Meet Our Team
Guidance, Inspiration & Support
Latashia is a loving mother and nurturing grandmother. She was born in Jacksonville, Florida, but she spent most of her formative years in Gainesville, Florida. Latashia is currently the Executive Director of the Florida Council, Inc. an arm of the National Council for Incarcerated & Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls, Inc. She is also a Production Assistant for Brooke Brimm Retreats and Culture Advertising & Design. Latashia’s research on food insecurities in Alachua County and her passion for healing communities by addressing individual and community needs has led her to become a part of the Grace Grows Community Food Project in uniting communities with resources and developing progressive community-led programs. Latashia spends time working on two manuscripts about traumatic life experiences and the journey to healing through self-love. Latashia believes in creating change by giving back and being active within the community.
Isana Singh is a student at the University of Florida where she studies Economics and Women’s Studies. Her strong energy for social sector consulting has manifested itself through pro-bono consulting work within the Gainesville community. She has collaborated with several startups and non-profits to reduce social inequities, using skills such as fundraising development, digital marketing, organizational restructuring, and market research. At the University of Florida, Isana is the President of the Undergraduate Consulting Club where she fosters professional success through providing members with industry insights, alongside opportunities to engage with consulting firms and the local community.
Helen Strain is a native Floridian born in Gainesville who has worked in progressive organizations and politics for over 30 years. She has worked for Planned Parenthood, Bernie Sanders for President, Democracy for America, the South Carolina and Alaska Democratic Party, and the House Victory organization in Florida. She has been involved in homeless issues and has served as the Program Manager for Dignity Village and the Community Engagement Director for Grace Marketplace. Through this work she helped implement the Horticultural Program at Grace Grows. As a former 4Her, she is committed to working the land for the benefit of all its inhabitants. She has served as Vice Chair of Florida Democratic Party, a DNC member, a Chair and State Committeewoman of Alachua County Democratic Party, a board member of PP of North Central Florida, North Florida Aids Network, SPARC Domestic Violence Network, Children’s Miracle Network, Human Rights Council of North Florida, Southwest Advocacy Group, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Grace Grows Board of Directors and Stonewall Democrats.
Omar Hernandez is an international development professional with 8 years of experience in program and project management. He previously worked in agricultural research for development at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and conservation and development through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Mexico. He currently works in a project within the University of Florida/USAID Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. He brings knowledge, skills, and insights of organizational and program administration, resource mobilization and partnerships, and monitoring and evaluation. He is currently a Graduate student in the Master of Sustainable Development Practice Program at UF with training in nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship. Omar is excited to share Grace Grows values and perspectives on social justice and change and hopes to see it consolidating as a pillar for community access to food and nutrition.
He is the President of the Strong Roots Movement student group at UF which seeks to leverage community drive and expertise to support local efforts in Gainesville to achieve just, sustainable, and nutritious community food systems. He loves getting to know Gainesville with his wife.
Karissa Raskin is an experienced community-development practitioner who employs models of collective capacity building, strategic planning, community based participatory action research and engagement, and coalition building to help develop and facilitate collaboration around innovative projects. She specializes in fostering partnerships between diverse stakeholder groups (i.e. University faculty, students, local NGOs, city and county officials, state agencies, and local residents) to improve efficiency and effectiveness of community-based initiatives via collaboration, with emphasis on achieving mutual benefit, reciprocity, and sustainable impacts for all stakeholders involved. Karissa has a demonstrated history of facilitating public-private partnerships whereby stakeholders of different backgrounds and different positions of power are engaged in co-designing innovative solutions to address community needs in a manner that aligns with institutional priorities. This includes her leadership in the Partnership of Reimagining Gainesville, the Food Systems Coalition of Greater Gainesville, Neighborhood Revitalization Coalition, and other projects / programs focused on local food systems, public health, environmental sustainability, and economic development. Karissa was a team member involved in the Grace Grows Community Food Project and supported the development of the G.R.A.C.E. Community Engagement Toolkit. She currently works as the Manager of Systems Change and Special Projects at the City of Gainesville.
Community Engagement Adviser
Dr. Amanda Hodges
Plant Science and Program Adviser
As someone who has experienced homelessness and worked for a local nonprofit, the Gainesville Community Ministry, Anna Hammock has a valuable perspective to offer the team. She has spent over a year volunteering for Grace Grows offering her insights at an executive level. Anna also has participated in the Horticulture Training Program at GRACE Marketplace when she was experiencing homelessness. She has helped Grace Grows to conceptualize the community engagement model that is essential to remaining true to Grace Grows' vision to be a resource for empowerment.
Dr. Amanda Hodges has served as the director of the interdisciplinary Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) program since 2012, and has been an extension entomologist with the University of Florida since 2003. Amanda has been involved with Grace Grows since 2018, and she coordinates DPM student instruction for the horticulture vocational course. Amanda brings years of extension, classroom, and agricultural experiences to the continued educational development of the Grace Grows horticulture vocational course. Students learn by teaching and serving-this is a philosophy that Amanda has integrated into the DPM Program learning culture. Grace Grows is a very important service learning partnership with the UF/IFAS DPM Program.
Roselind Brown, or better known as Rosey, is an avid backyard gardener. Serving as a certified health education specialist and certified wellness coach for the University of Florida, Roselind brings awareness to healthy lifestyles. Committed to service as a previous AmeriCorps member and Peace Corps Volunteer, Roselind was a recipient of the Peace Corps Coverdell Fellowship in Community Economic Development. She strives to enhance communities through volunteerism and service. Roselind can often be found in her free time in the garden, at the beach, or biking the Hawthorne Trail.
A pioneer, visionary, and expert in organic agriculture and food systems, Marty Mesh has decades of experience with organic production, beginning in 1972 when he started growing organically. He co-founded Florida Certified Organic Growers & Consumers, Inc ( FOG) and Quality Certification Services in Gainesville, Florida and served as its Executive Director for over 30 years. In 2004, Marty was named one of the twenty “Most Influential People Developing the Organic Industry” and in 2014 the Organic Trade Association awarded him the “Growing the Organic Industry” Award. Whether working in conjunction with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), food safety education projects with FDA, NSAC and SSAWG, Farm Aid, his local Food Systems Coalition, other non-profit organizations, or individual farmers or groups--and now, Grace Grows--he brings his experience, passion and sense of humor to the effort.
A keen-eyed listener & media maker, Shelley Rogers has focused her work on amplifying the voices of food system stakeholders. For the past decade, she has served as the lead creative partner with several non-profit collaborators on initiatives and projects that aim to humanize issues so that sharing knowledge can open pathways for understanding and collective action. Shelley started her career with the feature documentary, What’s Organic About Organic?, a film that delves into the debates that arise when a grassroots agricultural movement evolves into a booming international market and is also the creator of two video series called Organic Certification Made Simple that demystify the organic certification process, funded by USDA’s National Organic Program and Risk Management Agency. In Bite by Bite, viewers get a step-by-step overview of organic production requirements and the process of organic certification, while Chewin’ the Fat of Recordkeeping highlights the tried & true practices of organic businesses—growers, handlers, processors and restaurants—and how they maintain their organic integrity either using the latest technology or just plain old pen and paper. Her interests have now shifted with how she serves Grace Grows--community development finance and development strategy for non-profit organizations.
Founder and Executive Director
In 2015, after working in retail horticulture and as agricultural biotech researcher and business person for over a decade Abigail began volunteering in her spare time at GRACE Marketplace, Gainesville's shelter and housing services center for people experiencing homelessness. Inspired by her own life experiences and by the humanity and resilience of people in similar circumstances, Abigail realized that being at GRACE was more rewarding than any other work she had done before and that she could use her expertise with startups and agriculture to benefit people who needed resources the most. So she transitioned to the nonprofit world starting Grace Grows and also working as the Assistant Director of Community Engagement for GRACE Marketplace. At GRACE Marketplace she coordinates service providers, volunteers, projects, and collaborations that galvanize the community to help our most vulnerable citizens in the most respectful ways possible. She is a horticulturist and humanist by heart which means that no matter where she is, she loves to help things grow. She takes what she has learned from all the different hat's she's worn to help empower the people Grace Grows serves through the medium of food and horiticulture.