Shawn Harrison – Founder & Co-Director

ShawnShawn has been directly involved in the development of sustainable food systems and healthier communities since 1993 and holds an M.S. degree in international agricultural development from UC Davis. Shawn is also the recent recipient of Valley Vision’s Regional Environmental Legacy Award and graduate of the Community Leadership Program administered by the University of Southern California and Sierra Health Foundation. Shawn was born and raised in Sacramento and continues to reside here with his wife and two daughters.


Janet Whalen Zeller – Founder & Co-Director


Janet has been an activist and educator promoting local family farms, sustainable agriculture, organic food, healthy living and socially conscious business practices for over 30 years. Janet was the director of operations for the Good Earth, opening and managing restaurants in Northern California and Oregon. She was the marketing manager for the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op for 22 years.  Janet earned a degree in Communications Studies at CSUS with a focus on interpersonal and intercultural communication.  She is a trained mediator and facilitator. Janet is committed to connecting the people who grow food with the people who eat it and creating a local food system where everyone has access to fresh, healthy, organically grown food.


Dominic Allamano - Edible City  Coordinator

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Alicia Baddorf - Pack & Field Coordinator

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Alicia (on the left)  is a native Delawarian who migrated west after falling in love with organic farming in her final year of university. She experienced farming hands-on for the first time by WWOOFing in Northern California and British Columbia. After working for an educational urban agriculture project in Vancouver, BC for two years, she decided to take the plunge into an intensive farming apprenticeship so that she could be a better educator for foodie / farmer enthusiasts young and old!


Melanie Choy - Programs Manager


Melanie Choy graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA with a B.A. in politics and government. Most recently, she worked as a program associate at The California Endowment, managing grants related to culturally competent healthy systems and health access. Increasing access to fresh produce was on her mind since she was a high school student, when she helped to organize a health food stand in the lunch room. Melanie moved to California in 1998, and her love of cooking and eating combined with access to farmers’ markets began her interest in eating seasonally and locally. Melanie likes working at Soil Born Farms because it combines her professional abilities with her personal interests. Melanie lives in Sacramento with her husband and daughter.

Guy Galante – Education Director

guyGuy loves working with Soil Born Farms because it allows him to apply so many skills to a variety of hands-on projects that he knows are having a positive impact on the communities we serve. It is an honor for him to be able to share with youth where their food comes from, to guide them in planting and harvesting it, and to see their excitement when they visit the river for the first time in their lives, or as they watch in awe as a hawk soars above their heads. Guy believes that tending land with such a rich and spiritual history is a privilege, and that it is important to teach young people how to steward the land.


Guy is also a professional photographer and contributed many of the photos on this website.  He can often be found along the banks of the American River and along the nature trails of the Parkway near his home in Sacramento. There he photographs wildlife and scenery, and he regularly volunteers for local organizations that work to protect the American River Parkway. 


Elle Huftil-Balzer - Farm Manager


Elle began working at Soil Born Farms as an apprentice in 2010. She then worked at the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop and at Feeding Crane Farms. In 2012, Elle graduated from the Center for Land-based Learning’s Farm Academy and went on to establish her own ½ acre vegetable and flower farm, Sidecar Farm, which is an incubator plot located at The Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters. Elle’s current roles at Soil Born Farms include planting and harvesting, coordinating the pack, quality control, and distribution of produce, and managing restaurant accounts. She also works as Field Manager for Green Corps youth, teaching, directing and mentoring during their farm interactions. Her favorite part of working at Soil Born is training and mentoring the apprentices. Watching them grow and become confident with their skills is what she enjoys most. (photo by Marita Madeloni)


Alyssa Kassner - Youth Education Coordinator

AlyssaKassner 240Alyssa has always had a passion for environmental education but became very invested in farm based education while getting her Master’s Degree at Antioch University in New Hampshire.  After she graduated she worked as a Farm-Based Educator in Vermont and a Field Guide for a therapeutic gardening program for teenagers on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Alyssa loves that at Soil Born Farms she gets to work with the land as well as teach the students about the farm and environment in a fun and meaningful way.  Alyssa has always had a deep connection to the natural world and it brings her great joy to share the wonders of gardening and nature with others.


Rebecca Le - Communications Coordinator

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Rebecca Le grew up in Sacramento, California and received a degree in Social Science from Sacramento City College. Rebecca was excited to join Soil Born Farms because her passion has always been to help others. Although she is new to the non-profit world,  she appreciates the hard work, kindness and willingness to change the world that are shown by the staff, volunteers, and supporters of Soil Born Farms. "And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time." -Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing


Michele Ranieri- Edible City and Greenhouse Manager


Michele is currently the Community Outreach Coordinator.  Michele started with Soil Born Farms in 2011 as a Second Year Apprentice and worked as the Greenhouse and Pack Coordinator in 2012. Prior to coming to Soil Born, she completed a Certificate in Organic Farming at Michigan State University and apprenticed at a small farm in Naperville, IL. Before landing on farming as her passion and path in life Michele had a diverse background of experiences; including, a Marketing degree from Northern Illinois University, working for several nonprofits, and 2 1/2 years of recovery work in New Orleans. 


Michelle Sikora - Cooking& Nutrition Coordinator


Michelle was born and raised in Sacramento. She graduated from CSUS in 2012 with a degree in Food and Nutrition and a minor in Child Development. While attending college she also earned a certificate from CSUS in Family Life Education. Michelle was introduced to Soil Born Farms when selected for an internship related to her field of study and fell in love with the goals of improving healthy food access to all and making a difference within her community. Through a separate internship with the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, she has seen firsthand how important organizations like Soil Born Farms can be. Michelle has always had a passion for cooking and nutrition and has found a place where she can focus her education and interests simultaneously.


Callie Urner – Financial Manager

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Callie grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills and it wasn’t until she moved away that she realized how incredibly special and valuable a place “the country” is. She earned her B.S. in Business & Accounting from Sacramento State in 2008, as well as her California Certified Public Accountants license shortly thereafter. She has worked at various local accounting firms and in small business accounting departments. In addition to that, Callie pursued her discovered passion for agriculture and large animals by interning with a local shepherd, as well as completing an internship at Toluma Farms, a goat dairy on the Northern California coast. Callie feels blessed to be working at a place like Soil Born Farms, which holds the land, education and people in such high regard.


Clara Villalobos Andino- Farmer Education Manager


Clara grew up in Argentina and moved to San Francisco as a teenager. In San Francisco she studied Sociology and then discovered the magic of growing plants. She worked for an edible landscaping company and worked at the first CSA farm in Patagonia, Argentina for two seasons. She attended the agroecology program at UC Santa Cruz and stayed on for a second year. Last year she started working at Soil Born Farms as an assistant farm manager and this year she is our farmer education manager.



2015 Apprentices

 Learn more about the apprenticeship