Tulane University.
Grow Dat Fellows
Head Crew Leader & Farm Fellow
T. 504 758 2101
Asia Vinae Palmer is a New Orleans artist. She has taught spoken word workshops with WordPlay NOLA at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival, NOCCA Lit Fest, local public libraries, and various New Orleans charter schools. She is known in the New Orleans community as a painter, spoken word artist, photographer, and teaching artist, and this love for her community is what guided her to Grow Dat Youth Farm. Grow Dat has welcomed her with open arms and makes her feel at home.
Crew Leader & Farm Fellow
Sean Winford is 19 years old and has lived in Louisiana most of his life. Coming from a military family, Sean was born in Kreuznach, Germany, and moved to New Orleans at the age of 3. Sean was introduced to Grow Dat by his school counselor during his junior year at Carver Collegiate Academy. Sean took the opportunity to pursue a job at Grow Dat as a way to learn more about sustainable farming, better his skills in public speaking, and to become a better leader. After his first year as a crew member, Sean became an Assistant Crew Leader during the 2015-2016 program year. Now in his third year at Grow Dat, Sean is a Crew Leader and Farm Fellow. In this role, Sean helps lead young people through the fall and spring leadership programs. In the future, Sean plans to travel overseas to Europe to study naturopathic medicine.
"AJ" Ashton Jefferson
"AJ" Ashton Jefferson grew up in New Orleans and is a senior at The NET Charter High School. AJ found out about Grow Dat from his school and started out as a crew member in the 2015-2016 program year. This year, he returned to Grow Dat as a Farm Fellow. In this position, he does a wide range of farm-related tasks such as planting, weeding, harvesting, and maintaining Grow Dat’s site. AJ loves his job and his Grow Dat family. In the future he wants to be head farm manager.
Ellenie Cruz, born and raised in New Castle, Delaware, has dedicated her life to educating and uplifting others. At 13, as a Risk Prevention Educator for adults and peers, Ellenie heard her calling to assist others in bettering themselves and their communities through art, spoken word, activism, and education. With a BA in Secondary English Education, Ellenie arrived in New Orleans in 2013 to perform a year of service with City Year. Afterwards, she continued teaching in public schools while simultaneously honing her own crafts and birthing Asc3nsion Art, LLC, a holistic healing and wellness business. Through this business, Ellenie serves her community as a full circle community healer and educator, offering a variety of services ranging from Reiki, crystal healing, flower essences, and other energy work to nutrition, doula/birthwork, herbalism, and more. Ellenie is very passionate about Grow Dat and Asc3nsion Art and believes that the two together allow her to serve others, from adolescents to adults, and continue to learn, teach, and build relationships with young people and plants!
Trayshawn Webb is a New Orleans native and self-proclaimed modern hippie. He is an LSU alumnus with a degree in biochemistry. While at LSU, he was Chair of Trending Topics, a student organization that planned political and social awareness events. He was also a Peer Mentor in LSU's Leading Edge Program for incoming freshmen. After graduating from LSU, he started tutoring and substitute teaching at his old high school, Sci High. Trayshawn comes to Grow Dat after working at Whole Foods as their Green Mission Store Representative and Team Member Awareness Group Representative. Looking to learn more about farming and to get more involved in his city, Trayshawn was inspired to work at Grow Dat after volunteering a few years earlier. Trayshawn is currently a Lafitte Greenway Ambassador, Propeller Incubator Technician, and a Grow Dat Crew Leader.