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Our Team

Paula Sirola, Executive Director

Paula, whose garden name is Ms. Peppermint, is experienced in organizing communities, developing programs, and building grassroots organizations in Los Angeles and Latin America.  Her work revolves around helping people build community and access healthy foods, be it through street vendors, community and school gardens, or community-based agricultural projects.  Paula is a UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and has a M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA, where she also did her doctoral research. Contact: pmsirola@gmail.com

Marianne Brown, Principal Investigator - Growing Food Literacy

Marianne Brown, also known as Ms. Marigold, grew up in a small farming community in Northern California.  Since high school she has been interested in how people learn. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Developmental Psychology, a K-8 teaching credential and a Master’s Degree in Public Health Education from UC Berkeley, Ms. Brown taught in UCLA’s School of Public Health for 20 years.  Upon retirement, she became a Master Gardener through UC Cooperative Extension in 2005 and has been connecting California’s academic standards to outdoor education at Venice High, Walgrove Elementary and Mark Twain Middle School since then. Contact: marianne.p.brown@gmail.com.

Patty Kestin, Executive Board Member

Patty Kestin, or Ms. Poblano, is a UC-CE Master Gardener and a School Garden Educator connecting food and the natural world with academic curriculum, healthy communities and experiential learning at Mark Twain since 2010.  She has over 25 years experience as a community volunteer, activist and fundraiser working to secure equal access to health, education, food and the courts for low-income individuals and families in Los Angeles.  Patty holds an M.B.A. from U.S.C. a J.D. from New York Law and has worked as a volunteer attorney, Vice-President and Director of the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law for 10 years and with the Saban Free Clinic.  She is a member of the LA Food Policy Committee, the Venice School Green Team, former board member of The Seed Saving Library of LA (SLOLA), and a founding member of Slow Money.  Contact: patty@seedstoplate.net.

Matt van diepen, Garden Coordinator

Matt Van Diepen is an urban farmer entrepreneur who has been interested in sustainable agriculture since attending California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and studying the many ills that plague our food system. Matt has been committed to sustainable growing practices ever since and started his own edible landscaping services, Home Grown Gardens, in Venice in 2011. He works with nonprofit organizations like the Seed Library of Los Angeles, The Gjelina Foundation, Community Healing Gardens, and Mark Twain Middle School to cultivate urban agriculture, school gardens, and healthy communities in Los Angeles. On his off time, you can find Matt surfing, biking or playing paddle tennis around Venice. Contact: homegrowngardensla@gmail.com.

Renee Meshul, Treasurer

Renee Meshul, also known as Ms. Raspberry, has been a garden educator at Mark Twain Middle School since 2010. Before coming to Mark Twain, she spent 25 years as a child development specialist working with high risk populations and 25 years running her own successful land use consulting business.  She has a MEd in Counseling Psychology and became a Master Gardner in the UC Cooperative Extension Program in 2013. Contact: renee@seedstoplate.net.

Caryssa Lim, Global Food Initiative Fellow

Caryssa Lim, also known as Ms. Clementine, is a Master of Public Health student at UCLA, studying Community Health Sciences. Caryssa is largely interested in the power of school and community gardens to improve physical, nutritional, social, and emotional wellbeing of students. Before beginning her graduate program, she graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences and Human Rights from the University of Chicago where she worked with Chicago Public School students on a pipeline program that encouraged careers in STEM and the health professions. When she is not at the garden, she enjoys taking care of her houseplants, eating picnic lunches at the Getty museum, and walking around UCLA's botanical garden. Contact: cnlim@ucla.edu.


[At Seeds to Plate], students are supported by a caring group of individuals who have made a commitment to their overall well-being, something our kids can never get enough of.
— Kerry Olinger, Special Education Teacher