Our Team The Top Leaf Farms team and community consists of an amazing group of farmers, food activists and visionary thinkers. We have formed an amazing advisory board to help guide our projects. Their vast knowledge an expertise will allow us to build and grow in a way that is economically, ecologically and socially just. We will be focussing locally yet plan to contribute to the worldwide food movement.
Top Leaf Farms is gearing up for 2016 with a number of amazing projects getting off the ground. We are currently building a larger team and are looking to fill a number of positions. If you are interested in working with us, check out our job descriptions.
Top Leaf Crew
Benjamin Fahrer - Co-Owner- Principle Designer and Farm Manager An ecological designer, educator, land consultant, natural builder and foremost an organic farmer, Benjamin has spent the past 18 years working to create alternative models of food production that work in collaboration with the surrounding environment. Benjamin started farming in 1998 at James Creek Farm in Carmel Valley, a farm growing exclusively for Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. He went on to steward homesteads in Carmel Valley and Big Sur and spent 5 years managing and operating a 5 acre CCOF farm at Oceansong in West Sonoma County while also working at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. Becoming more knowledgeable in agroforestry, broadacre Permaculture design and animal management. For 6 years he lived in a home he built, worked with bees, chickens and goats in a integrated land management plan for sustainable self reliance. In 2007 he moved back to Big Sur and starting leading seminars at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur and later became the garden supervisor aand then the farm supervisor. While at Esalen he led a 2 month residential program in Permaculture Design for 5 years in which over 100 participants were trained in permaculture design and community living. In 2006 and 2008, he was delegate at the Slow Food gathering Terra Madre in Italy and believes strongly in the ethics of good, clean and fair food. Benjamin has now been transplanted into the Urban setting and is excited to design and develop integrated systems that produce food and grow seeds, soil and starts specific for the urban climate. He lives in the Eastbay with his wife and 3 year son.
Ralph Ryan Duncans -Production and lead farm crew BIO to come - We are stoked to hire on Ryan as apart of our 2017 farming crew, his abilities and nature in cultivating food is an incredible asset to the Top Leaf Team!
Esperanza Pallana As former Council Director of Oakland Food Policy Council, Esperanza has been helping shape the food justice movement across the country to transform urban food systems, through local, regional and state policy. In her role at OFPC, Esperanza worked on policies that impact urban agriculture, land access and low capital start ups, healthy school meals and food justice. She currently works in deep collaboration with stakeholders across sectors and ensures community voice is an active part of policy development. Esperanza brings a focus in environmental health and social justice to her leadership.
Michael Ableman: is a farmer, author, and photographer. He is the founder and executive director emeritus of The Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, a non-profit organization based on the one of the oldest and most diverse organic farms in southern California where he farmed from 1981 -2001. He is the author and photographer of From the Good Earth; A celebration of growing food around the world (Abrams, 1993), On Good Land: The autobiography of an urban farm (Chronicle Books, 1998), and Fields of Plenty: A farmer’s journey in search of real food and the people who grow it (Chronicle Books 2005). Ableman is the subject of the award winning PBS film Beyond Organic narrated by Meryl Streep. Ableman lives and farms at the historic 120 acre Foxglove Farm where he also directs the Center For Arts, Ecology, and Agriculture. Michael’s vast knowledge in production models and product development will help with our start-up and efficiencies.
Antonio Roman-Alcala: Antonio is a dedicated student and teacher of urban sustainability, working primarily in agriculture, food systems, and social justice-driven community organizing. His knowledge bridges the practical and theoretical, stemming from his hands-on experience designing and managing multiple urban farms and advocacy organizations, and earning degrees with highest honors in urban and agricultural sustainability from University of California, Berkeley (BA, 2012) and the International Institute of Social Studies (MA, 2014). He is a Permaculture-certified designer and educator, and has designed and taught environmental education programming for youth and adults in various contexts, including college campuses.
Antonio has managed many types of projects, including publications, documentary films, urban farms, public space design processes, and community organizing campaigns. He co-founded Alemany Farm and the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance, directed the documentary film “In Search of Good Food”, and helped to form the California Food Policy Council. His research, advocacy, and journalism has been published in print, online, and in peer-reviewed academic journals, showcasing his interest in having science reach a wide audience. Antonio’s expertise in sustainability, environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, citizen science, and innovative pedagogy is steeped in his many years of hands-on action, school-based learning, and collaborative, people-powered projects.
Ken Dickerson: Ken first became involved with the Ecological Farming Association nearly twenty years ago as a volunteer for the EcoFarm Conference. This led to participation on the Conference Planning Committee, staff, and the Board of Directors. Ken worked for ten years as a high school ecological agriculture instructor in Santa Cruz County bringing EcoFarm to school with a garden, greenhouse and culinary program. Ken now serves as the Executive Director, working with the association to continue to realize a healthy, safe and socially just food and farming system. Ken is advising specifically on educational and economic models
Rupa Marya - Rupa's passion and purpose on this earth is to learn from humanity and advocate for humanism. This is reflected in her music, her work as physician and teacher at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center where she is professor of Internal Medicine, as well as her role as social activator--empowering herself and those around her to recognize and respond to inequality and harm with critical thought, courage, compassion and intelligence. The daughter of Punjabi immigrants, she was raised between the San Francisco Bay Area, France and India, learning at an early age that the sound of the streets was where her heart found its home--not only in its inherent musicality, but in the force of music as a public mode of transmission, inspiration, bridge-building and engagement beyond commercial enterprise.Her work has been celebrated at home with a Mastermind Grant in 2006. In 2009, she received a major award from the San Francisco Arts Commission for the project ¡Catapulta!, a multi-disciplinary performance documenting the struggles and celebrating the courage of those making global migrations in search of work, which Rupa directed, composed for and performed. This effort was coordinated with local outreach by PODER (People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights) and UCSF to undocumented people in San Francisco's Mission District, in order to inform them where they could access free or low cost health care, without fear of being deported. In 2010, Rupa did an artist residency at the art space EDELO in Chiapas, Mexico where she collaborated with local musicians, activists and artists, as well as indigenous Tzotzil children to further examine the importance of making invisible ones seen and heard.
Don Tipping has been offering hands on, practical workshops since 1997 at Seven Seeds Farm (Sevenseedsfarm.com) in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwest Oregon. Situated at 2,000’ (~600 m) elevation with rushing spring-fed creeks flowing through the land and nestled among old growth forests, Seven Seeds is one of the best examples of small productive biodynamic and permaculture farms in the Northwest, Through Seven Seeds and other initiatives, Don helps people build sustainable life skills such as permaculture, biodynamics, organic gardening, eco-forestry, seed saving, and other traditional arts that help to build regenerative culture. He has co-taught with many respected people in both the seed and permaculture movements, including Tom Ward, Larry Korn, Michael “Skeeter” Pilarski, Bill McDorman, Dennis Martinez, John Navazio, Andrew Millison, Frank Morton, Harald Hoven, Jude Hobbs, Becky Bee, Rowen White, and more. He serves on the board of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance and is a regular contributor to the Oregon State University Small Farms educational programs. Don is regularly sought out as a teacher, collaborator, and consultant in the Pacific Northwest. Siskiyou Seeds is a Bioreginal organic seed company providing open pollinated vegetable, flower and herb seed grown at Seven Seeds Farm and 15 other organic farms throughout the Cascadia bioregion. Don is a charter member of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) www.osseeds.org that supports the growing, breeding and exchange of non-patented, open pollinated seeds.