Just Roots’ capable, caring and enthusiastic team is made up of both paid and volunteer staff, a TerraCorps member, a vibrant Board of Directors and a valued group of consultants. Our land and our community is cared for by many hands. We find joy in each other and in the work we do. Together we strive to achieve our shared mission. Learn more about our team below.
Meet the Staff Team
Jessica O’Neill (formerly Van Steensburg)
Executive Director :: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica joined Just Roots in 2010, serving first on the Board of Directors and then in her role on Staff. Jessica, took the reins as Executive Director in 2016, following a two-year co-directorship with Jay Lord. She has a background in nonprofit management including more than half a decade at the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). Jessica chairs the Franklin County Food Council and is our resident expert in farm animal nutrition with extensive experience in equine management, including working draft breeds. She serves as a Board member on the Heath Agricultural Society and as a member of the Heath Agricultural Commission. A native of New Hampshire, Jessica came to the Happy Valley in 2004 and now lives with her partner Sean in Charlemont along with a gnarly old apple orchard, a much loved garden, a bubbling brook, two adorable dogs (Darwin Scott and Eleanor Grace) and a heap of free-range, earth-loving chickens.
Associate Director :: email@example.com
Rochelle started with Just Roots in 2015 as the Programs and Marketing Manager and was promoted to Associate Director in 2017. Before joining the staff she attended board meetings and volunteered with the organization as an enthusiastic community member. She has a background in agriculture, with five seasons of working on or managing vegetable, fruit and animal operations. Rochelle also has business development, project management and marketing experience from previous work in numerous online platforms for music and food commerce and collaboration, and current work with DAISA Enterprises in South Hadley, MA. At DAISA, Rochelle supports funders, mission-driven businesses and organizations to cultivate strong communities through inclusive development, execution and evaluation of projects based in access to health, good food, and economic development. Rochelle lives in Florence, MA in a home that boasts a mighty sugar maple, a highly efficient wood stove, a well-loved piano and aromas (more often pleasant than not) of an array of ongoing kitchen projects.
Director of Farm Operations :: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meryl is a dedicated and experienced production farmer, farm-based educator, community organizer, mentor to new farmers and devoted member of the New England farm community. She has been farming for fifteen years in the Eastern Massachusetts farm community, focusing her work on balancing intensive organic vegetable production with a commitment to building strong communities around food and farms. In 2006, Meryl was given an opportunity to start a new farm project for the Trustees of Reservations, called Powisset Farm, which she managed for nine years. Powisset farm grew to include a large CSA, thriving on-site farmer’s market, educational workshops and a commercial kitchen operation for community programs. Collaboration of all kinds has guided and energized her farm work and she is particularly focused on top-quality, sustainable, vegetable production, community engagement, education and empowerment, and crew development. Meryl is new to the Pioneer Valley and is excited to land in Shelburne Falls with her partner and pets! When she isn’t farming, you can find Meryl walking in the woods with her dog, banging on some drums, dancing or singing loudly, off key!
Founding Director :: email@example.com
None of us think Jay will ever truly retire, at least we hope he won’t! Jay is one of the pillars of Just Roots, and the reason the organization still stands strong today. He staffed the committee which formed Just Roots and volunteered time as the organization developed, finally serving as the founding Executive Director until 2014 when he and now Director, Jessica Van Steensburg entered into a co-directorship for two years. Jay stayed on as Director of Development through 2017. Jay has a long interest in both agriculture and non-profits. He ran Fiddlehead Farm for fifteen years, providing direct marketing of both goat milk products and a fine line of pickles and bread out of a state-certified commercial kitchen. Later, he helped to found and lead both the Greenfield Center School and the Northeast Foundation for Children, where he worked for more than twenty-five years. Jay lives in Greenfield with his wife Ruth Charney, an orange cat named Mango and many beloved grandchildren.
Community Engagement Coordinator :: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sophie is a TerraCorps member serving at Just Roots as the Community Engagement Coordinator. After graduating from Whitman College in 2015 with a degree in psychology Sophie moved back to her hometown of Redwood City, California to work as a project coordinator in a psychology research lab at Stanford University. After two years of working in research, Sophie realized she wanted to be doing more hands on work with local communities. She is also an avid cook and believes that everyone should have access to healthy, delicious food. When Sophie discovered the TerraCorps position at Just Roots she moved to the East Coast for the first time in her life to be a part of the team. In her free time Sophie loves to cook with friends, hike and explore her new home in the Pioneer Valley.
Grant Writer/Strategic Thinker/Advisory Support
Sean Neill of Cycle7 regularly assists Just Roots in an advisory role and a co-writer on large grant opportunities. Sean co-wrote a grant for the Community Health Center of Franklin County and Just Roots launching the organization into the intersection of health and local food access. The successful $250,000 award from the USDA (one of only two awarded in MA, and one of eleven in the US) allowed the CHC-FC and Just Roots along with a Harvard physician to implement a peer reviewed study of the health impacts of farm share membership on the health of low-income households. Two major insurers have agreed to observe the study and consider a health benefit for members for CSA membership. Neill provides regular advisory support to Just Roots including contracts management.
Marketing and Design Professionals :: email@example.com
We teamed up with Ajitate Design in an effort to re-brand our organization, to update our look, ensure our programming is marketed professionally and that we are always on the cusp of the latest ways to showcase our offerings, invite/include our community and put our best foot forward; visually representing our work in a way that allows the viewer to recognize Just Roots at a glance. Ajitate Design provides us with a comprehensive and holistic approach to our marketing efforts, including our website, brand and marketing materials.
Gary has been teaming up with Just Roots since the beginning. He worked with many volunteers to construct our garden shed which stores tools for community gardeners. He built our wash station deck, our chicken huts and out pig house. Gary re-built and re-hung our barn doors, repaired and weatherized our well-house and the list goes on. Not only does Gary bring with him immense building experience, he brings a smile and positive attitude that will warm you on the coldest day in winter. When you see Gary on the farm, stop and say hello.
Information Technology (I.T.) Magician
He believes hard work and helping others is the key to happiness. In June of 2016, he was awarded a certificate in Network Administration and earned an A.S. degree in Computer Information Systems with honors in December of 2016. Tony came to Just Roots in early 2015 as a volunteer that turned to an internship, then in 2016, part time work as a Database (CRM) Administrator. He is currently a proud advocate for Just Roots, and volunteer, serving as site Help Desk – Website monitor/ backup and CRM support. Tony is also a loyal Just Roots CSA member. A native of Easthampton Massachusetts, he now resides in Greenfield only a few miles from the farm. You may see him riding his bike on his way here, if so wave and say hello. If he isn’t riding his bike he may be fishing, planting small gardens or participating in drum circles.
Elderberry Orchardist and other tasks we find and Rick lovingly accepts
Rick has been working with Just Roots since the beginning. He moved to Franklin County nearly forty years ago to work in apple orchards, and is an experienced orchardist. He enjoys singing, playing music, and hanging with friends and family.