Meet The Board

Julie Rappaport

Founder, Treasurer

In 2013, Julie obtained certification in Permaculture Urban Farming, Permaculture Design, Community Garden Leadership, Caring Economy Leadership, as well as Food Safety Management and as an Emergency Responder.


Julie has always advocated for justice, since a young age. Having lived on both extremes of the poverty line, she made an oath to herself to help others experiencing food insecurity and economic challenges. Healthful food and chronic food-related diseases are interlinked not only with a child's ability to achieve, but anyone's ability to think clearly and act strongly.

Food growing during wars was done by every school and household to ensure children and households had enough to eat. Food skills in preserving a harvest are lost to our current generations, but if and when disaster hits, growing your own food will be a source of nourishment for the body, mind and spirit. 

Gardening connects us to nature and allows time for our minds to weed out what's unnecessary as our hands weed the garden.


Julie is also a parent, author, yoga teacher and bodyworker, business woman, and creative director for film and stage.

Leah Sheehy


Ariel Steinman


Ariel Steinman started as an apprentice with SLP SEEDS in 2015 after spending 2 years landscaping. She then spent 2 years in Senegal, West Africa as an agroforestry extension agent with the Peace Corps. After returning she spent 6 weeks on a permaculture biodynamic farm in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. She worked at a garden center and farm in 2018 and is now the Operations Director for SLP SEEDS. In 2019 she participated in the 7-month Camp Beez Kneez, and hopes to bring this new passion to SLP SEEDS in the near future.

 She is fluent in Spanish and Wolof, and has volunteered with other non-profits in Minneapolis. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a double major in Global Studies and Spanish Studies, and a minor in Sustainability Studies. Ariel has always been passionate about gardening, cooking and the environment. She believes that we can give more than we take from mother earth, and that we are never done learning.

Leah is a St Louis Park Resident and mother of 5.  Her youngest is an 8th grader at SLP Middle School.  She has a child with a disability and has fought hard for many years for educational, physical, social, and mental health for ALL children and families.  


She was volunteer of the year for SLP Seeds in 2018 and recently attended the 2 day Schoolyard Garden Conference at the MN Landscape Arboretum and took the Intro to Permaculture course which summed up her life-long beliefs & ethics of:  The need for regenerative earth care, People care, Fair share (good for ALL), and Future care!


She has worked for many years as a legal assistant both in the public sector (Henn Co Public Defender) and the private sector (General Mills).  She has a degree from the University of MN College of Liberal Arts in Italian Literature and is fluent in Italian.  She has experience teaching and working with young people and adults, teaching Italian for Community Education and as head gymnastics coach at Washburn high school and Minneapolis Parks.


During the days of the NRP, Neighborhood Revitalization Program, she was a member of the St Anthony East (NE Mpls) neighborhood board.  She got to use her enthusiasm for community and environmental activism in many ways, including, helping to create community food gardens, boulevard flower gardens, housing, and other various community projects.


Leah enjoys spending time in her garden, eating healthy, exercising, reading, and attending her children’s sporting and musical events.

Sharon Lehrman

Sharon Lehrman, MPH, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian nutritionist with over 35 years of experience working with individuals, companies, and institutions to improve their health and longevity through optimal nutrition. She owns a private practice and food consulting business in St. Louis Park and is the past President of the Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Sharon loves to help people make small changes over time that add up to big gains in their health. She loves spending time playing in the dirt in her vegetable garden, cooking (especially plant based meals), playing with her grandkids, snowshoeing, and walking the beautiful chain of lakes in Minneapolis. View more about her on her website at


Sharon joined SLP SEEDS as an Advisory Board Member to work as Co-Coordinator of the Cooking Matters program. This was a perfect fit since Sharon is passionate about cooking and food justice and Cooking Matters cooking classes were developed to  empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make healthy, delicious and affordable meals. And in 2020 she became a Board Member at Large.

Melanie Shibley

Melanie is a licensed 9-12 Life Science educator who recently moved to St. Louis Park after living in Minneapolis for a few years, with the hope of getting a yard to garden in (and because the rent was too dang high). She obtained a love of gardening early in life from her grandparents, gained an appetite for addressing inequality and environmental justice during her time at UW Madison studying Zoology, and fostered a sense of stewardship for the environment during her time as a member of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. She later went back to school to become a biology teacher and share her love of the natural world to high school students.


Frustrated with her own experiences trying to find healthy food for her family on a low income, she decided to use her gardening skills to grow produce not only for her own family, but for others in her friend group who struggled with living in the same food and financial situations. She initially tried to make an unofficial free CSA for friends and family, but then happened upon a SLP SEEDS flyer during National Night Out and realized that by joining the program, she could extend the help beyond her own peers to the community as a whole.


She joined SLP SEEDS as a Board Member and Apprentice in 2019, and is elated to be able to put her teaching background, passion for food/environmental justice, and love of gardening together.

Dr. Nina Bacaner

Dr. Bacaner is a board certified internal medicine physician. She graduated from the Boston University School of Medicine and has a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health. She has worked for many years at community clinics treating mainly low income patients and immigrants. She is on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Medical School, and has been published in major medical journals.

She speaks conversational and medical Spanish.  She has had a long interest in nutritional and lifestyle medicine, focused on the underserved and immigrant communities. She has also worked in domestic violence, and received several grants from the Minneapolis Foundation, as well as UCare. She raised money to start a very large high intensity, biodiverse, organic garden onsite at a clinic she is affiliated with in Nicaragua. The produce is sold inexpensively to patients in order to help prevent obesity and diabetes, and the local gardener teaches people in the community how to maximize produce and fruit yields despite the very dry and unforgiving growing conditions.

Caleb Mesick

Caleb is a graduate from St Louis Park High School. Currently, he is at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Still undecided for his degree. 

Caleb joined SLP SEEDS because he is interested in sustainability and food equity. He is passionate about helping the community be more educated on where food comes from and advocating for more sustainable practices. For fun, Caleb enjoys being outdoors, thrifting clothes and is a lover of food and cooking.

Owen Geier

Owen Geier graduated from St. Louis Park High School. He is currently a student at the University of Minnesota studying plant pathology with a mycology focus. He did an internship with SEEDS while in high school which inspired him to pursue mycology after SEEDS sponsored him to take mushroom cultivation classes. Owen believes that SEEDS can help high schoolers find their passions like it did for him which is why he wants to help SEEDS in its future endeavors. 

Owen has taught the interns and the community two classes on growing Edible Mushrooms and is excited to offer even more in the coming year. 

Kristy Burgeson

Kristy Burgeson is passionate about gardening, cooking, food equity and justice, and taking care of our environment. She has been a SLP resident for many years. Kristy is excited to be working with SLP SEEDS to educate the community about gardening and nutrition and to help the community become more food secure. Growing food within our community is a great way to cut down on the environmental impact of food production and fight to change the corporate food system. Kristy loves sharing these passions with her two daughters.

Liz Stroder

Liz is an SLP resident and seed catalog hoarder since 2012. Thanks to SLP SEEDS’  community outreach regarding food security, food equity and nutrition, she has been inspired over the years to try new foods and organic growing and is honored to join SLP SEEDS’ board.


When not playing in the dirt at her community garden plot, Liz loves reading sci-fi, watching her son play baseball and binge watching homesteading and gardening videos on YouTube. 

Chef Patrick Conway

Advisory Board Member

 An early interest in food and cooking lead Patrick to a career in foodservice.  An Honors Graduate of Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon Patrick’s experience includes running restaurants, ranging from casual family dining to a high volume steakhouse to fine dining on Lake Minnetonka, hotels, health clubs, corporate cafeterias and more than 12 years in senior dining.

 An active member of the American Culinary Federation, Minneapolis Chefs Chapter for over 25 years, Patrick has been named Chef of the Year and is a recipient of the Hans Gilgan award as Member of the Year. He volunteers at numerous community service projects.

As a member of a Taher Dining's Chefs Council Patrick was able to visit numerous foreign countries to learn about their cuisine and experience the food first hand. Among the places he has visited are Thailand, Spain, Turkey, Japan, Morocco, Italy and Peru.

As part of The Goodman Group’s Food for Life initiative he was involved in developing a program that featured fresh, local, sustainable ingredients in a plant strong, seasonal menu for seniors. The menus offer a variety of choices ranging from long time favorites, prepared with an eye towards improved nutrition, to vegetarian/vegan options. 

Since retiring as Executive Chef at Chandler Place Senior Living Patrick has continued his involvement with the American Culinary Federation and has been a volunteer with SLP Seeds working with both the Cooking Matters and Garden Fresh culinary programs

Patrick and his wife are avid birdwatchers and enjoy combining this pursuit with exploring local cuisines.

Zan Tomko

Zan is education assistant who helps design, develop and deliver program activities for SLP Seeds. She joined the SLP SEEDS after working at the University of MN Arboretum the past four years. 

Zan retired from teaching computer graphic design at Illinois Central College, Peoria High School and American Indian OIC. Previously, she was a program manager in horticulture and conservation for Fon du lac Park district in East Peoria, IL, where she promoted U of I Master Gardener & Junior Master Gardener programs. Before that she was a staff photographer & editor at State Farm Insurance, Illinois Farm Bureau and Illinois Audubon Magazine.

She has degree in K-12 Art Education from Eastern Illinois University and a Masters in Fine Arts Photography from Illinois State; she has MN teaching license, Master Gardener’s designations from Purdue and University of Illinois and is currently a horticulture student at Hennepin Technical College. 

Zan has two daughters and five grandchildren and lives in St. Louis Park.  

Junior Board Members

Victoria Martinez

Victoria is a senior at St Louis Park High school. As a Junior, she managed the high school's Birdfeeder food shelf program. She also runs track and plays in the schools orchestra. 

She joined SLP SEEDS because she believes in promoting healthy eating and creating changes in communities that are suffering from inequalities of nutritious food distribution. 

PLEASE WATCH Victoria's Personal Story with Hunger by clicking HERE

Zoe Frank

 Zoe is a Junior at the St Louis Park High School. She is a leader in their environmental club, Roots N Shoots, and is also on the Environmental and Sustainability Commission with the city. She loves being outside, drawing, writing and working with the environment. 

Zoe started interning with SLP SEEDS in spring of 2019, she has since said that she has learned more about sustainability in the time she has spent with us than she had in the rest of her education. She is excited to continue to learn more about food equity, sustainable agriculture, and event planning. 

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