Staff & Board

Sara Katz

Executive Director

Sara has worked in the food and agriculture space since 2005 in both the Hudson Valley and throughout NYC. Her work has been focused on helping communities build self-reliance through food and farm access, education and training. Sara is passionate about collaborating with farmers, farmworkers and values-aligned organizations to build a stronger, more equitable regional food system. Sara has years of experience developing training programs at organizations such as the Hudson Valley Farm Hub and The New York Botanical Garden. She is a wife and mother of two young children, all of whom love to be outdoors growing food and building reciprocity for all that nature gives us. As a child, Sara also grew up playing in an old farmhouse and garden in Chester, NY, where her grandparents and mother are from.

Maria Caicedo

Community Relations & Farm Store Manager

Maria is Ecuadorian by birth, New Yorker by migration, and a new transplant to the mid-Hudson valley region. A bilingual childhood educator by training, Maria’s interest in food, soil and plants grew as she taught in a variety of community settings and outdoor classrooms in NYC. Committed to reconnecting people to nature, Maria is always in search of opportunities to grow her love for the land and share it with others. She keeps a community garden plot near her home in Highland.

Over the last 5 years, Maria’s practice and on-the-job learning has allowed her to support NYC public schools with starting their own gardens, work with NYC youth in urban ag and food justice projects, run an outdoor culinary education program for Bronx families, and participate in food systems work at the city level.

Maria’s work is very personal too. As the daughter of a former sharecropper, Maria aligns herself with the plight of peasant farm workers, and black, brown and indigenous farmers all over the world, but especially the Hudson Valley region, where she now calls home. She envisions a future where harms are repaired, colonial mindset extinguished, and radical care is everyone’s modus operandi.

Dave Stoddard

Farm & Property Manager

Dave comes to the Chester Ag Center having lived in Chester for most of his life. As a teenager, Dave worked with previous owners of these farmlands and is a skilled tractor operator. Before joining the Chester Ag Center, Dave worked for 30+ years for the Town of Chester’s Department of Public Works. He supervises and maintains the Cromline Creek pump which is critical to our farmers’ drainage and irrigation efforts. Dave also maintains all of our fields, cover crops, looks after our farming infrastructure, as well as supports farmers in their day-to-day operations.

Bea Stern

President, Ralph E. Ogden Foundation

For the last ten years, Beatrice Stern has served as President of the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, Inc., a family foundation located in Mountainville, NY. Her work at the Foundation has led her to become deeply involved in issues related to farmland preservation and food justice. Prior to taking on her position at the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, she was a full-time partner in Dillon & Stern, Architects and URBIO, S.A., architecture and planning firms in New York State and Panama. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College and a Masters of Architecture from Rice University. She serves on the Board of Trustees of both Storm King Art Center and Black Rock Forest, both located in Cornwall, New York.

Karen Washington

Co-Owner, Rise & Root Farm

Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life, and has spent decades promoting urban farming as a way for all New Yorkers to access fresh, locally grown food. Karen has been a resident of the Bronx for over 26 years, although in 2015 she began living part time in Orange County, NY near the farm. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. As an advocate, she stood up and spoke out for garden protection and preservation. As a member of the La Familia Verde Community Garden Coalition, she helped launch a City Farms Market, bringing garden fresh vegetables to her neighbors. She also co-founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS), an organization of volunteers committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings. In 2012 Ebony magazine voted her one of their 100 most influential African Americans in the country, and in 2014 she was awarded with the James Beard Leadership Award.
“To grow your own food gives you power and dignity. You know exactly what you’re eating because you grew it. It’s good, it’s nourishing and you did this for yourself, your family and your community.” Karen Washington

Dr. Gabriela Pereyra

Co-Director Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, formerly at GrowNYC

Dr. Gabriela Pereyra is the Co-Director of NEFOC, a hybrid model land trust, bringing together a community land trust model and a conservation land trust model to reimagine land access as well as conservation and stewardship of communities and ecosystems with the goal of manifesting a community vision that uplifts global Indigenous, Black, and POC relationships with land, skills, and lifeways. Previously, Dr. Pereyra oversaw GrowNYC’s Beginning Farmer Program. In her role, she regularly assisted BIPOC farmers with land access opportunities and business creation. Dr. Pereyra is a guest facilitator at Soul Fire Farm’s BIPOC Farmer in Relationship with Earth training, as well as a Spanish-language trainer of agroecology production principles for farmworkers at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub. In the last two years, she has assisted directly in the creation of 16 farm businesses.

As a Venezuelan immigrant, Dr. Pereyra is uniquely attuned to the needs of immigrant audiences. Before joining GrowNYC in 2017 she held a job at the Synergos Institute supporting agricultural development programs in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Mexico. In 2017 she managed three Greenmarket farmers markets that predominantly served Latinx immigrant farmers and Latinx neighborhoods. Dr. Pereyra holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Central University of Venezuela, a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Hohenheim (Germany), and a Doctorate in Geosciences from Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (Germany).

Jim Delaune

Jim is currently in his second term of the Ulster County Legislature where he represent District 17 – Town of New Paltz and a portion of Esopus. Jim is the Chair of Legislative Programs, Education and Community Services Committee.  This committee sets policy and reviews contracts pertaining and related to: Arts, Ulster County Community College, Historian, Libraries, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Community Action, Office for the Aging, Youth Bureau, and Veterans Affairs. Jim is also a member of the Economic Development, Tourism, Housing, Planning & Transit Committee, which sets legislative policy and reviews contracts for all aspects of Economic Development, Tourism, and Planning. Jim also sits on the board of the Ulster County Trails Committee and Ulster County Soil and Water.

Jim has resided in New Paltz since 1987 where he lives with his wife Sophie.  He has served on the New Paltz Clean Water and Open Space Protection Committee in addition to having served as its chair.  During his tenure as chair, the Palmateer Farm was permanently protected with a conservation easement. Jim served on the Village of New Paltz’s Revolving Loan committee and is currently the Treasurer for the Millbrook Preserve.

After twenty years of employment as the Executive Director of the Community and Economic Development Office for the City of Newburgh, Jim retired from the position in 2000.  For the last 13 years, he have held the position of Executive Director of the Orange County Land Trust, a county wide land conservation organization.  As executive director, he has led the land trust’s efforts to protect close to 6,000 acres of agricultural lands and critical habitat.  Current efforts by the land trust are focusing on protecting drinking watersheds for the Cities of Newburgh and Port Jervis.

Jim is a member of Orange County’s Agricultural Implementation Committee and an advisor to The Newburgh Urban Farm and Food Initiative (NUFFI), an active network of local residents and community organizations who take ownership of their neighborhoods by installing and caring for neighborhood community gardens.