Who We Are

“A garden is more than growing…[It’s] making connections between people and earth.” Rowen White, Haudenosaunee Native Seed Collective Director


bulbCatherine Sands is the founding director of Fertile Ground. She has over twenty years of experience working to connect people to environmental issues, to land, and to each other through community events, educational programs, and advocacy. Catherine holds a BA from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree from the University of MA/Amherst Center for Public Policy and Administration, with a focus on food access and social justice. In 2008, she was awarded Outstanding Community Service and Engagement by UMass/Amherst. She is a lecturer at U Mass/Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture, where she teaches Community Food Systems and Food Justice and Policy.

Catherine also provides evaluation technical assistance to the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council and the Mass Farm to School Project, developing participatory, community based research and evaluation strategies.  Prior to Fertile Ground, Catherine spent ten years producing creative fundraising and educational events for Natural Resources Defense Council. Since then she has consulted on clean air, green and sustainable energy, environmental justice initiatives in the Northeast and California. An active member of the Northeast Farm to School Network, PV Grows and the Mass Food Policy Alliance Steering Committees, she frequently provides trainings in farm to school strategic planning, Whole Measures for Community Food Systems, coalition building, PhotoVoice, action research and participatory evaluation.

lineart-flowerAs Program Manager, Sally Loomis coordinates Fertile Ground coaching and training activities such as strategic planning sessions for schools looking to establish new Farm to School Programs or training for school food service staff wanting to use more fresh and local food in school meals. Sally was a major force in transitioning our Williamsburg Farm to School Programs into a volunteer-led model that is now fully integrated into the school community. In Williamsburg, Sally continues to lead an intergenerational gardening program that connects elders to the school gardening program. Sally has nearly twenty years of experience in the environmental field. In addition to her work with Fertile Ground, Sally is Executive Director of Hilltown Land Trust, a land trust serving 13  rural towns in western Massachusetts and Community Conservation Coordinator for The Trustees of Reservations, one of the oldest land conservation organizations in the country. Sally previously worked for Valley Land Fund and served as Deputy Director of the Environmental Leadership Program, a national leadership development organization working with emerging environmental leaders. Sally has a Master’s in Environmental Studies from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a B.A. in Anthropology from Yale University. She serves as the chair of the Open Space Committee in Williamsburg, MA.

radishMaggie Shar is the Program Coordinator for Fertile Ground. She holds a Master’s degree from Antioch University New England in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Education and Social Justice and a B.A. from Hampshire College.  In addition to her work with Fertile Ground, Maggie teaches “Community Food Systems” as an adjunct professor through UMASS online and works as an outdoor guide for All Out Adventures. Maggie has also worked with Hope Guardenier installing school gardens at the Treehouse Foundation and the CONNECTIONS after school program in Holyoke and was a founding worker owner of the Valley Green Feast Collective local food delivery business from 2009-2012. She is trained in the Nurtured Heart Approach for children and worked for as an educator for Mass Audubon from 2003 – 2011. She has conducted workshops through the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society, Mass Audubon Society , The Student Conservation Association, Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association, Vermont FEED, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Maggie has worked with Fertile Ground since 2005.

ADVISORY BOARD-anthony-garden

Jeff Bliss: gardener, dance educator, admissions director, Windhorse Associates
David Chase: Williamsburg School Committee member, parent, software engineer.
Oona Coy: Co-owner Town Farm, Northampton
Rae Korengold: Registered Nurse, mother, food fanatic
Sherrie Marti: Williamsburg school teacher, Williamsburg Grange member and master gardener.
Jodi Nishman: organic farmer, body therapist
Gopi Krishna: Earthdance Diversity Committee chair, Convener of Harriet Tubman Healthy Living Conference
Penny Schultz: Singer, community organizer, organic farmer
Alfred J. Venne: Education Director, Amherst Natural History Museum, former Williamsburg Elementary School Principal