Our Team

Richard D. Garcia

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER

Richard's passion to grow food comes from a long-line of Filipino farmers.  A Los Angeles native, Richard lives to see that no life or land is wasted in the City of Angels.  Richard studied at St. John’s Seminary College and has extensive experience in pastoral ministry inside juvenile halls and prisons.  As a pastoral minister, youth advocate, and urban farmer, Richard knows how growing food is a transformative way of bringing people together.  Since completing an M.A.in Pastoral Theology at Loyola Marymount University, Richard incorporates principles of restorative justice into urban farming. 

 

Before launching Alma Backyard Farms, Richard initiated garden programs for schools and restaurants.  Richard trains our urban farmers to create beautiful landscapes, install raised beds, and grow food.  As a skilled craftsman, Richard builds innovative outdoor structures that encourage outdoor living.

Erika L. Cuellar

OPERATIONS DIRECTOR & CO-FOUNDER

An LA native and first generation Mexican-American growing up in Watts, Erika witnessed how her community has been fraught with challenges in education and food insecurity.  Undeterred by these challenges, Erika pursued a degree in Education at Loyola Marymount University.  Erika applied her studies to empower previously incarcerated women and men at Homegirl Cafe, a division of Homeboy Industries.  Her years of social enterprise management ensures the integrity of Alma Backyard Farms' mission and its financial viability. 

 

Erika's talent for landscape design was further advanced through her Landscape Architecture studies at UCLA's Extension and through her work as Project Manager for a top-rated outdoor living company.  Erika's passionate about teaching families and children how to grow and cook culturally-relevant and flavorful meals.

Jon Garcia

URBAN FARM TECHNICIAN

From an early age, Jon enjoyed getting his hands in the dirt and growing plants.  Working side-by-side with his dad as a jardinero, Jon got to know Los Angeles through a different lens. Jon has a background in architecture and landscape design. Since joining the Alma team, Jon is responsible for assisting all areas of production from seed to distribution.  In his free time, Jon enjoys climbing, cooking, and drawing. Jon also looks after Zinnia, our farm cat in Compton. 

Mia Aguilar

COMMUNITY EDUCATOR

Mia embraced the world of good food while growing up near the heart of California’s farmland.  Mia finds joy in transforming people’s relationship with food.  She has seen how good food is key to strong and healthy communities.  Mia has credentials in General and Special Education and a Master’s in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University.  Currently, Mia is continuing her culinary studies at the New School of Cooking.  Since joining the Alma team, Mia has been instrumental in our Youth Program where she facilitates hands-on culinary and garden lessons.  In her free time, Mia enjoys cooking, baking and the outdoors. 

Judy Kirshner

COMMUNITY EDUCATOR

Judy’s deep love for community, food and gardening is marked by her commitment to educate and inspire others to lead a healthy lifestyle.  She’s helped heal people in her capacity as a Registered Nurse.  With a Master’s in Education and certification as a UC Master Gardener, Judy offers our program participants a holistic learning experience in urban agriculture, horticulture and botany.  In her free time, Judy enjoys cooking, time in her garden, and spending time with her grandkids.

Social Enterprise Team

Board of Directors

Mary Ellen O’Driscoll, Board President 

Founder & Principal Associate 

MEOD Consulting 

 

Violeta Cristobal, Treasurer 

Founder & President

Cristobal & Company, CPAS

 

James Becerra, Secretary 

Faculty  

Department of Landscape Architecture, 

Cal Poly Pomona

Erika L. Cuellar

Co-founder & Operations Director

Alma Backyard Farms

Richard D. Garcia

Co-founder & Executive Director

Alma Backyard Farms

Nora Gilbert

Director of Strategic Projects & Partnerships

Represent.Us

References

Mike Davitt 

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Robert Foster

Loyola High School Board Member

 

Don Swartz

Quest Property Corporation 

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