OUR PEOPLE :
ALETHEA VASILAS, Executive Director
Alethea incorporates her background in dance, somatic therapeutic exploration, cultural anthropology, and organic farming into the cultivation of vegetables and new relational kinesthetic possibilities that come about at the interface of agriculture and neurodiversity. She holds a B.A. in Africana Studies from Brown University, an M.A. in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University, and certification in Biodynamics, Permaculture Design, and Developmental Somatic Psychotherapy. She has over twelve years of experience on an organic farm, and 6 years experience working with autistic adults. She was the farm and project manager for SustainAbility Farm, Orkestai’s mentor farm, for the 2013 growing season. She is currently training as a Psychoanalyst at the Institute of Expressive Analysis in Manhattan.
NATASHA PHIEFFER, Farm Manager
Natasha has drawn inspiration from her family's roots in Croatia since she was a child. She visited her family's village nearly every summer, playing in gardens and exploring nature. She soon developed a love for folk arts, gardening and real food. In high school, Natasha attended the Equestrian Science Program through BOCES, which led her to Sterling College for the Draft Horse Program, where she earned a degree in Sustainable Agriculture. Natasha has worked on a diverse array of farms, including a sheep dairy in Croatia, a biodynamic dairy farm in Holland, diversified farms in Serbia and Ireland and an educational farm in Italy. She worked as the sales manager for a wholesale cut flower farm in Vermont and co-managed a vegetable enterprise for the last two years in the Hudson Valley with Aidan.
AIDAN FEENEY, Farm Consultant
Originally hailing from Nantucket Island, Aidan grew up with a strong passion for the outdoors. Upon graduating high school, he worked several years in landscaping and tree service which led him to a fascination with farming. He left Nantucket for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where he received a bachelors degree in agriculture from Sterling College, and most importantly began to learn the craft working with farmers. Aidan has worked in livestock and dairy operations in addition to organic vegetable production. After managing a vegetable enterprise for two years in the Hudson Valley, he moved to Long Island to work as the farm manager at Youngs Farm in Old Brookville, NY.
KAITLYN PAWLUKOJC, Farm Apprenticeship Instructor/Program Coordinator
Kaitlyn has come to farming as a form of service and healing. She returned from the Peace Corps in need of reconnection. Having little experience out of doors, she dug right in! While caring for an elder woman she also spent two mornings a week on a local farm harvesting abundant produce for their CSA and training volunteers who came in curious but not sure if they liked dirt. Two years ago she aided the lovely ladies at Orkestai Farm on CSA days to work with farm apprentices and CSA members alike, harvesting and passing along delicious vegetables. Kaitlyn grows best amongst diverse and supportive communities. She’s glad to be back on the farm helping with programming in 2017.
MAYA HORTON, Farm Apprenticeship Instructor/Assistant Program Coordinator
Maya is a garden educator and visual artist with a BA in Sociology from SUNY Geneseo. She has worked creatively and educationally with individuals of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and abilities for over 8 years. Maya recently completed an art residency at the Stony Point Center in the Hudson Valley, following several years teaching abroad and at a semester school in Northern California’s Sierras, where she developed skills in biointensive farming and assistant taught Farm-to-Table class at a high school level. Maya has always been drawn to working with people in a way that affirms their voice and sense of potential, and gravitates towards points of connection and integration between the arts, sustainability, education, and person-oriented empowerment. She is excited to join the team at Orkestai Farm this summer!
RAISSA BAKALIS, Development & Community Volunteer
Raïssa joined Orkestai Farm during its inaugural season in 2014 as a CSA member. She has since become more involved in assisting with various aspects of Orkestai Farm, with the goal of long-term sustainability via a deep-rooted and expansive community - from local families & schools, to organizations, institutions and businesses. A graduate of Hunter College of the City University of New York and Fiorello H. LaGuardia H.S. of Music & Art (the “Fame” school), Raïssa is a former Van Lier Fellow at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and brings with her diverse experiences from grassroots community organizing, non-profits (local and global), the small business sector, the corporate sector, the visual arts, and child development. Raïssa’s tapestry of experience is also woven from her personal background - she is a native of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and grew-up in the Bronx, NYC. Raissa enjoys quality time at Orkestai Farm with her veggie-loving family.
BOARD of DIRECTORS
Alethea Vasilas, MA : Executive Director, Orkestai Farm
Patti Edwards, M.Ed. Special Ed/Counseling Ed : Transition Coordinator, The Brookville Center for Children's Services
Abby Gerdts : Co-founder and former Program Director of ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty)
Joshua Marcus, MFA : writer, editor, and ecological sustainability consultant
FRIENDS OF ORKESTAI FARM :
- United We Om
- HorseAbility : Center for Equine Facilitated Programs
- Sylvestor Manor Educational Farm
- SustainAbility Farm
- Peconic Land Trust
- The Planting Fields Arboretum
- Long Island Community Agriculture Network (LICAN)
- Fox Hollow Farm
- Orient Organics Farm
- ASTEP : Artists Striving to End Poverty
- North Shore Land Alliance