Meet The Team



Founder & Executive Director

Raul is the Founder and Executive Director of Valley Verde with more than 22 years of experience in nonprofit leadership.

Raul is a master gardener and is a senior fellow of American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley and has a commitment to social justice.   

He first brought his love for gardening together in a program he created for Sacred Heart Community Services in 2009.

La Mesa Verde would be the precursor to Valley Verde, which Raul founded as a separate nonprofit two years later.

For more than ten years, Raul served as executive director of a San Jose-based Chicano theater company Teatro Visión. With a strong commitment to multiculturalism in the arts, he was one of the founders of the Multiethnic Arts Leadership Initiative, a leadership development program for people of color in arts and culture.

He was also a founding member of 1st ACT Silicon Valley, a civic and arts initiative that spurred development of an arts district in San Jose.



Operations Director

As an Operations Director, Lovepreet is responsible for managing the operational needs of Valley Verde, organizing events, and overseeing the administrative aspects of the Shared Garden Program. She has a degree in Health Science and she is passionate about helping others. While studying Health Science, she learned the importance of being culturally aware, and building resilience in the community to help the communities thrive. She has worked with various communities, and enjoys thinking of innovative ways to help communities thrive. Lovepreet has a garden at home, and enjoys being in nature. She enjoys learning about new vegetables and is constantly experimenting with recipes from different cultures. Lovepreet is excited about working with Valley Verde, and is looking forward to promoting food sustainability. 



Greenhouse Coordinator

Darshini comes to Valley Verde with a passion for microgreens and permaculture as the Greenhouse Coordinator. She directly supports our onsite demonstration garden and greenhouse operations, sharing her knowledge and love of urban farming with the Valley Verde community. During the pandemic Darshini and her husband (with their young son in tow) made the bold move to launch a small microgreens business. A graduate of San Jose State and a local resident for the last 15 years, Darshini was brought up in a large, loving family in Malaysia that formed her deep connection to growing plants and sharing meals fresh from the garden. Darshini is deeply committed to the power of urban agriculture as it relates to self-sufficiency and food security, which is how she became well versed in hydroponics and vertical farming. She also has other hobbies, beyond creatively gardening in small spaces, like gathering books, reading, video games, and knitting. 



Greenhouse Coordinator

Andy is one of our Greenhouse Coordinators here at Valley Verde. He is originally from Massachusetts, and after graduating from Skidmore College with a degree in Environmental Science, moved out to San Jose in 2017. Andy's driving motivation is to help build relationships between community members and their natural environment to empower communities to connect to their land in deep and long-lasting ways. He is very passionate about growing all kinds of plants, from delicious fruits and vegetables to rare California native shrubs, all the while enjoying teaching and learning from his surrounding community. When not working in the greenhouse, Andy can be found drinking a lot of coffee, riding his bike, exploring nature, and reading a book.



Shared Garden Program Manager

Rita was born and raised in East Side San Jose and attended Evergreen Valley College before transferring to San Jose State University. Rita is a recent graduate of SJSU, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a minor in Sustainable Water Resource and focus in Agriculture. While attending SJSU, Rita participated in the UC Master Gardener Program, a public service and outreach program under the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, she received her credentials as a Master Gardener by participating with the UC Cooperative Extension program. Rita grew up on her grandparent's farm. She believes that everybody should have access to healthy affordable fresh produce. As the new Home Garden Coordinator, Rita's goal is to help families develop a passion for sustainable urban gardening physically and mentally, and overall help families develop a personal healthy lifestyle. 



Shared Garden Program Coordinator

Marlene is a recent San Jose State University graduate, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a minor in Environmental Restoration. Growing up, Marlene enjoyed visiting her grandparent's farm in Mexico, where they would grow strawberries, corn, tomatoes, and garbanzo beans. She previously worked at a farm where she loved spending time with calves and adorable little chicks. Marlene enjoys working outdoors and feeling the soil in her hands. As a Home Garden Program Coordinator, she is excited to help families develop a healthy lifestyle and love for organic and sustainable gardening. 



Shared Garden Program Coordinator

Nathaleen's experience as a past Home Garden graduate and Second Studios Community Garden Intern has inspired her to continue in Valley Verde’s Mission to foster healthy and sustainable impact in our underserved communities. With a background in education, community outreach, public service and a bachelor’s in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz, she looks forward to connecting with families and helping them develop a deeper understanding of sustainable urban gardening and food sovereignty. Her passion for gardening stemmed from her grandfather’s love for growing organic produce in Mexico for family meals and her father’s indigenous ties to the Earth. 



Shared Garden Program Coordinator

Jennifer grew up in East San Jose with her mother and grandmother. She is currently attending ASU where she is studying Experience strategy and Design. Jennifer enjoys digital art, but understands that life behind the screen can affect your mental health. As a home gardener, she enjoys tending to her indoor and outdoor plants. There is always something to learn from gardening. Jennifer has been gardening since she was young. In elementary school she became involved with the after school gardening program. Some of her fondest memories involve gardening with her father and grandmother. As a Shared Garden Program Coordinator, she hopes to bring these experiences to families and is excited to learn and teach others how they can maintain their own sustainable garden. 


Board of Directors

Jo Lerma-Lopez

Board President - Treasurer

Amalia Carbajal


Raul Lozano

Board member