Kat Rutkin, Executive Director
Kat joined Groundwork officially in July 2018, but has worked (literally) closely with the organization while sharing office space during her tenure as the Executive Director of Somerville Local First from 2012 to 2015. Her love for Groundwork grew while watching her children explore the school gardens, and she couldn’t be more excited to join the team.
Kat’s background is in urban planning, politics, and nonprofit management, with a focus on economic and environmental justice. Before moving to Somerville in 2011, Kat worked with the City of New York as an urban planner, a land use advisor to New York City politicians, and as the executive director of the Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
Kat holds a BA in Visual Art from Fordham University and a MA in Urban Planning from Hunter College. She is also a certified postpartum doula and lactation educator, working in and lobbying for reproductive justice and empowering new parents.
When not at Groundwork or working as an educator to expecting parents, Kat can be found chasing two (or more) children through various Somerville parks, on early morning runs, and/or walking her black lab/hound-of-indeterminate-origin mix puppy while drinking too much coffee.
Jess Bloomer, Deputy Director and Farm Manager
Jess joined Groundwork Somerville in January of 2015. A native of Colorado, Jess has spent more than a decade finding ways to grow food in a variety of inspiring settings. As the Program Director and Garden Educator with Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, she honed her skills and passion for hands-on teaching, urban gardening, and nonprofit visioning. That work, along with work at the Cultiva Youth Project, Farm and Wilderness Camp, and the Thorne Natural Science School cemented her belief that food connects us all, and the process of growing and eating fresh local food can be an entrance point for teaching just about anything. Jess holds a Permaculture Design Certificate and a BA in International Development Studies, with a focus on community development. In free moments, she likes to explore near and far by foot, boat, ski, and train. She is excited to expand her love of urban farming within the vibrant Somerville community.
Rae Axner, Youth Employment Program Manager
Rae came to Groundwork Somerville in 2017, excited to work alongside Somerville youth towards environmental, racial, economic, and food justice. She graduated from Somerville High in 2010 and from Tufts in 2014 with a BA in Community Health and American Studies. Rae brings experience in farming and food justice from The Food Project and Waltham Fields Community Farm; in workers’ rights organizing from the Tufts Labor Coalition and MassCOSH; and in housing advocacy from the Community Action Agency of Somerville. Rae is thrilled to be working in her own community and looks forward to growing food, building youth power, and pursuing environmental and health equity with the Green Team. Outside of work, Rae cooks garlic-heavy meals with her roommates, seeks out lakes and beaches, and laughs as much as possible.
Josia Gertz DeChiara, TerraCorps Americorps Youth Education Coordinator
Josia DeChiara grew up in the forested hilltowns of western Massachusetts, where they could often be found high up in a tree or relaxing in a muddy stream. Years later, this passion for playing with and learning about plants and soil turned into a degree in ecology from Hampshire College. Josia has worked for many environmental education programs over the years, and hopes to inspire awe for the natural world in many children during their year as Youth Education Coordinator at Groundwork Somerville. When not outside with children, Josia can be found riding and fixing bicycles, exploring swimming spots, contra dancing, making kombucha, or reading about traditional ecological knowledge.
Gayathri Arumugham, Grant Writer
Gaya joined Groundwork Somerville in September of 2015. She has a deep passion for working with small, community based organizations. Her work experience includes grant writing, developing educational programs for youth and adults, teaching and performing Bharatha Natyam dance, and being a Park Ranger on the Boston Harbor Islands. She has a BA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MPA from NYU. Gaya loves spending time on the beach year round, collecting sea glass, and going hiking with her dog!
Clay Larsen, Project Manager & Landscape Design
Clay is a landscape designer, builder, project manager and teacher who brings over 30 years experience to his work. Working within the cities of Malden, Somerville and Lawrence for the Groundwork organization, Clay has both lead and been part of a team in developing cutting edge urban agriculture projects in Eastern Mass. Clay lead the development of Malden’s first community garden along Malden’s segment of the “Northern Strand.” He is the project manager for “Bike to the Sea,” a nonprofit advocacy group, working to develop the Northern Strand Community Trail and promote bicycle&pedestrian safety, as well as alternative transportation opportunities north of Boston. Clay enjoys cooking, biking, and cross country skiing!
Casey Merkle, TerraCorps AmeriCorps Youth Education and Community Engagement Coordinator
Casey is an ecologist, artist, and educator who loves working in the outdoors, biking new trails, teaching people new skills, and cooking for friends. Her passion for learning about the environment came from her hometown of Tower Lakes, IL, where she spent time digging up clay, and catching frogs. She has a BA from Lawrence University in biology and thereafter, gained experience in urban science and community engagement at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. This past summer, her days were spent leading biking and paddling trips for middle school children around Milwaukee, WI. Casey enjoys soccer, mural art, and connecting with people over good food! New to the world of urban farming and Somerville, she is eager to engage with the community.