Board

Our Board Members are the driving force behind our long-range planning and roots in the community.

Cultivate Charlottesville BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Karen Waters, Board Co-Chair and Secretary, has strong roots in Charlottesville’s urban agriculture as the executive director of Quality Community Council when Urban Agriculture Collective was launched. Karen graduated from the Sorenson Institute for Political Leadership and was former chair of the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee. Karen currently serves as the Albemarle County Public Schools Community Education Coordinator.

Matt Darring, Board Co-Chair and Treasurer, grew up in Mobile, Alabama. He fell in love with gardening during a high school field trip to Monticello in the early 1990s. A dozen years later he moved to Charlottesville with his wife Jodi. In December 2012 he started as the garden coordinator at Burnley-Moran Elementary and continued to develop the garden program there for five years. Environmental stewardship, garden-based education, self-reliance, racial equity, and food justice are deep-seeded values and beliefs for Matt, and Cultivate helps him act on those values and beliefs. Cultivate is a family affair for Matt. His wife was a Harvest of the Month volunteer for several years. His daughter and son have both benefited from garden-based education throughout elementary, middle, and high school.

Bianca Johnson, is the Family Engagement Coordinator for Charlottesville City Schools and connected with Cultivate Charlottesville during the initial year of COVID when students were learning from home. Cultivate collaborated with Bianca to ensure that students continued to receive meals during times when school was closed.

Jessica Carter, is the founder of Her Sports which stands for ‘Hustle to Earn Respect’ and provides a unique holistic experience to young girls by empowering, engaging, and educating positive youth development through sports. Jessica has strong roots in Charlottesville and came up through the Charlottesville City Schools as a basketball stand out and coach.

Erica Gaines is a Charlottesville native. Her heart is with the Charlottesville community, and she loves helping others.  Her desire to make an impact in her community is deeply rooted in her work.  Erica received her Bachelors of Business Administration from Strayer University and currently serves as the Community Engagement and Inclusion Strategist for ReadyKids. She brings multiple perspectives and skills to the board; such as child health and nutrition, finance and equity. Erica is honored to be a part of something so remarkable.

Jeffrey Gander was born in Tampa, Florida while his father was in the Air Force but he grew up in New Jersey. Dr. Gander graduated medical school from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 2005 and completed a general surgery residency and pediatric surgery fellowship at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. Jeffrey has been a faculty member in the Division of Pediatric Surgery at UVA Children’s hospital since 2014. Jeffrey is passionate about childhood wellbeing and improving access to healthy fresh food.

Julia Prince, Philanthropy Committee Chair, is the Director of Strategy & Operations at The Ivy Group, a full-service marketing agency and public library consultancy based in Charlottesville. In this role, she leads the agency, conducts community needs assessments, and develops communications strategies for a variety of clients in the public and private sectors. Julia served on the Board of the Central Virginia chapter of the American Marketing Association for five years, including two years as President. A self-proclaimed local foodie, Julia is obsessed with all things delicious and nutritious, and hopes to focus that passion through a food equity lens as part of Cultivate Charlottesville.

Daisa Granger Pascall, Governance Committee Chair, is a Charlottesville Native, whom graduated from Monticello High School in 2008. In 2012 she returned home from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, with a Bachelors of Art in Studio Art. Daisa was grateful to be part of the amazing team at Clark Elementary as the Afterschool Site Director for the past five years. During that time she designed multiple clubs, utilizing partnerships with several outside organizations. One of these resulted in the Gardening Club, which was supported through Cultivate. In August of 2019 Daisa started her new career as an art teacher in Albemarle County Schools. She is also the owner of We Grow – an amazing plant and flower shop. Daisa is very passionate about her community and the people who are part of it.

Taha Suhrawardy, grew up a little bit all over the place but mostly calls himself a Michigander. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and a Masters of Architecture at the University of Virginia. Taha understands architecture holistically as something in harmony with site, landscape, and culture, including regarding issues of injustice and inequity through design. Since coming to Charlottesville, Taha and his family have fallen in love with the city.