Our Roots

Founded in 2017, Taproot Collective is a nonprofit organization with the mission to design and build holistic systems for healthy local food, dignified housing, and educational opportunities with youth and families.

We envision a city filled with thriving neighborhoods where all people have equitable access to critical resources. We operate with the guiding values of stewardship, integrity, justice, cultural humility, equity, excellence. These principles are central to everything we do.

Team

Taproot is a collection of teachers, community leaders, volunteers, and social advocates, all of whom found themselves united in the common goal of employing the vast resources here in Rochester to implement accessible, sustainable and regenerative food systems. We are currently looking to expand our nonprofit board. If you are interested in joining our team, please contact us at info@taprootcollective.org.

Individual board members are expected to:

  • know the organization’s mission, policies, programs, and needs
  • follow the organization’s bylaws, policies, and board resolutions
  • prepare for, attend, and conscientiously participate in monthly board meetings
  • faithfully read and understand the organization’s financial statements
  • serve as active advocates and ambassadors for the organization
  • give a meaningful personal donation (money or time)
  • maintain confidentiality about all internal matters of the organization

As the highest leadership body of the organization and to satisfy its fiduciary duties, the board is responsible for:

  • determining the mission and purposes of the organization
  • strategic and organizational planning
  • ensuring strong fiduciary oversight and financial management
  • fundraising and resource development
  • approving and monitoring the organization’s programs and services
  • enhancing the organization’s public image
  • assessing its own performance as the governing body of the organization
  • selecting and evaluating the performance of the chief executive (if applicable)
  • participate fully in one or more programs or committees
Stephanie

Stephanie Benway

Board Member

Stephanie is an ecological landscape designer, and educator. She earned a bachelor's degree in Anthropology from SUNY Geneseo in 2008 and developed her passion for the environment while doing archaeology fieldwork from 2007-2014. After completing a Permaculture Design Certification in 2014 she returned to Rochester, NY where she began farming and teaching in urban settings. She now works as the Environmental Program Coordinator for the City of Rochester’s Department of Recreation and Youth Services.

Rani

Rani Gupta

Board Member

Rani Gupta, CPA, is a forensic accountant with nearly 30 years as a revenue agent with the IRS specializing in audits of large corporations. Now retired from the IRS, Rani is a small business owner of RG Compliance Services specializing in the investigation of embezzlement, and financial abuse. Rani is married with two daughters and three grandchildren and was born, raised, and educated in India as well as in the United States. Rani has bachelor degrees in biology and accounting from RIT and a law degree from Lucknow University in India.

Amber

Amber Powers

Board Member

Amber is a passionate supporter of the environmental justice movement in Rochester, NY. She holds degrees in Urban Planning from the University at Buffalo and Teaching English as a New Language (ENL) from Nazareth and received a Fulbright Scholarship to work in Nepal from 2011-2012. She works as an ENL teacher and registrar for the Rochester City School District. At home, she is an avid gardener and composter.

Lauren

Lauren Caruso

Board Chair

Lauren is an educator, community activist, and urban homesteader in the 19th Ward neighborhood. She facilitates community-engaged teaching and learning with faculty, students, and partners at the University of Rochester. She holds degrees in sociology, organizational management, and public policy. Lauren enjoys making things and giving thanks with friends, neighbors, and family.

Jocie

Jocelyn Kopfman

Board Member

Jocie is the civic engagement coordinator at The Harley School. She earned her bachelor’s in Africana Studies at the College of Wooster and she recently received her MS in Human Development at the University of Rochester. There she focused on teaching qualitative research skills to youth to encourage critical civic engagement now and in their future.

Lisa

Lisa Zeller

Board Secretary

Lisa is a Rochester City School District middle school science teacher who co-facilitates a student-run community school garden in the Marketview Heights neighborhood. An advocate for young people, she works on our team as an educational consultant in multiple settings. She is also currently working towards her doctoral degree in education at the University of Rochester and hopes to conduct research and program evaluation work for various urban agriculture projects in the Rochester community in the future.

Chris

Christina Cretelle

Board Treasurer

Chris, a champion of nonprofit business development, leverages fiscal policy to maximize impact. She has a process approach to her work that leaves a lasting impact on organizations she gets involved with. Her passion is to compel the next generation to make meaningful changes in their community through responsible, effective fiscal . She has an MBA in Entrepreneurship from Rochester Institute of Technology. In addition to Taproot, she serves on the Board of Directors at the Flower City Arts Center.

Leslie

Leslie Knox

Board Member

Leslie strives to be the change she wants to see in the world. She has 15 years of experience in community outreach and social service, and mental health and guardianship for the elderly. She has a Master in Business Administration from the Simon Business School with a concentration in medical management. She now focuses her time on urban farming and community outreach. She also serves on several other community boards, including Friends of the Public Market.

The 2019 Community Food Team

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Taproot Collective Programming

We are proud to offer the Community Food Program at First Market Farm during the 2019 growing season. Supported by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation’s Community Health Grant, the Community Food Program is a family-based series of seed to table classes held at First Market Farm and in collaboration with the City of Rochester Public Market’s new instructional kitchen. Six community garden classes are offered May - September and six community cooking and food preservation classes will be offered July - September. Classes are designed and taught by the Community Food Team made up of two youth interns, a peer mentor, and garden and kitchen coordinators. The Community Food Team has carefully structured classes to engage Rochester families in a diverse array of growing, cooking, and preserving methods centered around traditional cultural knowledge and memory.

Community garden classes feature seasonal gardening practices for home-scale production using a variety of organic growing methods. Garden class participants receive organic compost, seeds and seedlings, fresh produce, and a hand tool for home use at the end of each class. Community cooking and preservation classes include culturally-sustaining recipes chosen by youth leaders to represent the cultures of their neighborhood. Classes feature produce grown at First Market Farm and sourced from local producers at the Market. Participants will receive hands-on educational activities, food tastings, and brochures that include recipes and shopping lists from vendors at the Market. All classes in the Community Food Program are free and open to all Rochester families.

Sign Up for our free 2019 Community Food classes!

Introduction to Urban Gardening
POSTPONED due to Poor Weather! Now Scheduled for Saturday, June 1st 10:00 - 12:00 at First Market Farm
Learn the basics of home gardening in small spaces. We’ll review bed building techniques, container gardening, seed starting and transplanting, and everything you need to know to get started growing in your space. Participants will each take home a plant.

Secrets of Soil and Composting
Saturday, 6/22/2019, 10:00 - 12:00
Composting at home is fun and easy! Learn how to turn your kitchen waste into garden gold! Participants will build and take home their own vermicomposting bin, with enough worms to get started!

Introduction to Cooking
Thursday, 7/11/2019, 5:30 - 7:30
Learn the essentials of home cooking, from basic culinary techniques to meal planning and preparation. We will make a spring salad and herb dressing with First Market Farm produce! Participants will take home recipes and their own jar of dressing!

Garden Friends and Foes
Saturday, 7/20/2019, 10:00 - 12:00
Learn how to identify and deal with common garden pests. We will also review beneficial garden insects, how to attract them, and the importance of biodiversity in your landscape. Participants will brew and take home their own garlic pepper spray.

Herbs & Spices
Thursday, 7/25/2019, 5:30 - 7:30
Come learn how to use and dry herbs to make your own culinary spice blends and teas! Using herbs from our farm and exotic spices from the market, we’ll be making herbal blends of all sorts! Participants will take home recipes and a jar of herbs.

The Urban Food Forest
Saturday, 8/17/2019, 10:00 - 12:00
Exploring companion planting with perennials and growing in guilds, as well as forest gardening and small scale mushroom growing! In this workshop, participants will take home a perennial plant.

Rainwater catchment and Irrigation
Saturday, 9/14/2019, 10:00 - 12:00
Learn how to build a rainwater catchment system for your home garden! We’ll review step-by-step instructions on how to use a barrel to collect rainwater and irrigate your garden.

Season Extension and Winter Preparation
Saturday, 10/5/2019, 10:00 - 12:00
In this workshop, we’ll review what you can do to grow longer into the season, using cold frames. We will also discuss winter crops and how to grow microgreens all year round!

Sauces and Salsas
Thursday, 8/8/2019, 5:30 - 7:30
Join us as we delve into the world of sauces! We will be demonstrating how to create pesto, marinara, and salsa with the freshest of ingredients. Participants will take home recipes and a jar of sauce!

Cooking with Vegetable
Thursday, 8/22/2019, 5:30 - 7:30
This workshop will focus on how to make cooking with vegetables fun and delicious! We will be making a nutritious and protein packed vegetarian meal with vegetables picked that day! Participants will take home recipes and fresh produce from the farm!

Junk Food Flip
Thursday, 9/5/2019, 5:30 - 7:30
In this workshop we will be experimenting with our favorite less-than-healthy dishes and finding ways to make them better for you. We’ll make one main dish and one dessert for everyone to enjoy! Participants will take home recipes and fresh produce.

Preservation Methods
Thursday, 9/19/2019, 5:30 - 7:30
In this workshop we will be going over all of the methods available to preserve the food you grow, from canning to drying and freezing! Participants will take home recipes and a jar of pickled vegetables.

First Market Farm

Taproot Collective has partnered with multiple local organizations to create a unique urban homestead, First Market Farm. Located on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and First Street, a stone's throw from the Rochester public market, First Market Farm is a collaborative project that increases long-term access to locally-grown food, provides safe community growing spaces, and offers seed to table educational programs for families facing food insecurity. The farm, now under construction, will include more than 4,500 square feet of garden space designed to maximize food production and community educational opportunities.

Get Involed

Job Opportunities

Taproot Collective just finished selecting our 2019 Community Food Team for First Market Farm. The Community Food Program is a 7-month youth development program where youth interns design and deliver community garden and cooking classes with a focus on community engagement, intergenerational education, and cultural identities. The Community Food Program will train youth to be social change leaders by exploring issues of social justice, food sovereignty, and community engagement while sharing knowledge and experiences with their communities.

Volunteer Opportunities

Our volunteers make magic happen! We are so grateful for the many volunteers with diverse skill sets and unique experiences who allow our programs and mission to work every day.

If you are interested in volunteering with us or just learning more about Taproot, check out our community work day opportunities on our Facebook events page and sign up to volunteer.

Volunteer Sign Up

Events & News

sprouts

Taproot Spring Planting Party

Saturday, May 11th 10:00am – 4:00pm at First Market Farm

intro to cooking

Introduction to Cooking

Thursday, July 11th 5:30 - 7:30 at Rochester Public Market in Shed B
Learn the essentials of home cooking, from basic culinary techniques to meal planning and preparation. We will make a spring salad and herb dressing with First Market Farm produce! Participants will take home recipes and their own jar of dressing! SIGN UP for the free class.

sofrito ingredients

Sauces and Salsas

Thursday, August 8th 5:30 - 7:30 at Rochester Public Market in Shed B
Join us as we delve into the world of sauces! We will be demonstrating how to create pesto, marinara, and salsa with the freshest of ingredients. Participants will take home recipes and a jar of sauce! SIGN UP for this free class.

sofrito ingredients

Junk Food Flip

Thursday, September 5th 5:30 - 7:30 at Rochester Public Market in Shed B
In this workshop we will be experimenting with our favorite less-than-healthy dishes and finding ways to make them better for you. We’ll make one main dish and one dessert for everyone to enjoy! Participants will take home recipes and fresh produce. SIGN UP for this free class.

greenhouse

Season Extension and Winter Preparation

Saturday, October 5th 10:00 - 12:00 at First Market Farm
In this workshop, we’ll review what you can do to grow longer into the season, using cold frames. We will also discuss winter crops and how to grow microgreens all year round! SIGN UP for this free class.

A Farm Grows

City Newspaper

A farm grows near the Public Market

By Jeremy Moule
Photos: Ryan Williamson
"But ultimately, Taproot hopes to demonstrate what residential-scale gardens can accomplish, to encourage people to grow food and ornamental plants in their neighborhoods, and to help their neighbors reap the community-building benefits of urban agriculture, Powers and Knox say."

D&C Worms

Democrat and Chronicle:

Simple Compost System Turns Food Scraps into Rich Soil

By Patti Singer
Photos: Shawn Dowd
A simple step-by-step introduction to setting up an at-home vermicomposting system.

Urban Gardening

Introduction to Urban Gardening

POSTPONED due to Poor Weather! Now Scheduled for Saturday, June 1st 10:00 - 12:00 at First Market Farm
Learn the basics of home gardening in small spaces. We’ll review bed building techniques, container gardening, seed starting and transplanting, and everything you need to know to get started growing in your space. Participants will each take home a plant. SIGN UP for this free class.

bee pollinator

Garden Friends and Foes

Saturday, July 20th 10:00 - 12:00 at First Market Farm
Learn how to identify and deal with common garden pests. We will also review beneficial garden insects, how to attract them, and the importance of biodiversity in your landscape. Participants will brew and take home their own garlic pepper spray. SIGN UP for this free class.

food forest

The Urban Food Forest

Saturday, July 20th 10:00 - 12:00 at First Market Farm
Learn how to identify and deal with common garden pests. We will also review beneficial garden insects, how to attract them, and the importance of biodiversity in your landscape. Participants will brew and take home their own garlic pepper spray. SIGN UP for this free class.

rainwater catchment

Rainwater catchment and Irrigation

Saturday, September 14th 10:00 - 12:00 at First Market Farm
Learn how to build a rainwater catchment system for your home garden! We’ll review step-by-step instructions on how to use a barrel to collect rainwater and irrigate your garden. SIGN UP for this free class.

Harvest Party

Open Mic Rochester

Taproot Collective: One year Later

By Vanessa J. Cheeks
"Taproot Collective is on track to provide the Marketview Heights Neighborhood with access to local, fresh foods and housing options. But, as they enter their second year, and increase projects they need more helping hands. “We are always looking for more volunteers,” said Caruso, who wants more people in the community to roll up their sleeves and help with this large community initiative."

First Market Farm This Way

Open Mic Rochester

Taproot Collective Gears Up for Busy Summer Months

By Alyssa Pressler
Photos: Tianna Mañón
"With a Foodlink grant and a lot of passion, Taproot Collective is getting ready for a busy summer developing the First Market Farm in Rochester..."

Composting

Secrets of Soil and Composting

Saturday, June 22nd 10:00 - 12:00 at First Market Farm
Composting at home is fun and easy! Learn how to turn your kitchen waste into garden gold! Participants will build and take home their own vermicomposting bin, with enough worms to get started! SIGN UP for this free class.

spices

Herbs & Spices

Saturday, July 25th 5:30 - 7:30 at Rochester Public Market in Shed B
Come learn how to use and dry herbs to make your own culinary spice blends and teas! Using herbs from our farm and exotic spices from the market, we’ll be making herbal blends of all sorts! Participants will take home recipes and a jar of herbs. SIGN UP for this free class.

spices

Cooking with Vegetables

Saturday, August 22nd 5:30 - 7:30 at Rochester Public Market in Shed B
This workshop will focus on how to make cooking with vegetables fun and delicious! We will be making a nutritious and protein packed vegetarian meal with vegetables picked that day! Participants will take home recipes and fresh produce from the farm! SIGN UP for this free class.

food preservation

Preservation Methods

Saturday, September 19th 10:00 - 12:00 at First Market Farm
In this workshop we will be going over all of the methods available to preserve the food you grow, from canning to drying and freezing! Participants will take home recipes and a jar of pickled vegetables. SIGN UP for this free class.

MVMVLOGO

13 WHAM: Many Voices, Many Visions

Interview with Taproot Collecitve

By Norma Holland
Watch Norma Holland's interview with Stephanie Benway, who leads site design, installation, and management at our sites, and Leslie Knox, who coordinate volunteer outreach for Taproot.

garlic

City Newspaper

Planting the Seed: Urban Farms are Providing Food and Hope in Rochester

By Jeremy Moule
Photos: Kevin Fuller
"...Urban agriculture, it turns out, is also a powerful tool for strengthening neighborhoods. Community gardens can develop into neighborhood anchors, places where people can gather, says Powers, who worked in urban planning before becoming a teacher. The gardens stitch communities together, she says, which in turn helps people better advocate for their neighborhoods..."

Contact

We want to hear from you! Email us at info@taprootcollective.org.