Amber Bacca – Board Member/Co-director
After obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology and travelling around the world for many years, Amber Bacca recognized that the traditional international development model was flawed, chiefly because the role of sustainability was largely non-existent and most projects failed to take local needs, perspectives, and context into consideration. Thus, she decided to devote her life to helping people develop in ways that were appropriate for them and the environments within which they called home.
Amber obtained a Master’s Degree in International Development with concentrations in Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability from the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver in 2002.
Whilst completing her degree, she also received a Permaculture Design Certificate, (PDC,) in Costa Rica from Scott Pittman of The Permaculture Institute.
Believing that the study of mushrooms would be invaluable to her training in sustainability, Amber decided to again learn from the best, Paul Stamets, who is considered to be one of the world’s leading mycologists. She has completed multiple courses at Fungi Perfecti, including Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms and Mycoremediation.
Immediately following her studies in mycology, Amber set off to learn beekeeping through the Permaculture Institute once again. The course was in Natural Topbar Beekeeping, which is the preeminent means of beekeeping in an all-natural, organic manner.
Since then, Amber has completed a three month permaculture internship with Geoff Lawton, at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. Throughout this time, Amber honed her permaculture skills by taking in extremely comprehensive permaculture knowledge and employing it regularly. The program is specifically aimed at fast-tracking the development of permaculture-based knowledge in a wide range of specific subjects. By successfully completing the coursework and working closely with Mr. Lawton on a daily basis, Amber was able to attain the skills necessary to ensure success in future sustainable development endeavors.
Lisa Knoblauch has been involved in food systems and sustainable agriculture since 2005. She has extensive experience establishing community gardens, training both adults and children in methods of food production, teaching skills in cooking and nutrition, and establishing local farmers’ markets. Lisa has worked to establish numerous organic community gardens in Denver , CO , USA and has trained hundreds of Denver residents in sustainable agriculture techniques such as composting, cover cropping, companion planting, and sustainable water use.
Through her work with Denver Urban Gardens , a local non-profit organization, she managed a multi-year, high-budget grant focused on increasing health and wellness in low-income urban communities. Over the last 2 years, Lisa has been involved in establishing another local non-profit, GreenLeaf, which trains young people to become urban farmers. Lisa currently sits on the board of directors for GreenLeaf and assists in curriculum development and fundraising.
In 2006, Lisa obtained her Permaculture Design Certification through the Colorado Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt, Colorado and has since assisted in the development of permaculture sites both in the US and abroad. In 2009, she received certification as a medicinal herbalist and currently runs her own business, Desert Roots Botanicals, where she consults with clients and processes medicinal formulas.
Lisa holds a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Business and Communities. Through this course of study, she has gained skills in systems-based sustainable development projects that include food production, water use/conservation/creation, remediation of soils, and utilization of waste streams for generation of revenue.
Urvin Leest started his career in the field of sustainable development in 2008 when he was involved in forming the NGO, Fundacion Aruba Consciente, (Aruba Awareness Organization).
In 2009 he represented Fundacion Aruba Consciente in the “Nos Aruba 2025″ project, which lent itself towards a National Integrated Strategic Plan that would lead Aruba towards island sustainability. During this time, Urvin also sat as a member and as chairman for the “Sustainable Food Supply” commission.
During this same period, he obtained his Permaculture Design Certificate in Costa Rica through The Permaculture Institute, which was taught by Scott Pittman.
In April of 2011, he successfully lobbied the department of agriculture to host the country’s first “Aruba Permaculture Fair”. With RFI, they successfully presented the permaculture concept to more than 800 individuals. Beneficiaries included various organizations in Aruba including the correctional facility and a group of 40 of its inmates, rehab centers, educational professionals, and farmers and gardening enthusiasts alike.
Since October 2011, he has been instructing various community groups on the importance and logistics of sustainability. He was one of the course instructors for the horticultural course at “Enseñansa pa Empleo” (Education for Employment), where he gave introductory courses on permaculture and aquaponics to adults. And in 2012, he gave various gardening workshops to kids’ summer camps. Urvin also partnered with a local rehab center in May 2013 to start a therapeutic garden for their clients. In June 2013, together with the department of agriculture, the youth parliament, Fundacion Aruba Consciente and miSimia he started with the “Ban Planta,” (“Let’s Plant,”) project. Through this project, he’s creating school gardens, where students are being taught the most basic techniques of cultivation, complex systems of aquaponics, and more.
Laura Lavid holds a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from the University of Kansas and a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Regis University. Upon completing her undergraduate studies, Laura served 2 years in AmeriCorps; one with the National Civilian Community Corps in the Southeast Region, and one with Denver Urban Gardens in Denver, Colorado. She went on to work full time for Denver Urban Gardens as their Programs Coordinator. Additionally, she served on the American Community Gardening Association’s Board of Directors. In 2010, Laura spent the year traveling,learning Spanish and WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) throughout South America. Upon returning to the US, Laura joined the staff of the American Community Gardening Association as their Programs Manager. Laura currently works at Florida Organic Growers as the Education & Outreach Program Director, overseeing FOG’s Education & Outreach programs includingFresh Access Bucks, GIFT Gardens, Farmer Workshops, EBT Farmers Market Program, Internships, Development and others.
Katie Aldrich holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN, and is currently pursuing a Masters in International Development with a focus in Food Security from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. During her undergraduate career, Katie focused much of her studies on conservation biology and stream chemistry, and conducted research on agricultural streams in central Indiana as a part of the USDA Mississippi River Basin Initiative. Additionally, she cultivated her interests in community development by serving as the 2013 Graduate Fellow at The Prindle Institute for Ethics, where she successfully implemented new communications strategies and managed the Institute’s intern program. Since moving to Denver in June 2014, Katie fell in love with the local food movement by volunteering with UrbiCulture Community Farms, serving as a community member on the Mayor’s Sustainable Food Policy Council, and joining the Denver Permaculture Guild.