ALETHEA VASILAS, Co-Founder and Program 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 people. 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.
SUZANNE SCHOENFELD, Executive Director
Suzanne has been a member of our community since the founding of Orkestai Farm in 2014 and is the mother of one of our beloved farmers, Jordan. Suzanne is a (dis)ability advocate, a lover of good food, a holistic mamma, and a thoughtful rebel. She has been studying health and wellness for over 15 years and is a certified holistic health coach.
ERIN STAUB, Co-Founder
Erin comes to this project from a background in visual art, design, and filmmaking. She has spent many years working on farms from Maine to New Mexico and has gained much experience in Biodynamic, Permaculture and Traditional Organic Farming systems. She holds a B.F.A. in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design and has ten years of experience working in independent film. She has worked in children’s autism programs and with the New York Education Project through Johns Hopkins University.
PETER VASILAS, Organic Ag Consultant
Peter is a very social man who speaks with everyone through his plants. When he first started dreaming about becoming a farmer he would ask anyone he met: “Do you have any extra land on which you would like me to cultivate vegetables for you?”. And so he grew friends, and vegetables, and finally Orient Organics Farm, located on the East End of Long Island. When he is not in the field you can find him fishing.
CONNER PANGIA, Farm Manager and Educator
Conner started gardening in his own backyard, finding the transformation of a seed into food mesmerizing! Three years ago, Conner inaugurated his career in agriculture by building and maintaining vegetable gardens for Home Organic Gardening Service (HOGS), and more recently he helped ELIJA Farm run a 75 member CSA that integrates people with developmental disabilities. In addition, Conner founded a small vegetable company, LI Greens, that supplies neighbors, family, and friends. Conner approaches farming with an eagerness to learn, to grow delicious veggies, and to develop meaningful relationships.
Liridona Duraku, Farm Crew and Educator
Liri is a writer, a yoga instructor and farmer. Liri will be bringing her yogic lifestyle to the farm as she practices mindfulness, minimalism and kindness. She is currently studying herbal and energy healing. She hopes to bind art, community and land with her position at Orkestai. When she's not creating movements or planting seeds or storytelling, you can find her frolicking in the woods with her rescue dog Amber.
CARLEEN BRANDON, Farm Crew and Educator
Carleen holds a B.A. in Sustainable Agriculture, with a minor in Writing and a Certificate of Sustainability. She has always had a love for the environment and a passion for caring for others and found that Agriculture was a beautiful way to merge those interests. Carleen spent last season on a 93 acre diversified farm in rural Connecticut, helping to care for livestock and run a 120 member CSA. She is currently studying herbalism as a way to further her knowledge of food as medicine. Carleen hopes to continue her career within agriculture working in projects focusing on community building and improving food access.
BOARD of DIRECTORS
Alethea Vasilas, MA : Co-Founder, 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, M.F.A. : writer, editor, and ecological sustainability consultant
Joan Sommermeyer, M.S. : Labor Relations Specialist, NYSUT