Dan is originally from the Western Suburbs of Chicago and spent several years as a CSA grower serving the Chicago suburbs. Dan’s passion is teaching people how to grow their own food using sustainable and organic methods.
Dan has a BA from John Carroll University and an MBA from DePaul University, is active in his local Chicago urban agriculture community, and in his free time he teaches gardening workshops and spends as much time as he can outdoors with his family.
Marla believes strongly in the power of cultivating community through gardening. She graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in Individualized Studies, combining her passions for environmental science, early childhood education, and social justice. During her time at Miami, she helped found the Institute for Food and interned at Heartbeat Learning Gardens in Yellow Springs, Ohio. After graduation, she moved to Great Falls, Montana to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate with Growing Gardens from Garbage. Before coming to Chicago to begin working with Big Green, Marla served as the FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member at Killip Elementary in Flagstaff, Arizona. Marla loves to travel, read, laugh, and learn. She also really loves worms and is happiest when her hands are in the soil.
Maggie is a Chicagoland native. Having raised a large family, she is passionate about growing vegetables to create home cooked nutritious meals and healthy family time. Prior to Big Green she has spent the last 15 years in corporate sales management roles. She is affiliated with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and has a BA in Communications/Journalism from Northern Illinois University. In her spare time she enjoys golfing, swimming and biking.
Katherine, a South Carolina native, holds a BA in Environmental Studies from Lewis & Clark College. Her fascination with farming communities led her to the Australian outback where she spent time wrangling sheep, getting to know local farmers, and researching the political economy of the wool industry. She also travelled across India where she enjoyed adventures like exploring sustainable agriculture in remote communities in the Himalayas, tutoring at an orphanage, and eating tons of local cuisine. Prior to Big Green, she worked as an educator on an urban farm in Portland, Oregon where she loved teaching about plants, nutrition, and chickens.
Passionate about increasing access to green spaces and fresh, healthy food, Katherine is excited to bring her knowledge of organic gardening and healthy cooking to communities in Chicago. Outside of Big Green, she enjoys making pottery, traveling, and attempting new outdoor activities.
Sam Koentopp is a gardener, and teacher from Chicago.
Sam Koentopp is the Chicago Program Manager. He has been with Big Green since 2013 and has helped build most of the organization’s Learning Gardens currently installed in Chicago schools. Sam is a father of 2 girls and outside of his work with Big Green he enjoys being with his family, cooking, eating, and playing music. Sam is proud to be a part of the Chicago urban agriculture community and believes deeply that we can accomplish the most when we work in cooperation and collaboration with our communities.
Ilana is a graduate from the University of British Columbia (UBC) where she studied Sustainable Food Systems and Food Justice. She believes in the power of urban agriculture and garden education to make meaningful and lasting change. Prior to Big Green, Ilana worked for the UBC Center for Sustainable Food Systems on the field team maintaining perennial crops. She also worked as a program evaluator for the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative, two national organizations that support the ecological seed sector and organic farmers in Canada. When she’s not growing food or eating it, you can find her on the dance floor, reading a book, or drinking a hot cup of tea.
A Chicago native, Laura Mueller comes to Big Green after a decade fundraising in the Chicago Public School system and for other local non-profit organizations in the food space, including Purple Asparagus and Common Pantry. Laura holds two MS degrees from Northwestern University, in Integrated Marketing Communication and Journalism and a BS University of Colorado at Boulder. Prior to her nonprofit career, she was the Corporate Marketing Director of a national hospitality company. As a life-long vegetarian and passionate home cook, Laura is thrilled to work at Big Green to engage young children in the joy of growing and eating real food, especially their vegetables. Outside the office, Laura enjoys hitting the farmers’ markets with her Australian Shepherd, Ingo, skiing, hiking, yoga, and cooking creatively with her family.
A native Chicagoan, Sean is committed to educating communities about the power of real food. He holds a Bachelors in History & Secondary Education, a Masters in Social Justice Education, and is a graduate of the Windy City Harvest Sustainable Urban Agriculture Apprenticeship.
Prior to Big Green, Sean spent five years as a high school and college educator. In his free time, he co-runs a small, not-for-profit farm on the south side of Chicago, competes in marathons/triathlons, and loves cooking, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
Chicago Board Members
Joanne Woiteshek has over 27 years of experience in financial services. She joined OrganizAmerica in 1991 as president of the corporation. She is the Secretary/Treasury of Interactive Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm founded in 2003 that caters to the IAR. Joanne’s interest in helping people reach their goals led her to the financial service industries. Joanne has developed several educational programs to help client’s understand their financial picture. Her efforts have included programs such as Women & Wealth, Ready, Set, Apply (college planning), Making Life Better Using the Personal Values Planning Process, Working With Millennials, and Kids & Money. These programs help people across their life cycle to define their financial needs and wants. Joanne currently sits on the Advisory Board for Big Green, a national nonprofit that promotes youth wellness through food education. Joanne’s career started in the health care industry, where she held various positions in Nursing Administration.
Joanne graduated from Alverno College with a BSN and Northern Illinois University with a Master’s degree in Maternal and Child Health Nursing. Joanne lives in Chicago, IL. She has four adult children and three grandchildren. Joanne is involved with her children’s activities and her community and is frequently involved in speaking engagements around the United States.
Albert M. Friedman is Chairman and CEO of Friedman Properties. Since its founding in 1970, Friedman Properties has redeveloped more than 12 city blocks while revitalizing the River North community. Some ventures include historic rehab projects, such as Medinah Temple, Court House Place, and the Reid Murdoch Center, as well as the new construction of a Class-A LEED certified office tower, luxury apartments, parking garages, and hotels. Today, Friedman Properties owns and manages over 50 properties totaling over 5 million SF, which are home to over fifty full-service restaurants and event spaces. Mr. Friedman is actively involved in a number of noteworthy charities and civic organizations. He served as Chairman of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, the Workforce Boards of Metropolitan Chicago, the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau and was President of the River North Business Association. Currently, he serves on the Executive Committee for the Northwestern Memorial Foundation’s Board of Directors, as well as Honorary Chairman for Big Green. His wife, Suzanne, their son, Jason and his family, and their daughter, Julie and her family share Mr. Friedman’s passion for the City of Chicago and deep community roots.
Gina Bolger is the Senior Vice President of Branding for Home Run Inn Pizza. She’s been with Home Run Inn for over 15 years starting on the restaurant side of the business and working her way through the frozen division. She currently holds a board member position with Home Run Inn as well and has been active in many organizations including Feed My Starving Children and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for women.
Gina graduated from Notre Dame University with her Bachelor’s in marketing and currently lives with her 3 children and husband in the western suburbs. She loves being part of the community where she lives and devoting her time to her children’s activities and schools.
Leslie Fowler is a 20 year school operations veteran who has made a career in supporting under served children in large urban communities. She has worked with many large urban school districts including Chicago Public Schools, St. Louis Public Schools, Rochester City Public Schools, Philadelphia School District and many others as either a consultant, district director or while working for a food service management Company. School food and kids have always been a passion and labor of love for Leslie.
Leslie currently serves as the Chief Growth Officer for FarmLogix, a technology firm specializing in sourcing, tracing, and reporting local and sustainability purchasing habits for the food industry. In addition, she continues to operate a food industry consulting firm, LA Fowler Consulting, which supports school districts and manufacturers on efficiencies and trends for K-12 districts. Leslie has an MBA, is a Navy Veteran, a member of Delta Sigma Theta, INC., a mentor for One Million Degrees, a member of the School Nutrition Association and the Urban League, former Board Secretary for the Urban School Food Alliance, is married and has two adult daughters.
Dr. Sabina Shaikh is the Director of the Program on Global Environment and a Senior Lecturer in the College and Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago. She currently serves as the faculty director of the Environmental and Urban Studies undergraduate program, the Environment, Agriculture and Food (EAF) working group, the Frizzell Learning and Speaker Series and the Chicago Studies Program.
Sabina has a BA in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California at Davis.
Jennifer spent the first decade of her career in client systems & service in the banking and informational technology fields, eventually managing a team of employees. She developed a fondness for organizing and creating events, so she eventually co-founded an event management company, which she subsequently sold. With a strong passion for philanthropy and fundraising, she has supported a number of charitable causes over the years through her family’s foundation, the Tengelsen Family Foundation.
Strategic planning, managing and planning successful events, managing business operations, and public speaking are all time-tested and powerful skills she has honed over the years, but Jennifer’s true superpower is connecting other people. With a vast network of social and professional contacts, she has an almost mystical knack of knowing when a colleague or acquaintance would benefit from the knowledge or experience of another. When she’s not working or helping people forge new connections, you’ll find Jennifer juggling the myriad duties of hockey mom to her son as well as volleyball and high school with her teen daughter.
Jacquie is a Chicago native who enjoys giving back to her home city and fostering the growth of children in the community. She is a finance professional currently working in the public sector for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Jacquie earned her undergraduate degree in business from Emory University and her Master’s degree in public policy from Northwestern University. She enjoys spending time with her family, travelling, and relaxing at the beach.
Tyler was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, went to college in Bozeman, Montana and moved to the city 11 years ago. He always wanted to find a way to give back to Chicago and more specifically the kids of the city. With Big green offering students an education in health, science, nutrition and entrepreneurship, it was a perfect fit for him to join the board. In his free time, Tyler enjoys travel, mountains and Chicago sports teams.
Brittany is a Chicago-native on a mission to help others encounter the transformative experience of clean eating. She founded Within/Without, a clean ingredient snack company, in 2014 and is excited to join Big Green as an advisory board member.
Noam Dorros is a Partner/Director for Digital Media at Mindshare Chicago. Noam’s interest in food stemmed from an early age in Milwaukee, WI where he watched his mother, who was a food columnist for the local paper, teach cooking classes out of their family’s kitchen. His family's passion for food continues today with his older brother, who is currently chairman of restaurants in both New York and Jackson Hole. Noam firmly believes in real food education and access for all, which led him to support Big Green!
Brian McMeans, a Chicagoland native, went to school at Boston College, earning his B.A. in Communications Studies. He came to Big Green a little over a year ago in search of something impactful. He found that and more, and his time with the organization inspired him to join another non-profit organization, Make-A-Wish Illinois, as a Wish Experience Architect. As a long-time vegetarian and a more recent vegan, eating healthy and accessible real food is something that Brian is incredibly passionate about. Outside of work, you can find Brian either outdoors rock climbing and hiking, or indoors watching far too many movies!
I first learned about Big Green through my friend Tyler Beth, the President of Big Green's Associate Board in Chicago. He showed me several of the working gardens across the city, and I joined the Board in November 2018. I was impressed not only by the teaching the importance of a healthy, natural food, but the effect the development and continued care of the gardens has on kids and the overall community. I have lived in the Lakeview area of Chicago since 2012, and I work as a Private Banker on a holistic wealth management team at Northern Trust. On weekends, I help to make food deliveries for the Lakeview Food Pantry in my neighborhood.
After a childhood spent on a farm in the Midwest, Jennifer Shaffer moved to Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood 20 years ago. She may have moved off the farm but her love for gardening, healthy eating and food in general led her to volunteer at a Big Green garden at her neighborhood elementary school. Jenn joined the Big Green Associate Board in 2018.
Originally from Cleveland, Jonathan has lived in Chicago for the last 5 years and is the founder of Spark Organics a Chicago based organic snack food company. With a lifelong passion for cooking, food, and nutrition Jonathan is excited to spread the mission of Big Green and help connect children to their food. His favorite thing about Chicago is the city's amazing restaurants and concerts. When he's not working, you can find him in the kitchen or the boxing gym.