Founding Director: Molly Rockamann
Program Director: Rachel Levi
Farm Manager: Matt Lebon
Farm Manager: Eric Stevens
Assistant Farm Manager: Nate Wolff
Development Associate: Rebecca Pace
Operations Manager: Soraya Faramarzi
Marketing Coordinator: Crystal Stevens
Executive Assistant: Katie Canale
Youth Educator: (AmeriCorps MO): Kaitie Adams
Volunteer Coordinator (AmeriCorps MO): Nick Speed
Programs Assistant (AmeriCorps VISTA): Chelsea Burdge
Photography/Videography Intern: Jackie Decoster
Molly Rockamann is a St. Louis native but felt the coastal pull for college and remained in warm tropical climates until she decided her heart was in the heartland and returned to her family’s roots in North St. Louis County. While away, she worked with mushroom producers in Ghana, organic rice farmers in Thailand, veggie farmers in Florida and California, and sugar cane farmers in Fiji. She has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Eckerd College, a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC-Santa Cruz and a Postgraduate Diploma in Development Studies from the University of the South Pacific. (But the land and other farmers have been her greatest teachers.) Finding inspiration in Caroline Mueller, a life-long organic farmer, she is dedicated to preserving farmland and to celebrating the culture in agriculture. She is proud to be a Ferguson, Missouri, resident, and loves to dance and hula hoop. Molly Rockamann was listed on Mother Nature Network’s ‘40 Farmers Under 40‘ list in 2009, received a 2009 Kick-Ass Award from 52nd City, was named one of 10 Most Dynamic St. Louisans by Ladue News in 2010, and in 2011 was the first recipient of the Young Food Leader category of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Growing Green Awards. Rockamann feels that her greatest reward is witnessing the transformation that takes place when individuals spend an entire growing season farming in community.
Rachel Levi first observed the magic of growing food as she watched her mother tend the family vegetable garden at her parents’ home in Ferguson. After residing in Chicago for the past four years, she is excited to be back in her hometown, helping EarthDance grow food, community, and farmers. Learning and teaching in one capacity or another are a constant for Rachel. During her teens and early twenties, she worked as an arts camp counselor, Ethical Society Sunday School teacher, and tutor. After earning a B.A in English and Education from Webster University in 2006, She has taught English to high school students, yoga to adults, and play-based fitness classes for children. In Chicago, she pursued her passion for creative writing at The University of Chicago, where she earned an M.A. in the humanities and wrote a memoir, Killing Fixie Prairie. For the last several years, Rachel has been actively investigating urban farming and permaculture design principles: she helped to install several community gardens, tended her own veggie plot and taught high school students about organic gardening. Her current position allows her to facilitate transformative hands-on learning for adults and children through EarthDance’s apprenticeship and youth programming. She is enthusiastic to continue growing the good food movement. Rachel’s diverse interests continually lead her toward new insights and situations. Wherever her path may lead, she hopes to leave her campsite in better shape than she found it in.
Matt Lebon adds to the list of St. Louis natives that are part of the EarthDance team. He returned to his hometown after a 9 year hiatus and is thrilled to be back. Matt originally left to go study at Indiana University where he majored in Entrepreneurship. It was during his time in Bloomington that Matt cultivated a close relationship with food (mostly pizza, but also with a curious eye on the global food system.) In his junior year, he studied abroad in Barcelona and found the Spanish language and life abroad so exciting he knew another stint abroad was in the post-college cards. Thus, upon finishing at IU, Matt set out as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. He would spend two years living and working amongst rural Paraguayan farmers. Upon completion he would then circle the globe to Israel in order to further study organic agriculture; this time through a five-month permaculture apprenticeship. Both of these experiences were deeply transformative in cultivating Matt’s connection to delicious food and the sacred soil below. Alas, all globe-trotting adventures must come to an end and Matt returned to the states and landed in New York City. While in the Big Apple Matt worked as a teacher and urban farmer. After almost a decade of being away, he returned to St. Louis to continue pursuing his passion for farming by joining the EarthDance team.
Assistant Farm Manager
A former EarthDance apprentice, Nathan is excited to be back on the farm as a staff member. Farming is in his blood – he comes from a German farming family with roots outside of Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Dayton, he embarked on a career in chemical engineering in Texas, completed yoga teacher training at Kripalu, headed to the Colorado mountains to teach yoga and snowboard, and finally returned to the midwest when he moved to St. Louis in 2011. In the past year, he grew vegetables for three Lafayette Square neighborhood restaurants while tending his own backyard garden. Nathan finds inspiration in using farming as a way to promote health and wellness, build intentional communities, and – still an engineer at heart – study how permaculture systems work. Nathan loves to travel, read, and kick back with a cold IPA.
Rebecca Pace is a transplant to the St. Louis area from rural Kentucky. She attended Truman State University and received her BS in Agricultural Science, focusing on sustainability and animal husbandry. She has spent the past five years working as a herdsman on a 900 cow commercial dairy farm northeast of St. Louis, where she did everything from milking cows to assisting with calvings and taking care of momma cows. Rebecca always felt something was missing and when she heard about the work that EarthDance was doing and their mission, she couldn’t wait to jump onboard.
Soraya Faramarzi is the Operations Manager at EarthDance Farms. In June of 2015, she returned to her hometown of Ferguson where she was raised at her family’s restaurants, Thyme Table Cafe and Savoy Banquet Center. (She even remembers driving to buy produce at Mueller Farm from Al and Caroline). Her interest in organic food began during a semester abroad in Oulu, Finland where she experienced life on a reindeer farm and she began to understand the importance of community and it’s connection to sustainable food production. Soraya most recently has been working in NYC as a gardener specializing in indoor plants and container gardens. While in New York she managed an urban garden center, Jungle Design, in Brooklyn, and took horticulture classes at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
Katie Canale’s favorite childhood memories are playing with rolly polys and climbing a holly tree on the land that her grandfather lived and developed his business, Bonhard Florist, in her hometown, Belleville, IL. Watching her grandfather’s passion and kindness towards nature sparked Katie’s drive to learn more about protecting the environment. After graduating with her B.A. in Sociology in 2013, Katie set out to travel and work with non-profits. She spent a year in Chuuk, Micronesia teaching 11th grade English-Reading as a second language. Shortly after, she worked for Reach Out Volunteers as an international traveling recruiter speaking to lecture halls across the globe about volunteer opportunities in community and environmental sustainability. In November of 2014 she found her way to New Zealand where she lived and worked for Greenpeace until May of 2015. Katie loved traveling, however, she felt the pull to bring her passion and drive back to her home area. After teaching elementary reading in Belleville for the ’15-’16 school year Katie stumbled upon EarthDance. She was over the moon to find a nonprofit organization that encompassed her greatest passions: education, sustainability, and healthy food! Katie is excited to learn and grow with EarthDance and the ever-expanding environmental movement!
Crystal Stevens and her husband, Eric, co-managed La Vista CSA Farm from 2010-2016. They currently reside on a permaculture inspired farm, Thrive Forest & Field, in the Piasa Hills along the Mississippi River. They host a Resilient Living Workshop Series with topics ranging from Permaculture, Vermiculture, Medicinal Herbs, Home Apothecary, Seed Saving, Composting, Healthy Cooking, Food as Medicine, Ethical Foraging, Gardening 101, Gardening with Children, Cooking with Kids, Mushroom Inoculation, Maple Sugaring, Natural Household Cleaners, Fermentation 101, Botanical Illustration, Nature Journaling and more. Crystal is an herbalist and gives seasonal plant medicine workshops, plant walks and foraging workshops through Dabble and through their resilient living workshop series. Crystal speaks and presents at the Mother Earth News Fairs and conferences around the country. Crystal organized the Confluence Herbal Summit, one of the first herbal medicine conferences in the St. Louis area. Crystal hosts women’s gatherings during the equinox and solstice. Crystal is also an Art Teacher for elementary and middle school children, integrating botanical illustration, mixed media collage, nature-inspired art and still life drawing. She teaches Art and Garden Summer Camps for kids. Crystal’s book, Grow Create Inspire was released in the Fall of 2016 under New Society Publishers. Her second book, Worms at Work will be released spring of 2017. Crystal is also working on a Seasonal Eating Cookbook which covers homegrown produce and ethically foraged ingredients. In addition to blogging for MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Crystal contributes to Permaculture Magazine, Grit magazine, The Healthy Planet Magazine and FEAST magazine. She also writes for Overgrow the System. Crystal has co-illustrated a book with Eric Stevens, written by their friend Kelley Johnson-Powers titled Semore the Bird Tells All that He Heard. They are working on several more Children’s Books together. She has also illustrated two other children’s books. Follow their journey at Grow Create Inspire.com
MO Healthy Food Access & Education AmeriCorps Program
Service Term: August 2015-2017
Kaitie Adams is a Southern Illinois native whose love of local food and farming started slowly with weekly trips to the farmer’s market and learning the importance of buying real food from real people. These passions culminated in a large-scale research project and she received a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a specialization in Food Anthropology in 2015. Kaitie’s work explored the social life of seeds and mushroom cultures on small scale farms in Southern Illinois and the powerful relationships agriculture creates. In addition to academic research, Kaitie has also worked on a family owned vineyard,sold produce to international families, and interned on an organic farm. As Youth Educator, she’s excited to work with folks of all ages on and off the farm!
MO Healthy Food Access & Education AmeriCorps Program
Service Term: August 2016-2017
Nick Speed is a St. Louis native and is passionate about food access, youth empowerment, and sex education. With a background in Communications, he graduated from the University Missouri-St. Louis in 2011. Over the past two years, Nick worked at the United Way of Greater St. Louis as an Americorps VISTA program manager for a national youth empowerment workshop series. He facilitated professional development workshops, created community service opportunities for young adults, in addition to managing volunteers. In addition to his role as Volunteer Coordinator, he also serves on EarthDance’s Community Food Assessment Advisory Committee.
Nick volunteers with several local organizations, including Sex Positive STL, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and New Leaders Council. He is inspired daily by the greater St. Louis area, his family, close friends, and colleagues.
Service Term: August 2016-2017
Chelsea Burdge was born and raised in the prairie state and first sunk her toes in the dirt in her mother’s backyard gardens. She has a B.S. in cultural anthropology and environmental science from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and focused on the benefits of community gardening for inner city youth for her thesis. She has volunteered in school gardens and with other environmentally conscious non-profits in St. Louis and Illinois. As a backyard gardener herself she is passionate about the beauty of growing one’s own food and thinks every child and adult should have the experience of doing so. She is very excited to help the programs at EarthDance blossom.