Hans Hageman, Executive Director, is a graduate of Princeton and Columbia University Law School, He has started and led organizations for underserved children in Harlem, NY (The East Harlem School and Boys & Girls Harbor), Kenya, and Lucknow, India. He is a recipient of the Robin Hood Foundation Heroes Award and the Essence Magazine Award, among others.
As an educator, Hans shared his love for the outdoors with his former middle school and high school students on trips to places like Ely, MN where they learned dogsledding and winter camping skills in 65 degrees below 0 temperatures, and Boulder Outdoor Survival School in Boulder, Utah. He is also certified as a permaculture consultant through Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Research Institute and has worked with Cheryl Rogowski (the first farmer to win a MacArthur Genius Award) to plan a farming school for women from around the world.
After many years living in Harlem, Hans and his family now call home the Black Dirt region of Orange County. This new home and his work with Hudson Valley Seed resonate with the roots of his African-Americans ancestors on his mother's side who worked the land in ways that bring honor and shame to this country and with the German-American immigrants on his father's side, who were settlers and farmers on the Great Plains.
Air Rhodes, Development Director & Assistant Executive Director, would gladly spend every minute outside. With a Master's from the The New School’s nonprofit management program and a post-graduate degree in environmental ethics from the University of Melbourne, they draw on more than twenty years of experience working in the third sector across three continents. Social and environmental justice drive their work, and they love sharing their awe of nature. In addition to avidly gardening, Air also sits on the City of Beacon's Conservation Advisory Committee, makes furniture from found wood, leads a local hiking club, and captures nature photography.
Zoë Markwalter, Business Manager & Assistant Executive Director, has called the Lower Hudson Valley home for over ten years. Her diverse background in project management and communication coupled with passion for social justice, local food systems, and community makes Hudson Valley Seed a great place to hang her hat. A vocational and non-traditional learner earning her first undergrad degree at the age of 32, Zoë understands first hand the value of Hudson Valley Seed’s holistic and integrated approach to education. When not in the office, Zoë strives for the ever-elusive life balance - salvaging random supplies for home projects, digging in the garden, photographing theatre and dance, preserving the harvest, dancing, and turning her compost.
Nicole Porto, Education Director, and Regional Educator, was turned on to farming through her service learning experiences at small organic farms throughout the world. As she earned her graduate degree in environmental education with the Expedition Education Institute, she explored the role agricultural systems play in the degradation of the natural world and human health. She then decided she would dedicate her career to building sustainable and just food systems. She has gardened and taught with various programs, such as a school garden in Costa Rica, Farm & Wilderness Camp in Vermont, and City Parks Foundation’s Learning Gardens in New York City. Before joining Hudson Valley Seed Nicole ran a small CSA farm in the lower Hudson Valley where she had the opportunity to provide bountiful harvests for her community and hone her skills as a grower. She is passionate about gardening and education.
Serena Padilla, Newburgh Program Manager & Garden Educator, is a passionate educator with a personal and professional commitment to environmental justice, food justice, community building, and health activism. She grew up in California and has a deep connection to the Pacific ocean and the magical redwood forest. She received a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Latin American and Latinx Studies and a minor in Education. She has worked in the non-profit sector as a garden-based nutrition educator working with youth of all ages in San Francisco, CA and in Oakland,CA; she has also managed youth programs at a food access non-profit based in Southeast Michigan where she deepened her love of teaching and learning outdoors. She strives to create inclusive, safe spaces for youth and loves exploring. She enjoys hiking, cooking, crafting, and swimming in the ocean.
Jen Morris, Kingston Program Manager & Educator, first became interested in environmental stewardship as a child thanks to her experiences in the garden, in the forests, and in school with the help of supportive educators. With a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and cultural anthropology from the University of Michigan, Jen has dedicated her professional career to food justice and youth empowerment through experiential, play-based education. Before joining Hudson Valley Seed, Jen was an educator and program coordinator at one of New York City’s first rooftop farms and also at the New York Botanical Garden. Now, in her work with HVS in Kingston, Jen is excited to help cultivate a passion for learning, healthy-eating, and environmental stewardship in Hudson Valley kids during “Garden Time”. When she’s not in the garden, Jen loves to go hiking and camping with her dog or stay home to cook and craft with friends.
Sam Adels, Newburgh Program Manager and Educator, fell in love with gardening after years of being asked to help out in the family garden. A love and respect for the natural world was instilled in him by frequent camping trips; his earliest memory is of a family road trip to national parks at age four. Sam studied history and the environment at Macalester College and has a masters degree in environmental education from New York University. Sam is committed to social and environmental justice and has devoted his professional life to environmental education. A former national park ranger, Sam has spent many years educating youth about ecology and the environment. Before joining Hudson Valley Seed, Sam taught ecology and gardening to NYC public school students, and also worked on a small, organic farm in Maine. Sam teaches through hands-on, experiential education, and enjoys encouraging kids to explore and connect to the world around them, in hopes of inspiring future generations of eco-literate stewards. When not in the classroom or garden, Sam can be found cooking, baking, or exploring the Hudson Valley by foot or bicycle.
Megan Eckert,Beacon Program Manager & Educator, originally from the Adirondack region, found her way to the Mid-Hudson Valley in February of 2012. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from SUNY Oswego, with a minor in Biocultural Anthropology. Her passion for all things “outdoors” began as a child digging up worms in her mother’s garden and playing in clover patches with her siblings. She has continued her love of gardening throughout her adult years as a hobby gardener on 15 acres near New Paltz. After working at a nature center for 6 years, a transition to garden education was a perfect way to combine her hobby, skill set and passion for food. Her commitment to creating stewards of the environment shows in her everyday interactions with children and adults alike! During her free time, she volunteers on the Board for the New York State Outdoor Education Association (NYSOEA) as VP of Programs and also enjoys making soap and traveling whenever possible!
Diana Cowdery, Part Time Educator, is thrilled to grow with the Hudson Valley Seed team. Diana began her journey in regenerative agriculture a decade ago on a small family farm in Virginia. She was drawn to the rewards of working outside, tracking the cycle of the seasons, and sharing the bounty of harvests as well as the challenges with community. Since making the Hudson Valley home, she has worked in garden education and taught at the Beacon Hebrew Alliance's progressive, inquiry and garden-based preschool program. Diana loves engaging students through song, silliness, yoga, cooking, and creative projects in the classroom and in the soil. Diana operates a specialty cut flower farm bringing beautiful seasonal and naturally grown blooms to the Hudson Valley community. In her leisure time, Diana enjoys a good forest frolic, sunny summer swims, reading poetry, and adding to her entomology and geology collections.
Ava Bynum, Founder, is a passionate systems thinker and non profit executive, with experience in start-ups, development, non profit management, education, food systems, and community organizing. Prior to founding Hudson Valley Seed Ava was a farmer at Four Winds Farm and a teacher at the Garden Road School. In both of these roles she deepened her commitment to making good food and inspiring education accessible to all children. She is a graduate of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and is currently a fellow at the Good Work Institute.
Having handed Hudson Valley Seed off to the rest of the team, Ava now consults with Omnymyst and facilitates racial justice and equity trainings for individuals and organizations.