Member Bios

We are a collective that formed in 2010 to find land and shape our collective homes and futures together. We pooled our funds and energies and a year later we were able to act with the support of many others when we found the ideal property. It took another year to actually purchase that land, but these 10 acres in El Sobrante exceeded our expectations from the beginning, and will be the long-term home of our community for generations to come.

The members of our group have been living and working together in communitiy in various iterations for more than 10 years. We've been empowered by the support of many around us and have seen first-hand the benefits of collective structuring. Combined we have deep experience in non-profit development & administration, collective decision making, community living, sustainable cultivation, and natural building.

Andrew Chahrour

Andrew grew up in Ohio, received an Environmental Studies degree from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, and has worked within several sectors of the food & water world.  Working with the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming he documented the recession of Aspen stands, researched grazing techniques and the impacts of different livestock management practices, and was introduced to old standard top-down approach towards improving management practices.  Afterwards, uninspired by top-down change, Andrew moved to Boston where he co-founded a wiki-based website devoted to ethical consumerism by providing product life-cycle information to everyday consumers. Having learned a lot from this first entrepreneurial experience, Andrew moved to the Bay Area in 2007 following his passion for food and the environment and found meaningful work with the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA).  Working with MESA for 3 years, Andrew expanded the farmer training program's outreach by developing a new website, better tech systems, and by visiting with potential organic host farms across the country.  In early 2010, seeking more hands-on work with local communities, Andrew left MESA to help start another non-profit, Planting Justice.  Since then, Andrew has worked with Planting Justice as a Permaculture Designer, Director of the Landscaping Program, and in May of 2015 Andrew began his current position with Planting Justice as the Farm Manager of the organization's 5-acre food forest in El Sobrante. Also in 2010, Andrew became a member-owner of Clean Water Components - an online-retail shop that specializes in providing information and supplying components to folks who are installing greywater and rainwater systems.

Gavin Raders

Gavin Raders is a co-founder and executive director of Planting Justice, a social justice activist, and a permacuture demonstrator/teacher. He dedicates his time to practicing permaculture wherever he can, having gone through extensive training with some of the most inspiring and effective permaculture teachers in the world: Geoff Lawton, Penny Livingston-Stark, Brock Dolman, Darren Dougherty, and Nik Bertulis.   He comes to permaculture and ecological design through a social justice framework which recognizes the right of all people to peace, security, housing, healthy food, clean water, jobs and healthcare, and the rights of future generations to a just and livable world. For this to happen, he believes that Americans, and all people, need to understand and respect the intimate connection and the shared fate we have with all life on this planet, and organize effectively on the local level to come up with replicable and effective solutions to the range of hardships and oppressions we currently face.

Haleh Zandi

Haleh Zandi is a co-founder and the Educational Director of an Oakland-based non-profit organization called Planting Justice. She believes the modern colonial food system is in a paradigm of war, and she is dedicated to the ways in which diverse communities may build alliances and practice strategies that collectively resist the violence of the industrial food system and structurally shift the United States towards more ecologically sustainable and socially just methods for growing and sharing our food. Haleh has taught over 250 workshops using her self-designed curriculum in food justice, culinary arts, and permaculture design at low-income schools, senior centers, a major state prison, and other community centers throughout the Bay Area. She received her MA in Postcolonial Anthropology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and a BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Haleh is excited to build a co-housing community and a permaculture farm to serve as a local foodshed, a place to raise family, and continue her passion in exchanging knowledge that sustains us all.

Leah Atwood

Leah grew up on a ranch in the redwoods of Arcata, CA and moved to the Bay Area to pursue degrees in Environmental Policy and Spanish at UC Berkeley. She has lived in South and Central America as well as in Bangladesh working on behalf of social, environmental and food justice initiatives. Thanks to her work experience abroad she gained further insight into international agriculture systems and the value of socio-ecologically mindful practices and unconventional multi-stakeholder collaboration. Leah currently serves as Program Director for the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA). Founded in 1994, MESA is a non-profit dedicated to supporting seasoned and emerging small-scale farmers to strengthen resilient, local food systems worldwide through cross-cultural exchange and hands-on training in ecological production and innovative marketing. MESA advances a new generation of agrarian leaders, linking current innovations with global traditions to promote land stewardship, localized economies and cultural awareness.  Leah’s prior work experience includes program development for the International Institute for Bengal Basin to address water rights and pollution mitigation as well as fund development for the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant to provide advocacy for indigent refugees. She currently serves on the board of directors for Planting Justice, an Oakland non-profit transforming the Bay Area food system by creating green jobs and democratizing access to affordable, nutritious food. She deeply enjoys: teaching and practicing yoga; being outside on rocks, waves and trails; growing food and befriending bees.

May Nguyen

May began her food justice work during her years as a student activist at UC Berkeley, working with a pro-agrarian, community-oriented campus organization and practicing sustainable food production while WWOOF'ing in Thailand and France. She completed a B.A. in Architecture, and has since been interested in building sustainable communities by transforming the asphalt deserts of urban & suburban landscapes into greener, healthier, more vibrant, multi-generational and multi-colored neighborhoods.