Meet The Team

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Raul

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.

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Lovepreet

Interim Executive Director

As an Interim Executive Director, Lovepreet is responsible for managing the operational needs of Valley Verde, organizing events, and fundraising. 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, and learning about new vegetables. 

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Darshini

Greenhouse Manager

Darshini comes to Valley Verde with a passion for microgreens and permaculture. 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. 

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Martha

Greenhouse Coordinator

Martha moved to San Jose with her parents t a young age . She arrived when San Jose was known as The Valley of Heart's Delight. During that time there was a high concentration of orchards, flowering trees, and plants and it was the largest fruit-producing and packing region in the world. Martha grew up on her parents' farm near the Evergreen Hills. At the age of 8, Martha worked in the orchards with her father picking plums. Throughout her school years, Martha worked in many farm fields and orchards where she picked limes, chilis and other produce. She witnessed a greater part of history when she visited her mother working at Del Monte cannery. Martha became a certified medical assistant, but her love of farm work pulled her back to working with her father on his farm. To this day Martha helps her father in the farm planting and harvesting zucchini, various chilies, garlic and green onions. 

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Jennifer

Super Jardineros Coordinator

Jennifer Garcia was raised in South San Jose and recently graduated from San Jose State University. Their favorite gardening method is the Three Sisters because they enjoy watching them grow, nourish, and support one another. They began their gardening journey in the beginning of the pandemic when their friend gave them a tomato and jalapeno seedling to grow, from there their love for gardening grew immensely. Even though it was only two plants, they were able to quickly learn what it takes to grow and nurture a plant. It became an amazing experience for them because they were soon able to build a relationship with their neighbors and other community members and help them grow seedlings or provide them with homegrown vegetables. They are passionate to continue learning about different organic gardening methods and how it can be utilized to empower the community. Their interest quickly expanded beyond home gardening, leading them to volunteer at a local urban farm and join an environmental justice fellowship at SJSU. As the Super Jardineros Program Coordinator they hope to help and support their community members through their gardening journey so they can continue to nourish the local community and the seven generations to follow.

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Rita

Shared Garden and Deep Roots 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. 

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Marlene

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. 

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Margarita

Shared Garden Program Coordinator

Margarita is someone who grew up watching Animal Planet and Spongebob, they have their Associates Degree in Business Administration but has always been interested in ecology and how different people have different relationships with the world they live in. Margarita likes to do yoga & dance in their free time and enjoys going to various shows in the bay area. They are an art enthusiast and pride themselves on being friends with a large variety of people and enjoys finding things that bring them together; and food is a big one! They love San Jose and calling this place home.

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Jennifer

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. 

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Board of Directors

Jo Lerma-Lopez

Board President - Treasurer

Amalia Carbajal

Secretary

Raul Lozano

Board member