Virginia Clarke is the executive director of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF), an international network of grantmakers working to create networking, educational, and collaboration opportunities for the philanthropic community working to support vibrant, healthy and just food and farm systems. She started with SAFSF in 2003 as a part-time coordinator and has led the network in its growth and impact ever since.
Prior to SAFSF, she worked with a variety of international education programs including the University of California’s Education Abroad Program as the regional director assistant for Asia and Africa, and the Salzburg Seminar in Austria where she was a program director and led outreach efforts in Latin America. Other life/work opportunities involved a stint at the World Bank; leading a management reorganization for a private clothing manufacturer; assisting immigrants in their efforts to secure legal residency in the U.S.; and creating/running a restitution project for juvenile offenders in Western Massachusetts. Her fluency in Spanish stems from living and working in Spain, Bolivia and Mexico.
Virginia has a Masters in International Administration from the School for International Training and a B.A. with honors in Spanish from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A TEDx Manhattan alumni (2014), Virginia lives in Santa Barbara, CA and has two daughters.
Aryeh Cohen joined SAFSF as Administrative Assistant in January 2017. He has a professional background in sales operations and writing, and holds a degree in cultural anthropology from UC Santa Cruz. Looking forward, Aryeh is particularly interested in the intersection of food systems, environmental planning, and urban design. In his free time, Aryeh plays music, explores the outdoors, and participates in community organizing and advocacy efforts.
Susie DiMauro joined the SAFSF staff as a program associate in September 2016 after working with SAFSF in a part-time capacity since 2013. In her current role, she provides programming support for the SAFSF Annual Forum and overall policy work, including the annual Policy Briefing.
Before joining SAFSF, Susie advanced the goals of mission-driven organizations through nonprofit management, event coordination, and project management as a project manager with a Ventura County consulting firm. Her past experience includes research projects exploring the historical and ecological dimensions of alternative agrifood systems, including archival study of the small farming practices of Shenandoah National Park refugees. She also worked in the front office of a dental practice and behind-the-scenes at a pro bono environmental law clinic, and enjoyed stints with several urban farms, a southern California land trust, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
Susie is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with degrees in anthropology and environmental studies. She relishes reading, gardening, editing, organizing, and shamelessly spoiling her tabby cat, Alfredo.
Bridget Dobrowski joined the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders in 2009 and has held many different roles and responsibilities during that time. She has a master’s in environmental science and management from the Bren School at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before grad school, her professional work experience included time with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; interning with the Sonoran Institute in Montana and the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara; and working as a biological field technician for the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service in Montana, Idaho, and Utah. She grew up half in Montana and half in Ohio, giving her the perspective to confidently say she always wants to live in the West, without thinking everyone else should feel the same way.
In addition to her professional work with environmental and food system issues over the last 15 years, Bridget has a passion for theater, yoga – especially AcroYoga, building & fixing things, sewing, crocheting, cooking, and helping friends whenever she can.
Amber Heckelman joined the SAFSF team in August 2017 to provide support for the annual Policy Briefing. Amber brings over a decade of experience in planning, coordinating, and participating in various food system-related seminars, programs, and other events. Through this work she has grown to recognize the importance of creating spaces for transdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration to ensure that food system initiatives are both sustainable and equitable.
Amber has a MA in cultural anthropology and a MS in environmental science, and is currently a PhD candidate in Integrated Studies in Land & Food Systems at the University of British Columbia. Her research covers a range of topics, including food sovereignty, agroecology, climate resilience, agrarian reform, food assistance, and landscape management. Her work also spans across the globe, covering Costa Rica, Haiti, Brazil, Canada, Philippines, and the United States. Amber co-founded the Food Systems Network at the University of British Columbia and is a Public Scholar, Liu Scholar, and Bullitt Environmental Fellow. She is also the graduate student representative for the Future of Food Global Dialogue Series.
Beyond her commitment to creating sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems through public scholarship and knowledge mobilization, Amber loves growing plants and wishes she had a yard so that she could grow a garden. For now, she relishes in growing jalepeños, tomatoes, lettuce, and all kinds of herbs on her patio, and often daydreams about constructing a vertical garden. She currently lives in British Columbia with her partner, dog, two fish, and 38 houseplants.
Huyen Nguyen is the program and membership associate with SAFSF, a position she has held since April 2012. Huyen directs all Health related programming. A native of Austin, Texas, Huyen has lived in the Santa Barbara area for the past eleven years. She graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a B.A in Environmental Studies with an outside concentration in Cultural Anthropology. Her previous work experience includes serving as the administrative manager at Santa Barbara Business Brokers, a commercial real estate firm; mentoring and tutoring elementary school students with the Austin Independent School District; and serving as primary lead after school teacher for La Petite Academy, also in Austin. Huyen has a strong passion for advocating social justice issues within the sustainable food and environmental movements. In addition to her many community volunteer activities, Huyen also enjoys hoop dance, photography, cooking for friends, and taking advantage of the numerous outdoor activities Santa Barbara has to offer.
Abbie Nissenson officially joined the SAFSF staff in January 2014, after having completed several projects for SAFSF as a consultant since 2011. She currently serves as the staff lead on SAFSF’s policy programming, working closely with the funder planning committee to develop the annual Policy Briefing conference and policy-themed funder learning webinars. She received her Master’s in Public Policy and Management from the Heinz School at Carnegie Mellon University. It was while living in Pittsburgh that Abbie first got her hands dirty with urban agriculture, spending time volunteering on an organic farm in the Morningside neighborhood. Abbie received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Abbie’s previous job experience includes several years as a Program Director for The Junior State of America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, civic education organization for high school students. As a GIS analyst for a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit consulting firm, she used mapping technology to help community-development and arts organizations understand their demographics and impacts. During a summer internship with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Abbie researched biodiversity-preservation project proposals and helped run the UNAIDS Red Ribbon Community Dialogue Space at the AIDS 2006 international conference.
Abbie lives in Santa Barbara with her husband—an industrial ecology researcher at UCSB—and their young daughter. She delights in hitting the local farmers’ markets, cooking, camping, and making bad puns.
Leah Powley joined SAFSF as a program intern in February 2017. In 2015, she graduated from Colby College in Maine with a degree in environmental policy, and she currently studies agriculture, food and the environment at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston. Her prior experiences include working at the DC-based marine advocacy group, Oceana, as a member of their Seafood Fraud Campaign; teaching environmental education in the California redwood ecosystem; and working as a field hand and CSA manager at local and organic farming and berry-production operations in Wisconsin. Her academic and professional interests include wasted food, corporate social responsibility, and the social and environmental impacts of conventional livestock production. Outside of her work and studies, Leah enjoys building puzzles, pilates, writing poetry, and curling up with a good book and a cup of tea.
Dylan Tompkins joined the SAFSF team in October of 2014 and currently serves as their operations and communications associate. He is responsible for coordinating all of the organization’s communications projects, tracking annual revenue, and finding ways to streamline operational efficiency. Dylan graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Professional Writing with a Business Communication emphasis. While at UCSB, Dylan spent his time working with the Associated Students Office of the President as the Commissioner of Sustainability, where he represented students and environmental organizations on campus in various staff and faculty committees. He was active in student government politics, and he served as the Director for Outreach and Endorsements for the Open Peoples Party. Outside of school, he completed various internships, including a summer with the City of Santa Barbara Environmental Services Division where he worked alongside the Senior Environmental Specialist.
Dylan’s passion for the environment began early on when he became involved in Boy Scouts of America—where week-long backpacking and camping trips cultivated a love for nature and a desire to protect it. His 15 years of commitment and dedication to the organization culminated in his achievement of Eagle Scout rank in 2008. During his free time, he likes to be outdoors, hiking and camping whenever possible. His more leisurely hobbies include reading, cooking, wood-working projects, and making spreadsheets for everything.