Kat Rutkin, Executive Director
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 spring 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.
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.
Patricha Paul, Bookkeeper
We are lucky to work with interns and committed volunteers who make our programming possible! Read on to learn about the amazing group we have working and learning with us this academic year:
Katherine Hill, Crew Leader
My name is Katherine Hill and I’m studying Environmental Sustainability at Earlham college. My interests and hobbies include drawing, painting, watching movies, hanging out with my friends, and playing video games! This summer I’m excited to work and communicate with Green Team Members and Leaders towards a greener and sustainable future!
Cat Kemmett, Social Media, Outreach, and Events Fellow
My name is Cat Kemmett and I will be the Social Media, Outreach, and Events Fellow at Groundwork Somerville this summer! I am currently enrolled in the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning masters program at Tufts University. I’m interested in housing, transportation equity, and finding ways to make cities more sustainable and inclusive. I’m very excited to be a part of Groundwork Somerville’s environmental and social justice work and to engage with my community in a meaningful and impactful way.
Darron Fernandes-Smith, Bike Leader
I am currently studying Animation, as well as Illustration and Sound Design at MassArt. Art and music are my passions. I play the piano and the guitar as well as illustrating using various media. I’m a kind, caring, and laid back guy who is hard working. I’m looking toward working with the youth of Somerville!
Stephanie Cordova, Assistant Coordinator & Farm Leader
I am a student at UMass Amherst studying sustainable food and farming with a concentration in community health and development. I am also involved in a program called Books Through Bars which provides prison inmates with reading books, pen pals, and an opportunity to publish their own stories, while also advocating for prison reform. Additionally, I work with Divest UMass, which is a student-run group seeking to divest the university from fossil fuels. Through Groundwork, I also recently attended an ambassadorship program called Mountains to Main Street at Grand Teton National Park. This program is dedicated to connecting urban residents to national parks in their areas and I am excited bring our Green Team youth into a national park this summer!
Saladin Islam, Crew Leader
I graduated with a degree in Psychology and have a passion for music. I play various instruments but I am mostly a guitarist and singer/songwriter. I love public speaking and advocating for things I believe in. I am excited to be in the Green Team again this summer because I know how fulfilling of an experience it can be working with youth and being a mentor. I also am happy to reconnect with nature and do something good for my city.
Silvia Arriaza, Market Leader
My name is Silvia Arriaza. I’m currently a sophomore a UMass Boston. My interests include walking outdoors, art, music, and fitness. As a Green Team alumni, I’ve learned so much about food access and inequality. I’m excited to work with youth this summer and watch them grow and blossom the same way I did.
Will Capriola, Offsite Projects Leader
I’m a Junior at Tufts where I’m studying Environmental Studies and German. I’m a chaser on the Tufts University Quidditch team and involved in the creative writing club. My interests include crochet, running, and occasionally drumming I can’t wait to become involved with food justice and learn more about gardening and farming so that I can start a garden of my own. It’s also my first Summer in the Boston area, so I’m really excited to explore the city and spend a lot of time in the Fells.
Green Team and Green Team Leaders
The Green Team are Groundwork Somerville employees and the main workforce behind our food production at South Street Farm. The Green Team also carries out Groundwork’s mission by supporting environmental restoration projects in the City, and contributing a youth voice on issues of environmental justice, food access, and health equity to civic processes in the city. Green Team Members can go on to be Assistant Leaders once they have completed a season with the Green Team. Read more about the Green Team here.
Groundwork also brings on a phenomenal team of Green Team Leaders each summer in order to lead crews, work sites, projects, and more. Green Team Leaders are often college students or other folks who have been out of high school for a year or more and are interested in building their skills as youth leaders, urban farmers, and agents for social change. We especially love when we can hire Green Team Alumni as Green Team Leaders! Thank you to our team of Green Team Leaders in 2018!
(From left to right, Green Team Member unless otherwise noted)
Top row: Innocent Wozufia – Bike Leader & GT Alum, Kabir Bedi, Marlis Occilant, Bryanna Gourdet, Aminata Keita – Crew Leader & GT Alum, Kaleesha Joseph, Djimica Alcin, Carla Giannattasio – Crew Leader
Middle row: Josia DeChiara – Site Manager, Aman Fisha, King Chau, Gabriel Borges, Felicia Barber – Offsite Projects Leader, Arlenny Ramirez, Sabiha Miahjee, Stephanie Cordova – Market Leader
Bottom row: Rae Axner – Youth Employment Program Manager, Erik Salazar, Isaías Hernandez Rivera, Nakiba Minahan, Maya Lamson – Farm Site Leader
Not pictured: Jenifer Fuentes, Dominic Sampson – Assistant Farm Site Leader
As part of our World Crops Project, we are lucky to work with several Mentor Farmers, members of the Somerville community who bring agricultural expertise from their home countries outside of the U.S. Our Mentor Farmers advise the rest of the Groundwork staff as well as the Green Team in how to plant, care for, and harvest our World Crops. These crops are vegetables and fruits that have been requested by members of the immigrant communities here. This produce is common to food cultures of Somerville’s immigrant communities and may be harder to find in major grocery stores. Mentor Farmers are hired as consultants during the growing season, and pass on their expertise and stories to Green Team members through intergenerational exchange. In 2018 we were able to expand to have a team of five Mentor Farmers:
Originally from Brazil
Primary crop: jiló
Originally from Haiti
Primary crops: lalo, okra, hot peppers
Originally from Bangladesh
Primary crops: callaloo, long beans, lao gourd
Originally from El Salvador
Primary crops: culantro, hierba mora, epazote, beans
Originally from Vietnam
Primary crops: water spinach, bitter melon, herbs
If you are interested in being part of this team, check our Jobs & Internships page for openings, our Green Team page for information about applying. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, reach out directly to email@example.com for general inquiries or any of the team members in the “Staff” section above for questions about specific programs.