Our Team

The GrowHaus is run by a talented and committed group of individuals that represent the diversity of Denver. As we grow, we are making an effort to hire neighborhood residents and others directly impacted by food injustice. 

To read extended Board of Directors bios, click here

To read about our Founders, click here.

Directors

Kayla BirdSong | Executive Director | kayla@thegrowhaus.org

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Kayla joined the staff of The GrowHaus in summer 2013 while living in the Elyria neighborhood. She first served as  Director of Food Distribution for two years and helped to start our retail market as well as no-cost grocery program that still impact thousands of people every year. For the following two years, Kayla served as the Director of Operations, helping the GrowHaus' thrive on a day-to-day basis. Kayla moved into the Interim Executive Director role in June 2017, and into the permanent position in October 2017. Kayla is passionate about working with community to shape our local food system. She grew up in Florida, and studied Business Management and Spanish at the University of Florida. She has studied abroad in Spain, traveled extensively through Asia, and volunteered on organic farms in Nepal. She speaks Spanish, has a Permaculture Design Certificate, and has a deep passion for all things food. Kayla believes that by leveraging the amazing partnerships The GrowHaus has, we can ensure lasting access to healthy food in our neighborhood and thus serve as a model for other communities with similar barriers across the nation.

ISABEL SANCHEZ | PROGRAM DIRECTOR | ISABEL@THEGROWHAUS.ORG

Isabel is a permaculture designer, teacher, urban farmer, and activist. She is the Program Director at The GrowHaus where she joined the team in 2013. She oversees all of the educational programming, supervises community outreach, and the Roots to Health Seedling Project. For the past few years, she has been one of the lead permaculture facilitator for the Denver Permaculture Guild and the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute.

For the past twenty years, Isabel has been a passionate advocate for self-reliance and sustainability. She organizes urban farming workshops and educational classes for adults and children that help empower sustainable and healthy lifestyle changes. She is an active board member for Colorado Vincentian Volunteers and is President of the Mapleton Mobile Home Association. She has also travelled to  Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico to work with indigenous people on self-reliance, but has learned even more from them. She is a beekeeper, artist, mother of eight,  and lives in a ‘tiny house’ with 3  rabbits, 6 chickens and 2 dogs. She does all of her food production in a 34 x 87 square foot urban lot in Boulder and uses her tiny lot to demonstrate permaculture design practices.

Nathan Mackenzie | Director of Development | Nathan@thegrowhaus.org

Nathan leads The GrowHaus' development and communications efforts. He is a proud born-and-raised Denverite, went to East High School, and graduated from Wesleyan University with honors in government. After graduation, he moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where he spent a year-and-half working with Shining Hope for Communities, a non-profit  that addresses gender inequality and extreme poverty in urban slums.  There he learned the power of local communities to develop dynamic locally-based solutions to community challenges. After coming back home to Colorado, in 2014 he was selected to join El Pomar Foundation's two year leadership and professional development Fellowship program in Colorado Springs. 

Nathan is passionate about strengthening local food systems, economies and communities. When he's not at The GrowHaus you can find him enjoying the mountains, cooking, or reading.

Emily Hoel | Director of Operations | Emily@thegrowhaus.org

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Emily is originally from Richmond, VA and has also lived in Santa Fe, NM and in various cities in Spain over the last several years. She joins The GrowHaus as the Director of Operations and brings with her several years of nonprofit experience and a passion for supporting local communities to be healthy and empowered. Emily speaks Spanish and jumps at the opportunity to engage with anyone in Spanish, especially when that means removing a barrier to engagement for a community member. Previously, Emily spent time working with a food justice organization in Virginia named Shalom Farms and has also worked on issues of educational equity in Aurora.

Our team

Alicia perez | community outreach coordinator | Alicia@thegrowhaus.org

Alicia Perez is the Community Outreach Coordinator and a Resident Promotora for The GrowHaus.  Alicia oversees our Resident Promotora program and coordinates our no-cost grocery program, Cosechando Salud, home visits, and Promotora-led adult education programming. She coordinates all of the events for our community, as well as many of the community classes. She has gone through her Permaculture Design Certification Course and continually strives to serve as an example to educate and empower women and youth in her community. A longtime resident of Elyria-Swansea, she has been involved with The GrowHaus for the past 6 years and is a proud mother of a 5-year-old son.

Valerie Ibañez | promotora valerie@thegrowhaus.org

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Valerie left her island, Puerto Rico over two years ago to follow one of her passions. Her connection with food started at an early age in her grandma’s kitchen, cooking with her mom and aunts, exchanging stories and sharing laughs. After Studying in August Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in a farm-to-table program in Boulder, she dove into the restaurant industry to absorb everything she could about food and experience working in all sorts of kitchens. Since then her relationship with food has expanded and as a recent Certified Yoga Instructor her approach has become much more holistic. She truly believes that every person has the right to nourishing food. She trusts that by empowering people to experiment in their gardens and kitchens, not only will it transform their approach to food, but their relationship with the world.

Guadalupe rodriguez | PROMOTORA GUADELUPE@thegrowhaus.org

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Guadalupe Rodriguez is married and has 5 children and 2 grandchildren. She’s from Mexico but she’s been living in Colorado for over 20 years! She likes Colorado’s beautiful nature and weather and her favorite hobby is to spend time with her family on walks. She enjoys working at The GrowHaus because it gives her the opportunity to do what she likes best, spend time with the community, share resources, and support those in need.

Teresa Brizuela | PROMOTORA | teresa@thegrowhaus.org

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Teresa likes her friends to call her Tere. She loves to support people in achieving happiness. She is from Venezuela and arrived in Colorado more than 2 years ago. Tere graduated from the Universidad de Carabobo in Human Resource Management, which she has worked in for more than 16 years. She enjoys the views of the Colorado mountains, as they remind her of the San Diego Valley in Venezuela where she lived. Tere has two sons, which she misses since one lives in Spain and another in Ecuador. When she first learned about The GrowHaus, she soon came in to learn more about it with her mother. Tere really admired the colorful facade in the middle of such a gray area. She liked the plants, the natural setting, and the use recycled materials. Tere is convinced of the importance of ecology principles in reducing, recycling, reusing, and repairing. She seeks to apply these three principles to help protect the environment not just at work, but in her daily life. She likes to work here for the atmosphere, the friendliness of the team, and especially the impact it can have on people and their families. Tere values the contact with the community, because it can contribute to a better quality of life for community members, without ever forgetting that she still a lot to learn.

JACKIE Haven | EDUCATION PROGRAM Coordinator | JACKIE@THEGROWHAUS.ORG

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Jackie is passionate about education, the environment, and healthy living. She studied Anthropology at the University of Florida, has taught internationally, has worked a couple of farm seasons with a community supporting agriculture (CSA) farm, and travels as much as she can. Jackie is very excited to be working with the Elyria- Swansea- Globeville community as well as fostering many relationships with schools and youth in the Denver area through education programs about food justice, sustainability, leadership, and community. She believes that education is the strongest tool we have to combat many of our world’s issues and is proud to be working with the Growhaus’s education program. When not at the Growhaus, Jackie loves exploring the mountains and having new adventures. 

Monica Amador | Programs assistant | monica@thegrowhaus.org

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Originally from Texas, Monica is beyond stoked to be in a much cooler climate (hellooooo mountains!) She played volleyball (best sport ever) and studied Criminal Justice at Long Island University - Post Campus. She joins The GrowHaus as a Programs Assistant through the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. 

As an athlete, she is familiar with the advantages of healthy foods and the benefits of a balanced diet. She hopes to put her innate love and passion for the environment into action as she teaches children the many benefits of healthy food. If Monica isn't at The GrowHaus you can catch her outdoors, most likely hiking or dancing her heart out at a concert, scoping out all the free events around Denver, and attempting some yoga poses

Jackeline Ruiz |Manager of food distribution| Jackeline@thegrowhaus.org

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Jackeline is originally from Venezuela and has also lived in Colombia and in Panamá for eight years. She came to Colorado 1 year ago. She joins The GrowHaus as the Manager of Food Distribution and brings with her several years of business, marketing, and operation experience. She works to help grow the community Market/Mercado and The Food Box Program. Jackeline graduated from the University Latina of Panama a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and Advertising and the University Catholic Andrés Bello (Venezuela) a Bachelor's Degree in Laws. Jackeline enjoys running, social networks, traveling and exploring new destinations.

Maria Campos |Food Distribution Coordinator| mariac@thegrowhaus.org

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Maria is originally from Aguascalientes, Mexico, moved to Denver when she was 12 years old, and has lived in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood for the last 16 years. She came to The GrowHaus out of curiosity and fell in love with the place. She loves working at The GrowHaus because it makes her feel at home and wants to contribute to getting the Hispanic community involved in improving the health and wellness of our neighborhood. Coming from a farming family, she believes in the idea that nobody should struggle to get healthy food no matter where you live or where you come from. She also enjoys motherhood, dancing, and family time. 

Luis Espino | food retail associate| luis@thegrowhaus.org

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Luis is a proud Denverite, he is our newest addition to our Food Distribution team and is a native to the Elyria-Swansea area. Luis is interested in learning all he can about the aqua, hydro, and mushroom farms to get a better understanding of the importance of healthy food and an eco-friendly system. What really stood out to Luis before applying was the mission of The GrowHaus striving to provide access to healthy food to communities of low income. When Luis isn’t in The GrowHaus you can catch him writing in his book of rhymes or being caught up in current world affairs. Lastly, Luis is a big sports fan. He loves to both watch and play basketball, futbol, and boxing; Mike Tyson and Julio Cezar Chavez are some of his favorite fighters of all time.

Jamie Yeast | manager of food production | JAMIE@THEGROWHAUS.ORG

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Jamie started as a facilities intern with The Growaus in the autumn of 2015. He was hired as the farm apprentice a year later, working in both the aquaponic and hydroponic farms. He previously worked for an organic CSA (community supported agriculture) farm for 12 seasons in northern Colorado. Jamie combines his carpentry and farm experiences with his love of food to enhance the local urban agriculture community.

Jamie graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in English Literature and continues to read, mostly comics. When he is not growing or gardening, Jamie spends his time with his family. He enjoys spending time in the mountains, creating art, or napping in the back porch hammock.    

Alexander Albu | MYCOLOGIST | alex@THEGROWHAUS.ORG

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Alex manages our mushroom farm and mycology program. In addition to producing gourmet mushrooms for The GrowHaus Market and local restaurants, Alex helps educate the local community about fungi and their uses and human benefits. His goals are to build up a sustainable mushroom growing operation and culture bank, as well as to implement local mycoremediation experiments. A recent convert to sustainable agriculture, Alex has homesteading ambitions and great faith in controlled environment agriculture as a means to solve food access issues worldwide. He has BS in Biology from MSU Denver, as well as a BS in Political Economy from UC Berkeley. When he’s not at The GrowHaus, you can bet that Alex is hanging out with his newborn son.

Caden Werner | Crew leader| caden@thegrowhaus.org

Caden started as an aquaponics intern at the GrowHaus and was hired as the farm apprentice shortly after. Prior to coming to the GrowHaus, Caden worked seasonally at farms throughout the U.S., learning to grow food in multiple climates and soil types. In their free time, Caden enjoys gardening, writing, and exploring new hiking trails with their border collie, Layla. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

irving reza | Greenhouse Assistant | irving@THEGROWHAUS.ORG

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Irving G Reza Alarcon is the current Farm Apprentice for 2018-2019. Irving comes to The GrowHaus every week ready to learn how the hydroponic, aquaponic, and mushroom farms operate. He is grateful for receiving the chance to learn about food production in the metro area.

Irving holds a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from the University of New Mexico. He has been living in the neighborhood of Montbello, Denver for the last 4 years. 

During his free time, Irving enjoys to spend time with his family and 2 Chihuahuas. He also participates in political events for immigrant rights.

Morgan Schmehl| Food distribution and sales coordinator| morgan@thegrowhaus.org

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Morgan is a deeply-rooted Denverite who loves to eat, grow things, ride bikes, talk politics, and soak up sunshine. After graduating from the University of Denver, she acquired a myriad of experiences ranging from teaching on a rooftop farm in Brooklyn to providing customer service for teachers to serving up fancy lattes. Through each experience, she’s connected the dots between the intertwining facets of the agricultural industry: economic opportunity, history, culture, climate change, race, income inequality, migration, identity... She is committed to cultivating a more just food system where we all have a chance to nourish ourselves, our community, and our planet.

She found her way to The GrowHaus after hearing a story on Colorado Public Radio, and she hasn’t left since. In her role as Farm Sales and Distribution Representative, Morgan facilitates partnerships all across the city - working with restaurants, grocery stores, non-profits, and community organizations to get the food we grow onto plates and onto shelves.

Salvador Gonzalez | Executive ASSISTANT | CU NEW DIRECTIONS FELLOW | Salvador@thegrowhaus.org

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Salvador is from the Rocky Mountains and has been living in Denver for nearly 25 years!  He grew up in the West Colfax neighborhood and graduated from the CEC Early College in Denver Public Schools. He enjoys spending quality time in the outdoors and considers himself an original Rockies fan.

He became interested in community organizing at a young age and and soon became involved with urban gardening. He has a degree from the University of Colorado Denver in Political Science. It was in college where he first learned about the GrowHaus while researching the issue of food deserts and what communities are doing to end it.

His interests include working with Denver’s youth to develop tomorrow’s leaders through the building of community and spaces to do so. His devotion has been to work to keep youth in school and use extra-curricular activities, like athletics and after-school programs, to develop healthy skills and foundations for leadership. Previous projects he has been able to work on include Ending The School To Prison Pipeline, Voter Access and Registration, Immigrant Rights, Higher Education and Health Access.

At the GrowHaus he works closely with the Executive Director and rest of the team to ensure things run smoothly in the organization. He is really excited to see the new farm additions at the GrowHaus and work with the great people of Elyria Swansea Globeville.

Joe Phillips | Facilities Manager | joe@thegrowhaus.org

Joe joined The GrowHaus team as an intern in January of 2015 and was hired as the Facilities Manager in June of 2015.  He is a former manufacturing business owner from Ohio and moved to Colorado in 2011.  Joe has a bachelor's degree from the University of Montana in Resource Management.  At The GrowHaus, his duties include maintenance, repairs, intern oversight, and special projects.  

Nina Roumell | Development and Communications Officer | NINA@THEGROWHAUS.ORG

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As the Development and Communications Officer, Nina works to capture and communicate the impact of the GrowHaus with partners and funders. She has spent the past seven years living in Colorado, first in Colorado Springs while earning her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Colorado College – Go Tigers! She spent a semester abroad in India analyzing the effectiveness of a government program in combating children’s malnutrition and left with a deep interest in community development and public health. After graduating, she moved to Denver and spent three years working on health policy advocacy and research at the state level.

Nina is also the proud coach of the Lady Mammoths basketball and soccer team at Wilfley Boys and Girls Club. 


In Memory of Kaela Allton

It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we remember our colleague and friend, Kaela Allton, who passed away on October 22nd, 2015, after a bicycle accident. Kaela worked at The GrowHaus as Programs Assistant for several months through the program Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. She supported many programs including Cosechando Salud/Harvesting Health, Service Learning, Mercado de al Lado, tours, volunteer groups, and was the assistant to our Director of Programs. She made a lasting impact on our community with her welcoming and willing attitude, and especially her hilarious sense of humor.  We will all miss her more than words can express.