Our team is largely volunteer-led, harnessing the power of our network to drive positive change in our communities.

 

AJ Hall | Board Chair

Originally from Chicago's south suburbs, AJ brings a strong Midwestern work ethic and a deep-rooted passion for gardening instilled by his family.

Glassell Park has been AJ’s home for the last 14 years, and he has been involved with the Glassell Park Community Garden for close to a decade, witnessing its ups and downs. In the summer of 2022, faced with a dilapidated garden and just 11 members, AJ decided to take over leadership. Through dedication and hard work with the rest of the garden members, he led the reconstruction efforts, rebuilding the garden from the ground up. The Glassell Park Community Garden is now home to 40 gardeners, and is developing strong connections within the community to return the garden to the green haven it was originally meant to be.

Now, as Board Chair of the Garden Council, AJ aims to apply the lessons learned from Glassell Park Community Garden to support and enhance all member gardens within the LACGC. Let's work together to cultivate thriving green spaces and strengthen community bonds.

 


Kevin Ridley | Vice Chair

Farmer Kevin is a Los Angeles native. He is a community leader driven to enhance urban agriculture and conservation. Kevin is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys gardening, fishing, skiing, hiking, boating, and camping. Gardens represent rejuvenation, peace, and community.  Additionally, he is a seed saver who focuses on culturally relevant fruits and vegetables. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from San Diego State University. 

 

 


Juan Diaz-Carreras | Treasurer

Originally from Peru, Juan grew up all over the US, eventually settling in Southern California in 2006. Juan started his professional career working in the Everglades after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies, Biology, and English from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Public Administration degree focused on Environmental Growth Management from Florida Atlantic University.  Now a seasoned manager with Black & Veatch, who makes logical decisions by combining input from stakeholders with well-honed intuition and whose leadership style is collaborative, but assertive when necessary. Juan not only brings strong team leadership qualities, he also is adept at strategy and business development, business operations, and project delivery. He is active in the industry regionally and nationally, participating in SHPE, CASQA and AWWA and is a frequent speaker on topics such as the nexus between water conservation and equity.  His executive and project level experience spans a diverse portfolio of projects and programs, including the $16B Delta Conveyance project in central California, the full portfolio of IIJA related projects for LA County and many projects under the LA County Safe, Clean Water Program in addition to experience as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program.  As a team leader, Juan focuses on building a strong team culture through transparency, collaboration and support for employees well being. He brings a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, evidenced by participation on panels highlighting a variety of life experiences in the industry and speaking engagements with schools focused on encouraging a wider variety of students to consider Water related careers.  



Nisha Parekh | Secretary

Born in South Africa during the apartheid regime and raised in Los Angeles, Nisha Parekh’s career has been driven by the desire to identify and dismantle colonial legacy in the modern era and build a just, environmentally sustainable future. Nisha currently works as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor where she prosecutes employers who violate federal employment law. She received joint graduate degrees from UCLA in May 2017, obtaining a law degree from the UCLA School of Law and a master’s in public policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She graduated from law school with specializations in the David J. Epstein Public Interest Law Program and the Critical Race Studies program. Nisha currently serves on the board of the Los Angeles Community Garden Council, which she joined in October 2019.

Prior to her studies at UCLA, Nisha worked as a researcher, writer, consultant, and teacher. Prior to law school, Nisha received a Fulbright scholarship to Brazil where she researched the relationship between Brazil’s exclusion of agricultural workers from its post-slavery labor laws with Brazil’s ongoing racial apartheid. She has been deeply involved in food justice, local food, and non-GMO movements in Los Angeles as an activist and gardener. She is certified as an LA County Master Gardener and has helped start school gardens and teach gardening to youth in low-income neighborhoods. She also served as an associate producer to the documentary film GMO OMG, which explores what genetically modified seeds are and their prevalence in our food system. Nisha holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international relations from USC.

 

 


Erika Crenshaw | Vice Chair

Erika Crenshaw is an educator, community builder, and steward of the El Sereno Community Garden. Erika believes that bringing diverse stakeholders together happens through meaningful and transformative education. Erika is a veteran of the U.S. navy. She was a public school teacher, and then became an administrator at the University of Southern California. Since 2019, Erika has been facilitating a career change that allows her to continue excelling in the fields of education and community building. She was elected Garden Manager at the El Sereno Community Garden and began working to bring solar energy to the garden. Since then, Erika has become a certified Photovoltaic Solar Installer and is currently working with Tesla, the nation’s most innovative solar company. Under Erika’s leadership, the garden has reopened its doors to the community with programming for all ages. Along with a core team of garden leaders, she works to bring about positive social change through educational garden programming as well as coalition building with residents, community organizations, local schools, businesses, and elected representatives; and, she serves on the LA 32/El Sereno Neighborhood Council. Erika holds a BA in community studies from UC Santa Cruz and a master’s in education from the University of Southern California.

 


Clare Fox | Board Member

Clare Fox joined Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders as executive director in January 2024. Clare has dedicated her life to generating powerful partnerships for an equitable and regenerative food system. She began her work journey in independent media and grassroots organizing, advocating and reporting on a broad range of issues including immigrant rights, youth development, tenant rights and community land ownership. Clare became involved in anti-racism organizing starting in 2001 and focused her efforts on training and mobilization of white communities in racial justice movements. She then found her passion for food as a human right after recovering from diet-related health challenges. As a graduate student, she researched food policy councils as an innovation in participatory democracy for the Mayor’s Food Policy Taskforce. 

Most recently she served as  vice president of strategic partnerships at Everytable, a fast-growing social enterprise with a mission to make healthy food affordable and accessible for everyone, everywhere. She has served as a board member for non-profit organizations working on community composting, urban gardens, and economic development. She is a third generation Los Angelena with a master’s of urban planning from University of California, Los Angeles.

 


Omar Brownson | Executive Director

With a background in urban planning and community development, Omar has dedicated his career to creating vibrant, equitable, and resilient communities. His work has been featured by Simon Sinek, the Wall Street Journal, and on Oprah.com. 

Omar is passionate about harnessing the power of community gardens to address pressing urban challenges, from food insecurity and public health disparities to climate change and social isolation. 

Previously, Omar co-founded a highly-rated gratitude app which included mindfulness teachers and cultural pioneers such as Jack Kornfield and George Takei. He was also the founding executive director of RiverLA where he collaborated with renowned architect Frank Gehry and local leaders to reimagine the 51-mile Los Angeles River as a public resource and ecosystem. 

Omar co-hosts the Gratitude Blooming Podcast and is also an advisor to Full Spectrum Capital and the Ubuntu Climate Initiative.  He serves on the board of Commonweal, focused on healing hearts and healing the planet. He has a joint master’s degree from Harvard Kennedy School and Graduate School of Design. 

Wherever he is, Omar makes sure to take a beat to notice beauty and share his joy.