BENJAMIN EICHORN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
In 2003, Benjamin had an epiphany while visiting the Hilton Bialek Habitat at Carmel Middle School – if students could grow, harvest, prepare and eat fresh food together at school, surely they would learn to love eating foods that are better for them and for the environment! This realization launched him into the last 16 years of professional experience in hands-on science and food-based education, first through an honors senior thesis in Social and Environmental Science at Whitman College, then as an Americorps member and garden educator at Chef Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA, and most recently as the founder and CEO of Grow Your Lunch, a consultancy committed to designing and building productive and academically rigorous educational gardening programs within public, private and charter schools throughout the Western US. It is a true homecoming for Ben to be back at MEarth after all these years. He lives with his wife, Anastasia, on his family’s homestead, Country Flat Farm, between Carmel and Big Sur, where his family grows certified organic fruit, vegetables, and cut flowers, and keeps honey bees. When he is not at MEarth, Ben enjoys farm work, hiking, surfing, playing music and serving alongside his neighbors on the Mid Coast Fire Brigade.
ROSE ASHBACH, PROPERTY MANAGER
As a native Californian, Rose grew up exploring the Sierra Nevada foothills and Big Sur’s coast and mountains. Rose studied Biology and Spanish at Humboldt State University, spending one year studying abroad in Chile and six months in Spain. After college, Rose worked conducting vegetation surveys throughout MT, ID, WA, and NV. Rose returned to the Monterey Peninsula in 2008 for work doing habitat restoration and environmental education. Rose achieved a MS in Watershed Science and Policy from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in 2012. Rose’s master’s work focused on rare plant monitoring and the creation of a habitat management plan for 108 acres of openspace located on the CSUMB campus. Rose has two little boys and enjoys spending time with them and playing outdoors. Rose is excited to work with MEarth, connecting people to nature, and inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders.
NATALIE KARMALLY, ON-CALL SUSTAINABILITY AND SCIENCE EDUCATOR
Natalie comes to MEarth with professional experience spanning the realms of community engagement, youth outreach, as well as formal and informal science education. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and pursued her undergraduate degree in Biology at Sonoma State University where she worked at the Center for Community Engagement. She went on to earn her Masters Degree in Zoology at Oregon State University researching amphibian disease ecology and ecotoxicology. While in graduate school, she worked with OSU’s STEM Academy to deliver science programs to local K-12 schools. Natalie’s accomplishments include being an OMSI Science Communication Fellow, an Ecological Society of America’s Graduate Student Policy Awardee, and completing a year of service with Americorps VISTA expanding the Sciences Internship Program at CSUMB. Prior to coming to MEarth, Natalie was a second grade teacher in the Salinas City Elementary School District where she utilized project-based learning to write and deliver hands-on science curriculum. She is passionate about conservation, education, providing equitable opportunities for kids in science and the environment, and increasing diversity in STEM fields. When Natalie is not working on the magical habitat of MEarth, she enjoys calligraphy, watercolor, exploring the beautiful Central California Coastline, and spending time with her two cats and husband.
NADIA KELEM, SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATOR
Nadia has been interested in food systems and nutrition education since she was an 8-year-old camper at the Life Lab farm & garden in Santa Cruz. Since then she has traveled the world to study the effects of climate change on agriculture, global culinary practices, and food sovereignty movements. In 2013, she got her B.A. in Global Food Systems from the University of Redlands, while working for a local plant nursery and her university’s sustainable farm. She has also worked in garden and nutritional education at B’nai B’rith Camp in Oregon, Growing Gardens in Colorado, and most recently served a year for FoodCorps in Calaveras, CA. Nadia likes to spend time connecting to the environment through snowboarding, hiking, biking, and camping. She also explores the world through art, particularly printmaking, jewelry making, and ceramics. She is excited to return to the California coast and join the MEarth team to bring engaging and inspiring education experiences to students all over Monterey County.
MELISSA LOPEZ, PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Melissa grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, and moved to Monterey in 2000 to attend CSU Monterey Bay majoring in Social and Behavioral Science. Melissa has nearly two decades of experience working in the education field, both in formal and informal teaching settings. Some of Melissa’s earliest memories are working with her grandma in her garden, as well as cooking beside her mother. After college, Melissa became more interested in food systems and sustainability, and creating food with locally sourced ingredients. Melissa taught homemade baby food workshops and was a parent educator for parents teaching the importance of healthy foods. Her passion in gardening, cooking and a hands on learning environment brought her to MEarth. Melissa was MEarth’s Volunteer Coordinator for five years, growing MEarth’s volunteer and service learning program, before becoming Program Director in 2018. In addition to formal teaching experience, she homeschools her two children using the community as their classroom. While not at MEarth, besides gardening and cooking, Melissa loves being with her two children and her husband exploring the beautiful outdoors both locally and on various adventures. Melissa loves connecting children to the environment and exploring where their food comes from and is creating new programming to connect more youth throughout Monterey County in hands on experiences.
JENNIFER PHILLIPS, ADMINISTRATIVE AND PROGRAM ASSISTANT
Jennifer grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to California in 2012. She has a background in the arts and arts administration, earning a BFA in Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2007 and working with multiple arts organizations in administrative and development capacities. After graduating, Jennifer moved to New York City to pursue a career in the arts, and then switched gears to delve into yoga, mindfulness and a sustainable lifestyle. Jennifer discovered a deep passion for growing food, raising animals, building community around sustainability and living in relationship with the land while completing a transformational long-term Apprenticeship in Organic Gardening and Sustainable Living at Circle Yoga Shala in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Since moving to the hills of Carmel Valley, Jennifer and her husband, Rob, have been working to develop a small-scale organic farm, raising livestock and bees, growing gardens and orchards, and stewarding the land as a sustainable retreat. Jennifer began her time at MEarth in 2012 as an Administrative Intern, and grew to serve as MEarth’s Grants & Administrative Associate until 2014. Jennifer is delighted to return to MEarth to further its mission of environmental education and stewardship.
KATE REGAN, SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATOR AND COMMUNITYCONNECT COORDINATOR
Kate just can’t stay away from MEarth and all the incredible things happening here. Her love of people and natural things is what initially drew her, and now the opportunity to be involved on a full time basis is what brought her back. Through her education and world travels she has been able to connect with people on multiple continents through food, farming and laughter. While in college she interned multiple times, gaining experience in the ever broadening offerings and programs at MEarth. She received her degree from Cal Poly SLO, in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration with a concentration in Global Societies and Sustainability. She then spent the better part of a year traveling and living in New Zealand: working at an adventure camp and WOOFing on flower and working farms. Following a short break back in the states, forays to Albania, Germany, France and Spain expanded her cultural experiences and reinforced her desire to connect people and place and food. Most recently, she spent the past several years in the Santa Cruz Mountains teaching outdoor science to 5th and 6th grade students. She is so grateful to be here at MEarth and for the community it creates.
SARAH SCHMIDT, VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR
Sarah grew up in Sacramento, CA and moved to Monterey where she received her BA in Environmental Studies. Throughout her college career, she worked to inspire individuals to take action on environmental issues and make a difference in their own lives. She has worked in the community and with individuals on environmental outreach, citizen science, and environmental education. She has a passion for sustainable practices and inspiring others to be sustainable.
ZOE GAPAYAO, COMMUNITY STEWARDSHIP INTERN
Zoe has dreamt of pursuing environmental conservation since she took her first breath underwater at 9 years old. She went on to study at the University of Miami and worked as a marine biologist in the Philippines. Zoe is passionate about protecting the environment both on land and underwater through social and behavior change. She moved to Monterey for graduate school to study International Environmental Policy and has since fallen in love with its natural wonders. She enjoys scuba diving, traveling, arts and crafts, gardening, hiking and climbing, and yoga.