Who we are
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Gavin Raders is a co-founder and Executive Director of Planting Justice, a social justice activist, and a permaculture demonstrator/teacher. He dedicates his time to practicing permaculture wherever he can. Gavin has trained extensively with some of the most inspiring and effective permaculture teachers in the world: Geoff Lawton, Penny Livingston-Stark, Brock Dolman, Darren Dougherty, and Nik Bertulis. Before his stint as an intern at the Regenerative Design Institute, he studied cultural anthropology at UC Berkeley, and organized on a range of anti-war, anti-nuclear, environmental and human rights issues both on campus and off. He has knocked on nearly 30,000 doors in California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada as a community organizer with Peace Action West.
He comes to permaculture and ecological design through a social justice framework which recognizes the right of all people to peace, security, housing, healthy food, clean water, jobs and healthcare, and the rights of future generations to a just and livable world. He believes that Americans need to understand and respect the intimate connection and the shared fate we have with all people and all life on this planet, and organize effectively on the local level to come up with replicable and effective solutions to the range of hardships and oppressions we currently face.
When families, communities, bio-regions, and nations work with nature instead of against her to provide their own sustainable food, water, and energy, this makes us more resilient. It also makes us less likely to violently take what they need from someone else. Gavin is still riding on the inspiration and jolt of passion he experienced in India, studying and advocating for the right to water and against its privatization by massive water corporations (such as Coca-Cola). You can read the paper he published on the subject here:
Any inquiries, please contact: Gavin@plantingjustice.org
Co-founder & Director of Education
Haleh Zandi is a co-founder and the Educational Director of Planting Justice. Her approach towards the food justice movement particularly draws connections between the United States dependence upon fossil fuels within the industrialized and globalized food system and the unjust militarization of the Middle East and South Asia.
She believes the modern colonial food system is in a paradigm of war, and she is dedicated to the ways in which diverse communities may build alliances and practice strategies that collectively resist the violence of the industrial food system and structurally shift the United States towards more ecologically sustainable and socially just methods for growing and sharing our food.
She has taught over 200 workshops in our community gardens using Planting Justice's self-designed curriculum in food justice, culinary arts, and permaculture design. Haleh received her MA in Postcolonial Anthropology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and a BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Haleh is the proud mama of Azadeh and Ayla.
Any inquiries, please contact email@example.com
An internationally-recognized authority on sustainable food planning, natural capitalism, and local community organizing, Paul is well-known in the fields of "greening corrections"; neighborhood planning; energy, water, and resource efficiency planning; sustainability; fund raising; and board development. Paul's recent Greening Corrections Technologies Guidebook, published by the National Institute of Justice, included Planting Justice as an example of successful, self-funding re-entry programs for formerly-incarcerated people. Paul complements PJ’s existing fund raising, board development, and outreach to community-based organizations and leaders in providing resources and planning for continuing success as well as replication of PJs ‘s programs and activities in other regions.
Grassroots Organizing team Coordinator
Born and raised in Oakland, Alisia has been working with Planting Justice for over 4 years. Alisia is passionate about serving disenfranchised youth in the Bay Area, empowering them with the tools to lead a healthy lifestyle, and mentoring them in living well and following their dreams. She is a mom to Dashanae, age 8, and hopes to open a Planting Justice Youth Center one day in the future.
Born and raised in Richmond, CA, Darrell Benford is a recent graduate of the Insight Garden Program. "Planting Justice helped me look at life from a broader perspective. Instead of thinking about me, I think about "we" now. Life is bigger than your immediate surroundings. I'm looking forward to doing my part to help PJ with their vision. I support and agree with what they're doing. They took a chance on me and gave me a job when I got out. Looking forward to teaching people about eating healthy and protecting the Earth so my kids' kids' kids can still be here. Vision without action is just a dream, but team work makes the dream work."
Charles Beal, age 25, is a longtime community activist and has worked with many organizations, from All of Us or None to the Ella Baker Center to Bay Area Silence the Violence, and now, Planting Justice. He brings longtime experience in gardening - 17 years experience in hydroponics! - loves all plants, and has a green thumb. Charles is a long time human rights activist and loves doing work for the community.
I grew up on a ranch in the Sierra Nevadas of Northern California amongst nothing but trees, animals, and my 6 brothers and sisters. Ironically never growing food besides the animals, i've always been a country side obsessor. Going to school in the Bay Area gave me the perfect counter balance to my isolated upbringing and showed me what city life could and is all about. In comes Planting Justice to bridge the gap for me. Cities have cut us off from the earth and all that the earth has to offer us. We at PJ get to bring us all back to mother earth and unlock her wild secrets of food, healing, and love. If you see me out on the street, don't worry, I won't bite.........hard.
Johanna grew up in Berkeley collecting eggs in her grandparents' chicken coop and hunting for mushrooms in Redwood Park. She studied theatre in Oregon before finding her niche as a white collaborator in the fight for Black and Brown liberation. She dreams of one day teaching wilderness survival skills and witchcraft to queer and trans youth. She is thrilled to be putting down roots with Planting Justice.
I grew up in Wisconsin just outside of Milwaukee. I watched as urban sprawl ate up the farmlands that surrounded my home. I am so proud to be working with a group of folks who are giving the pavement back to the earth.
When I was locked up in San Quentin, I saw the flyer for the Insight Garden Program, saying they would teach us how to build gardens and, when we got released, someone called Planting Justice would hire us at $17.50/hour. People thought it must be BS - who would pay ex-cons $17.50/hour? But I decided to check it out. I started going to the class every week, and sure enough, when I made parole, Planting Justice offered me a job. That was four years ago. I've been through a lot of trials and tribulations - I got married, but my wife died of cancer last year. Through it all, Planting Justice has been a good job and provided a lot of support for me. I plan to stay working for PJ until I retire. They can't get rid of me that easy - they're gonna have to roll me out of here in a wheelchair!
Sasha grew up in Morningside Heights, NYC -- disconnected from the many layers of organic life underneath the concrete. Co-facilitating a teen program focused on earth-based spirituality, they were introduced to plants as allies in our quest to decolonize our food and healing systems.
Sasha is proud to be a member of the PJ team -- funding strategic, regenerative and delicious community solutions!
Kelly Curry is an author, publisher and social justice activist. She brings over 20 years of frontline, on the ground support of lower income communities of color through her development of life enhancing, ground shifting programs that promote health, well being and love. A veteran of public and private foundation work in New York City, Kelly was influential in ushering in change around public children's after-school programming at the city level, which included development and successful operation of a living arts program for NYC Parks and Recreation Centers in Harlem. Through this program, Kelly worked with community kids to plant Harlem's first children's gardens. Kelly continued this trajectory by delivering a living arts program to the the children of farm workers and homeless children in Southern California via The Living Love Foundation, where she acted as Director of Programming and Development. Kelly is currently focused on engaging committed, creative, sustainable change around food access for the citizens of East and West Oakland. She does this work in partnership with Planting Justice where she is a proud member of the Education Team.
Planting Justice is the change I needed to change my life. I was locked up for over 25 years. I got out on a Wednesday, got married that Thursday, and started work on Monday. It's been four years now. Not only have I stayed out of prison, I've had seven speaking engagements and I made the cover of the East Bay Express! I also started my own business, a personal touch mobile detail company. I've got 10 guys on parole working for me. Thanks Planting Justice for giving me a better outlook on my life.
Bilal Coleman was born in Berkeley and raised in Oakland, CA. He is a parent of two and he enjoys spending time with both his children. He has a passion for health and personal fitness and giving back to the youth by sharing his personal experiences with the criminal justice system. He appreciates the way everyone at Planting Justice treats each other like family and has supported and accepted him as part of the family. Bilal was sentenced to 20 years in prison at the age of 17. After serving his full sentence, Bilal was released in November of 2015 and is chronicling his first year of freedom through his video diary project, The Freedom Chronicles.
Salvador Mateo Escobar
TYY Site Leader
My position at PJ requires me to be outside a lot. I’m a site manager for most jobs, and we’re just building gardens, just getting stuff done. The crew that I work with consists of men who have transitioned from prison to the outside, and we provide a job with a living wage of $17.50/hr. Growing up I didn’t have much access to healthy food. My mom worked two jobs, didn’t have much time to spend with me and my two sisters. She would give us $20 and tell us to get something eat. The fridge was full of food, but we didn’t know how to cook it. It was really expensive to get something healthy, as opposed to something that wasn’t healthy. Thanks to Planting Justice, we’re able to afford more quality food and know where it’s coming form - because I know that it’s growing in my own back yard. I love what I do. I love being on site, being outside. I wouldn’t change a thing.
TYY Permaculture Designer
Nicole Wires was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, where she made a promise to the mountains she loves to swim in every mountain stream, creak, river or lake that she comes across. While her paid work does not define her, she loves working with the Transform Your Yard Team at Planting Justice as a permaculture designer, designing sustainable, California native, and edible landscapes for clients all over the Bay Area. Her unpaid work includes organizing with the White Noise Collective, exploring the intersection of white privilege and gender oppression in the struggle for racial justice, and working to dismantle the prison industrial complex with the #DefundOPD working group of the Anti Police-Terror Project. She also loves to garden, read, dance, climb, hike, play guitar, drum, and explore.
TYY Permaculture Designer
Alejandra Cano joined the Transform Your Yard team in August 2014. She has been contributing to the food justice movement in the Bay Area for several years and is very happy to now unite forces with Planting Justice. Alejandra grew up in Colombia and migrated to the United States as a teenager. She has kept close connection with her South American roots and has learned to flourish in community here in California. Alejandra studied Conservation & Resource Studies at the University of California Berkeley, minored in Sustainable Design & City Planning in Northern Europe, and has worked with food & social justice organizations such as the Oakland Food Policy Council, Food First, MESA, OTF, and Phat Beets Produce. Her experience in the U.S., Europe, and South America have made Alejandra very aware of the maladies and inequalities that stem from the industrialized and globalized food system. She's therefore committed to the cultivation of healthy, autonomous, and resilient communities around the world. Alejandra is passionate about healing in all its forms (mental, emotional, physical, trans-generational, +++) and tries to weave this into all her relations, include those she's co-creating at Planting Justice. Alejandra also enjoys making and sharing herbal medicine, cooking with friends, hanging out in nature, and building gardens!
TYY Site LEader
Julio Madrigal grew up in Oakland, he has witness the struggles people have around food along with the health issues of malnutrition. Julio has had the opportunity to learn from people in his community and this has rooted his love for the Planting Justice community. Julio enjoys teaching people ways to better their gardening techniques or simply learn to use plants as medicine.This has made Julio realize that change is possible and just like plants it takes time to grow.
George came to work for Planting Justice after graduating the Insight Garden Program at San Quentin State Prison.
Farm Manager (el sobrante)
Andrew grew up in Ohio and got his BA in Environmental Studies from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, he was exposed to a variety of Midwestern agricultural systems, both conventional and organic. Andrew's degree in Environmental Studies led him to a job with the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming where he researched the recession of Aspen stands, whose disappearance across the Western US has been poorly understood. After the completion of this assignment, Andrew moved to Boston where he co-founded ConsumerConscience, a wiki-based website devoted to ethical consumerism. Soon thereafter, Andrew moved to the Bay Area and began working with the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture. After working with MESA for 3 years, Andrew changed jobs in favor of more hands-on work with Planting Justice. For the last 4.5 years, Andrew has been working with Planting Justice as a Permaculture Designer, designing and installing edible gardens for clients all over the East Bay. And for fun - Andrew loves to play ultimate frisbee, climb rocks, windsurf, and play with his dog whenever he can!
Any inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
farm manager (El Sobrante)
Troy Horton was born and raised in Oakland. He learned about permaculture volunteering at Hayes Valley Farm, going on to earn three Permaculture Design Certificates, one with Merritt College. Troy worked with Christopher Shein of Wildheart Gardens installing permaculture landscapes and gardens throughout the East Bay. Excited to be managing the nursery for Planting Justice!
Sasha is part of the PJ nursery crew. She started off as a volunteer, and soon transitioned to working with PJ. Sasha has worked as a youth advocate and educator, and is very passionate about incorporating permaculture principals and practices in everyday life. She is excited to be working with PJ in hopes of bettering the quality of life in the communities we are a part of and serve.
After interning with Rolling River Nursery in Humbolt County for over a year, Jordan is excited to support the transition of the nursery to Planting Justice's site in East Oakland! Jordan earned a BS in Anthropology and Geography with a focus on sustainable agriculture from CAL-Poly San Luis Obisbo, and has spent her early career working on farms and homesteads. She stoked that PJ has acquired Rolling River Nursery and is committed to bringing plants to the people!
Chris actually met PJ founder Gavin Raders in San Quentin several years ago, and remembered the organization when we showed up to build the PJ Nursery & Aquaponics Farm Incubation Center in his neighborhood. A month after getting hired to work at the PJ nursery, Chris had this to say, "Planting Justice is really good for those of who have spent a lot of our lives in prison. In prison, you learn not to smile, because it's a sign of weakness. Even though I'm out now, I still don't smile, just out of habit, but Planting Justice is teaching me how to smile again." When he's not tending trees at Planting Justice, he's blowing up the underground hip-hop scene with his group, Mouthpiece Society.
Gordon was born and raised in Sobrante Park, and is excited to join the team at Planting Justice to do something positive for his community. A formerly incarcerated urban farmer, Gordon is passionate about transforming the lot at E. 105th into a beautiful piece of scenery that also feeds the neighborhood healthy food. When he's not tending fruit trees at Planting Justice, he's blowing up the underground hip-hop scene with his group, Mouthpiece Society.
Otis grew up in Sobrante Park and has lived here in the neighborhood for the past 37 years. After hearing about the Planting Justice Nursery & Aquaponics Farm Incubation Center, he came to apply for a job, and was quickly hired for his experience and expertise in irrigation construction, a skill he honed working for the City of Oakland's Parks & Recreation Department. He's excited to be a part of something BIG that will benefit the community of Sobrante Park.
Media & Communications Director
Nicole is a Media/Communications professional, community organizer, and prison abolitionist. After graduating from USC Film Schoo in 2012, Nicole went on to work at Pixar Animation Studios and HBO before devoting her life and utilizing her skill set to catalyze collective action for social change. Nicole's previous work includes supporting the California Prison Hunger Strikes and organizing to abolish solitary confinement in California, stop a proposed new jail in San Francisco (we stopped the jail!), as well as campaigns to raise the minimum wage, improve rent control, and stop the displacement of Black residents from Oakland. Nicole is passionate about creating platforms where her formerly incarcerated co-workers can tell their own stories.
Nursery, Canvass & Education Team
B.Thomas "Sky" BuenaVista is a greencollar worker and activist for the Mother Earth Paradigm. His activism began with an underground campaign for Violence Against Women Awareness in 2007, at Solano Prison and continued in his training at San Quentin's Insight Gardening Program. A college tourist, Sky excelled in Biology with lab, Public Health, Statistics, Comparative Religions, but holds no degree. He is certified in computer programming/coding and was once a combat engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps. In the private sector Sky was once the president and founder of A.S.C., a physician referral service based in San Diego. He organized the first ever Fists to Butterflies Mandala Healing Rite at San Quentin's H-Unit. He also organized Contrition, a mentor project for men who never had positive male role models in their lives, and Warrior Meditation, a meditation class utilizing desert and sun visualization and the five-mantra, warrior chant of Tibet.