The Needham Community Farm (NCF) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization comprised of a very active volunteer Board of Directors, a Field Manager, Program Manager, and part-time Development Director.
Allie Comet (she/her), Field Manager
Allie has been farming and working in education for over a decade. Most recently, she worked as a Garden Educator with CitySprouts, managing public school gardens and providing garden-based education for students in Boston and Cambridge. She is passionate about building community around land and food, soil health, food justice, and nature connection. Allie received a BA from Pomona College in Environmental Analysis and a Masters in Teaching in Elementary Education from Brandeis University. Allie currently lives in Jamaica Plain, where she is active in the local Jewish community and social justice organizing.
Ceilidh Peden-Spear (they/them), Program Manager
Growing up in northern Vermont, Ceilidh developed a love for being outside and a passion for sharing the outdoors with others. Over the years they have gained experience working on a variety of farms and homesteads. Everything from dairy cows and goats, to chickens, to blueberries and apples, but they always return to small scale farms and the joys of sharing produce with others. When not farming, you can find Ceilidh hiking, preserving the harvest, or listening to good music while cooking tasty food.
Courtney Sodano (she/her), Development Director
Courtney joined NCF this past September after spending time in fundraising, outreach, and more at Waltham Fields Community Farm. Previously, she managed the marketing and online fundraising for Conservation Law Foundation and Dedham Square Circle. She has lived in Needham for 10 years with her husband, two boys, three chickens, and an unruly garden. She will be supporting NCF in all development, event, and more capacities.
Board of Directors
Anna Aguilera (she/her), Board Member
Anna Aguilera is an Associate Professor of Biology at Simmons University and a former Director of the Colleges of the Fenway Center for Sustainability. The Needham Community Farm is a perfect bridging of her professional and personal interests. As the coordinator of the Environmental Science major at Simmons, Anna teaches students that local agriculture and addressing food justice are key pieces of sustainable development. Simmons students under Anna’s supervision are able to use the farm as a research site to investigate best practices in using biochar as soil amendments in agricultural settings. On a more personal side, Anna and her children are able to participate in gardening classes and experience the joy of eating the food that they grow, and of sharing it with others. Highlights include growing huge amounts of pea shoots and catching garter snakes.
Ed Anderson (he/him), Treasurer
Ed earned a BS in Management Information Systems from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Babson College. He has decades of experience as an Information Technology consultant for clients in state government, financial services, consumer goods, and other industries. Ed moved to Needham in 2002 with his wife Tee and 2 pre-schoolers in tow. As the children grew, Ed became involved in scouting and youth sports. Over the past few years, Ed has enjoyed learning and contributing to the farm while also participating and volunteering for the Needham Running Club and various outdoor sports activities.
Nancy Berger (she/her), Assistant Treasurer
Nancy received her BS in Accounting from Michigan State University. She passed the CPA exam and worked as an accountant for a large public accounting firm. Following that, she worked for a privately held real estate owner/manager for 35 years, as an accountant and then as a risk manager. Prior to joining the board of the Needham Community Farm, she served on the board of the Newman Elementary School PTC, the Needham Education Foundation and Needham Friends of Music. Recently retired, Nancy enjoys spending time in her garden and with family and friends. She is passionate about healthy food - growing it, cooking it, and sharing it with others. Nancy has lived in Needham since 1993.
Steven Clark (he/him), Board Member
Steve is passionate about the Needham Community Farm because he is a firm believer that living in community with the land is a powerful means to nurture a sense of shared responsibility and community with one another. He received a bachelors degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds a masters in Operations Research from MIT. Steve is currently the Director of Operations Analytics at Wayfair where he is responsible for the strategic design of Wayfair's global supply chain network. Some of his favorite pastimes are woodworking, hiking, and learning new things.
Jane Evans (she/her), Clerk
Jane began helping at weekly harvests and got hooked! She's involved in many behind-the-scenes farm projects.
Vanessa Gilbreth (she/her), Board Member
Vanessa received her BS degree in Biopsychology and Neuroscience from the University of Michigan with University Honors. After a short period working for a National Institute for Mental Health funded study through Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, Vanessa went on to Boston University School of Law where she was a member of the Law Review and president of the Shelter Legal Services Organization. After law school, where she received her Juris Doctor magna cum laude, she worked for eight years in law firms. Since 2015, Vanessa has been an in-house senior attorney for Mass General Brigham, Inc., an integrated not-for-profit health care system renowned for its exceptional patient care and research.
Michelle Keefe (she/her), Board Member
Michelle is passionate about the Farm’s mission as a long time environmentalist. She received a bachelors degree from the University of Notre Dame and holds a masters in Environmental Management from Harvard University. Michelle brings her entrepreneurial experience as the CEO of recruitment firm, MomUp, to her board work by helping with the recruitment and marketing efforts. One of her favorite pastimes is tending to her own vegetable garden.
Joe Leghorn (he/him), Vice President
Joe’s favorite childhood memories are gardening with his grandfather. After spending 40 years as a corporate trial lawyer, his passion now is his garden in Orleans on the Cape. The mission of the Farm meshes with his strong belief that nobody should go to bed hungry and that growing foods in an environmentally sustainable manner will ensure that there is healthy nutritious food for all. Joe received his BA degree in Mathematics from Bowdoin College before attending Emory Law School. A Town Meeting Member for over 6 years, Joe has been a Warden at Christ Church Needham, president of a Montessori school in Natick and a Bowdoin College Alumni Fund Director, among other things.
Jennifer Meyerhardt (she/her), Board Member
Jen received her undergraduate from Wesleyan University, majoring in Government. After graduating from NYU law school, she practiced public interest law for several years, before obtaining her masters degree in Education from Harvard University, followed by a Masters in Social Work at Boston University. As a practicing independent licensed social worker, Jen has worked to support families who have a variety of challenges, including food insecurity. The Farm has been a perfect place for Jen to work within her community, for a cause she is passionate about. Jen loves gardening and has a small home vegetable garden as well as many flower beds.
Debbie Schmill (she/her), Founder
Debbie became interested in environmental activism over 10 years ago after watching a movie about Climate Change. Her concern for her children’s future led her to join local environmental groups and ultimately to found the Needham Community Farm as a hands-on way to educate children and adults.
Susan Shaver (she/her), President
Susan brings over 20 years of professional experience to her work on the Board, having worked in a variety of management and marketing positions. She is passionate about supporting local, organic farming, healthy eating, education about nutrition and serving the community food needs. She has served on other Needham non- profit Boards. One of Susan’s fondest memories as a child is working on an organic vegetable farm in South Glastonbury Connecticut.
Gayani Weeraratne (she/her), Board Member
Gayani received her MS in Advanced Software Engineering from King's College London. She works as a Programmer Analyst/Release Lead at Fidelity Information Services in the Business eBanking unit. Gayani was born and raised in Sri Lanka and came to the USA as an immigrant in 2006. She believes in sustainable living and loves taking care of her vegetable patch. She wanted to root the same values in her two children and get more involved at the Needham Community Farm, helping with the farm's educational programs for children.
Lori Whyte (she/her), Board Member
Lori's passions involve both teaching and gardening. She earned her undergraduate degree in History at Holy Cross prior to her Master's degree in Education from Harvard University. Lori has loved her job teaching history at Needham High School for over twenty years. She also ran her own small business for over fifteen years as a certified Irish Dance instructor where she taught students from the ages of 5 to 50 plus. Every summer Lori looks forward to returning to the dirt and planting trees, vegetables, and flowers. She learned from her father who grew up on a small farm in Ireland. Now in his early 80s, Lori's father still has a huge vegetable garden that is an envy of his family and neighbors. It is one that Lori aspires to, but she has decades of digging ahead.